Blame It On the Protocol

We often use a four step debrief process, the F.I.N.D. Protocol, with my team, where we bring an organized moment of reflection and closure to our day, or a particular event. I’ve written about that particular process in another post, but the reasons for using F.I.N.D., though it is a particularly useful protocol, are greater than its unique character; using a protocol for discussion and organizing conversation, not just brainstorming and cognitive work, but emotional and relational work, actually protects your team. If you do it right.

Here’s an example, using a made-up protocol that could be used in almost any setting.

“Move to the left of the room if you agree with the statement; move to the right if you disagree.”

“Pair up with someone across the room from you and each take a turn explaining your thinking.”

“Let’s share out some of what you heard. What resonates?”

And, up to this point, everything has been smooth, interesting, piquing curiosity, satisfying autonomy,

And then Person X speaks up and launches what turns into a lengthy diatribe on their particular emotional history with regard to the topic. It’s obvious this is not a well-designed or necessarily thoughtful constructive contribution. The groups mood begins to turn. They suddenly appear tired. The energy necessary to sustain the momentum of work flags.

And you? You use the protocol, as if it is a valued team member.

“I hear you and thank you for contributing.” (Assume positive intent.) And then you create movement, using the next step in the protocol

  • “For the sake of time, we’re going to stick to the protocol, and hear from someone new.”
  • “We’re going to stick the protocol, and now….”
  • “With the protocol in mind, let’s….”

As you use language in this way, your reference to the protocol, who is not you, but is embodied (it’s a stretch to say personified, probably) becomes a lever to begin turning the wheels of discovery and curiosity once more. With a lever, you can move the world.

As Jamie Foxx once sang, “Blame it on the pro-to, pro-to, pro-to-col.”

Because you have a tool to move away from an energy-draining, focus-shifting conversational currents, you are actually creating space for someone else’s voice. And that space — for their voice — gives them the opportunity to practice leadership.