As the saying goes, “Hindsight is 20/20.” Good debriefing can help planners turn hindsight into foresight for next year’s summer trips. So here are five things to consider when debriefing your team.
1. Keep it laid back. Have you ever noticed that mountain-top experiences are exhausting? Most teams are ready for a “vacation” when they return, especially if they had a good trip. Debriefing is part of the adjustment process in returning to their normal lives or part of the process in deciding they don’t want their lives to be “normal” ever again.
A barbecue or pot luck with a sharing session can be helpful. Anonymous surveys can be helpful in ferreting out problems if they aren’t too long. People who have a beef won’t have any trouble explaining their complaint, while those who had a good time won’t want to be bothered with an essay. Sharing needs to be done in a way that the team members feel safe to sort out any conflicting feelings.
2. Keep outsiders to a minimum. Families and friends may not understand what your team went through on their trip. Later, team members may be ready to tell others about their experiences. But when they first return, they need people who will understand and sympathize. For this reason, many teams have at least one debriefing session just before they return. It is certainly something to consider in your busy schedule.
3. Verify logistic issues. Even the best laid plans have room for improvement. Did the team have enough to do, or did they have to improvise? Did they perhaps have too much to do? Did everyone come back healthy or were there injuries on the trip? Were the packing lists complete, or did team leaders have to run around securing last minute items? If you didn’t remember travel insurance for international trips, put it on the list for next year. Your team leaders should be able to suggest improvements for next year if you ask them before they forget.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. What happened on the trip? Did goals get accomplished or did team members see it as a glorified vacation? Was the team’s worldview shaken as so many returning Short-termers attest or is everything back to normal within a week? Was it worth it? What’s next? If the trip was disappointing, this is an easy time to give up. However, most often when we fail, it is from jumping into a program without a vision. If this has happened to you, now’s the time to stop and refocus.
5. Give them a job when they get home. The effect or a summer project can be life-changing. One of the reasons for sending people on short trips is to challenge their worldview and push them out of their comfort zone. If you are successful, be prepared for them to be fired up and ready to do almost anything to change the world. Too often these teachable moments are squandered when they can’t find an outlet for their new-found passion. Does your organization have a local ministry to the homeless or a prison ministry? Perhaps the local rescue mission can use extra volunteers. Whatever you do, don’t just let them sit around and slip back into life as usual.
Good Neighbor Insurance annually insures close to 100 short term teams. Check out our short-term team plans.