High performance habits are the critical foundation in any world-class organization, team, or individual contributor. On the first day of flight school, we learned a precise plan for ensuring high performance that I still use to this day.
It’s a set of simple, repeatable steps that helps teams and leaders plan, execute and learn from any endeavor. Fortunately, it’s just as applicable in the workplace, as it is at 40,000 feet.
I’ve boiled the process down to three simple actions:
Prepare is a pretty straightforward concept: before setting out on any mission (or project, or task), it’s vital to first craft a plan that will guide your actions in support of your goal.
Without preparation, you’ve undermined your efforts before you even begin.
Perform is the execution of that plan, followed by Prevail, or the debrief.
The debrief is where/when you evaluate your performance (whether you met your goal or not). You can identify and pinpoint how you can make changes to improve moving forward.
While this third and final phase is most often overlooked, it’s also the most critical aspect of achieving success.
So let’s dig in.
Why Debriefing is So Important
Debriefing originated in the military as a way to rapidly address mistakes and adapt in the battlefield.
In this scenario, learning from our errors is critical because we must review the details of our performance to stay alive.
In business, debriefing empowers professionals and teams to strengthen relationships, manage risk, remain agile, achieve high performance and meet objectives. Perhaps most importantly, it helps us overcome fear and uncertainty.
How does debriefing accomplish all of this?
The act of debriefing helps us to cultivate a growth mindset, or the ability to view failure as a learning opportunity. Not just viewing failures as an obstacle or something disastrous, but simply a chance to get better. Faster. Stronger.
Without a growth mindset, it’s difficult to maximize your effectiveness and achieve your full potential. Why?
- continue making the same mistakes over and over again and
- become too fearful of failure to even try again.
But with debriefing, we can learn from our mistakes, fearlessly overcome our failures, and succeed another day, another ops cycle, another competition.
How to Conduct a Debrief with Your Team
A typical debrief consists of assessing what went right and what went wrong on a project, rooting out any mistakes, and identifying lessons learned. Even if your leadership and performance objectives were met, and everything seemed to go well, debriefing will still empower your team to become even more efficient and effective.
We never want to leave success to chance.
It’s vital to debrief immediately after a project’s conclusion to assess how the previous phases went and identify the key takeaways.
To conduct a debrief with your team, ask these four simple questions:
- What was supposed to happen?
- What actually happened?
- What can I learn from the differences?
- How can I incorporate that lesson into execution next time?
With these four simple questions, you can create a culture of continual learning and improvement.
Overcome Obstacles to Embrace the Debrief
Many people in your organization (yourself included!) might be resistant to debriefing, even though the ultimate goal is performance improvement.
We all shy away from accountability at times. No one likes to feel as though they’re being critiqued by their colleagues or leaders, especially in a public setting.
That’s why it’s important to approach the debrief not as retribution for mistakes, but as an opportunity for advancement. Every debrief gets you one step closer to your goals.
The debrief isn’t about pointing fingers at each other — it’s about pinpointing problem areas in order to address them.
It’s not about WHO is right, it’s about WHAT is right.
Read that again.
Then share it with your leadership team, workmates, boss, players, teammates, friends and family.
Another objection might be time. We’re all working with too little of it, and adding one more thing to the regular routine might ruffle feathers in the workplace.
But if your ultimate objective is to remain relevant, achieve big goals, and continuously learn and excel?
The debrief is a simple, straightforward, powerful tool that can actually save you significant time and effort in the long run by preventing execution errors—while getting stronger, smarter and faster than your competition—no matter how busy you are.
By learning from your successes and failures through debriefing, you can rapidly improve your team’s performance and prevail, now and in the future.