As Collaborative professionals, we have talked the talk for many years. We have said we need to debrief after each of our Collaborative joint meetings to learn and become better Collaborative professionals. But how many of us walk that walk? How many debrief sessions have you been in where the professionals talked about what the clients did or didn’t do instead of what the professionals did or didn’t do? If we’re going to become better Collaborative professionals, we need to change that. We need to start practicing what we preach.
The purpose of the debrief is for each of us to learn what we may have done well so that we can use those good tools again in a future meeting. It is also to learn what we may have done poorly and could do better. We can’t learn if we don’t point out to each other what works and what doesn’t. So how can we conduct more effective debrief sessions?
- Make sure all professionals are available for the debrief. Different professionals have different perspectives and it helps to hear those different points of view.
- Schedule time for debrief sessions. Ideally, you should schedule 15 minute for just the professionals immediately following your Joint Meeting. If everyone has that time scheduled on their calendars, the debrief is more likely to happen.
- Face-to-face makes for more effective debrief. Whether it’s in person or on a video call/meeting, plan to look each other in the eye to provide feedback. We are kinder to one another if we are looking at each other eye-to-eye.
- Keep the feedback about the professionals, not the clients. The debrief session is not a time for the professionals to gang up on the clients. Talking about the clients when they are not in the room is a form of triangulation. Instead, make sure to use the time as an opportunity to learn from one another and how we may have each responded to each other or to the clients’ behaviors.
- Invite feedback from your fellow professionals. Tell your teammates that you really want to hear what they think you could have done differently or better. And maybe even more effective, if you know you did something during a meeting that you could have done better, call it out yourself! Then you can brainstorm together about how you could have done it differently.
- Provide feedback about the behavior, not the person. Let your fellow professional know how their behavior may have affected you, or maybe your client. And be specific. “When you said ‘this is what I think a judge would do…,’ it bothered me because we always tell the clients that this process is not about what a judge would do.”
- Make the feedback constructive, no critical. This is the real opportunity to become better Collaborative professionals where we can all learn. Don’t just offer what someone did that bothered you, offer a solution for how it could also have been done differently. “When you told my client he was wrong about the law, I think it would have been helpful if you had asked for a break to let me know so that I could talk to my client privately.”
- Feedback can be positive! Everyone loves positive feedback. It teaches us the types of behavior to repeat. Positive feedback can also be couples with constructive feedback to soften any perceived negativity. So when you are planning to give constructive feedback, be deliberate in finding something positive you can also share with that professional during the debrief.
- Write down points of feedback during your meetings. It’s easy to forget about things after a meeting. If you write them down, you are more likely to be able to be specific about your feedback.
A final point about effective debriefs – this is not an easy task. It can be a bit anxiety-provoking to share a point that you worry may be taken as a criticism rather than an opportunity for growth. You may have to be a taskmaster – “Hey team, I would really like to debrief in a way that helps us to learn how we can be better Collaborative professionals.” And if you put yourself out there, keeping in mind all of these points, then your debrief sessions should prove to be really constructive and educational.
*Many thanks and credit to my co-presenter, Dr. Honey Sheff. We worked together to develop a list of effective debrief points and co-presented at the CDT Lunch and Learn on this topic in February 2021.