• Feedback for dummies

Feedback Staircase

Taking feedback from other people can sometimes be difficult. One way to illustrate how different people can react on feedback is showcased by the Feedback Staircase model. There is a line between the 3rd and the 4th step in the model, showing where the individual starts to take criticism on board instead of sending it away. When one is located in the top part of the staircase one also utilizes the given feedback.

Take a look at the model and give it a thought : where do you see yourself in the model today? How would you like to receive feedback from now on?



This task is one version of how an easy feedback session can be held. Gather your group (could also be a feedback session between two persons) in a place where you will be undisturbed. You will need one pencil per person and post-it notes.

Write your feedback in keywords for every person on three post-its, and split them after the three steps. Every step is based on how you’ve perceived the other person during the project or during work. Your feedback should consist of what you think the other person should:

  • Continue with …
  • Stop with …
  • Start with …

Start with the first step, Continue with … and write one post-it note for every person in the group.Then do so with Stop with … and Start with …

Once everyone is ready cluster yourself two and two, and give your self a little bit of space so that you two can give each other feedback without being disturbed by the others. Then do so with everyone in the group until they all have given and received feedback from everyone.

Then gather in the big group again and have a discussion about the task, see the Facilitator role and reflection questions.


  • Take your time, phrase the feedback in a concrete way, think about how would you like to get feedback yourself
  • Formulate the feedback with I messages, starting every item with ‘I’


  • Rush, give every possible irritated feeling time to calm down before questioning the feedbacker (see model of Staircase)


How to deliver it

Think about how you yourself would like to get feedback delivered to you, and talk from your own experience. Use ‘I’ when you give voice to feedback. For example:

  • when you have this behavior I perceive it in this way..
  • and that makes me feel …


Criticism vs. feedback

“Criticism is driven by the frustration and fears of the giver, not from the needs of the recipient. The underlying assumption is that the recipient somehow “should know better” and needs to be set straight. The implied message is that the recipient’s intentions are questionable, that there is something wrong with the recipient that the giver of criticism knows how to fix. In criticism, the problem is all in the recipient.

In contrast, feedback has an air of caring concern, respect, and support. Far from being a sugar cookie, feedback is an honest, clear, adult to adult exchange about specific behaviors and the effects of those behaviors. The assumption is that both parties have positive intentions, that both parties want to be effective and to do what is right for the company and other people. Another assumption is that well-meaning people can have legitimate differences in perception. The person offering the feedback owns the feedback as being his reaction to the behavior of the other person. That is, the giver recognizes the fact that what is being offered is a perception, not absolute fact.”

– Gary R. Casselman & Timothy C. Daughtry

The role of the facilitator

Inform the participants of the structure of the task and when the feedback session is finished gather the group and go through and reflect over the task.

Reflection questions

  • How was it?
  • Did you feel that this was valuable for your work? In what way?
  • How could the assignment be designed to fit you better the next time?