“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey.
However rewarding it can be to lead a team, there will always be one difficulty: what worked yesterday might not work today, or ever again.
If one of the definitions of leadership is “to achieve a common goal by enlisting other people” you can immediately see how you need to continuously revisit your practice, as people change.
Your team members will be affected by changes in your organisation, in your industry and the world around them. Their aspirations might change, their personal lives might change, even their relationship with you can change.
That is why those in leadership and management positions (and those aspiring to them) need to revisit their practice continuously. And the easiest way to do this is by taking time to reflect.
Reflection should form part of every leader’s schedule. Especially during busy times, we have to find time to stop, reflect and make sure we are operating at our best.
This is why taking time off to learn and train is so satisfying: because you can focus on your own development unapologetically. But, while learning doesn’t need to be formalised, it might help if we formalise the time to reflect. And if we can spread this to our team members and create a culture of reflecting together, then you can kill both individual and team development birds with one stone. (But that is a thought for another post.)
So, here are some suggestions on how to formalise your time to reflect:
- Mark a one-hour slot every fortnight in your diary and the office diary. Give it a formal sounding name like “Strategy Review” or “Professional Development”.
- Allocate 15 minutes at the end of the day to reflect on the day (and plan the next day)
- Leave your desk space.
- If possible change your surroundings and if you can, leave your building. A change of surroundings can do wonders for your creativity.
- Define your communications policy during your time off.
- Make yourself unavailable
And once you have formalised your time to reflect:
- Meet up with a colleague or peer to have a “how’s it going” chat.
Think over the last two weeks: what did you wish you had done differently and what achievements are you proud of? How can you learn from your mistakes and build on your successes?
- Think of whether there is anything you would like to do differently but you don’t quite know how. And what you can do to fill that skills/knowledge gap?
- Think about recent events. What did you do really well, what would you improve next time?
Make reflection a habit and you will always have the time for it. It’s a simple way of taking charge of your own professional development.