Debriefing Your Team








When a team has been established for a while it can be useful to step back and reflect on how the team is progressing.

We meet for an hour or so and work through some questions.

Below is a list of questions that can help your team to reflect on its development and how well it is performing as a team.

Some questions around cultural difference and diversity are also included.


Team Debrief Check list

Team Discipline

How we organised are we as a team?

How efficient are our team meetings?

How well do we communicate between meetings?

Do we have ground rules that we stick to that help us work consistently and effectively?

How well do we record actions arising from team meetings/ How effectively are we administrating our team?

Are we using a common communications platform and how well is it working ? (E.g. A closed Facebook Group or a Slack Group)

Team Decision Making and Leadership

How effective is our team decision making?

How do we manage conflict and differences of opinion?

Are we using leadership as well as we could? Is one person making all of the decisions or is everyone involved?

Has anyone dominated the team – how have you dealt with that?

How does your group let leaders emerge as needed?

How do we ensure all views are heard?

Team Performance

Are we getting the results that we should be getting and, if not, why not?

Are we using good time and project management? Are we using any project management tools?

Are we prioritising time and tasks effectively?

Are we leaving things until the last minute or working proactively and in a balanced way?

Do we take time to reflect on what we have and haven’t achieved?

Are we using technology as well as we could to optimise our performance as a team?

Are we learning from our mistakes and building on success?

Is everyone pulling their weight? Are their any free riders? How are we dealing with that?

Team Mood and Morale

Is the group in a positive frame of mind? What is the atmosphere like in the group?

Is the group stressed? How do we deal with stress?

What’s the group motivation like? What causes it to fall and how to we lift the level of motivation?

Do we celebrate success and socialise appropriately to build the team spirit in our team?

How are you dealing with disrespectful behaviours, lateness and regular absence from meetings, as well as people under-performing?

Is there collusion in the team; do you avoid saying how you feel? How do difficult issues get raised and discussed?

Team Diversity

Are difference respected and tapped into in our group?

How do we deal with the different cultural backgrounds, values and perspectives represented in our team?

Do we talk openly about our differences and our commonalities?

Are we making best use of different language capabilities in our team, e.g. when we do online research internationally?

Are there any issues with gender or age differences and are we dealing with those well? What different assumptions and habits in out group affect this?

Team Improvement

Think of examples of when the group was at its strongest and when it was at its weakest. Share those examples in your team and discuss how the strengths can become more consistently present.

What does our team look and feel like when we are performing at our best?


Community is Naturally Obvious and Obviously Natural.

We tend to over-complicate Life.

Yet the core of any community is a circle.

We need only sit together in a circle and open some space for conversation and collaboration with minimal fuss. Often we go into phone, text and email overload when all that is needed is to meet at the same time in our favourite cafe, or in our homes. A cup of tea or coffee and a conversation.

But what turns that meeting into a community is the free expression of needs and the collective attempt to address those needs. We speak and listen together, but we also go to work.

And when space for that work opens in a self-organising conversation in a circle, we can achieve anything.

Often we gently look for one less thing to do, and we do not worry too much about who hasn’t shown up. We “go where the energy is”, as writer Finn Kollerup says.

We are more effective when we go gently, taking our feet where we can be most productive, greeting the beginnings and endings of our meetings with an ease, and acceptance that the time we have is the right time.

Whatever happens, happens and when it is over it is over. The circle forms, changes, reforms. We are mobile; we expect and welcome surprise, even surprised when we are not surprised!

We are in the community conversation in a circle, but that circle and the strength from the support we find from it, means that the community energy is never lost.

Community comes naturally, if we allow it to.


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Past, Present and Future – From Time-Line to Field of Possibility

Putting what went before (behind us in time), before (in front of) us, is a way to become more conscious about what action we need to take in the present. We usually see time as a line – a time line – consisting of past, present and future. Yet we can also see time as a field with past, present and future in play at the same time.

We can learn in the present from the past, we can explore what might have been and also learn from what actually did happen. Often things lying unresolved and poorly understood can become raw material for fresh thinking in the present about the future.

