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The Video Test

videotest march13The Video Test is about . . .

Separating out what people are saying, or think they are doing, from what they are actually doing so you can help them improve their behaviours.

When I was being trained to facilitate groups I was often asked to conduct an experience with a group under the watchful eyes of my mentors. Following the session we would meet together to debrief, with honest feedback, about what I had done and how I had done it. They would say, “We saw you being aggressive and interrupting people.” (A set of behaviours that I get into when I am nervous and unsure of myself.) In the beginning I responded defensively with, “I didn’t do that!” The sessions were always video-taped.

“Play the tape!” they would say.

And there I was exposed and embarrassed about what I had done. It was a most useful, difficult, learning experience for me learning how to remove my “blind spots.”

Managers are often guilty of (a) judging people on their “attitudes” rather than their behaviours; or (b) relying on what people say they are going to do, then being disappointed when “the say” and “the do” don’t match; or (c) not actually seeing what their direct report is doing, or not doing, because of some pre-judgement.

Here’s how to use “The Video Test.”

You imagine you are video recording the activities of people, then playing back only what you see and hear.

When you are using “The Video Test”, you stop, look, and watch what the person is doing. 

Then you describe the behaviours to the person.

“I notice that you were 25 minutes late for work today.”


“When the customer got angry, you stopped and listened to him. He then calmed right down.”

Why do this?

Because with “The Video Test”, people’s behaviours can be . . .

  • observed, 
  • recorded,
  • slowed down, and
  • analysed . . .

so their behaviours can be improved, duplicated or stopped.

“The Video Test” eliminates a lot of emotional turbulence when you are giving and receiving feedback.

“The Video Test” also sets the scene for giving the person “feedforward.”

“Feedforward”, a term coined by Marshall Goldsmith, is very clearly pointing out to the person, very specific behaviours that will result in that person becoming more effective. 

You can only give useful “feedforward” if you have first described the behaviours you want the person to improve on, duplicate or stop. 

And most importantly “The Video Test” affords you the opportunity to figure out how can you best connect with the person.

Because if you Stop, Look & Listen people will tell us exactly what they need.

“The Video Test” reduces the emotional charge when dealing with performance problems and difficult conversations because people are usually more open to hearing a behaviour described than a judgement proclaimed.

Pretty simple. 

Very powerful.

And because we all live in the room for improvement.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

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