Why Debriefing is Important

Why Debriefing is Important

Hey, hey, bold leaders. Welcome to another episode of the Bold Leadership Revolution podcast and I’m really excited to be here with you today because this is the first day that I am working at the time of recording this that I’ve returned from sabbatical. And so as you know, I batch my podcast recordings. So you may be listening to this sometime in late September or October whenever it fits in the calendar. But as of today, I am right back from sabbatical and I am so excited to be sharing this episode with you. It’s called Why We Debrief and it’s all about why we do our CEO Debriefs biweekly in The BRAVE Society and why I have an opt-in, a free resource for you, to help you do them for yourself if you are not in a place that you want to join The BRAVE Society. But this episode is really all about the why we do these CEO Debriefs and why these biweekly CEO Debriefs are the cornerstone to The BRAVE Society.

Now I’m excited to be bringing this episode to you today because I’ve put a tremendous amount of thought into it. I honestly put a tremendous amount of thought into all of my podcast episodes, which doesn’t always work out for me in terms of the amount of time I put into an episode because I tend to really want to provide the most valuable free content to you and at times I can overthink it, but in this case I really took the time to think through the whys. I took the time to find some research to help back this up for you and I took a look at some of the results that I have gotten from doing a CEO Debrief and my clients have gotten from doing CEO Debriefs and The BRAVE Society members have gotten from doing them and really wrapped it all up for you in this episode.

So I hope you enjoy it. I want to encourage you right now to after listening to this to reach out to me and let me know what your insights and your takeaways were from the episode. I would love to hear them. You can find me on Instagram. I am @TheTaraNewman. I am not shy about the fact that Instagram is my primary social media channel. It is the place that I hang out the most. I don’t even really go on Facebook anymore other than to interact in The BRAVE Society. So really if you want to have some discussion around this, please find my community on Instagram @TheTaraNewman and let’s dive in.

why debriefing is important podcast graphic for bold leadership revolution podcast

Have you ever wanted to burn it all down in your business or your life? What about those feelings that your success is a fluke? Ever feel that way? Do you struggle to actually and wholeheartedly acknowledge your wins and successes? How about feelings of overload and fatigue from running on the small business hamster wheel? Ever get so frustrated when everyone seems to have a system and a process and you feel like you’re just out there swaying in the breeze? Are you easily distracted by comparison-itis and feeling not good enough? 

Maybe you’re looking for a habit that gets you grounded in self. If you have ever felt any of those things, and let’s be honest, you have felt most of those things at one time or another, we all have because we are humans, then this is really the podcast episode for you. If you’ve been following this podcast or me for a hot minute, you know I am all about turning leadership reflections into unrelenting forward momentum through a tool we at the Bold Leadership Revolution call the CEO Debrief. This one tool has led me to create a stable and sustainable business that experiences high growth year after year for the past almost five years. We have 10Xed business revenue, streamlined operations, and make money really efficiently because of this tool.

So today I want to talk to you about why it works and what results you can expect when you commit to regular weekly CEO Debriefs. I’m going to share my own personal experience, which ultimately led me to create this tool as well as the research that backs the effectiveness of CEO Debriefs. This is not bullshit. It’s not fluff. It works and there are reasons why it works. 


It was about four years after our first business failed and we went bankrupt. At this point, I knew I’d be starting this current business and wanted to take the lessons of failure with me to create the most successful opportunity for myself. Until this first CEO Debrief back in 2014, the focus was on external reasons why this business failed, which focused a lot on cause and effect from a recessive economy and the state of manufacturing in this company as our first business was a brick and mortar manufacturing business. And while those factors did exist, what I began to realize was none of them were in our control and we spent a lot of energy trying to navigate things that we couldn’t impact. We were looking for something to blame instead of taking responsibility for what we did have control over.

