Tag Archives: feedback

Change, the emotional roller coaster, and user reviews

Customers emotional roller coaster

Customers emotional roller coaster

When buying new stuff, you as customer go to the emotion roller coaster of change. Let’s take a look what’s the effect on user reviews and how you can use it for your organisation.

We talked a lot about change and resistance on this blog and, of course, its correlation. There’s an old saying “The only one that likes change is a wet baby”, but we know that this isn’t correct. People change all the time: new work, new friends, new home, new city, etc. We can agree that there’s resistance to the change when the change isn’t welcomed by the ones that undergo it. In most cases when people don’t want to change, it’s a case of bad or not enough communication.

On the other hand, there are changes that we choose for ourselves. Think of, among others, buying a new smart phone or a new car. In those (and many other) examples we are free to choose to stay or to change. To keep our device or decide to use the new one. When we choose for a new device we still go through the same acceptance period as an unwanted change, only the lows won’t be that low.

As example, let’s zoom in on buying a new car. After careful selection between different models you decide to invest a large amount. You may even have to take a consumer credit for it. The tension builds up while waiting some weeks, maybe months for your new purchase. The first days will be great. No, they will be amazing. The car is better that your old car and drives very smooth. If you would write a review (eg. on a website) at this point, it would be good to great. Your judgement is clouded by the ‘buyers high’.

After a while you start experiencing the negative parts: the seating is not as you expected, the dead angle is not good visible and the door list blocks your side in the turns. You wonder how did you miss this while testing. If you would write a review at this point, it would be bad. Your review would highlight the negative parts and lacks objectivity.

Once you went completely through this acceptation curve some time has passed and as a not-so-new-anymore owner you’re quite reluctant to putting effort in writing an old review.

So you may start to wonder how you as an organisation can use this emotional roller coaster in your advantage. It seems like there isn’t any time suited for an objective review (in the way that a subjective review can be objective). As a potential customer you are also confronted with this. Dependent of at which point the reviewer was on his acceptance curve, the review will be dominated by his current feelings. So you cannot use the review to make your decision. Only if you’re aware of it you can see the extremes are documented, the highs and the lows. As a test, open any user review section of an online smart phone shop and browse to the reviews.

A Dutch car website, Autoweek.nl, has found a nice solution for this. On their website new car owners can create an online diary and document their experiences with their newly bought car. The user can add reviews to his online car diary when he wants and the reviews are sorted by mileage. Because of the diary speaks to the user’s intrinsic motivation, it’s kept up to date in many cases. The diary gives an overview of the highs and lows of the user experience and sometimes also covers exceptional cases that are not covered in a one-time review after buying. For example, a long trip to Austria in wintertime.

Further, other users can react on the reviews in a separate comment section too and they can rate the diary.

An example of such a diary can be found here: http://www.autoweek.nl/autoreview/35177/bmw-118d-business-line

When buying a car these diaries are thé source for getting your honest and balanced user reviews.  Give it a try!

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Empowerment rocks!

Foo Fighters drummer - Taylor Hawkins

Foo Fighters drummer – Taylor Hawkins

Six empowerment lessons from the rock industry by looking at the history of the Foo Fighters.

The Foo Fighters are a rock band that got popular in the nineties, made it through the two-thousands and still are popular in the two thousand and tens. During the years the setting of the band changed and a lot has to do with how the lead singer, Dave Grohl, changed his leadership style.

Dave Grohl came free from the popular band Nirvana after dissolution after the tragic suicide of lead singer, Kurt Cobain. In Nirvana, Dave was as drummer responsible for the heart beat of the band. But Dave had more talents than only drumming: he also could play the guitar and bass. He even could sing very well! After some solo (re)work, he started the Foo Fighters band with him as lead singer.

In the first set-up with the band, the drummer was William Goldsmith. When recording the album “The Colour and the Shape” in 1997, William was responsible for all drum parties. Dave Grohl had set a high ambition level and wanted only the best for the new CD. Because of his drumming experience in Nirvana, he knew very well how to play the drums and was not satisfied with the current recordings of William. When William was away for a while, Dave picked up his old drum sticks and redid all the drum parties of the CD in the way that he wanted them to sound. When William came back and was notified of this, he was very disappointed. Not very long after this event William decided to quit the band.

Dave made a typical leadership error when delegating which is taking back/over the work that was delegated and doing it himself. Because it was better, faster, tighter, etc. Instead of discussing the (mediocre) quality of the recordings and having supported William, Dave chose the shortest path and took the delegated work back.

