Posted on: October 30, 2020
Author: Randy Bowman, Vice President of Technology and Organizational Effectiveness
Critique, but Don't Criticize image

Recently, my sixteen-year old daughter, who dreams of becoming a pastry chef, decided to make a cake she had seen online for my nine-year old daughter’s birthday. Unfortunately, the resulting cake did not turn out as pretty as the online one (although it tasted fabulous). My oldest daughter was devastated and “beating herself up” over her performance. As I consoled her, I reminded her that while it is OK to critique your creation, it is never OK to criticize yourself.

Continuous improvement through evaluation is a core value woven throughout the ANSI/IACET 2018-1 Standard for Continuing Education and Training. Whether evaluating your own training program, the training program of a peer, or a subordinate’s training plans, leaders need to be mindful of their approach for providing feedback. While both criticism and critiquing are forms of feedback, there are obvious differences between them in intent and in execution.

Criticism seeks to tear a person down, while critique seeks to help them improve.

Criticism focuses on the critic’s goals, while critique is motivated by the intention to serve the creator’s goals.

Criticism is judgmental and focused on placing blame, while critique is descriptive and focused on finding solutions. Other differences include the following:

Critique… Criticism…
… is constructive, offering improvements on what to DO. … is destructive, highlighting what NOT to do.
… is selfless in that it respects the creator’s intent, not the preferences of the critic. … is selfish, ignoring the creator’s objective in favor of the critic’s desires.
… is specific (e.g., your project plan would be improved if you allowed more margin between the tasks to account for the unknowns). … is vague (e.g. I don’t think your plan is feasible at all).
… focuses on the creation. … focuses on the creator.
… finds what is working. … looks for what is lacking.
… asks for clarification. … condemns what it doesn’t understand.
… is voiced in a kind, honest, and objective tone. … is spoken with cruel wit and sarcastic tongue.
… has the best interest of the creator in mind. … cares more about making the critic feel smart or powerful.

When leaders are intentional about approaching continuous evaluation through the lens of offering critique and not criticism, they build dynamic training programs and teams where risk is welcomed. They create a corporate culture where people feel free to try new things and extend themselves beyond their comfort zone. They create organizations where today’s dreams are tomorrow’s realities.

As for my daughter, she tried again the next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. Has she achieved the same look as the one she saw online decorated by an industry-veteran? Not yet, but each one is looking better and better. I am confident she’ll get there, and in the meantime, the rest of us get cake!

About the Author


As the Vice President of Technology and Organizational Effectiveness, Randy is responsible for overseeing and implementing the technological solutions necessary to achieve the strategic and operational goals of the Board of Directors.  He oversees the development of all web applications, like the public website, the IACET member portal, and the accreditation application submission and review modules.

With over 20 years of experience as a full-stack developer, providing software and IT solutions within the non-profit and government verticals, he is an expert in the design, development, and implementation of membership management systems, focusing on tightly integrating technology platforms for associations.

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