The past is still playing into us and the future may lie up ahead but even the future is in the same story as our past and present! When we put what went before, in front of us we can explore that story in a richer way. We often think that dwelling on the past can drain us, can full us with regret. It can.

Yet if we see beyond that, there is a rich resource of history to learn from, to inquiry into it, and even gather in resolutions and impulses that we never fully released or made use of.

Lessons from the past can be harvested, and we can add them to our present knowledge and future vision and wishes.

Don’t ignore your past, risk the discomfort of looking back, and gather in what you need; the present situation can then become changed, look and feel different and we can and will look differently at the future.

Here we are now, not trapped on a time line, but in a rich field of possibility.


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What is conversation really about?







So much of our conversation is about what we advocate to each other. We speak, they speak. Our turn to say something, their turn to say something.

It is usually transactional. Like a game of tennis, we take turns. Often someone wins the point. Sometimes the rallies are long and we tire ourselves out!

Our standpoint, their standpoint.

We deliver our view, then they respond with their own delivery of their point.

Is this conversation? At a certain level, perhaps yes.

Yet, could conversation be richer than that – less tiring and more energising?

I believe it can. That happens when we listen more, when we pause more, when we ask more questions of each other. Instead of advocacy, there can be inquiry.

We find what we want to say more through listening to another person than seeking that answer only inside ourselves.

The other person doesn’t only trigger what we say, they inspire it, they guide, it, they influence it.

What we ask others is an invitation for them to help us ask even more. We don’t only seek responses and answers, but further questions to help us with our thinking and our understanding.

Conversation tends to slow, and we allow in more silence, more pausing for thinking.

Our thinking deepens and we begin to find our answers, not through we alone, but through the other person.

Conversation becomes shared and we become more than two separate people planning verbal tennis. We become two separate people but also a shared conversation. Then the conversation deepens and becomes richer.

And often wisdom emerges, not just intellectual cleverness.

Then, when we do advocate, we find our thinking is more living, arising from within and from without.

That might just be real conversation. What do you think?


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This is the age when the old become young


It’s become a bit of a cliche to say that children are growing up more and more quickly. Our education system is engaged in an ideological battle between the idea that we should allow children to stay children for as long as possible, and the idea that we need to get them ready for adult life as quickly and early as possible. Isn’t that what happens in nature? Isn’t that the best chance for survival in a tough world? Surely the first view is naive and the second the only practical way?

Certainly the second view largely dominates in Western Culture. Or does it? In Scandinavia, children aren’t taught to read until they are nearer seven years old. In Waldorf education, children flourish and adulthood sets in at a natural pace for each child – it isn’t forced. Learning to play, to slowly focus on the sharper edges of the world, this is valued by many as the best preparation for life.

And yet the Facebook generation, the tech-savvy generation Y soon and quickly grasp what technology has to offer and are beginning to see their slower parents as the naive ones, as the childish ones. The young are teaching the old, and often leading the way, both into realms of light and shadow.

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We don’t know how the digital age is going to pan out and many adults look on, bemused at the new patterns of living and working among our younger generations. We can no longer guide them, if we find the digital age a mystery. The parenting relationship becomes weirdly reversed as children, even as young as seven or eight are guiding their parents into the digital age. Many parents, worried (perhaps rightly) at the effects of the digital on their young human beings in their care, resort to traditional forms of control and policing, only to find their children can become master cat burglar’s of digital time and space.

Though the older generations may be running to catch up with their Generation Y kids and millennial grandchildren, they still are wiser and older in the business of being human.

It becomes ever more important to identify the archetypes of living and working in the digital realm – issues of trust, connection, developing meaningful relationships, staying safe – all of these remain relevant to the wisdom and experience that comes with age. Yet there are also newer, emerging phenomena around disembodied communication and collaboration, of linking our physical limbs and senses to technological products, that put our kids right into the front line of what is emerging.

