Atrainability Blog

Here we share some thoughts, insights and ideas related to Human Factors Training

Debriefing - The Holy Grail

Debriefing or feedback is a vital part of ensuring teams communicate effectively and learn from experiences. How good are we at giving and accepting praise and positive feedback?

An insight I've gained from working with and observing teams is how surprised individuals can be when given positive feedback. Also sometimes they have real difficulty accepting it and view it as patronising. But feedback is a gift and let's be honest we don't do it well. Most of us are swift to blame and slow to praise.

Perhaps it's that quintessential Britishness which hinders us thanking or complimenting a colleague's contribution or skill? We are a very multicultural society now and what richness that brings, so perhaps we can move forward.

Being praised for good performance not only raises morale but improves trust and performance within the team and beyond. It can benefit sickness rates and staff retention as it has in some of our clients.

I recently had the privilege of watching a series of Maternity deliveries by C-section. After introductions during one of the safety huddle at 8am, I explained I was hoping to observe and help them recognise what they've done well – and so it proved to be.

The team were not anticipating any particular problems, and although the first mother had a history of previous C-section deliveries, a scan had been conducted to check the position of the placenta.

Unfortunately, when accessing the uterus they encountered Placenta Previa, and along with the accompanying significant blood loss it was discovered that the baby had inhaled some of the fluid. Rather than a healthy cry, the baby omitted a half-choking squawk and instantly the body language of the team changed and the call was made for the paediatricians to attend urgently.

To cut a long story short, I can report that all was handled extremely well and the baby was quickly whisked off and the outcome was a healthy mother and child.

Afterwards I was asked by the team for feedback. After going into some non-clinical detail on how they'd handled a tricky situation really well I then encouraged them to provide some positive feedback to each other. It did not come naturally, but eventually the Registrar agreed that yes it did go very well. When asked if she could tell me why, she looked stunned and after some thought replied;

"The Scrub Nurse did a great job and I had everything in my hand before I barely asked for it."

With some gentle reassurance, The Registrar relayed her positive feedback to the Scrub Nurse directly.

After being told what a great job she'd done she beamed and said,

"Firstly I'm a midwife, not a scrub nurse. I am only doing this because the scrub nurse called in sick today, it's not my normal job."

I said "Well you've just had some great feedback!" She then added "When they pranged the placenta my heart sank and I thought we were going to have real problems but what held me together was how calm the two surgeons remained as they handled the situation successfully."

Soon, the rest of the team started opening up about their own worries and self-criticisms during the procedure, all which were met with empathy as well as positive and constructive feedback from their colleagues.

The senior midwife had been acting as team leader and in a circulating capacity. She thought she had left it too long before comforting the mother and father. I commented that it did seem like a long time, but the parents had looked relaxed and unconcerned. However the only people who could comment were the parents themselves. How about go and ask them? They were in fact fine.

Everyone now professed that they felt so much happier and confident. They all had a much better team understanding. Everyone was smiling and the atmosphere was positively buoyant.

So what's the moral of this story? You don't really need a trainer to tell you what you've done well, but you might need some help to get your team to a place where positive and constructive feedback become the norm.

We'd be delighted to help you.

Atrainability offer both in-house and Open Course training and coaching solutions. We'd be happy to have an informal chat (in confidence of course) to discuss your current challenges. Please get in touch and one of our team will get back to you

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017