The happy debrief

“So, how did the project / event go?”

When we ask for feedback, what we really want to hear is all the good stuff — People loved it! We were under budget! Better than expected! That was freaking awesome, and I can’t wait to do it again! Thank you all for your hard work, and a special shout out to Tracy for going above and beyond the call of duty — great job!

Then, all that’s left to do is capture the minutes and put it away until next year.

I get it; I wish it worked that way, too. The reality is, there’s always room for improvement. Always. I’ve been in enough debriefs to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. There must be a balance. If you don’t talk about the things that could be improved, they’ll never improve.

We put in all this hard work, and then someone says something negative. Ouch! We seem to take everything personally. Is it really negative, or is that how we perceive it? I have suffered from this disease from time to time. Remember the rule: You’re supposed to say 10 good things for every one bad thing, or at least two-to-one.


Stock Traders In A MeetingDoes everyone who was involved need to be in the debrief meeting? No; but, anyone involved in any decision-making, leadership or authority does. Depending on the size of the event / project, this could take forever. At times, it might seem like half the meeting has nothing to do with you or your contribution to the project / event. So, why are you there?

I’ve found it beneficial to break these debriefs into smaller debrief meetings. Deal specifically with one area of responsibility. When you’re done, ask for feedback on other areas of the project / event. The debrief leader can then disseminate that information to the other teams’ debriefing. In this smaller group setting, you can get more specific without boring half the room to death.

Compile the information from all the teams and distribute accordingly. One way I’ve found that really helps the debrief is by having a pre-brief. Chances are, you’ll have several new faces on the team this year. Pull out the notes from last year and review them prior to jumping right in. Did you make the necessary adjustments to the project / event this year?

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel or make the same mistakes. When it comes time for this year’s debrief, it just might be the happy debrief.

Mike-Klockenbrink02Mike Klockenbrink is chief of staff at Lakeside Church in Folsom, CA. Mike worked for W.W. Grainger Industrial Supply for 16 years in many different capacities. In January 2000, Mike quit climbing the corporate ladder and started climbing the Kingdom ladder. Klockenbrink can be reached at



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