Here the adults really do become slower developing children. And these challenges then become about being open to learning from our kids, even as we attempt to keep them safe and well. We now have a role of what Edgar Schein calls “humble inquiry”. We aren’t here to tell the younger ones what to do, though we can invite their own inquiry. Leaning becomes mutual, a vital dialogue, a conversation between older generations, a blending and trading of smart with wise, of knowledge with experience. The conversation is no longer top down, old to young, but is horizontal, a circle of dialogue. And we will all be the better for it,


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My Own Definition of Conscious Business

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“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” 
Carl Jung

This is very much a work in  progress – an emerging set of notes.

I’m going to define Conscious Business in a way that is different to  most in this field.

Consciousness arises from suffering. Now, bear with me for a moment on that rather strange statement.

The philosopher Rudolf Steiner (author of The Philosophy of Freedom) made the same statement over a hundred years ago. Suffering brings forth consciousness. Without suffering there would be no consciousness. Even more strangely: consciousness is a gift of suffering.

Now, that might suggest that suffering is an inevitable process, a law of nature. And I can very much understand why people who react against such a view.

However, let’s take a look at the definition of suffering presented in the dictionary. Most dictionaries offer several definitions of suffering. The first definition is the one we are al most used to:

“To undergo or sustain (something painful, injurious, or unpleasant)” (Reference here.)

Suffering is about pain, is always something negative, according to this definition. People and organisation’s, not surprisingly, try to avoid suffering, sometimes at all costs. Many business attempt to pass on any unwanted suffering to other individuals and groups in their environment, rather than suffer themselves.

But hold on a moment. The dictionary goes further, offering three other definitions of suffering:
To experience; undergo”
To endure or bear; stand”
To permit; allow”

Here the definition is enriched, and also framed in a much more positive way. Suffering is something we “go through”. Suffering is born of endurance and even tolerance. Suffering isn’t something we recoil from, avoid, or try to go around – suffering is something we go through.

Now, working with the idea that suffering gives rise to consciousness, using these definitions we can see that suffering need not always be painful, nor negatively (though it can be felt that way). Suffering is something we “go through”. And when we “suffer” something in this way, we experience it fully, we meet it, and, in meeting it, we engaging with it – and this gives us experience of it. If we reflect on that experience, we have the opportunity to increase our awareness, knowledge and wisdom. We become more conscious.

Avoiding suffering dims consciousness. Embracing suffering gives rise to consciousness.

A business that behaves consciously does not try to avoid suffering – it welcomes it, seeks it out, and harvests the experience into consciousness, enabling it to act in a more aware, effective and skillful way. It does this through reflection, through inquiring into its past, present (ongoing) and future state. It “suffers” uncertainty by asking questions, by being curious and open. Open can mean being “raw” and vulnerable, but it also can mean being responsive and “ready”. A business that behaves consciousness is in an ongoing, open state of internal and external inquiry into its reality. This enables it to respond in real time and in real ways for it is always reality checking through inquiry. It doesn’t seek “comfort”, comfort arises out of its courage to “suffer” uncertainty. Uncertainty becomes a core organisational virtue.

How about THAT for a definition of conscious business?

A few years ago I went to a conference on the theme of suffering. The conference drew quite a bit on the Parsifal story.  This is a story of the search for the Holy Grail, but one of the themes that was at the heart of it was how a journey can involve what could be called “suffering” on all of the levels of the above definition. But by encountering, enduring and “going through” our experiences, we can become better, wise, find resolution and be more conscious. At the conference there was a speaker who had been a hostage in Beirut for several years, as well as a survivor of the massacres of Rwanda. We also heard about prisoners of conscience who spent years in prison with little or no freedom. In all cases, these people were glad of the consciousness they now possessed through having “gone through” these experience. Brian Keenan pointed out that, when we properly resource our “going through” with support from our community, with time to reflect, with as feeling of being “held up”” through the processes of whatever we are going through, then suffering can be experienced as something other than just pointless pain. Pain can be part of the effort of going through something, it is the pain of the strengthen muscles, the pain of confusion that, through diving deeply with the frowning furrowed brow of our thinking, can give birth to a higher view, a longer view, a clearer view, a greater perspective, a wisdom and experience that we can apply to new situations.

I think conscious businesses seek to go through things. They try to heighten their awareness, their ability to sense, experience, and to learn from that experience, incorporating the (sometimes but not always painfully gained) wisdom into new, skillful behaviours and practices.

