Have you ever wondered why dancers practice in front of a mirror? The mirror is the only way a dancer can see the quality of their movement and performance. Looking in the mirror allows the dancer to receive immediate feedback and adjust.
Whether you're a prima ballerina or have two left feet, we could all learn a lesson from the dance studio. Your reflection tells you a whole lot about yourself and how you work. As a manager, it's important to carry this lesson through prepared team reflections.
Why Is Reflection Important In Teamwork?
While not every discipline has the immediate feedback of a physical mirror, it's important for everyone to find ways to reflect. Reflective practice is a conscious effort to think about the work you've done and develop future plans.
Managers should set up a team reflection, post-mortem, or retrospective at set goalposts to move the team forward. By giving the team a chance to provide their input, standardize work, and put changes in place, you enable them to do their best work.
What Are The Benefits Of Reflection?
After a specific project, length of time, or a lull in productivity, a team reflection reveals what you didn't even realize you didn't know. You'll be able to break down your team's processes and identify gaps that you won't miss next time. You'll get the chance to highlight individuals who exceeded expectations and hear from those who otherwise stay quiet.
A team retrospective can tell you a lot about yourself as a manager, too. Have you listened to your team's needs throughout the latest project? Were you able to provide all the resources necessary? Did team members face insurmountable obstacles? This is the chance to find out.
Regular reflection can impact the way someone works and interacts. Reflections build self-awareness and self-regulation, two key indicators of emotional intelligence. A person who is able to sit down and analyze their strengths and weaknesses in the workplace can carry those lessons into their personal life. And anyone used to regular reflections learns how to adapt to changing circumstances.
Higher emotional intelligence (EQ) makes for easier decision-making and clearer communication. A high EQ is directly correlated with better conflict management, empathy, and productivity. Altogether, people who practice emotional intelligence are happier. Who wouldn't want that for their team?
Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach him to reflect, and he'll remember how you caught the fish and do it himself.
Okay, maybe that's not how the saying goes, but the meaning still stands. Teaching your team how to reflect in a formal setting gives them the chance to do so on their own time. A reflection gives them the reassurance that they've done a good job and the proper amount of criticism to teach them how to do better.
So let's say your reflection highlighted Rabi's perfect sales report. But the team also mentioned that the sales report was delayed. Rabi gets positive feedback that her reporting is good, and next time, she’ll be able to focus less on combing through the details and instead hit that deadline. That confidence combined with a constructive lesson will carry Rabi far.
How Do You Lead A Group Reflection?
Reflective thinking should be a regular practice in your management, but the name of the game is structure. Set aside dedicated reflections that set the ground rules and encourage your team to reflect together.
First: find a structure that works for you. Important note: while you're the one providing this structure to the team, your role as a manager should be facilitation. Allow your team to own the conversation and give them space to reflect on their own work.
Some teams work best in a free-flowing conversation with an assigned note-taker. Others—including this writer—love to build things out in an ordered list. Here are a couple of different reflective templates that can work for you:
Pluses And Deltas
This one is big for folks who appreciate lean management. In essence, a plus/delta is a pro/con list with a more favorable structure. Your pluses (+) are the moments and tasks you believe went well and you'd like to continue with. A plus could be anything from a customer's compliment to new software that worked well.
Your deltas (∆) are items that need to change, whether it's the color of a label or a financial process that took too much time. Laying these out will give you a better view of how to plan future initiatives, and lets your team manage change without feeling too harsh.
Like the idea of pluses/deltas but want to add more future planning? A Stop/Start/Keep matrix allows for retrospective thinking and provides prospective opportunities. In this format, the reflection splits across things to stop doing, things to start doing, and processes to keep.
Questions To Ask
Regardless of how you format your reflection, it's important to ask clear and direct questions. Inspire your team to identify, describe, and analyze in every reflection.
Here's a series of prompts for things you'd like to change:
- What's one situation that we could have managed better?
- How did you feel in that instance?
- Describe your decision-making process.
- What caused the situation?
- What would have prevented this experience?
- What were your expectations? Were they matched?
- What would you do now to change the outcome?
- What will you do in the future to prevent this from reoccurring?
Here's a series of questions for a huge achievement:
- What was the good thing that happened and who contributed to it?
- What resources did we need to do this?
- How can we replicate this situation?
- How did the results match your expectations?
- What goalposts did we face along our timeline?
- Outline the plan for our next iteration.
What's Next After Reflection?
Allow room for teammates to reflect after the session is over. Encourage people to reflect on a more continuous basis. Don't just wait for those scheduled reflections or your yearly review. Provide candid feedback when you can, at the moment—like that mirror. Timely feedback makes all the difference.
Put your reflection into practice: take those deltas and turn them into processes. Keep the pluses in mind, and start the new objectives and experiments you discussed. Even Gene Kelly danced in front of the mirror. The need for reflection never goes away.
Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)!