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Energiser for Constructive Criticism


I am about to roll out a ½ day course on giving and receiving constructive criticism to management (manager up to director). Looking through my usual resources, I'm struggling to find an appropriate energiser to open the session with. Any suggestions?
In addition, any input to the topic would be welcome. Thanks folks!
Jo Unwin

11 Responses

  1. Energiser
    Hi Jo,

    What an excellent topic to be discussing, such an emotive issue!

    As with all soft skills training, this is about attitude and human behaviour. Perhaps more importantly, it is about changing the nature of the beast.

    Constructive criticism in itself is an art form, it is a two way street. It involves many variables, such as ethos, attitude, perception, politics and perhaps high on the agenda – listening skills. It is often the case that a simple remark, sometimes out of context, causes so much grief and animosity, when a few chosen words could have avoided the conflict. Are you familiar with Maslow? If not, a quick reference to attitudes will be very useful here.

    I would suggest a theme on attitude and listening skills is a good energiser for this subject.

    Do you have experience in this area? If you require assistance with content ideas, drop me a mail.

    Kind regards,


  2. Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback
    A nice ice-breaker would be:

    Imagine your manager or someone you work with comes into your office and says, “I’d like to speak with you when you have a minute.”

    You can ask the participants to write down the first thing that comes to mind when they hear that. Then, you ask them to share what they wrote with someone next to them.

    You would then ask them what some of their initials thoughts were and why people respond that way. You may point out that some of the thoughts they have about receiving feedback are also the same feelings they may have about giving feedback.

    Help them see that their jobs are interdependent. They are a part of the web of life and without realizing it, we sometimes may make things harder for others to get their job done. When nothing is said in situations like that, everyone loses. They need to learn well-delivered constructive feedback. And then you begin your class.

    Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your challenge.


    Kari Uhlman
    County of Sacramento
    California, USA

  3. Praise
    We use something called ‘ a sandwich’. Get everyone to either remember the last time they gave or received negative criticism.

    They just need to jot down a couple of sentences, tell them to disclose something they can talk about, the idea is not to jump out of their comfort zones.

    Once done ask them to describe two positive areas they have received praise on and to place the negative bit in the middle. They then tell the group the whole three bits and all members of the group jot down their reactions to the news, feelings etc.

    Then compare with the feelings the person had just receiving the negative news.The idea is that ‘bad news’ thus sandwiched always gets positive results with people generating producing more of the praise than the negatives.

    Because we do not like to get things wrong, when the criticism is negative, some people are affected to produce worse results than before.

    Praising good effort always gets more good results, and this exercise demonstrates how it makes individuals feel. The sort of feelings described with negative criticism only almost always generates words like worthlessness, resentment, upset etc. This sandwich way is another way of saying ‘ we can find two good things in your behaviour to just the one small poorer area’.It is a way of generating respect.

    Good luck

    Susan McGaughran
    Training By Design Global Ltd

  4. Arian Associates Ltd
    We use a little problem solver called WHO GOES TO THE BULL. If you email us we’ll forward you a copy.
    It is an excercise that does not have enough information to make a decision and seeing as your managers are looking at constructive criticism, they may make decisions without having all the facts on occasion.
    It should keep them busy for at least 20 minutes or more – or until they get sick and give in. Or until some smarty pants realises there is not enough info to make even an educated guess, never mind a management like decision.

  5. From both ends
    I’d get each delegate to identify an issue or topic of critisism that they feel management need to address. Then I’d get them to explore how they themselves would like that criticism levelled to them in a constructive way. This would then raise points that are relevant and that need addressing as well as getting them into the process of how constructive criticism can be productive.

  6. Any ideas if your subjects tend to look for negatives?
    Just to go slightly tangential…
    I am dealing with a small number of people whose strong tendency is to seek out negative criticism and to dismiss any positive feedback about themselves.
    Anyone any ideas for how to address this one!?

  7. Negative people
    In response to Geoff: my first question would be why is this person so negative? Do they have a poor view of themselves, low self esteem or have they had bad experiences of feedback before? If you can pinpoint why they are like this, then you can start some development activities. Look at objectives around ‘positivity’ – say trying to get them to make 3 positive comments at the next team meeting for instance. Always emphasise the positive yourself; encourage them look for the positive in everything perhaps by talking it through and leading by example? I could go on and on but I’m limited here! Try CIPD book “constructive feedback” Roalnd/Frances Bee ISBN 0-85292-752-5. Feel free to contact me for more.

  8. Secret Coaches
    I have used a version of SECRET COACHES in the past in similar siuations, whereby you set a task for the group/sub group and assign predetermined roles with them. Use a recorder (or a video, very revealing) At the end you set the task of feeding back via a discussion and task pairs (double blind, they don’t know who their paired up with) where they have to evaluate their end result and each others contribution, and elicit the best from their partner without giving themselves away. Brings in a lot of aspects of criticism, both giving and receiving, and gives you lots to lead on to.

    I have had some success with this.

  9. How to give feedback
    I have used the house-drawing exercise in this context.

    Ask for 4 volunteers, tell them that they only need to do a simple drawing.

    Give them each a sheet of A4 paper and ask them to draw a house in about 2 minutes. Tell them that it doesn’t have to be a fantastic drawing.

    After 2 minutes collect the drawings in.

    Drawing 1 – give ideal feedback, the ‘praise sandwich’, give praise, constructive criticism, then praise.

    Drawing 2 – make critical, negative, destructive, de-motivating sarcastic comments. In other words, do what usually happens!

    Drawing 3 – Give irrelevant feedback – tell the person how pleased you are to see them, what a nice person they are etc.

    Drawing 4 – no feedback at all, ignore the person.

    Ask the group to analyse the feedback given. Which would be most likely to motivate and result in the person trying harder in future? Which would most likely result in demotivation, demoralisation, reduced self-esteem etc? End by summarising the features of good feedback.

    Email me if you want further guidance.

  10. Another way of giving feedback
    I’d like to add some comments about the praise-blame-praise sandwich, and I’ll do it in the way we now teach giving feedback – and also use during most of our programmes so that delegates can feel and see and hear its effectiveness.

    POSITIVE: The PBP sandwich does make people find positives rather than simply focusing on the negatives. It’s also familiar and easy to use.

    INTERESTING: The sandwich is understood, implicitly, by most people, even when they haven’t been ‘taught’ it. Does this mean that as human beings we ‘naturally’ tend to this technique?

    NEGATIVE: Most people are just waiting for the Praise …BUT…Praise and it’s the meat (negative) that they hear, whilst the bread (praise) becomes just the dull and ignored bit.

    This PIN technique isn’t mine – I pinched it from Jurgen Grobler
    whom I heard talking about it on Radio 4. It is different and it demands that you use it in a very upfront way – in other words that both coach and learner deliberately follow it. It is very powerful because each part of the PIN is segmented and discussed jointly, and conclusions are drawn for the future before moving on to the next part. You could, of course, also do a NIP!

  11. Engergiser for Constructive Feedback
    If you have the luxury of a co-tutor come back after coffee and really have a ‘go’ at your colleague. Invade body space, use threatening body language, raise your voice tone, use negative, emotional language.

    Once your delegates have recovered from the shock you can pull a barrel load of ideas about how to improve!!


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