In fact, without this “going through”, this suffering, a business can’t ever behave consciously.

Businesses that behave consciously demonstrate:

– a willingness and an ability to suffer uncertainty and to have the courage to allow further uncertainty to arise. Concurrent with the inquiry that forms the exploration of that certainty, comes real-time action and decision

– patience that actions emerge out of ongoing inquiry

– an ability to be curious, open, responsive and questioning

– an ability to regularly go into the “zone of discomfort” in order to be insightful

When this becomes ongoing, the organisation even inquires into how and why it inquires! It’s a process of continuous innovation. Aware, aware, and responsive.

Shall we begin?

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What Makes a Conscious Business Culture?


By Paul Levy and Jamie Pyper

 Here we go again …. Culture!

We’ve come a long way since culture was described as “the way we do things around here.” That simple definition underpins what writers such as Charles Handy said way back in the ’80s: “in organisations there are deep-set beliefs about the way work should be organised, the way authority should be exercised, people rewarded, people  controlled.” These deep-set beliefs, formulated as rules, structures, formal and informal processes, constitute the organisational culture.

Back in those 1980s, when futurist music was in full digital swing, we also had the definition of organisational culture offered by Edgar Schein. He described culture as “the pattern of basic assumptions that a group has invented, discovered or developed, to cope with its problems of external adaptation or internal  integration, that have worked well and are taught to new members as the way to perceive, think, feel and behave.

Now we are in deep and hot, swirling waters here. We have to content with “deep set beliefs” and “patterns”, if we are to understand culture, according to these writers. There’s come truth in that.

The Paradox of Conscious Business Culture

And yet, there’s a paradox. Because, in our view and experience, conscious businesses are emergent in, not only their actions and reactions in real time, but also unto their core beliefs and assumptions. In conscious businesses, even deep-rooted assumptions have to be allowed to shift, in real time. A conscious business culture will always have strong emergent and temporary qualities to it. Organisational habit will be the habit of not allowing habits to fix for any longer than they are needed. A conscious business embodies the old organisational proverb that the rate of learning is greater than or equal to the rate of change. And the paradox is that even this must be a daily renewed behaviour and not an ingrained habit that we, as a business, fall asleep too.

The golden rule of a truly conscious business is that there are no golden rules. The paint of a conscious business’s organisational culture rarely dries. The brush lies soft and ready for the canvas of possibility and unfolding happenings.

Checking out the Contradiction by Checking in

And now for the contradiction. If a conscious business is a dynamic open system in a changing environment, then its culture will be influenced by those changes, and also by deeper values that are truly alive, authentic, refreshed and renewed. These deeper values, when renewed, will likely repeat if there are “timeless qualities” to them. An example of a timeless quality is an archetype. Love is one example. Honesty is another. We can habitualise these because they are so timeless, and because we have experience of them emerging usefully in all kinds of situations over time. We become used to them. Yet there is still a danger that automatic reactions can become so habitual, that they result in lowered consciousness. It is still useful and healthy to revisit, refresh and renew even our deepest values. One ritual of renewal is the “check in”, where a group shares how they are feeling, “where I am at right now” with the rest of the group. Here there is an opportunity for “jarring” to be shared, where something may well have shifted in our collective “normal” state and we can look at it together. The check in, for some groups, is literally a one minute, turn-taking- sharing of “how I am feeling right now”. Here we may surface that assumptions about the culture are not as shared as we thought they were, and that people are out of sync with each other. There’s an opportunity here to explore any complacency that might have set in.