Drummer William was replaced with Taylor Hawkins, which still is the drummer of the Foo Fighters, and we can see that Dave learned a valuable lesson. He now lets the drummer, Taylor, free to use his creativity and imagination when recording the drum parties. They have established a real cooperative relationship which even can be seen during the live performances of the band: the drummer (and also the heart of the band) is in sync with the lead singer. During their performance at Pukkelpop 2012 I was really impressed by how attuned they were to each other.

Six tips for bringing empowerment to your work floor

  1. Discuss what empowerment means to you and your team.
  2. Learn to really delegate.
    1. Explain the “why” and the “what”.
    2. Set criteria for the output and steer on these criteria.
    3. Do not get involved in the way works needs to be done. Leave the “how” for the delegee.
  3. Create a feedback loop.
    1. Give feedback on results.
    2. Discuss the problems, not the person.
    3. Discuss about facts, not assumptions or personal interpretations.
  4. Start with small assignments, give bigger ones when successful.
  5. Delegating assignments means also delegating the benefits that belong with it.
  6. Give recognition to your employees.

Additional reading

Foo Fighers @ Wikipedia

Top 10 Principles of Employee Empowerment

Top 7 Self Empowerment Tips

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The time and place to coach

How would you coach your coachee during a performance review meeting?
I was taught to observe the PRM, take factual notes, record the interaction and participation.
With this feedback, and effect it had on me, i plan a feedback talk with the coachee after the meeting.

This approach has following advantages:

  • I have the time to overview the notes I made and compose the feedback talk (read: pick my battles).
  • There is more time to give feedback.
  • My coachee has the time to reflect on the meeting himself.
  • I can give the feedback in a personal coaching moment instead of in front of all participants.
  • I will never be in the position were I put the coachee for a block, which has advantges for both of us.

This time however, my coachee insisted that I would give feedback during the meeting and also interrupt the process when I found it was running not at it’s best.
So suddenly my mandate changed from coach to process intervener and I was about to be pushed out of my comfort zone.

The coach during the game

Immediate feedback during the game

Immediate feedback during the game

We use the analogy of the coach at a soccer game a lot, so let’s take a look at it.
The coach here doesn’t wait with giving feedback. He’s all involved during the game: coaching, intervening, supporting, …
Imagine the effect of coaching only after the facts: it would be far less effective.

But there stays use for coaching after the game too and that’s what we also see with soccer. The players and coach look at the video images of last match and see what went well and what could go better. They use this information to improve upon themselves to play a better match next time.

I guess there’s no silver bullet here too.
You can combine both types of coaching: during and after the game.

Make sure you get the mandate for coaching during the game.
The referee might kick you out.

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Is this the mirror of myself?

In the song Everybody, Martin Solveig sings:
        Is this the mirror of myself?
        Am I somebody else?
        I don’t want to be…

MirrorThis describes the effect of an efficient coach: people getting conscious about their behavior and the effect it has on others.
The job of a coach is to help grow your coachee and one of the tools in his tool box, is giving feedback

With giving feedback to your coachee, you have the opportunity (pfew, just avoided to say “power” here) to hold the mirror in front of your coachee. As a coach you can observe the behavior of your coachee, note facts, record interactions, body language, the effect is has on others, … 

When these facts are objective, you can use them (with the feedback framework) to give constructive feedback to your coachee.

Even when the coach is (much) younger than the coachee, it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve experienced some reluctance in that situation at start: “What are you going to learn me? I almost twice as old as you!”

To quote Robert S. Kaplan:

Subordinates don’t want to offend the boss. Therefore, as you become more senior in an organization, you tend to get less feedback. Over time, you risk growing confused about your development needs and becoming isolated from criticism

But most coachees will start to appreciate your feedback when they notice it’s based on truth and can do something with it.

Let’s grow

A tool I like to use during coaching talks, it the GROW model: Goal – Reality – Options – Wrap-up.
The GROW model will set focus for observation and coaching talks.
Instead of giving all possible feedback you have recorded, you can pick your battles. 
These battles are agreed on with your coachee and can change during time.

And what about myself?

It would not be efficient if I wasn’t using this technique for growing myself.
After each workshop I ask feedback from the participants: what went well? What could go better?

Additionally, we as lean coaches started with asking feedback from our customers too about our change management skills.
Though sometimes the results are confronting, they give me the opportunity to improve myself.
Nobody’s perfect, right?

Additional reading

What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential“, by Robert S. Kaplan

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Giving feedback to your virtual team

In the song “Learning to walk again” from the Foo Fighters Dave Grohl sings:

A million miles away
Your signal in the distance
To whom it may concern

This describes the feeling some project leaders get when working with virtual teams with team members far abroad. Far abroad in the way that you can’t plan a visit or gemba very easy and hop by. Also called offshore or near-shore.

