People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 48

While team training is not a requirement to conduct an effective debrief, think of it as a booster shot. If you have the chance
to educate your leaders and team members about teamwork,
you'll see benefits both during your debriefs and in general.4
Best Practice 4: Ensure that team members feel comfortable actively participating in a debrief. Another condition that
sets the stage for successful debriefs is having a psychologically
safe environment. Psychological safety is the shared belief
among team members that it is safe to take interpersonal risks
and speak up, even if the idea may be unpopular.5 It is the
belief that you can be yourself in front of your team. Recently,
Google conducted a study to find out why some of their teams
were more effective than others. After examining all sorts of
hypotheses (including the "hanging out" together hypothesis), they concluded that the single most important factor for
a successful Google team was psychological safety.

Table 1
Evidenced-based Best Practices
for Debriefing
Before a Debrief
* Allocate time to debrief.
* Educate team leaders on how and why to lead team
debriefs.
* Teach leaders and team members about what really
influences team effectiveness-the "science" of
teamwork.
* Ensure team members feel comfortable actively
participating in a debrief ("psychological safety").
During a Debrief
* Avoid five common debrief pitfalls.
a. Too much focus on "task work."
b. Telling, not discussing.
c. Improper or inadequate focus.
d. Good look back, but no definitive look forward.
e. Too evaluative or threatening.
* Try to conduct the debrief close in time to the "action," if
possible.
* Record conclusions and agreements reached to be able
to "close the loop" after the debrief.
* If appropriate, consider trying technology to assist with
your debriefs.
After a Debrief
* Boost accountability and willingness to participate in
future debriefs by following up on agreements and
communicating progress.
* Conduct periodic debriefs that are "fit for purpose."

48

PEOPLE + STRATEGY

So, psychological safety is desirable in any team, but it is a
particularly important element for effective debriefs. Why? Because at the heart of any successful debrief are team members
sharing their perceptions, including acknowledging when
they didn't know something, didn't do something as effectively as they'd like, or didn't like the way something transpired.
People are only willing to do that when they believe there is
adequate psychological safety.6
A leader's behaviors go a long way towards creating psychological safety. Framing errors as learning opportunities,
rather than punishable failures, is one such behavior. Being
clear about what is negotiable (open to team input) and what
is non-negotiable (cannot be changed) also helps, because it
allows the leader to constructively redirect a fruitless conversation (e.g., discussing an unfixable bug in a computer application) towards one that is within the team's control (e.g.,
how to work around the problem). But perhaps the number
one leader behavior for boosting psychological safety is when
leaders admit their own mistakes or faults. When we taught
military leaders to acknowledge their own limitations, we observed a marked increase in team members who did the same.
Establishing psychological safety makes employees more open
to having a constructive discussion because they are less afraid
of feeling blamed or criticized.
When teammates feel "enough" psychological safety, they
can use debriefs as an opportunity to provide feedback to one
another. It allows them to share their ideas on how to solve
problems without others judging them. But the stage must be
set before the debrief.

During a Debrief

When these pre-conditions are met, the foundation exists
for a solid debrief. So, what needs to happen during the
debrief to maximize its effectiveness? We've observed many
debrief sessions and examined the research on debriefing.
Unfortunately, simply having good interpersonal skills and
technical competence doesn't ensure that a person will
lead an effective debrief.7 The way the debrief is structured
and facilitated determines its success. The following best
practices can help.
Best Practice 5: Avoid five common debrief pitfalls. There
are a few common pitfalls that can derail an otherwise effective debrief.8 So, during a debrief, it is imperative to avoid the
five common pitfalls, noted below.
5a) Too much focus on "task work." When left on their
own, with no guidance, almost all team debriefs gravitate towards a discussion of "task work." Physicians talk about disease
symptoms, military leaders focus on weapon system capabilities, and programmers talk about problems with the code.
They don't naturally bring up teamwork issues, which may
be creating some of the taskwork problems. It's important to
recognize that leaders are often promoted into their positions
because of their task expertise, so they may be less comfortable discussing teamwork than taskwork issues.
One simple way to combat this is by providing the team
leader with a checklist of teamwork themes they can cover



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2

From the Executive Editor
From the Guest Editor
Perspectives
Ignition Teams: Rising to the Challenges of Innovation
Challenge Accepted: Managing Polarities to Enhance Virtual Team Effectiveness
Facilitating Trust and Communication in Virtual Teams
Building Entrepreneurial Teams: Talent, Social Capital, and Culture
Organizations That Get Teamwork Right
Team Development: The Power of Debriefing
The Rise of Digital Team Building
Executive Roundtable
In First Person
Linking Theory + Practice
Insight into Action
Leadership Insights
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover1
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover2
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 1
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 2
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 3
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - From the Executive Editor
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 5
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - From the Guest Editor
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 7
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Perspectives
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 9
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 10
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 11
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 12
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 13
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 14
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 15
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Ignition Teams: Rising to the Challenges of Innovation
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 17
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 18
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 19
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 20
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 21
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Challenge Accepted: Managing Polarities to Enhance Virtual Team Effectiveness
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 23
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 24
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 25
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 26
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 27
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 28
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 29
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Facilitating Trust and Communication in Virtual Teams
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 31
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 32
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 33
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 34
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 35
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Building Entrepreneurial Teams: Talent, Social Capital, and Culture
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 37
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 38
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 39
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 40
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 41
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Organizations That Get Teamwork Right
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 43
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 44
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 45
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Team Development: The Power of Debriefing
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 47
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 48
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 49
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 50
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 51
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - The Rise of Digital Team Building
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 53
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 54
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 55
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Executive Roundtable
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 57
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 58
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 59
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 60
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 61
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - In First Person
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 63
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 64
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 65
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Linking Theory + Practice
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 67
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 68
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 69
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Insight into Action
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 71
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Leadership Insights
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 73
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - 74
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover3
People & Strategy Spring 2018 Vol. 41 No. 2 - Cover4
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