How reflection powers progress in the workplace

published3 months ago
3 min read

Happy Hump Day !

So, I went to look up the definition of "reflection."

I was hoping for some insightful clarity so I could kick off my note today with some inspiring brilliance.

Here's what I got from Merriam-Websters:

"Reflection: consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose."

Talk about being disappointed!

I mean, I guess it is ok, but I thought there would be something more for me to riff on.

Why was I so disappointed?

Because "reflection" is a super power in the workplace.

And most organizations don't take enough advantage of it.

No, I'm not talking about a softer, more philosophical kind of reflection.

I'm talking about all the places in professional work where taking a minute to reflect on the current situation provides insight, perspective and direction.

Here are a few ways, both small and large, that I routinely use reflection to create a meaningful difference in the work for myself and my colleagues.

Reflect on your professional development before a project starts

If you're starting a new project or maybe a new phase of a larger project, take time to reflect on the nature of the project and how you can use this opportunity to learn something new, extend your expertise or refine your skills in a specific area.

If you're working in a team, have everyone do it and share the resulting professional development aspirations. Talk about how you might support each other in those goals.

We started this practice at gravitytank and it helped teams work in more meaningful ways during the project. And it made every project an explicit opportunity for growth.

Reflect at the end of a creative or generative burst

This is a great way to incorporate reflection on a daily basis. After an hour or more of sustained, creative work, especially with a team, take 15 minutes to reflect on the nature of the new work.

For example: After outlining a presentation; brainstorming ideas; analyzing a data set; coding a new feature; creating a mockup.

Step back from the work — you're not critiquing it directly. You're asking more contextual questions.

What kind of ideas do we have here? What does this say about how we are approaching the problem? What are we missing? If this is a good direction, what might it mean for the next steps in the project?

Reflect as a team at the end of the week

During projects, every week, take 30 minutes on Friday to reflect on three things as a team. 1. What the team accomplished this week. 2. What the plan is for next week. 3. Where you may need help from others. Bonus: Note something exciting or disastrous that happened!

Then share that with your client, your manager or other people in the organization. It helps you and your team remain oriented. It is a great update for anyone interested in your progress, like a client. And it is a great way to keep other teams in the organization aware for what's happening.

It is a simple practice that keeps a project on track and communication about work flowing throughout the organization.

Reflect on how the project is going as a whole

This final area of reflection helps keep bigger issues or problems from festering on a project. It helps surface those things that everyone knows is happening, but not talking about. A struggling team member. An overly ambitious goal. The tension that builds as uncertainty in the project builds.

Every couple weeks or so, a team should step back from the project, and connect with each other.

What's going well in the project? What's not working? What do we all sense, but we're not talking about?

Yes, it's time to get vulnerable with each other.

I have never seen a time when ignoring the challenges of work was better than finding the courage to call out the challenges. And then figuring out how to adjust.

This not about making accusations and looking for blame. It is to articulate and share what you are experiencing and wondering if others feel that way, too. Be humble. Use empathy and humor. Keep in mind the big picture.

Teams that get through challenges grow and strengthen.

OK, that was a lot for a weekly email!

But reflection really is a super power.

In fact, I just read an article about meaningfulness in one's work.

One of the top points?

People find meaning in their work when they take the time to reflect on how and why it IS meaningful.

It doesn't come naturally.

So look for opportunities, small and large, in your work for reflection.

Let me know what you think and how it helps you or your team!