When we looked at internal factors, those were the things that were within our control, how we showed up, what we took responsibility for, improving our communications, looking at our mindsets around working and owning a small business, especially our beliefs around money and what it really took in terms of resiliency and character to run a business. Those internal factors that we did have control over had a huge impact on our bottom line and we couldn’t see it because we were constantly working in the business and not on the business, which is the entire point of the CEO Debrief. It also helps you train what you can control. We were too busy grinding it out to pick our heads up, to think about how the work was being done or what we needed to do to do the work better. We were too entrenched in survival mode to think about our performance, which made our performance abysmal.

So for those of you who don’t know what a CEO Debrief is, it’s a tool for self coaching and self-learning. It’s time you carve out in your week, 30 minutes is fine, but I suggest giving yourself plenty of space. Make this a really rich personal experience. Brew your favorite drink, grab your favorite writing implement, sit in your favorite spot while listening to your favorite focus music station on Spotify, and really immerse yourself in debriefing your week. The CEO Debrief is a self review process that leads to performance acceleration. It’s meant to move the ball forward week after week after week by focusing on your wins, what’s working, and what’s your next best step.

At the Bold Leadership Revolution, we use an acronym called SLOW to remind our high performers that they could move much faster if they slow down. 

SLOW stands…

Step back and reflect, 

Let go of expectations to remove pressure, 

Own the now, 

What’s next. 

The CEO Debrief is the tool to help you slow down, reduce overwhelm, and ultimately speed up by focusing on the most relevant actions. The clarity you get from self-coaching naturally moves you from insight to implementation. CEO Debriefs have a tremendous amount of science to back them up. Today we’re going to cover three areas: experiential learning, mental skills training and self-efficacy. I promise I won’t get too sciency, but in today’s day and age where people are selling you a lot of shit dipped in gold … This is not my term. This term comes from my friend Jo Gifford. We want you to know what we present to you is well thought out and tested not only by us but is also grounded in facts. We believe in presenting you with both the feelings and the facts, the data and the dichotomy, the science and the story based evidence.


Experiential learning. 

CEO Debriefs are rooted in experiential learning, which is my opinion, the only effective form of leadership development. Even when talking about soft skill acquisition, how do you take that skill from acquisition to application? You do it through creating development assignments to allow for experiential learning. John Dewey is one of the fathers of functional psychology and did his research in the area of education. His research has laid groundwork for learning and development in organizations as it pertains to leadership. In 1938 he was quoted as saying, “There is an intimate and necessary relation between the process of actual experience and education.” When you do a CEO Debrief, you build in a weekly feedback loop that helps you find your own learning outcomes from your actual experiences. When you do this, your week follows the stages of experiential learning and the stages of experiential learning as noted by Dewey are doing, reflecting and sharing, processing and analyzing, generalizing and applying, which simply states you know what is working for me?

So you go and do the doing. Then we pause you to do the reflecting and sharing. Then you take some time to process it, analyze it. This all happens in the debrief. You generalize it, this happens in the debrief and you apply it, which is basically looking at what works for you and how can you do more of that and that happens within the debrief as well. As small business owners, we are responsible for our own learning and development. Thanks to the explosion of online course industry and internet marketing initiatives, we don’t always feel like our learning is in our hands because we’re constantly being bombarded with somebody else telling us what we need. So one way to get a better understanding of what you really need and want for your own evolution is to start doing these CEO Debriefs on a regular basis and starting to really dig into what is actually working, what is effective, what is efficient, what isn’t, where are the gaps? And that helps you look to … that’s owning the now, what’s happening now. And then you can identify what to do next very clearly. This will allow you to have a more focused outlook on your business as a whole so you can set better goals in the future.

Mental skills training. 

The CEO Debrief is rooted in science around developing mental and emotional skills required to perform at your highest level. Each week we’re actively looking at what works, our wins and gratitude. We are training ourselves to have an optimistic view on our reality, not from a place of naive optimism, but from the presentation of fact and evidence. So the wins question is the first one. Sometimes it’s the hardest one to fill out, but it is there because we need to be training ourselves to look optimistically at our work, at our success, at our leadership, at our performance, and by creating these facts and evidence, it helps us ground into optimism that is true and not wishing and hoping.


