Admittedly, I was the Marine Corps geek. Every Marine is a rifleman – I get that. But I was an intel weenie. I remember a particular exercise where my company went on a 5 mile hump. A hump is basically a forced march. You wear “Boots and Utes” and carry a pack of some amount of weight. On this particular exercise, I believe I was carrying 50 lbs – pretty light for USMC norms.
I had bought new boots the day before. Do you remember getting new shoes before the first day of school? How excited you were? That was me as a 24-year-old Sergeant Idiot. I wore those new boots on this hump. When we made the turn at the half-way point, I knew I was in trouble. By the time we were done, my feet looked like hamburger. My feet were so jacked up that I had to wear civilian clothes for a week before I could get my boots back on.
After this particular exercise, we did what Marines always do – debrief. On that day, my CO (commanding officer) looked at me and said, “Barron, bad move with the new boots. Smack yourself.”
Debriefing is a staple of the Marine Corps, and it should be for your business as well. Formal debriefs allow for your team to pause. It is a forced and scheduled pause, really. Too often we jump from one task to the next without slowing down or taking a breath. Valuable lessons that could be learned fall through the cracks. We don’t learn from our mistakes. We miss opportunities to improve. We stop growing.
This post is not about how to debrief – it is about why. However, I have four rules to guide a debrief.
- There is no rank in a debrief. Everyone on the team must have the freedom to express themselves. They must be able to articulate their experiences and opinions without fear. The boss/manager may facilitate the debrief, but there should be no rank.
- There must be truth. If your team is not going to tell the truth, don’t bother. You are wasting your time.
- There must be emotion. I’ve heard people talk about how this needs to be an emotionless process. I don’t buy that. Frankly, I don’t think it is possible. If you are passionate about what you do, it is always personal. Embrace your emotions and communicate them – though professionally.
- Everyone must participate. The leader of the debrief must require that everyone engages, period. The quiet guy in the corner has something to say. If he doesn’t say it during the debrief, he will at the water cooler. Not good.
The Four Reasons to Debrief
- Growth – I’m currently reading John Maxwell’s new book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth (highly recommend, affiliate link). He points out that teams that don’t stop and evaluate don’t grow. Do you stop to debrief after a presentation? What went well? What didn’t? What can I learn to improve next time? What about after a closing, or an expired listing? All of these are opportunities to stop and grow.
- Unity – Unity is a function of many things, but being on the same page is a huge part of it. When your team members know they have an opportunity to contribute and be heard, unity is bred. Unity is not the same thing as unanimity. Everyone does not have to agree. But if everyone has their say, dissenters can get both shoulders behind a decision because they were heard.
- Feedback – Feedback is hugely valuable to the leader. During the pause of a debrief, the leader will get great feedback that would have been lost otherwise. For instance, I’ve learned that I speak painfully slowly when I am thinking. When I prepare, this is not an issue. I never realized this until I was told during a debrief.
- Vision – Vision is clarity regarding direction. It is the leader’s responsibility to have that clarity and then cast it. Debriefs are perfect times to reinforce the vision of the company. I solve my client’s problems and help them capitalize on their opportunities. How did my marketing efforts the last 6 months accomplish that vision? How could I do it better?
Now let me hear from you. Is the debrief a staple of your business? Share a story of a lesson learned during the pause of a debrief.