Archive for September, 2010

>The Power of the Debrief


Debriefing a mission is standard practice for people in the military. Debriefing some of the things we do at work and in life can give a lot of benefits – time for reflection, celebration, learning and enhancement. You can debrief anything, from a hard conversation to a long and complex transaction.

I learnt this framework for debriefing from my friends and mentors Liam Forde and Sarah Friis. It’s very simple but effective, and revolves around three questions:

  • what went well
  • what didn’t go so well
  • what could be done differently next time.


Depending on the situation, the debrief might best be dealt with at a personal level – what do I do well, what didn’t I do so well, what could I do better next time.

If there are two or three of you debriefing, you can run it by answering those three questions yourself. You can then have the other people answer the questions about you as well, so you get instant and valuable feedback. If there was no-one else there with whom you can de-brief, like a debrief for a hard conversation, you can still grab someone and say ‘let me do a debrief with you’. You can then (respecting the confidentiality of the other party to the hard conversation) ask yourself the three questions while the other person listens. Last resort is to do it in writing – I often debrief in my daily journal.

If the mood takes you, there are two further questions you can ask to get some positive closure on the issue you are debriefing:

  • what do I congratulate myself for from the situation
  • how am I going to celebrate.


I have found this to be a very powerful process. It can take some discipline, and sometimes you have to push people if you are using the personal variant of the first question – what I did well – although they usually have no trouble with the other two. Taking positive reinforcement from the debrief is a valuable component. So if you really want to capture all the learnings and benefits out of any situation, do a debrief.


>The Managing UP Kit part 7 – You and the chair


The CEO’s relationship with the chair is a critical one for the success of the organisation – each of you is at the pinnacle of the respective arms of management and governance. As with any relationship, it usually works best when the two people involved are clear about the nature and boundaries of their place in the relationship, and there are clear and agreed lines of communication.

In other words, you need to be prepared to talk to each other about how you will talk to each other, and make the terms of your relationship as explicit as possible. Here are some of the areas where is it helpful to have agreement:

  • You need to be clear about each person’s role as the public face of the organisation. Who will be the primary media representative; from whom will comment be sought? Which areas are clearly the territory of the chair, and which are the CEO’s?
  • You need to understand when, and in what circumstances, you can disagree with each other in the board room in front of the other directors, and how the difference of opinion can be constructively dealt with.
  • You need to know the boundaries of the open access you have to each other – is it 24/7, no weekends, not after 8.00 pm?
  • You need a working ability to give each other constructive feedback, and a willingness to receive it.
  • You should be clear about the nature of the chair’s role as your mentor, and how that can work best for both of you.


What chairmen need most, in my experience is “No surprises” – if there is bad news the chair should not find out about it first in a board meeting and without prior mention. The chair has credibility to maintain with the other directors, and will undoubtedly want to assess how the most constructive result can be obtained from the adverse situation.

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