Research: Debriefing Pays Off for Teams

Teams take many forms in today’s workplace. No matter the size or location of work groups, however, those that debrief have significantly higher performance levels, according to researchers at Rice University.

“Team Development: The Power of Debriefing,” which appeared in the spring edition of the journal People and Strategy, focuses on how debriefing can impact teamwork activities.

The study found that teams that debrief — i.e., meet to discuss what went well and what did not during a particular activity — outperform teams that do not by about 20 percent. Performance was measured according to objectively quantifiable output from personnel records, self-ratings and performance appraisal ratings.

The debriefings do not necessarily have to be long, according to Eduardo Salas, one of the authors. Most in the analyzed research samples were fairly efficient and lasted 15 to 60 minutes.

Salas and his fellow authors created a list of best practices for successful debriefing sessions based on the existing research.

Before a debriefing:

  • Allocate time to debrief following team activities
  • Educate team leaders on how and why to lead team debriefings
  • Teach leaders and team members about what really influences team effectiveness – the “science” of teamwork
  • Ensure that all team members feel comfortable actively participating in a debriefing

During a debriefing:

  • Avoid the following: too much focus on task work; telling, not discussing; improper or inadequate focus; taking a good look back, but no definitive look forward and being too evaluative or threatening
  • Try to conduct the debriefing close in time to the “action,” if possible
  • Record conclusions and agreements reached to be able to “close the loop” after the debriefing. Make sure everyone has an understanding of next steps, and follow up with team members when appropriate  
  • Consider trying technology to assist with debriefings (if appropriate)

Following a debriefing:

  • Boost accountability and willingness to participate in future debriefings by following up on agreements and communicating progress. For instance, provide examples of what resulted from debriefing sessions, and follow up on progress
  • Conduct periodic debriefings that are “fit for purpose.” For example, ask if a particular issue needs to be discussed and be mindful of how this discussion can benefit the current work environment

Salas said while there is no magical, perfect frequency with which to conduct debriefings, a good rule of thumb is to increase frequency as teamwork becomes more complex and dynamic. He also said that senior leadership should consider “decision debriefs,” where they take a recent decision and discuss what the decision was, how the decision was made (e.g., who was involved, decision governance, information considered, speed of decision making and the way things were communicated), what was done well and what could have been done differently and what this means for future decisions.

Four Big Bad Sales Myths of 2018

Justin Jones, co-founder of the sales consulting firm Somersault Innovation, offers this perspective on approaching the sales profession in 2018.

Myth #1: Expertise is the Source of Our Credibility. Most of us are all too eager to demonstrate our product and business knowledge and quickly take control of a customer interaction to demonstrate expertise. We believe this will help our clients trust and buy from us. However, as Amy Cuddy finds in her recent book, Presence, competence is only part of what compels trust. And, it’s the lesser part!

Before clients consider our competence or expertise there’s something else they’re looking for: they’re looking for warmth. Are we real? Are we authentic? Unfortunately, the more we hammer our amazing expertise, the less authentic we appear.

I spoke the other day with an account management team from a leading mortgage technology firm, and here is how they approached a recent client meeting. They went in without an agenda except to talk with the customer about their business. The client responded by openly sharing information about two key initiatives that led to new opportunities. The team reported their delight in what felt like a “natural,” and “authentic” meeting and were eager to experiment with more clients.

Give less weight to expertise in your next meeting and see what happens.  

Myth #2: The Customer is Always Right. Today, our customers are much further along in their buying decision by the time we talk to them. This makes our job a lot harder because, thanks to many online resources, customers are much better informed and often have their eyes on a specific solution. But that doesn’t make them right, no matter how sophisticated a buyer they are.

If we slip into order-taking mode, we end up in commodity-ville, talking about a limited solution that can be easily compared to the competition.  However, if we press for more discovery we’re almost certain to find that the client’s definition of the problem is limited, or even incorrect. To the extent we can reframe the customer’s certainty and fixation, we graduate from “problem-solver” – just like every other vendor who calls on them –  to the more coveted and differentiated “problem finder” role.

Myth # 3: Big Data Will Save Us. The benefits of Big Data are all around us. AI and predictive analytics are already being used to make our lives easier. After clicking only once on an ad for online bedding retailer Brooklinen, they showed up on every site I frequent, making it easy to build a relationship, and, yes, place an order. Many of our clients are likewise experimenting with this technology to identify leads.

