Time to Debrief

When a United States Air Force Squadron undertakes a mission they invest time to plan the mission down to the smallest detail. They then execute the mission according to the plan. Upon their return to base they meet again to debrief. They discuss what worked, they discuss what didn’t and they discuss what they could do better next time. 

These are brutally honest meetings, rank and friendships are set aside. The goal is to learn from every mission. Every mission must be better and safer than the mission that came before it. 

Many of the pilots would tell you that other than hitting the target itself the most critical part of the entire operation is the debrief. All future success comes from those vital debrief meetings. 

As we approach the end of the 12 month period we call 2021 it’s time to think about debriefing the year. 

2021 was another unpredictable and challenging year. But if you’re reading this then it’s likely you’ll survive it to tackle 2022. It would be foolish for any of us to expect a return to the old normal so we need to learn as much as possible from the year that is coming to a close.

How you choose to reflect on 2021 is a personal choice but here are some of the things I’ll be considering. Keep in mind, the goal of my personal debrief is a better 2022.

The first thing I need to consider is who I choose to associate with. I alone can control the content I allow into my mind. The people I associate with put thoughts into my head. There is nothing I can humanly do to change that. But I can decide who I will and won’t associate with. So one of my biggest questions for my debrief is, “did I associate with enough positive people?” Are you allowing too many negative thoughts to creep into your head or are you focusing on the positive? 

You get to make the final decision on whether or not you’ll have a positive attitude but other people influence your decision. Make sure it’s the right people influencing your decision .

I always start with attitude because once you get your attitude right everything else, and I do mean everything, becomes much much easier. 

My other questions are what worked? What didn’t? What did I learn? What will I do stop doing in the coming year? What will I begin? How will I use what I’ve learned to be a better resource for my customers and colleagues? Most important, how will I use what I have learned in this still challenging year to be a better husband, parent, sibling or friend?

Once this year is passed whatever you’ve accomplished or failed to accomplish will be behind you. Guess that’s why it’s called the past. Because it’s in the past it’s far less important than what’s in front of you. 

Even if 2021 wasn’t all you hoped for you can use it to ensure a better 2022 and remember it’s YOUR future, only YOU get to define what better is for you. 

Reflect on that and then reflect on your year. 2022 is fast approaching and how you start the year is a great predictor of how you’ll finish it. 

Decisions Decisions

If you’re a leader then you make many decisions during a year. Some are big and some not so big. But every decision changes something, assuming of course that the decision was acted on. 

I don’t often suggest taking long looks in the rear view mirror but every now and then it serves a purpose. This is the time of year for looking back. A little self-reflection can help you remember some of the lessons of the past year that you may have forgotten.

So while you’re in reflection mode ask yourself, “What decisions that I made in the last year would I like to take back?”

It’s probably not a lot of fun to rehash decisions that didn’t turn out as planned but it can be a valuable exercise. You’ll want to look at the information you used to make the decision. It’s worth noting where the information came from and if you were alone in the decision or if your team agreed with you.

You want to pay particular attention as to whether the actual decision was flawed or if the mistake was in the execution. By the way, the biggest mistake of all is making a decision and then not acting on it…just sayin’.

Reflections on past decisions should be a learning experience. It’s not an opportunity to assign blame to anyone, it’s an opportunity to learn and to avoid the same mistake in the future.

If you discover that there are too many decisions that you would make differently then you know you’ve really grown throughout the year. Your short time of self-reflection should give you the opportunity to use that growth to have an even more successful 2017. 

But remember, you have to first acknowledge a poor decision before you can possibly learn from it.

Think about that too!