Not regarding the location of the team members, they are still part of the team and therefore contibute to the same strategy and goals of the local team. If you want to improve the whole team you need to be able to give feedback to the team members abroad.

An example

Virtual teamA local ICT team works together with colleagues in a foreighn country and there is only communication by phone conference, video conference, email and chat client. In best case, some of the colleagues abroad can come to your country for a few weeks for some intensive line-up and team building activities. The lead technical designer is responsible for making the milestones and taking action when not making it.

During the design & development period the team is getting close to the deadline, but on the last day before the deadline the lead technical designer abroad notifies the project leader that they aren’t going to make it. The lead technical designer proposes a new deadline, but the project leader immediately knows that it isn’t feasible and they aren’t going to make it either. Given the benefit of doubt, the project leader let the lead technical designer run for another attempt… and confirms it gut feeling: the deadline is again not met.

If the project leader now fails to give correct feedback based on fact and agree on improvement actions, the lead technical designer will fall in the same trap next milestone.

Giving feedback

The framework for giving and receiving feedback is described in an older blog entry “A continuous flow of feedback”. But the extra difficulty here is the fact that the team member is not available in person. All feedback, coaching and follow-up sessions need to be done by phone conference, video conference, email and chat client. Further, the cultural differences will add some more challenge to giving feedback.

Everybody can improve! Let not all the criteria hold you back in giving your feedback. Use objective facts and agree on an improvement plan.

In this particular case the project lead could also challenge the lead technical designer and ask how he got to the estimation. What parts are in the estimation? Put on your coach hat and let the coachee himself make the insight.

Tips for feedback to virtual teams

  • Use every opportunity to give feedback. Don’t postpone or let go because of the extra effort.
  • Plan feedback sessions with your virtual team on a regular base.
  • Set clear goals and targets for your virtual team + members. Attune them with your team. (over)Communicate your vision.
  • Make clear arrangements about the use of the different communication media.
  • Seize every opportunity for team building.
  • Ask feedback yourself.
  • Give the example as project leader. Be a role model. Walk the talk!

Additional reading





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Everybody is right

Opinion“Everybody is right,” a colleague of me says.
And he’s right. It’s all about perception.

When we get feedback, we often try to defend ourselves or our case.

“Yes, but…”
“It’s true, but…”
“Are you sure, because I heard…”

No matter how hard you’ll try to convince the other, they have made up their mind and formed an opinion based on facts and things they perceive. Their perception.

You know you are right, because you know the facts. Don’t you?
But the other person is right too. He has facts and viewpoints too.

So, what can you do?

Defending is not a solution, because it will probably not convince the other to switch viewpoints and change his opinion.

Show some empathy and try to understand. Try to face the problem (read: opportunity) head on: why are they saying that? What does it mean? How do they view it? … Why am I thinking otherwise?

In case of negative feedback (eg. evaluation talk, customer review, …) the principles above are certainly valid: you won’t be able to convince the other that you are right, but you will get some respect if you try to understand, take their feedback along and do something with it.

In any case, you will learn from it, because since they’re convinced they’re right, there must be some truth in it. Maybe others have the same perception?


Everybody is right.
There’s no gain in “getting your right”.
There’s more to gain from understanding why they think they’re right and what you can learn from and do with it.

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If you combine observation with evaluation, people hear criticism

CriticismIf you’re in a coaching job or role, your task is to help your coachee discover himself and grow. There are many ways to do this, but giving feedback is the basis for all.

For giving feedback I can advise the feedback framework which is available in blog entry “A continuous flow of feedback“. The emphasis in this article was more on giving positive and/or constructive feedback, but this blog entry will focus more on how to collect and handover your feedback.

Let’s say you follow the coachee in different meetings ranging from meetings with the customer to staff meetings. If you take the role of passive observer, you will write down your observations of the meeting and your coachees behaviour. As passive observer it is also possible to focus beyond the content: body language of participants, group interaction, presentation styles, etc. If your coachee is the chairman of the meeting, he will also appreciate this feedback.

Observations with interpretations

Now, even as a coach you’re not completely neutral: during the years you have read books, gained experience and insights and grew as an employee and coach. So when you are writing down your observations, write down only the observations and avoid making interpretations. Don’t add remarks like the reason why you think it needs to be good, don’t add “good” or “bad” next to it, and so forth…

An example:

Observation: “The coachee gives orders during the meeting when topic XYZ was discussed.”
Interpretation: “Giving orders is not good (involving in the “how” of the assignment).”
Evaluation: “He should not give orders, but let people gain insights themself and coach them.”

