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The Video Test — Improving Our Observation Skills

By Dr. Jim Sellner

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.” 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, often difficult, learning experience.

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

“The Video Test” can help.  Here’s how it works:

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 look, watch and describe the behaviors of 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 behaviors can be observed, recorded, slowed down and analyzed.  And as a result, they can be improved, duplicated, or stopped.

“The Video Test” also eliminates a lot of emotional turbulence when you are giving and receiving feedback.  It reduces the emotional charge because people are usually more open to hearing a behavior described, than a judgement proclaimed.

It’s pretty simple. And it’s very powerful.

Dr. Jim Sellner, PhD., DipC. is owner of Subject2Change Mentoring Inc – a company that uses the new technologies to individualize learning — with a personal touch. He is author of Leadership for Einsteins: How To Bring Out the Genius in People While Becoming Great Yourself.

Visit Jim’s LinkedIn page.

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