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Embracing Constructive Criticism: How to Use Feedback to Improve and Grow

The ability to give and receive feedback

I’ve never been a fan of the word criticism. It automatically triggers some and stirs up negative emotions from previous times when perhaps we received feedback that was unproductive and not valued. 

Giving feedback is an important part of every organization. Feedback is the tool that helps others to improve, build career growth, and create winning team results. 

Let’s face it though. Giving feedback can be difficult. Even in the best of circumstances being told that you may not be doing something correctly or as effectively as you could, may never feel great. If we are willing to change our mindset and see feedback as an opportunity to try again and get it right, then we can effectively learn from the situation. 

There are many models for delivering feedback. The models are similar in format and typically hit on the key areas for having impact. 

Feedback can aim to reinforce the behavior that was effective – meaning that “thing” was effective and keep doing it. Feedback can also be constructive – meaning that “thing” was not effective and please stop to find a new and better way. 

Feedback is personal, like any other type of communication. The most effective model to use is based on the parties involved in the communication. Small differences in wording and approach can make a difference. 

Here are a few common models to consider for delivering constructive (criticism) feedback:

ADDS Model

Ask for permission to interrupt and give feedback.  “Do you have a minute; can I share my observation with you?”

Describe the behavior and be specific.  I noticed that when you spoke to the customer…….

Describe the “Why?”   - Why did this behavior not work?  What happened?

Step forward to the next step and what to do to correct / change the behavior. 


SBI: Situation - Behavior - Impact Model

Situation – Describe the situation, i.e.  I’ve reviewed your last expense report.

Behavior – Describe the behavior, i.e. It appears that you rushed through the report and mistakes were made.

Impact – Describe the impact i.e. the mistakes make it difficult to process the report in a timely manner.


DEAR Model

Describe the behavior.

Explain the impact.

Ask for input – This is important to gather information from the other person’s perspective. 

Resolve / Request / Determine how to best move forward.


As you can see, all models are pretty similar because there are core components that make feedback effective. They are: 

  1. Focused on behavior, not the personality.

  2. Focused on impact – as feedback is bigger than the immediate situation.

  3. Intended to be linear and sequential. Follow the steps to create a feedback conversation that will have create positive results.


The main thing is to find a model that works for you – and you won’t know until you try out the different formats. At first, it may seem a bit wonky and certainly uncomfortable.  Note that the more you are willing to practice, the easier it will become. More importantly, you are showing others that you care about their work and performance and want them to be successful. 

Call today, 610.454.1557 or email

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