Embrace the Debrief

I’m in my 20th year as a Peace Officer. During that time I’ve been involved in quite few debriefs, and I’ve noticed something… most people don’t like to honestly, and ruthlessly seek the truth in performance.

 

Before we go further let’s take a look at something I found on Wikipedia regarding the debrief;

Ernesto Yturralde, experiential trainer and researcher, explains: “In the field of experiential learning methodology, the debriefing is a semi-structured process by which the facilitator, once a certain activity is accomplished, makes a series of progressive questions in this session, with an adequate sequence that let the participants reflect what happened, giving important insights with the aim of that project towards the future, linking the challenge with the actions and the future.”

Debriefing sessions can be made directly without the use of “props” or with them as support tools, achieving highly productive sessions. The skill levels of professional facilitators and their visions for each process, will be essential to capitalize on the experiences of experiential workshops, in moments of inspiration, teachable moments that become Debriefing sessions, into commitments for action.

“Emotional Decompression” is one style of psychological debriefing proposed by David Kinchin in his 2007 book by that name.

Experiential learning debriefing is the basis for debriefing in Medical Simulation, used widely within healthcare.[3]

 

See, here is the thing; in every profession where potentially life changing decisions are made there needs to be a systematic approach to the debrief. The debrief must be honest, and most of all ruthless in pursuit of anything that will improve future performance. Now, most folks will say they are down with this approach. They will swear that they want to hear feedback. How to do things better, to have mistakes highlighted so they can be better prepared in the future. After all, our mistakes help us develop training plans. Yet, I’ve been in debriefs that would lead one to believe everything was perfectly executed. “Nobody got hurt”, is heard frequently during those debriefs, as if that means everything was done right. I think it would do some folks well to remember the only reason “nobody got hurt” is because the opponents they faced sucked worse than they did. “You can’t judge my actions now”. Actually yes we can, and we should. You/me/we should embrace that judgement.

 

A debrief is essentially an opportunity for peer review. Our peers and mentors give us feedback. Why wouldn’t we want them to be as ruthlessly honest as possible? It is to our benefit. We must push back against our ego which will kick and scream telling us these people need to walk a mile in our shoes, or stop Monday morning quarter backing us. Crush that ego, don’t be a weakling. They have, and they are not.

 

We must embrace the debrief. After every roll ask your training partner what you need to work on. Every live fire practice, or match you shoot, ask your squad mates what you need to work on. And if you’re ever in a position where you sit in on an organized debrief,  and it is your turn to be in the hot seat? Embrace that moment, and the subsequent growth.