And you yearn for feedback--but fear it, too?
You'd like validation around what worked. And you'd like to learn what can be bettered. But who wants the blaming and esteem-eroding process of the typical post-mortem? (Let's face it: most performance reviews, of any kind, range from challenging to abusive!)
“After-Action Reviews” are a potent way to explore what happened, build esteem, and open learning. Particularly once you’ve established a DOV (Power Tool #1: Definition of Victory). They're easy too!
- What’s the intended outcome (e.g., from the Definition of Victory)?
- How does that outcome relate to what’s important—especially passion, commitments, your calling, etc.?
Then, ask three questions:
- What worked to support the intended outcome?
- With the benefit of hindsight, what could have been added or increased to get still better outcomes?
- With the benefit of hindsight, what could have been eliminated or reduced to get still better outcomes?
After-Action Reviews differ in several ways from how we typically evaluate results. First, we start by priming ourselves with positives: what we want, and why that’s something to be excited about. That reminds us that we’re up to good stuff. Whether or not we achieved exactly what we’d intended, pursuing intrinsic passions is cause for celebration in and of itself.
Second, we start with what worked, and spend as much attention looking at what worked as what didn’t. That helps keep our minds open to learning, and also to be in a creative and receptive mode. We can learn a lot from looking at what worked, especially in a group. More often than not, this scrutiny uncovers hidden strengths that we might have overlooked. Simply noticing good stuff reinforces what's already working. Who doesn't yearn for validation?!
Finally, when we look at what we'd change, it’s with the phrase “with the benefit of hindsight.” Including that phrase reminds us that it’s a learning process, and further reduces the potential for blame or self-criticism. It’s also easier to begin with “what could be added” to make things even better, because we attach less blame to something missing or incomplete than something that went awry (i.e., we’d have had a better result if we hadn’t done it).
Want an example? Let’s take a networking meeting, which I was unexpectedly invited to on a holiday trip. I couldn't dress as I might have if I’d known about it...and I let that get me off balance. My Definition of Victory? Wanting to know if this was a useful group for me, and getting to know one person I might want to help…and being myself in the process.
From the After-Action Review perspective quite a lot worked: I was able to engage in the meeting and get/offer useful support. And, I had fun. Years later, I still see some of those people and relish meeting them, even though I rarely go to that networking event.
With the benefit of hindsight, what could I have added? Packing a nice pair of khakis for that trip, regardless of what I thought I was doing. What could I have reduced? Ruminating about my attire--perhaps by reflecting on my DOV even more.
Can you see how reconnecting to intentions primes you for something positive? How noticing what works deepens that validation? How the phrase "with the benefit of hindsight" makes it even easier to embrace a difference in what happened? (It enables those curious, but dispassionate, scientists in us.) And how "what might I add?"/ "what might I reduce?" makes the exploration both concrete and fun?
If you post a sample, I'll help you further explore what worked...and, with the benefit of hindsight, what you might add or reduce to make outcomes even better.