“Asking questions will get you the performance you are after far better than dictating demands.”
I do not know Dan James, but he is a smart man and I love this quote. In this simple quote he gets to the essence of an effective debriefing. Too often debriefings in training consist of the instructor telling the officers what they did right, what they did wrong (some only address this part), and what they need to do, or not do, next time. In some cases very little learning takes place with this type of debriefing. The officer nods politely and appears to be listening. Some in fact are listening and processing the information. Most however, have a bunch of white noise and negative self talk going on in their head and learn little from the debrief.
Over the years I have learned that the true power of debriefings is in the art of the question. Questions create the opportunity for the officer to reflect on their performance and determine on their own what they did well and what they would like to do in a future event to make their response more desirable. Questions create the opportunity for the officer to use imagery and imagine themselves being successful in a similar event in the future. This imagery helps to reinforce the new behaviour at the subconscious level.
Questions need to be primarily open ended and focused on performance. Some examples would be:
- How did you feel about your performance?
- What did you feel you did well? Why was that effective for you?
- What did you learn from this experience?
- What would you do differently if you were in a similar situation in the future? (Make them answer this question in positive terms based on what they would do as opposed to what they would not do.)
- What options do you have to solve this problem?
- Of those options which would be most comfortable for you? (This taps into the subconscious and addresses their own comfort level rather than the conscious level and what they think the right answer is.)
- Can you imagine yourself doing that? (When they answer yes have them close their eyes and imagine themselves doing it.)
As a trainer remember these key elements when conducting debriefings:
- The purpose of debriefing is to allow the officer to learn from their experience in order to enhance future performance.
- There is more than one acceptable solution to the problem. As trainers we often have a predetermined response we want from the officer. The reality is that there are numerous reasonable responses to every problem.
- Remember the power of questions and Ask More – Tell Less.