October 2015
Debriefing a Meeting Regardless of the Topic
By Sharlyn Lauby

I don’t know any time when you could become obsolete or irrelevant quicker than today. The world is moving faster than ever. New technologies are changing the way we work and live our lives. We have to stay current with trends and be willing to change regularly.

We need to develop an “evolve or die” mentality.

Steve Boese made the same observation on his blog recently. While it was in the context of basketball, it proves the point that no industry is immune from growing and evolving to stay relevant.

One way to make sure that you and your organization don’t get too complacent is by changing your mindset about training. Instead of viewing it as an event with a beginning and end, it’s time we view every moment as a learning opportunity. During this year’s Great Place to Work conference, I had the opportunity to hear PwC talk about it as “real-time development.”

Totally makes sense. We’re learning all the time. So why not develop ourselves in real-time? But it also made me realize that there are a couple of things we need to understand in order for real-time development (or constant learning) to take place.

Every person’s feedback is relevant. Real-time development works because we can learn from anyone. I can learn from a co-worker, manager, or direct report. Learning isn’t exclusive to the training department. If we put parameters on who we can learn from, it diminishes the value of real-time development.

Every person in the organization must understand how to debrief. One of the most underrated development tools available is the debrief activity. I’ve written before about the value of debriefs and how they can improve performance by 20 percent and you can debrief a meeting with two simple questions:

  1. What did you do well?
  2. What could you do differently?
Which brings me to the topic of this article–How to Debrief a Meeting Regardless Of the Topic. Organizations hold lots of meetings. My guess is they hold meetings to talk about staying relevant in their business and industry. And after the meeting, someone asks, “How do you think the meeting went?” or “Do you think we can get the group onboard with this change?” Turn this into a real-time development opportunity and ask the two questions to debrief a meeting:
  • What do you think went well during the meeting?
  • What could you have done differently during the meeting?

If you’re the meeting leader, even if no one asks the question, you can do a quick debrief for yourself. Ask the two questions. Always answer the first one before moving on to the second one. Be sure to give yourself credit. It’s sometimes too easy to focus on the “what went wrong” part of the meeting.

Learning and development are a part of our everyday activities. We need to treat them as such. That means doing a quick debrief to focus on the takeaways. Because that’s when the real-time development takes place.

Sharlyn Lauby is the founder of the blog HR Bartender (www.hrbartender.com) and author of Essential Meeting Blueprints for Managers. When not tending bar, she is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. She can be contacted on Twitter at @HRBartender.



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