What are the skills required to conduct an effective debrief?

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We have discussed before what feel the role of a ‘debriefer’ is – a debriefer being the person who sits down with a recipient of a 360 degree appraisal cycle and shares the results with them face-to-face.

I suggested that the role of such a debriefer was to act as an intermediary between the recipient and their feedback report – with this in mind, we can consider what the key skills of such a person should be.

Before the session begins, a debriefer should prepare adequately for the session itself – they require the ability to analyse the report in isolation and begin to assess what the themes are that are emerging, patterns that repeat, ratings and comments that differ between different relationship groups, e.g. do the peers believe something very different to the direct reports or boss?

Once into the debriefing session, the debriefer needs to be able to place the recipient at ease sufficiently such that they feel free to express themselves – I find this no different in many respects to any 1-2-1 interaction, but the key difference I feel is that the recipient understands the nature of the session i.e. what YOU are there to do, and that the conversation is confidential – if it isn’t you must say this though.

Establishing some position of trustworthiness is critical to being able to support the recipient through the process.

Not unsuprisingly, listening is an essential skill – actively listening to the recipient and gauging what it is they are really saying will provide you all you need to move constructively through the session.

A temptation is to think about what you are going to say next; how to solve the issue, offer advice, move to action or simply to ask another question…..resist all of these! Listen and you will know what it is the next step..

Asking questions is another key skill in a 360 feedback debrief, but probably warrants another post, so I am going to leave it for now.

All of these skills are discussed in detail during our 1-day training programme for anyone tasked with handling the face-to-face debriefs, be they HR, L & D professionals or Line Managers; feel free to get in touch if you would like to know more.


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