Kristian Glass - Do I Smell Burning?

Mostly technical things

When You Do X

My friend L taught me about a brilliant feedback framework (apparently originally from McKinsey) and it looks roughly like this:

When you do X, it makes me feel Y. [Optionally] In future I’d appreciate it if you could Z

I find this incredibly useful, thanks to a bunch of different properties it exhibits:

It focusses on the action. It’s explicitly “when you do X”, which is fairly objective. Not “when you’re angry” but “when you raise your voice”. Sure, nothing’s truly objective, and one person’s raised voice is another person’s “speaking emphatically”, but framing it in terms of actions gives you something fairly concrete to work with.

It talks about how the giver of feedback feels. You can’t really question someone’s feelings. “When you show up late, its rude” is a value judgement that’s highly subjective and debatable. “When you show up late I feel frustrated” is something that’s harder to challenge – regardless of the intent, the context etc., if it makes you feel Y, it makes you feel Y.

It leaves things open for resolution. This is why I view the proposed-solution of Z as optional and borderline undesirable – “when you do X it makes me feel Y” is a brilliant starting point for discussion, sharing of context, and improved mutual understanding. For example:

“When you raise your voice in meetings, I feel intimidated and it makes me want to contribute less”

“Gosh I didn’t realise I was doing that, I’m sorry, I’ll try not to next time”


“When you show up late to our meetings it makes me feel frustrated because I feel like you don’t respect my time”

“I’m sorry, it’s just scheduled right after my status meeting which keeps overrunning, how about we move our meeting 10 minutes later?”

By not proposing a solution, the feedback becomes the start of a dialogue. That doesn’t mean the giver shouldn’t offer suggestions – being able to act on feedback is critical – but it’s also likely that the giver doesn’t have as much context as the recipient, so a blind suggestion may be unhelpful.

As with everything, this is a tool. Don’t use it blindly, but shape it to your needs.