The Art of Debriefing: Transparency

The Art of Debriefing: Radical Transparency

You’ve heard of transparency in the workplace, but often it’s transparency within limits. But have you heard of radical transparency? Transparency without limits! The mastermind behind this transformative business structure is Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you will know I am also passionate about the importance of debriefing, and so, I want to answer the question ‘how can radical a radically transparent debrief become your greatest and most powerful tool for transforming your business?’ Strap in, this one is a game-changer!

The Nutshell of Radical Transparency

Radical Transparency is a hard-hitting cocktail of honesty and openness! In the wake of honesty and openness, the freedom to disagree, healthy confrontation, and a heightened sense of autonomy are birthed. There must be all of these things to a certain level for a business to be healthy and thriving, but Ray Dalio took these things and made them essential everyday requirements! Dalio is passionate about creating a workplace full of independent thinkers who are happy to bring their honest thoughts and opinions to the table.

Radical transparency is not for the faint of heart. If Dalio was not prepared to hear hard truths and have honest input into his business from his employees, it simply wouldn’t have worked. When leaders aren’t ready for these things, the dangers of implementing them are that leaders become defensive about the truth that has been placed on the table. Defensiveness from leaders is the quickest way to build up walls between them and their employees…and in business, these walls will be their downfall!

The heart of radical transparency is not a free card to recklessly give unhelpful and hurtful feedback under the veil of being ‘transparent’. No, radical transparency is the opportunity to create independent thinkers, who provide honest and insightful ideas from a vast range of experiences, that can help build a better future for the company.  

Where Does Debriefing Fit in the Puzzle?

The answer? Right in the centre. As fighter pilots, there are four critical phases of the mission. We plan the mission, we brief the plan, we fly the brief, and we debrief the success of the mission. Imagine if we stopped at flying the brief. We would come back from the mission with either a win or a loss and then go home. Then on the next mission, we make the same mistakes because we don’t know where we went wrong, and the cycle repeats! It simply doesn’t work.

Debriefing is not exclusive to the military; in fact, I believe that it should be an essential part of every single business! Debriefing is the time when we discuss the result, the reason, and the response to the mission. It is a time of personal and collective reflection and where we commit, as a team, to fill the gaps! Conceptually, debriefing is simple. However, executing a debrief can be challenging because if we want to find the root cause of the result that occurred, it takes collective commitment to honesty and openness, which can be difficult at times to elicit from the entire team! Honesty and openness…sound familiar? From the cocktail of radical transparency!

Regardless of whether you exist in the circle of military life, or you run a business in any other field, a radically transparent debrief is absolutely essential. If you aren’t doing it, you’re missing out! Let me clarify, holding a meeting that goes for 3 hours and doesn’t really achieve anything except for employees airing dirty laundry or sitting silent, is not a debrief. A debrief is intentional, it is leader directed, and it is respectful, open, and honest. There is a clear agenda, and it only goes in the direction of creating a better performing team, even if some egos get a little bruised in the process. If you haven’t implemented debriefing into your business, this next part is for you!

Implementing Debriefing

I cannot stress enough how important a radically transparent debrief is to the life, well-being, and success of any business. We know that humans make mistakes, but it is what we do with the lessons from the mistakes that matter. In debriefing, there are the three Rs we want to cover. The first is result. The question that we want to ask about the result is ‘what is the gap between my current result and the planned objective?’ As the leader, you want your team to be asking themselves these questions but be willing to share the cocktail of honesty and openness with the team, for collective growth.

After the individual has identified where their result lies in comparison to the planned objective, the second R is reason. Reason is where individuals ask themselves what the reason is for the gap in their performance. Finding the reason is critical to the final R, response.

Response is simply asking, ‘what will I do to close this gap for next time?’ A simple question in theory, harder in practice! But it is an incredibly important question that brings the team closer, closes the gaps, and improves performance. I’m hoping that you can see the immense value of these 3 Rs. Just know that it works! I’ve seen countless companies become transformed when they implement radically transparent debriefing into their businesses! It’s powerful and will get you on track to becoming a radically transparent company that values independent thinkers! What a small price to pay for a huge reward!

Are You Ready for Transparency Transformation?

Radical transparency is a puzzle that will be forever unfinished without the centrepiece of debriefing! So long as debriefing is built upon the rock-hard foundation of openness and honesty and seeks to answer the 3 Rs for collective betterment, it is bound to thrive!

If you are unsure of how to adopt a radically transparent debrief into your business, get in contact with my team and me ‘here’! We’d love to see your business join the hundreds of other radically transformed companies that we've helped!

Hey! You’re Biased! – # 12 Hot-Cold Empathy Gap

It’s common to hear “don’t judge until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” but the fact of the matter is we as humans can have trouble actually placing ourselves in their shoes. We also have trouble imagining how other people would respond to things because we assume that they would respond the way we would! This creates the hot-cold empathy gap! Ever seen something on Facebook that someone posted, that just has bad taste? Instead of eliciting feelings of mutual excitement and celebration, often it can elicit negative emotions in others, starting the gap. Let’s get unbiased!


Stevenson, A., & Goldstein, M. (2017). Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio spreads his gospel of radical transparency. New York Times.

Carson College of Business. (2019). What is radical transparency? Carson College of Business.

Afterburner. (n.d.). Debriefing. Afterburner.

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