At work there’s a lot to get done. Most of us spend our days checking off items on our to do list and moving onto the next urgent task. It’s difficult to make time to take a step back and reflect on the way we work as individuals, and the thought of gathering the whole team together to reflect might feel impossible, even unnecessary. It might also feel like an unnecessary duplication of work if you already have a leadership development programme or a performance management system in place.
But studies show that team reflection is a tangible and practical way improve business outcomes. Especially as it fits into the flow of work.
Why does team reflection matter?
“Without reflection, there is no learning”
Jack Mezirow, founder of transformative learning theory.
Using reflection to capture new knowledge or feelings after a project or task can help your team to continuously learn and improve. Building reflection into your workflow is a big part of being an effective team as it gives you the ability to learn and adapt quickly.
Reflection provides an opportunity for members of a team to express their thoughts, feelings and opinions about a shared experience. It’s a way to build trust in the team, and to draw out learnings and insights the team can build on in the future. Reflection is both an individual and collective activity. Team members generally reflect first as individuals, share those reflections with the group, then collective thought is encouraged to discuss the insights and potential actions to take out of the session.
If you're an entry level or mid level manager - or new to managing a team then this is an excellent way to build leadership skills. Not only does it allow you to address performance issues on a regular basis but it's also a great way to foster trust in the team.
Why is it challenging?
When work is fast moving, it can be difficult to find and justify the time to look back and reflect. It’s also important to find ways to put what you learn into action. If your team don’t see changes, it will be hard to persuade everyone that the exercise has been useful.
Try to get your team into the habit of reflection. Allow them time out to reflect on their week, prompt them to diarise 10 minutes of reflection time if they struggle to switch off. Recognise that sometimes it’s hard to just ‘reflect’ so you could offer prompts or ideas on something that might be able to reflect on. For example, Saberr sends team members regular emails to teams prompting them to reflect with questions including:
- What’s recently gone well in your team?
- Could anything be improved?
- How have you helped each other out?
- Is there anything you can celebrate this week?
- Are there any learnings you can share?
Does it really make a difference?
Used regularly and done well, reflection can build trust and transparency, as your team gets used to talking openly about problems and successes.
Research in the healthcare industry shows that team-based reflection can affect the quality improvement change process. “Building an environment of trust where members of the organization can openly and critically reflect while implementing changes can address many of the social and relational elements that so often hinder effective change.” Therefore, intentionally integrating reflection into working practices cam can help develop approaches to improve patient care.
Getting everyone involved in giving feedback and looking for solutions will boost team spirit. You’ll be able to identify issues and risks quickly and come up with solutions that work for all the team.
What can we do about it as a team?
Retrospectives are reflection exercises that provide a simple, easy to adopt technique for coaxing valuable improvements from a team. Used regularly, they can uncover the good (potential improvements, positive working methods) and the bad (sticking points and problems). Overall they’re a great way to learn and adapt as the whole team is involved in proposing solutions.
Start by undertaking a classic four question retrospective. Think about the last few weeks and answer:
Reflection is a powerful, free tool. You don’t need technology or equipment to get started, yet it gives you the chance to boost motivation, increase trust and improve productivity. So give it a try!
Want to try more retrospective techniques? Download our retrospective guide here.