Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

“Books are meant to be read from beginning to end, but they are best understood from end to beginning.” – from the 2016 film Mr. Church. 

Like books, situations can be better understood when looking at them in reverse. Some divisions or organizations are masterful at debriefing important events with their teams to dissect the learning and improve the processes and results; most, however, are not. Most are afraid to have an honest critique for fear of being wrong, or “held accountable” in a negative way. Critiques are taken personally and protectionism kicks in creating defensiveness. What if more teams were able to have constructive, empowering, and engaging assessments of their successes and failures, courageously asking what worked, what didn’t work, and what did they not do that they could have to have helped? Imagine taking time to learn from their mistakes, to better work together as a team during ordinary moments as well as high-stress moments.

This kind of learning can only be done in reverse. We can only assess high-stress situations with our team when we go back and look from the end back to the beginning and seek to understand our own failings and work to get better.

This sort of review works for all teams in all kinds of industries from firefighters and SWAT teams to production and manufacturing floors to sales organizations, health providers, significant others, and families. It is an act of love to look upon your relationships, personal, professional, or otherwise, and make sure you have tended it well. Such love is worth bestowing upon anyone you engage with on a regular basis.

It is important to note that this review I’m describing is not dwelling on minutia or rehashing conversations, but rather an objective assessment. I love the 10 scale and use it in many ways. Perhaps you ask, on a scale of 1-10 how did we do with ______? Then, anything less than a 10, ask two questions; first, why so high? Even if it’s a 2 or a 3. They might laugh, but it focuses them on what’s working and going right. Second, what would have made it a 10? This focuses them on assessing what a 10 actually looks like and articulating what has to happen to get there. Consciousness or mindfulness or communication, whatever you want to call it, can sound a lot like overthinking on its surface, but honestly reviewing your interactions doesn’t have to make you anxious, we’re just unpracticed and accustomed to doing so.

It pays to notice and to learn.