While this functionality is fantastic, we see it leading too often to limited engagements. Sales people are over-relying on data to close ready-made deals. In a fashion, they’re combining this myth with the previous two: they leverage data to quickly demonstrate their expertise in the specified areas and make a wrong assumption about the customer’s problem. The promise of big data is real, but only insofar as it’s used to enable greater problem finding – not quicker problem solving and selling.

Myth # 4: Focusing on Numbers Will Drive Revenue. This last myth is pervasive among both sales people and their managers. I understand the power of the maxim ‘What gets measured gets done.’ But we’ve taken this to an extreme such that sales managers and their teams spend an inordinate amount of time and emotional calories reporting on their pipelines. The unintended consequence: sales becomes dumbed down into a revenue drone. It’s no longer about our customers and the interesting things they’re doing with their businesses and how we can help them.

It’s about delivering our numbers – or at least paying lip service to doing so. The remedy for sales managers is as simple as asking your teams about the interesting things they’re seeing in their accounts. What’s something new they’ve learned from a customer? Which accounts are they feeling excited about and why? You’ll have a much clearer picture about progress in each account, and you’ll open up your conversations toward what really matters: how your business can help your clients solve their problems.

Retail Sales Down? Try Getting Mobile

Ever since I stepped into the now, so to speak, and got a smartphone, I’ve been much more aware of the need for businesses to have mobile web sites. Even when I’m at home — why not use my Blackberry when my computer is all the way in the other room? (Some call it lazy; I call it resourceful.) At any rate, emarketer.com offers some food for thought that may help your retail sales climb in 2011:

Retailers without a mobile-optimized website may be missing out on sales. According to recent research from mobile and social marketing consultancy Brand Anywhere and Luth Research, 51% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from retailers that have a mobile site. But fewer than 5% of retailers have such a site.

Which retailers would benefit most? According to the study, the product categories most likely to attract mobile-commerce customers include auto dealerships (88% of mobile phone users); auto parts (65%); furniture (62%); florists (61%); jewelry, luggage and leather goods (60%); liquor (50%); sporting goods, books, hobby and music (49%); and clothing and shoes (47%). However, all categories in the study would benefit to some degree.

In February 2010, Multichannel Merchant found nearly 80% of multichannel retailers had no m-commerce presence at all, and April research from eROI showed fewer than one-quarter of marketers overall had a mobile-optimized website.

Marketing Position Open at Indiana Chamber

Hear ye! Hear ye! We’re looking for a Manager of Business Resource Marketing & Sales.

This person will help us spread the word about our new E-Learning tools, safety compliance video program and our new eco-friendly electronic publications. We need someone to market these products, as well as our popular compliance publications, to existing customers and cultivate relationships with new customers. We’re looking for an enthusiastic individual who can place a high volume of outbound calls every day while handling some inbound customer calls. The person in this position will address specific questions and provide details to customers on our line of products, and will demonstrate our commitment to customer service by following up on calls and ensuring superior results.

Requirements:

  • You have a high level of integrity and a strong work ethic.
  • You’re passionate about achieving great results and have a desire to do what is right for clients.
  • You are intelligent, energetic, and work well in a team environment but are equally productive when working individually.
  • You have a positive attitude.
  • You have strong communication and customer service skills.
  • You have a high school degree (preferably a bachelor’s degree), as well as sales and/or customer service experience.

If interested, please send your resume to me at [email protected].

Super Sensational Salesperson Sought

Beyond individual attributes and abilities, what’s one of the keys to being a good salesperson? The no-brainer answer is a good product to sell.

Well, the Indiana Chamber has that. The list of benefits is long and powerful. Add in the almost 90 years of history and accomplishment, the nearly 5,000 member companies with 800,000 Hoosier workers already on board, and the recognition that businesses can’t do everything on their own and must utilize available resources for ultimate success.

But you still have to be at the top of your game to get the job done. We’re in the market for a new membership development manager, with this dynamic salesperson joining a team of five other awesome membershipians (I know that’s not a real word, but give me a break).  To be successful, this position requires hitting the phone and hitting the road to convince business owners and CEOs that the Chamber can and should be part of their game plan.  Go get ‘ers should e-mail me ([email protected]) to learn more and to submit a resume.  Sleepy heads need not apply.