Now, Dr. Albert Bandura’s work on self-efficacy is an important one for human performance. The CEO Debrief is an application to help cultivate self-efficacy. Now if you go to Dr. Bandura’s website, he has a quote on there explaining self-efficacy, which I’m going to read to you right now. It says, “Among the mechanisms of human agency, none is more central or pervasive than people’s beliefs in their efficacy to influence events that affect their lives. This core belief is the foundation of human inspiration, motivation, performance, accomplishments, and emotional wellbeing. Unless people believe they can produce desired effects by their actions, they have little incentive to undertake activities or to persevere in the face of difficulties. Whatever other factors serve as guides and motivators, they are rooted in the core belief that one has the power to effect changes by one’s actions. This core belief operates through its impact on cognitive, motivational, effective, and decisional processes.”

So the CEO Debrief is a tool to build self-efficacy. It shows you that there is a connection between the actions you take and a result. It shows you the impact of the work that you’re putting in and it starts to become a motivator and a place where you can find inspiration as well as celebrate those performance accomplishments. And it really nurtures your emotional wellbeing as well. There are times that I show up for a CEO Debrief and I think heck like I’m just going to … this whole thing. I just … my week was trash. And then I fill out my CEO Debrief and I realize that my week wasn’t trash, my thinking was trash and that I really was more successful than I thought. And this changes my emotional state. I don’t feel down on myself anymore after a CEO Debrief. I feel really proud of myself. I feel like I’m focused and disciplined and that makes a huge difference for me personally. I don’t know if you’re somebody like that as well, but for me this really works. So the CEO Debrief is definitely a tool to build that self-belief around you taking actions and implementing and getting results.


So speaking of results, let’s get to the results and what you can expect when you engage in regular CEO Debriefs. One often-overlooked advantage of the CEO Debrief is bringing closure to your week. This is your time to come to terms with the emotions, frustrations, and the elation of the week. This is your opportunity to process through the highs and the lows that occur when leading at your highest level. Even if you are in an executive leading in somebody else’s business, these CEO Debriefs are for you as well. If you are a parent, you can do a CEO Debrief on anything. I think one of the episodes that we may record later in the year might be a CEO Debrief around my marriage because I’ve been thinking a lot about that as I had just celebrated my 19 year anniversary and I said to my husband, John, I said, “Hey, let’s do a podcast episode doing a CEO Debrief on our marriage.” And I think if the two of us can find a time to sit down and actually do that, I think that would be a super fun thing to do.

So you can do a CEO Debrief on any aspect of your life, whether you’re working for yourself or you’re working in somebody else’s business, whether you’re a parent, whether you’re a spouse. So it really applies to anyone. And this isn’t just about the wins and what’s working in the absence of what’s feeling hard, difficult or shameful. This is about acknowledging your whole self. So we have questions on the CEO Debrief that have you lean into things that are feeling difficult, that are feeling hard, that are feeling shameful because this is as much a tool for compassion and forgiveness as it is about attaboys.

So when you practice making peace with your week and giving yourself grace for what’s been left undone, it becomes less of a distraction. We don’t get pulled back into the past as much because we have navigated it in real time. So we can now leave the past in the past. High performance isn’t about stuffing your emotions down and compartmentalizing, even though that’s most likely the impression that you have been given. High performance is having a time and place to be, to be with your emotions, to feel your feelings so you can move on with clear and calm energy. The more you spend time with your emotions, the easier it gets to be with your emotions, not allowing them to dictate your path.



When you save these debriefs, you can use them as data points. For example, in August I took a month long sabbatical. How did I know when to take it? How did I know what processes I would need to delegate? How did I know the best fit for my team? All this information came from my debriefs. Did I get it perfect? Nope. But I debriefed again and will update our current sabbatical procedure moving forward. So this is the value of debriefing is it gives you a treasure trove of data to improve processes. Every so often I debrief, we find a place that needs improvement or more clear communication and right after the debrief we open a new SOP template and create an SOP, we create the solution, we create a checklist or a process that came right out of that debrief. So this helps you improve your processes and be more efficient.

More effective sales cycles. 

