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“While we might know how we feel or think at any given moment, how we appear to and are perceived by others is harder to understand. Used in conjunction with psychometric and 360 degree feedback, video can provide the final piece in the self-awareness jigsaw, generating telling moments that lead to real enlightenment.”

The words are from our own website, and refer to our use of video feedback as a key element in our commitment to providing learners with rich feedback. If we’re being really picky with ourselves – surely not unreasonable for an organisation that highly values self-awareness as a foundation of development – we might take issue with one of the words we used: ‘telling’.

Part of the specific power of using observational video as an integral part of leadership and development programmes comes from the fact that it illustrates an approach that is usually applied as an edict in the very different medium of literature and fiction: “show, don’t tell.”

By presenting a recording of the learner, video feedback provides them with direct evidence of their actions, behaviours and inter-actions, rather than the interpretation of their behaviours that is offered by a facilitator’s verbal feedback. Rather than being told what they might do differently or better, video enables them to see for themselves, and without the deficiencies inherent in both human memory and human observation. Although coaches and facilitators are hugely valuable in analysing behaviour, the multiple demands on their attention means that cannot always extract all of the details in a live situation.

This is not, of course, to say that the facilitator does not have an important role to play. Seeing ourselves in action as others might perceive us is not just powerful, but potentially distressing: the skills of the experienced facilitator are vital in ensuring that video feedback – like any other kind – remains constructive, positive and supportive.

The video format also enables the facilitator to pause and rewind to emphasise key learning moments and opportunities, while sharing an attribute with another use of video replay – the goal-mouth or court-line replay technologies that we’re familiar with from sports such as football or tennis. While a referee or line judge is human (and therefore not just fallible but open to accusations of rater bias), a camera provides an objective and dispassionate eye on proceedings that can be viewed by all.

To ensure this valuable fairness is perceived by the learner, facilitators should take care in editing video to show a balanced ‘picture’ of the feedback recipient. As mechanical devices, cameras – despite entirely human scepticism – don’t ‘lie’: editing software and technologies, operating under human control, must take care to make sure they don’t expose themselves to a contrary conclusion.

But the ability to review actual performance can help not just understanding but also self-reflection. If self-awareness is a precondition of being motivated to change, video provides not only a demonstration but an opportunity to see ourselves in context. And the ability to review what video reveals on multiple occasions supports an important aspect of any feedback session: the ability to support discussion and dialogue to explore and understand. The camera may not lie, but what it reveals might not be what we had anticipated we would see.

To find out more about the customised leadership and management development programmes we create for our clients, and our rich feedback including video, call us on 01234 757575 or email hello@askeurope.com  

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