How to Perform a High Quality After Action Review

You just finished a project, event, engagement or training exercise. It’s time to get some feedback. What do you do next?

The After Action Review (AAR) was originally developed by the U.S. Army to analyze and report on training exercises. Today the military uses a range of formalities (as do countless industries and organizations), but the essence is to capture two elements: what went well and what can be improved in the future.

Socrates uttered the immortal phrase, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Examining professional events may seem less dramatic, but it’s a critical component if you wish to improve. Also, keep in mind that an AAR shouldn’t substitute for a comprehensive program evaluation. (In fact, an AAR only partially measures to Level 1 on the Kirkpatrick Learning Evaluation Model.)

Here are several simple tips for performing high quality after action reviews.

Becoming a Coaching Leader

We hear so much about coaching these days. Leaders need to coach more. Employees need more coaching. High performers need coaching. Low performers need coaching. As leaders, how can we know we’ve done enough? And what does a quality coaching conversation actually look like in action?

Over the years, I’ve adopted a simple definition of coaching: “To coach is to develop another person by listening and asking questions to clarify ideas and commit to action.”

If you look closely, you’ll notice five key characteristics. I’ve listed each of them out below:

Business Conversation

12 Best Practices for Leading Effective Meetings

“If you were a fruit, what kind would you want to be?” That was the ice-breaker that kicked off the worst meeting I’ve been a part of. It took 30 minutes for everyone to contribute. The meeting ran 25 minutes long. Not only was it a complete waste of time, by the end I felt like I owed the company stockholders an apology just for attending.

In general, I tend to enjoy work meetings, but many business professionals dislike them – and often with good reason. Some detest them. Others bemoan their lack of ability to get any “real work” done when meetings pile up. Even the late Peter Drucker considered meetings a necessary evil.

Poorly run meetings can be exasperating. But productive meetings are essential for collaboration, decision-making and team effectiveness. Meetings are also expensive and can waste considerable time due to disorganization, lack of discipline and ambiguity. These best practices can help your meeting stand out, whether you are an organizer, presenter or participant – both for in-person and multi-site.

meeting-silhouette

What You Need to Understand About Adult Learning Theory

Picture yourself attending two training sessions. In the first, you sit quietly in your row as the instructor lectures on the benefits, nuances and applications of the topic. In the second session, you sit at a table with a group of peers as a facilitator introduces the topic, elicits several responses about the group’s current challenges, has each individual complete a self-assessment, shares the key points, has everyone interact in small groups and then asks each person to record their personal goals relating the topic to their present work situation. Maybe there is also a resource (like a discussion guide) for participants to use with their teams once they return.

Which session did you learn more from?

Regardless of your function or industry, learning plays a key role in business effectiveness. No one was born knowing how to do any job – and even with all the preparatory training we’ve received over the years (e.g. college), the speed of change demands that we continually learn better ways. (I know I, for one, don’t want to receive the same surgery a “seasoned” surgeon was trained on three decades ago!) So whether you develop training as a profession or you request it as a professional, it’s worth understanding how adults learn best.

Business People Learning

How to Host a Productive Generational Conversation

A decade ago, American organizations were largely unaware of the predicament they faced. The initial wave of Baby Boomers (many of whom occupied senior leadership roles) was set to begin a mass retirement. Many organizations were completely unprepared. Then something curious happened. The recession hit and many would-be retirees stuck around. In one somewhat morbid sense, the recession turned out to be a blessing in disguise. By now, succession planning routinely takes generational demographics into close consideration. Generational-oriented training is mainstream.

So how does your organization or team address generational dynamics from an awareness perspective? Are you at least having the conversation? Given how many employees find themselves at odds with colleagues of different generations, it’s worth thinking ahead. Here are some ways to make the conversation a productive one.

Generational Headbutt

Get More Initiative From Your People

“I don’t know that I’ve ever had someone come to me with that level of initiative. If they did, I think I’d be blown away.”

I heard these words from an executive at a leadership event a couple weeks ago. His frustrations weren’t anything new. Why can’t employees take more initiative to solve organizational problems?

It’s a common question with a wide variety of possible answers. Unfortunately, we usually get the level of initiative we reinforce. Let’s take a closer look at what initiative really means – and how to inspire the initiative you need to be effective.

How to Deliver a Leadership Event that Sticks

I’m constantly surprised at what passes for “leadership training” these days. Then I remember that most leaders work in business operations and their involvement is often extracurricular. I’ve also noted how easily many business operators are impressed with the leadership development support that comes their way. It’s almost as if the simple fact that the organization is investing in them speaks louder than the concepts or structure.

Regardless, if you are going to invest in a leadership event, it’s an opportunity for excellence – whether you are an executive, manager or training expert. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Just having an event doesn’t guarantee success. Incorporate these best practices.

What it Really Means to “Empower” Your People

When was the last time you gave an assignment to one of your employees with the full confidence it would be executed without your active involvement? It just doesn’t get much better than that. Unfortunately, for many bosses, it’s a rare event. The key is empowerment – but it’s not as easy as you might think. Empowering your people takes time, focus and courage.

Let me share a few ways to get started.

Business Team Raised Fists

When Taking Too Much Initiative Hurts You

One of my all-time favorite leadership values is being proactive. It’s Stephen Covey’s first habit. Taking initiative (and accepting responsibility) is the characteristic that makes all the others possible. But can it be taken too far?

Unfortunately, I’ve learned it can be – mostly because of the challenges I’ve noticed or inadvertently created for myself over the years. So if you’re a go-getter, keep it up. But know when to go fast and when to slow down. Otherwise, you may experience some of these unpleasant reactions.

Businessman Running

12 Ways to Make Your Teammates Look Good

In the past, I’ve shared the value of being a “Kamerman teammate” – that is, going the extra mile to make your teammate look good. It’s a mindset shift for most of us, and a complete game-changer at that. I’d like to take this concept a step further and share some practical ways to get started. Over the course of my career thus far, I’ve found that these twelve strategies for extraordinary teamwork not only make your team stronger, they have the power to significantly influence the culture of your organization if others begin to follow your example.

Business Colleagues

Where Do We Go From Here?

What happens after a big win? For all the focus (and press) directed at planning and executing, what comes next?

Whether your team has achieved a significant goal or is looking to get back on track after a shake-up, here are some basic ways to get everyone back on course.

Do You Have a Royal Culture?

After repeat appearances, the Kansas City Royals have accomplished something they haven’t done in 30 years: win the World Series. Baseball experts point to a wide variety of factors for the team’s success: an emphasis on putting the ball in play vs. hitting home runs, aggressive base running, a dominant bullpen and a flair for dramatic victories. But people close to the team highlight an additional factor: the organizational culture carefully crafted by General Manager Dayton Moore upon joining the team back in 2006. When Moore came on board the team had lost 100+ games in three of the previous four seasons. It certainly wasn’t an easy ride – it took eight whole years before the team achieved a winning record. Now, the results speak for themselves. But what about the behind-the-scenes elements?

You may not work in the front office of a professional sports team. (Neither do I). But shaping your organization’s culture is always a top leadership responsibility. Here are just a few things the Royals did to build a championship culture.