Some Relatively Timeless Features of a Conscious Business

So, with the proviso in place that nothing is ever fixed for its own sake in a conscious business, we are ready to offer a few features of a conscious business culture that we’ve tended to find in businesses we’d identify as conscious businesses. And once more – that health warning: none of these qualities of culture should be allowed to fall into such a fixed habit that they send the business to sleep…

A conscious business is a culture in which…

1. There is a  common, unifying purpose

2. There is active Collaboration

3. There is Distributed Leadership

4. There is Enough trust for Openness and vulnerability in communications

5. There is space for, and Integration of left and right brain activity equally

6. Failure is destigmatized and seen as an authentic opportunity for organisational learning

7. Transparency  and self-renewal as a shared virtue

8. A Human centric approach to coordination and management

9. An ethic that win-win is prioritized with all stakeholders

10: A focus on developing useful and usable principles and trust rather than rules and control

11. Equality and diversity

Diving in deeper

Now, we;ll take a more detailed look at these features. They are not an exhaustive list, but provide indications of the kinds of cultural features that appear to be repeating and re-emerging when conscious businesses reflect on their cultures.

1. There is a  common, unifying purpose

Common purpose is arrived at through dialogue and authentic communication. Purpose may be led by those in financial ownership, but efforts are made to ensure that joining the enterprise is a free, authentic act, based on voluntary commitment to the purpose. In more democratic and sociocratic businesses, shared purpose is arrived at through discussion, debate and an attempt to achieve consensus and common ground. The purpose is not remote or too rhetorical; it can be translated in ways that guide daily behaviour

2. There is active Collaboration

Collaboration is the way to get things done. Collaboration is self-organised where possible, and leadership and more formal types of control emerge out of the needs of the moment, not from structured habit.Collaboration includes inter-project learning, skilful overlap between functions and across organisational boundaries. The business is skilled in ways of collaborating. Competition is not pursued for its own sake. and attempts are made to collaborate rather than seek win-lose outcomes.

3. There is Distributed Leadership 

Leadership is not so much a person, than an emergent need and business activity. Leaders arise out of real needs and is distributed across the employee and stakeholder base. Leaders are never institutionalised, though a leader may remain a leader if that is needed, even for years. Leaders emerge, return to other roles, arise again, as and when needed. Leadership is seen as a shared responsibility and an act of service to the organisation and its people.

4. There is Enough Trust for Openness and Vulnerability in Communications

Vulnerability is a subtle asset for the organisation. We are prepared to be vulnerable (and to take risks when needed) because we do not fear humiliation and trust our colleagues to support us. People aren’t defensive of their status and “positions”, but rather seem themselves as part of a community, where the community reflects the virtues of each individual, and where, in each individual, the strengths and needs of the community are reflected. It’s a kind of holographic “culture”. With trust, there is the practice of openness. Information is shared and never stored for political purposes. Information is shared where and as needed, and there is a faith in others to act in all of our best interests.

5. There is space for, and Integration of, left and right brain activity equally

Recently left and right brain has been critiqued as a valid metaphor for how we think and create. Even at the level of a metaphor it can still be useful to characterise a conscious business culture in which we do not over-value the “hard numbers” at the expense of trusted instincts and intuitions. We have both in a conscious business. A conscious business is evidence based, but also values imagination and lateral thinking as ways of dialoguing with emerging reality.

6. Failure is destigmatized and seen as an authentic opportunity for organisational learning

A conscious business is a culture of learning; that includes learning from both success and failure. A conscious business also skilfully places experimentation within clear awareness of risks. Experimentation includes the need to learn from the negative hypotheses we set up. A conscious business encourages feelings to arise about our failures and for all to commit to the consequences of under-performance. But this is not stigmatised. There is much opportunity for personal and professional development, and linking learning to improvement and innovation. There is a “blame” culture. But here blame is grown up. Blame is really transformed into responsibility – individual, collective and organisational responsibility for what goes wrong as what goes right. At the root of this is a need to turn responsibility into the “ability to respond” – the learn and correct, to achieve reconciliation.

7. Transparency and self-renewal as a shared virtue

Without clarity there can be no transparency. Without being able to clearly see “Into” the organisation’s processes, we can’t be a conscious business. A conscious business needs sharpened, even heightened senses. It regularly enhances its information systems, ensures information and knowledge is up to date, and shared where and when needed. It is regularly self-renewing, adjusting and correcting its self-image, It seeks open flow of information with external partners to ensure it remains a clear-seeing open system, able to react quickly and as needed. This behaviour is seen as a key virtue in the business and forms the heart of recruitment, induction, learning and development.

