Q&A: Transforming the Blame Game in Your Team Debriefs

Mar 9, 2022 | Burning Question

“When something goes wrong on my team at work, everyone gets defensive and blames one another. We typically do a project debrief and sometimes I get defensive because I want to do a good job. How can I avoid the uncomfortable blame game and set a better example for my teammates?”

– Lauren, 27

Your awareness about becoming defensive is a great first step so bravo for recognizing that! 👏

Try this next time: Begin debrief sessions by reminding everyone of the project goal and the value of being curious about what actually happened… Always start with the positive. What went well? Be specific…and celebrate it!.

Then identify what didn’t go well. A missed deadline, budget overrun, quality control issues. Every project has things that went well and didn’t go well. Don’t sweat it. It’s all part of the process of working, innovating and growing. Interestingly, learning from mistakes is often the most valuable part of a project.

Let’s get into more specifics about how to do this.  Approach conversations with curiosity by asking questions that begin with “what” and “how”.

“Why” questions tend to put others on the defensive. “What” and “how” questions are more spacious and invite people into a dialogue.

Here are a few examples:

Powerful questions generally have these qualities:

  • open-ended                                       
  • short                                                      
  • descriptive                                          
  • prescriptive                                         
  • unbiased                                              
  • not aggressive                                    
  • simple                                                   
  • proceeded by an observation      

Practice powerful questions in your next project debrief and and notice how this simple technique can shift the group dynamic and conversation.


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