For Workplace Accountability, A Little Recapping Goes a Long Way

When you’re taking a coach approach to leadership by holding regularly scheduled coaching sessions with the people on your team, you might be tempted to end the session after you’ve addressed what was on the agenda. But don’t stop there! You’ll miss out on one of the most critical steps in the coaching process.

A recap is a summary of what was said, what you both committed to do, and by when. You play back what you heard, and play forward what you’re doing to do.

Though it may seem obvious, you’ll find, as you begin to use this valuable tool, that what one person says or intends to say is not necessarily what the other person hears. Often, two people in the same room won’t hear exactly the same thing. Or an important piece of information was left out of the notes you were taking. Or you’ll learn that upon reflection, it doesn’t sound like such a good idea after all.

There is tremendous power in the recap, and I rarely end a conversation regarding any sort of plan without recapping what was said.

In the workplace, I recommend that you discuss recap with your team member up front: “I like to summarize most conversations at the end with a recap, just to make sure we’re on the same page, okay?” Otherwise, when you start recapping at the end of a conversation, people might take offense or think you’re trying to control them. It can even sound demeaning.

They also might think you’re a little slow, but don’t worry about that. Soon enough, a recap will lead to an important clarification—“Oh no, I didn’t mean Terry Geller, I meant Terry Madison!”—that will justify the recap and demonstrate its importance.

When it comes to workplace accountability, recapping works. So be sure to introduce it early to make it safe to practice recapping, without any sense that you’re dominating the conversation. That way, both people will walk away with confidence and clarity, versus confusion.

BONUS: The practice of recapping is an excellent way to hone your listening skills. Too often we’re not present in the moment during a conversation; we’re thinking about what we’re going to have for lunch, or what we’re doing after work. Or you’ve already made up your mind about the issue and you’ve thought of the next thing you’re going to say when the person finishes talking.

If you know going in that you’re going to have to recap what you heard, boy, you’re going to pay attention. It’s a little secret to becoming a much better listener. And as a result, both parties will gain total clarity, and that leads to an increase in bottom line results. Voila!

Recapping is part of the accountability coaching model revealed in my book, The Accountability Factor: The Buck Starts Here. To learn more, please visit: