Reflective practices allow us to evaluate ourselves and our teams, enhance creativity, and dedicate time to deep thinking – but how do we actually achieve this in practice?
As managers there are many benefits that arise from investing one’s time in reflective practice. Reflective practice is a key to professional practice for the following reasons:
Through engaging in reflective practice, one is able to gain a better understanding of one’s own values and attitudes, through doing so we are able to stand-back in order to evaluate a situation, putting our own views and biases to one side. This allows us to better support our teams, customers and partners, through greater clarity of thought. Even if this means recognising that we are not best placed to meet their needs and must to refer them elsewhere.
Evaluation leads to advancement
By evaluating and developing our practice, we prevent professional stagnation. To continue our professional development as managers, in a situation that is ever changing, it is necessary to critically review our practices and knowledge to recognise areas for growth. Reflective practice helps us identify actions to help learning, development or improvement of practice as well as greater insight and self-awareness. This ability to step back and evaluate practice helps us to ensure that we remain critical and open, not just relying on the tried and tested ways of doing things.
Great so what now…
One particular technique for this is based on self-reflection. It is simple and very powerful.
At the end of any day, take a few moments to sit down and record, as factually as possible, any particularly interesting or problematic incidents that you may have been involved in. It might be a situation that evoked strong emotions in you, or one which you think you didn’t handle as well as you could have, or one which you think you handled very well. Simply write down what happened; don’t try to record why it happened or your opinion about what happened at this stage, but do try to record any strong feelings or emotions you felt.
Look at what you’ve written in Step 1 and ask yourself questions about it, such as:
- Was this an unusual or fairly commonplace event for you?
- If there were other people involved, what do you think that they were thinking and feeling?
- Was there something you wanted out of the situation? If yes, what and why?
- If you think you could have handled the situation better, what could you have done instead?
- If you think you handled the situation well, what did you do to make it successful?
- How did your actions during this incident reflect your values? (Record which values.)
- How familiar are you with the emotions and feelings you felt during this incident?
- What do your actions, thoughts, feelings and emotions during this incident tell you about yourself?
- What interests you most about the whole incident?
The more honestly and objectively you can answer these questions, the better you will get to know yourself.
Look back at past incidences you have recorded in this way. Can you see a pattern emerging? If so, what is it?
Look at what you’ve written at Steps 2 and 3. What does this tell you about yourself, about your personality? What does appear to be your strengths, and what are your weaknesses? What are the implications? Are there any behaviours you would like to change or modify in similar situations in the future? Record this also.
If possible discuss what you have written with a friend, mentor or coach, and see if they can add to your reflections, even if they did not see the incident. Repeat Steps 1-5 as often as possible. Many people are surprised at what they uncover about themselves.