When you’re taking this path, you will arrive at subjective evaluations. You’ve coupled an objective observation with your interpretation. When you deliver this message to the coachee, he will consider it as criticism and go into resistance. When in resistance the coachee will not listen to your observations, defend himself and the risk of emotional shutdown exists.

Tips for observations without evaluation

First of all: confirm your mandate to give feedback to the coachee and repeat why we are doing the feedback talk again (see “What to ask the person in the mirror” from Robert S. Kaplan).

  • During the meeting, write down your observations. Only observations.
  • Make your obseration SMART (Specific – Measurable – Acceptable – Realistic – Time-bound): don’t use generalizations like “always”, “never”, “often”, “sometimes”, etc. Write down what’s said or observed.
  • Discuss the observations with your coachee. Since the observations are neutral and objective, they are not open for discussion.
  • Tell your coachee how the observation made you feel: your feelings are also not open for discussion. Did he see that others felt the same? See if he can relate.
  • Focus on the result of the behaviour has on the group or meeting outcome and verify if that result was wanted.
  • Give the coachee time to process the feedback and put it in its context.
  • Look together for a possible improvement opportunity for the next meeting. Pick actions for it.

Additional reading

“Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” from Dr. Marshall Rosenberg

What to ask the person in the mirror” from Robert S. Kaplan

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A continuous flow of feedback

Giving and receiving feedback seems so logic, but it’s not common practice. Most people know that giving negative (but constructive) feedback is hard, but few people know that also giving positive feedback (compliments) is not that easy.

Giving positive feedback

Questions that arise are: When will you give the feedback? Should you bundle it? How will the receiver take it? Will they trust us? Will they think we have a hidden agenda? Are my compliments considered sincere? Is a compliment needed for that success in day-to-day business?

Scientific research and literature all around learns us that by emphasizing on positive messages, we can have a better effect then when only giving negative feedback. But negative feedback is sometimes so easy. Yes, easy. We are taught to perform and seeing bad things is easier than seeing the good ones. Compare it with coming home after a busy day at work: if your partner has cleaned up all the recyclable garbage on the kitchen sink, you will probably not notice it (or maybe even take it for granted). But when your partner didn’t take out the garbage, the first thing you see is the garbage on the kitchen sink.


  • Start with giving small, even trivial, compliments, but always make sure they are sincere: that you mean what you say.
  • Give feedback on a regular basis: don’t pile up you feedback for the big feedback talk. In “the big feedback talk” the pitfall is making generalizations like “i think you are a good analyst”. These generalizations may be received as awkward. Regular feedback after accomplishments can be directly linked to the effort made and is perceived better.
  • When in a crisis, only give positive feedback for a while. If performance is improving you can start working at the learning opportunities.
  • Address your feelings if you uncomfortable giving feedback. Eg. “I’m not sure how to say this, but i think you did a great job when …”.

Giving negative feedback

Negative but constructive feedback should always be welcome. Make sure you use the feedback framework described below.

Questions that may arise are: Am i allowed to give feedback? How will the coachee react? How do i avoid discussion and defensiveness? When do i give feedback?

Give feedback on a regular basis: don’t pile up you feedback for the big feedback talk. When all feedback is saved until the yearly HR performance talk, the feedback is too late (lagging). Your colleague couldn’t act upon it to improve his performance during the remainder of the year. Saving every thing until the last day can lead to surprises, disbelief and arguments.

There are theories about the time between the behavior observed and the feedback talk: interrupt immediately, right after the facts, wait for two days, … There’s no silver bullet here: make the careful consideration yourself and adapt to the specific situation.


  • Use objective and observable behaviors as examples: these are not open for discussion.
  • Give feedback on a regular basis: don’t pile up you feedback for the big feedback talk.
  • Make sure you have the mandate to give feedback. If in doubt, ask!
  • Pick your battles: address the most urgent learning points, but do not overload (and depress) your coachee.
  • Make sure the coachee can act upon the learning points: there’s no need to give feedback if you can do nothing with it.

The feedback framework

Giving feedback

Receiving feedback

Step 1 – Describe observed behaviors
Behaviours that can be seen. Avoid interpretation.

Step 1 – Listen actively
Let people know that you view feedback as useful .

Step 2 – Describe perceived effects
Your personal perception of the impact the behaviors have or had. It is not open for debate

Step 2 – Avoid becoming defensive
Reflect on what is being said. Acknowledge the perception of the feedback giver.

Step 3 – Pause
Allow the recipient of the feedback to reflect and ask clarifying questions if necessary.

Step 3 – Ask clarifying questions
Don’t hesitate to probe for understanding.

Step 4 – Make suggestion
Provide practical, helpful ways in which they may change their behavior, should they choose.

Step 4 – Show appreciation
Saying “thank you” shows appreciation.

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