When we debrief, we look at what worked and what didn’t work and consider changes to our sales calendar for the next year. We had a BRAVE Society encouragement period in June this year and personally it was hard. It was hard for me to dedicate the focus to it as I was wrapping up the school year and getting my kids ready for camp. So does that mean we’re never going to launch anything in June again? No, but it does highlight things for us to consider and places I need more support if we are going to have June as a month where we have a sales cycle that requires some proactive selling and all team’s hands on deck. So I might’ve acknowledged that in the past, but I don’t think it would’ve gotten documented if it didn’t get documented in the CEO Debrief. So much of our business is if we want to be delegating and we want to be scaling, we need to be stabilizing our businesses and stabilization comes when we have documented procedures, when we have documented strategy, when we know when the best times of year are for us to leverage and things like that.

Jump the S curve more quickly. 

The S curve or the sigmoid curve or sigmoid function is a tool used in high-performance and organizational learning environments to signal the different stages of development, whether you’re in a learning phase of growth phase or a decline phase. In the book Legacy by James Kerr, he talks about the S curve and says the key of course is when we’re on top of our game to change our game, to exit relationships, recruit new talent, alter tactics, reassess strategy. Your businesses growth requires continuous and timely responses. Not reviewing or reviewing annually or reviewing quarterly or even monthly is too passive. You need to be on it so you know where you are on that S curve. Are you learning? Are you growing? Are you declining? And when you need to be jumping that S curve to a next point in growth where you need to leave something behind because it’s no longer working, you need to change the game.

And the thing is is that people get really complacent. Most people miss that S curve because when you’re at the top of your game, you want to be riding high and celebrating that. But what you don’t realize is that just as you’re at the top of your game, you can start to go into decline and that’s when you need to change your game. So having the CEO Debrief keeps you present to where you are on that curve. Now, the more I debrief, the more data I have, the smarter my business decisions become. And I want to say that again. The more I debrief, the more data I have, the smarter my business decisions become, the more accelerated my performance becomes. And let me reframe this in another way. If you aren’t doing these debriefs weekly, it’s unlikely that you’re advancing your position on the field. Every time you debrief, move the ball forward on the field.


So for those of you listening in and you’re like, “I’m in Tara, you’ve totally made your point. Thank you. I’m in. I’m in for these CEO Debriefs.” Then this is a clear invitation to you to get into The BRAVE Society so we can hold you accountable to your debriefs. At a very minimum, go download the debrief questions that we have and do them on your own. However, I will tell you it’s way more fun when we do them together in the CEO Debriefs in The BRAVE Society.

Now I do have a handful of men who listen to this podcast and The BRAVE Society is a female only group. So if you are a man, and I know that I have had a few men reach out to me and say, “Hey, The BRAVE Society sounds so cool, why can’t you have a BRAVE Society for men?” So if this is you, if you are like, “Tara, The BRAVE Society sounds cool. Can you have one for men?” Yes, we can have one for men. We are considering a male cohort in 2020. So if you are a man listening to this podcast episode and you’re like, “Heck Tara, I want to do these debriefs with you in The BRAVE Society from men, a men only circle.” Reach out and let me know. If you don’t reach out and let me know, we don’t know if we can help you, right? So help us help you, reach out and we can see that if we have enough men interested, we were more than happy to start a male cohort in 2020.

If you’re a female though, I want you to jump into The BRAVE Society now because we are ready to welcome you.

If you found this podcast valuable, help us develop more bold leaders in the world by sharing this episode with your friends, colleagues and other bold leaders. Also, if you haven’t done so already, please leave a review.

I consider reviews like podcast currency and it’s the one thing you can do to help us out here at the Bold Leadership Revolution HQ. We would be so grateful for it.

Special thanks go to Stacey Harris from Uncommonly More, who is the producer and editor of this podcast. Go check them out for all your digital marketing and content creation needs. 

Be sure to tune into the next episode to help you embrace your ambition and leave the grind behind.

Important links to share:

Listen in on CEO Debriefs and Get 10 BOLD Questions for your own debrief.

The BRAVE Society

Follow Tara over on Instagram

Help more Bold Leaders find this podcast by leaving a review on iTunes