December 7th, 2018

Tired of getting useless feedback? Or not getting feedback at all? This super-simple tool will change everything.

Part of being a successful business leader is to make sure you extract maximum learning out of your week, month, and quarter.  In this article, I’d like to share with you the easiest, most effective way to generate the powerful insights and instant feedback you’ll need to grow and scale your business.

I picked this tool up about twenty-five years ago when I was just starting out as a business coach. I wanted to become a better speaker because I knew that I wanted to be out there in the world sharing big ideas and motivating audiences to take control of their businesses and their lives. So I hired a coach. And he gave me this simple debriefing tool that I still use to this day:

It’s called, “Liked Best and Next Times.”

Whenever you need to debrief — whenever you’re looking for feedback or insight — you evaluate what you like best about your performance and what you’d like to do differently next time.

Notice that phrase, “Next Time.” You aren’t asking yourself, “What went wrong?” Instead you’re asking, “What did I learn? What insight did I gain?” That positive framing is a crucial part of this tool.

So the next time you finish a project, pause and ask yourself what you liked best and what you’d like to do differently next time. These two questions are simple, but they’re powerful and they can help you in a wide array of scenarios — on your own, in groups, and one-on-one.

Debriefing Solo

The simplest way to use this tool is to apply it on your own, in your business journal. I’ll illustrate how this works by sharing one of my latest Liked Best and Next Times.

My business coaching company, Maui Mastermind, recently did a large event in Denver for some of our top clients. It was a workshop on how they can build their business systems and their internal business controls in the different areas of their companies.

After the event, I got stuck in the airport for a while, waiting for my flight back home to Jackson, Wyoming. So I took that time to generate some insights and feedback.

I took out my business journal and drew a vertical line down the middle of the page so that I’d have two columns: Liked Best and Next Times.

On the left, I wrote down a list of all the things that went really well — the things that I “Liked Best” about the workshop.  My list included:

  • For the first time, two key staff members flew home early so that their understudies could run the event. That’s evidence that our company is growing strategic depth.
  • I taught two new sessions and they both got great audience feedback.
  • One of our coaches, Steve, really nailed his strategic planning workshop.
  • And so on…

Then, on the right side of the page, I listed my “Next Times”.  These included:

  • We have a “Big Idea Worksheet” that helps participants identify in writing what their one-to-three biggest takeaways from the event are and what specific steps they can take to implement those ideas in the first thirty days after the event. Next time, I’d like to give those sheets to clients as they check-in. I think that’ll be a great way to keep everyone thinking in practicable, actionable terms from start to finish.
  • And so on…

It’s that simple. Just take a few minutes to debrief with yourself and you can generate powerful insights for growth.

Debriefing as a Group

There are all sorts of times when you might want to do a group debrief. You may want to debrief with your key team members after a big client engagement. Or maybe you’re reviewing how a particular system is working in your company — for instance, how, operationally, a system influences the way that you produce your core product offering.

You can ask your team what they liked best — what’s really working. And then you can ask what they’d like to do differently next time, perhaps to produce more efficiently or deliver more consistent quality.

When you’re debriefing with a group, really push people to generate as large a list as possible. Get as many ideas up on the board as you can.

I also recommend that you focus on one column at a time. First list out all of your Liked Bests, then all of your Next Times. This will help the group stay focused and maximize the productivity of the exercise.

Debriefing One-on-One

You can also use this tool when you’re working one-on-one with a key team member.

For instance, let’s imagine that you have a direct report named Natalie who’s in charge of all of the receivables in your company. You can sit down with her for a check-in and ask what she likes best about the current process that she’s using to collect receivables. Then ask her what one or two things could change to make the process even more efficient and effective.

Now, if instead of debriefing Natalie, you were coaching her, then the conversation would be reversed. You’d be sharing your Liked Bests and Next Times.

In that coaching scenario, it’s important to limit the number of Next Times that you share. You can list as many Liked Bests as you can think of — those will make Natalie feel great about her work — but, when it comes to Next Times, you want to restrict yourself to no more than three items. And if you’re meeting with her especially frequently — say, bi-weekly — you might even want to keep that list down to just one Next Time that she can actually put into effect before your next meeting.

Remember, one Next Time that actually gets implemented is infinitely more valuable than a hundred Next Times that don’t get implemented. Really long lists of Next Times tend to do more harm than good: they’re overwhelming, they create a sense of failure, and they’re difficult to implement.

Now That You’ve Got The Tool, Use It

This tool is at once incredibly powerful and incredibly easy to use. It helps you generate feedback and maximize your learning whether you’re working in a group, one-to-one, or on your own.

All you have to do now is take a look at the week ahead and identify a moment when you can take this new tool out for a spin.