In my last post, I spoke about the “Power of the Pause” and how reflecting increases our ability to improve the way we do things. Debriefing is another resource and is one of the most powerful tools we have to improve our individual and team performance. It’s the reason fighter pilots, astronauts, diplomats and some project teams live and die by the practice. In our fast paced, bottom-line driven workplace, many companies find it hard to financially justify, let alone TAKE the time to go through the critical systematic review of what we learned. Only a small percentage of companies in Corporate America have a system for looking back and evaluating execution successes and errors. It isn’t just the companies and their possible top executives who are not evaluating past performances, but also the individuals (you and me) who work for them. At times, I’m just as guilty as any of us.
People don’t learn from experience; they learn from reflecting on their experience.
A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to celebrate a coaching client’s victory in stretching herself beyond her comfort zone. She asked me to join her on zip line canopy tour. (If you know me, you know that decision was as easy as selecting a date to go!) She had an amazing experience. So did I! Witnessing her moving with intention, determination and focus through the course and breaking through her fears was inspiring. The juiciest part of the day was what she learned in her reflection process. Here are her lessons:
- Never to let someone else tell you that you can’t do something!
- That the fear of something is far worse than the reality
- Sometimes we just have to push past fear by changing our mind set.
- Going forward she’s not going to let an unjustified fear stop her from doing something she really wants to do!
So what does debriefing mean, why would we do it and what are some key questions to ask?
Simply stated, debriefing is systematic questioning to gaining knowledge and experience. In team building and experience-based learning, the adage is an activity is only as good as the knowledge and/or learning that transfer to the real world. Through the debriefing process, we have an opportunity to experience personal growth through self discovery and improve relationships through understanding and communication. The lessons, applications and experiences lead to an aware and conscious life.
Imagine how useful it is to have a better understanding of how strengths and weaknesses affect on-the-job performance. Debriefing provides members of a project or work team to share direct feedback about a project or process, including an in-depth review of what went well and what didn’t. It’s an opportunity to dig into the root causes of issues and to celebrate successes.
Two important reasons to take the time to question and glean lessons from experiences:
- To learn, hold onto and reinforce what works
- To teach and share best practices
The key to truly learning from any experience is to take the time to reflect and ask a few questions. There are many ways to debrief and many processes.
Here is an example of three very simple questions to ask:
- What happened?
- Why is this important?
- How can I use this information?
Knowledge is power.
You can use the power of debriefing as an opportunity to learn, grow and think bigger; acknowledge completion of your last project or personal win; reflect on the lesson(s), make declarations; and create an action plan and commit to making your best efforts even better next time.
If you are interested in an in-depth list of debrief questions and process, contact me here. I’ll be happy to share those resources with you.