When you go to a training course, workshop or seminar event, what value do you get from it? If you’re like most leaders and senior managers, the value derives from the process of stepping out of the everyday world of work and looking at the bigger picture of what it is all means. In a word, reflection.
When we’re in the earlier stages of career, there isn’t so munch need to reflect. The work is pretty much structured, we’re directed in what to do and we get on and deliver it. We work hard, sort things out and, over time, we get promoted. We learn to manage a team and sort out problems. Job done.
However, at some point in our career, the rules change, as does the business environment in which we’re working. At some point, managing the team and delivering the work, in the established way, isn’t enough. All sorts of forces start to press in. Forces such as changing marketplace, changing technology, demands from other functions, poor support from other functions, politics, game-playing, competing motivations, incompetent (as far as we’re concerned) peers…the list goes on.
Who’s job is it to sort through the swirling energies of competing forces and leaking emotions? As a leader and senior manager, its become yours but do you have the time to think about this, to analyse this, to figure this out? A little acknowledged skill of leaders is the ability to take time out and reflect on what is really going on within the business. That’s why attending workshops and seminars are so useful. As humans, we often focus on the obvious symptom, rather than the underlining cause.
For example, the management team keeps having the same discussion week in, week out (a fairly common complaint) and we never seem to make progress. That’s the symptom. The cause might be that meetings are unstructured, seem like a bit of a chat, no summary at the end, no final list of actions and responsibilities, no minutes. By taking the time out to describe the observable behaviours and reflect on the dynamics of why they might be happening, as leaders, we can get to the root of the under-performance quickly, allowing us to play around with different possible solutions, getting a better result and improving performance.
So, where to from here? If you feel you could do with building up your reflection muscles, here are 5 suggestions as to how to start practising:
- Block a set time in your diary every week and earmark it for Reflection. Feel free to use a code name, if others have access to your calendar.
- Pick an event that you know that will happen every week or fortnight and link it to the act of reflection e.g., running, commuting, etc.
- During reflection time, get out of the office and go for a walk or a coffee. If you’re at your desk, you’re more likely to be distracted or interrupted by others.
- Pick one issue that, if sorted, will make a real difference to performance. Reflection time is an investment in delivering performance improvement, so start with a high-impact issue e.g., meeting dynamics, somebody constantly escalating issues to you, conflict/tension between 2 team members or 2 functions/departments.
- Like with the gym, find a Reflection Buddy and book in weekly or fortnightly. The buddy could be an internal work peer or an external resource, experienced in reflecting on the dynamics of performance dynamics.