8. A Human centric approach to coordination and management

A conscious business sees its people as its foundation for success. People are the energy that form the commitment to it acting at its best. People offer creativity into it, lessons and reflections that help it improve. Coordination is based on respect for people. We do not have human “resources”. We have people. We seek consensus but also the business is based on “grown up” approaches to giving and receiving feedback. We do not hide behind “niceness” but we ensure honesty is constructive and respectful of diversity. Coordination involves “checking in” with each other, and people act, not only for themselves, but also on behalf of their colleagues. There’s nothing cheesy about teamwork in a conscious business. It is emotionally intelligent and focused on achieve best performance for the business.

9. An ethic that win-win is prioritized with all stakeholders

A Conscious Business believes that creating “losers” – either internally or externally, generates resentment, reduces commitment and motivation. This, in turn, can harm openness, and damage the business’s quality of consciousness. It can harm the quality of feedback it receives as well as creative commitment. Win-lose redistributes energy, and insodoing, unbalances the flow of motivation in the system. Win-win tends to create synergy, increases motivation and also trust and commitment to improvement and innovation. Win-win is also longer term, and, when embedded in long term trust, can still allow individuals, groups, suppliers and customers, to “take a short term hit” in order to achieve a better longer term outcomes. Win-win is about enhancing self-esteem and finding new, emergent ideas and resources that arise from synergy, the notion that the whole becomes greater  than the sum of the parts. A conscious business always takes a meta-systemic, holistic view.

10: A focus on developing useful and usable principles and trust rather than rules and control

Structures supports, but also weighs down. In a conscious business, rules and control are usually temporary, they tend to arise from self-organisation rather than being imposed through top-down power structures. Externally imposed rules such as legal requirements are mutually understood and discussed to achieve common ground commitment and understanding. Internally rules arise and are regularly reviewed, tied closely to the needs of the present moment. Some rules and structures may pervade over the longer term where they prevent risky outcomes. The organisation tends towards shared values and principles that guide us towards to kind of conscious and even wise behaviours that rules often clumsily try to force us towards. Control arises in a conscious business from the self-organising groups that are delivering value to the business. For example, control of cost arises from values of “lean” or sustainability, rather than because a boss has ordered a cost-cutting drive. This links to openness with the financial and other resource needs of the business.

11. Equality and diversity

In a conscious business, we have an equal right to be individual and different. We also have a duty to direct our individuality towards achieving the commonly understood and committed to purpose of the business. We make reasonable adjustments for each other, operate fairly and seek equal opportunity, whilst celebrating and looking to best utilise individual difference and diversity. Individuality is largely self-defined in a conscious business. There are helpful and easy exit points out of the organisation for those whose self-defined difference is leading too far away from the share purpose of the business; leaving isn’t traumatic but a positive, free act.

The business uses diversity to gain multiple perspectives and viewpoints. It is a sensitive employer because it seeks the best in each person in the business.

A self-assessment exercise

Try this short self-assessment activity. You can do it individually for your business or you could do it with colleagues in your organisation.

Score each of the items above on a scale of 1 to 10 where, 1 means: “This feature doesn’t describe our business at all and 10 means “Yes, that describes us completely”. Score anywhere from 1 to 10.

This will create a good starting point for identifying how you might develop a conscious business culture in your organisation

A final warning

Remember our paradox. These features may well change. So far, working in the field of conscious business for a few years, we have found them emerging as possible archetypal and timeless qualities that represent how to be conscious in the current world economy. They may well be very different in the future. We are reviewing them all the time, “out there” and also in our own businesses.

The emerging digital realm may well modify and even transform these “features” of a conscious business culture. There are already differing definitions around privacy. We all used to take right to privacy for granted as a core cultural value. Companies such as Facebook suggest that right to privacy is being superseded by “right to decide what to share”. Privacy settings on social media platforms then become up for debate.

But, for now, the above model represents a useful starting point for taking the first steps to developing a conscious business culture. Contact us if you want to talk further about making your business culture more conscious.

Paul Levy is director of CATS300 and Jamie Pyper is a director of Conscious Business People.

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