Musings of a New Manager

20 August 2019

Reflection is a term used in many settings and contexts across different organisations, but what does this mean for a new manager?

Two months into my first position as a Manager in a public sector organisation, and a Strategic Manager at that, I found myself wondering about the importance of reflection, and the necessity for purposefully building in the time for reflection into your working week.

I had been rigorously integrated into many different meetings, agenda’s and workstreams, building my knowledge and writing reports; that I barely had the time to step back and think about what I could learn or take from my experience’s and how I could develop as a manager and leader. 

In fact there was no other with responsibility for this than myself. I was fortunate to have a great manager and mentor where regular 1:1 time was built in, but this critical self-reflection was my own responsibility.

As a leader we have the responsibility to reflect on our experiences and demonstrate how we have learnt, evolved and developed from this; whether that be professionally, as a leader or personally. Therefore there was no one other telling me, reminding me, a gentle nudge on the shoulder to say; have you found some time for self-reflection? Have you made time? Have you prioritised the importance of this and know why?

As excellent as they were as vehicles for encouraging the beginnings of self-reflection, I needed to take the discussions we had in my 1:1’s further outside of the room and think deeper about what this meant for me and my personal development. 

A light bulb moment!
As detailed at the beginning of this article, it was a good two months in to the role that this light bulb moment occurred. What about reflection? What do all these experiences and what I have learnt mean for my personal, professional and leadership development? Two months is a significant amount of time and demonstrates how we can all easily be carried away with the fast paced environment which is the public sector without taking a moment to breathe. To take a step back; to think, and reflect.

What therefore would be the outcome if we did not prioritise this time to reflect? Is it possible to continue in a leadership role without this? Would one develop, evolve, learn? This may be a discussion for another time, but to help support any new Managers out there who feel at a bit of a loss with reflection and the “how to”, there are some tools out there which can support Managers and Leaders in this process.

1. Rolfe et al (2001) Framework for Reflective Practice 

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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2. GIBBS Reflective Cycle

Gibbs G (1988). Learning by Doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. Further Education Unit. Oxford Polytechnic: Oxford.

Gibbs Reflective Cycle

This cycle was developed by Gibbs in 1988 to give structure to learning from experiences.  It offers a framework for examining experiences, and given its cyclic nature lends itself particularly well to repeated experiences, allowing you to learn and plan from things that either went well or didn’t go well. It covers 6 stages:

  • Description of the experience
  • Feelings and thoughts about the experience
  • Evaluation of the experience, both good and bad
  • Analysis to make sense of the situation
  • Conclusion about what you learned and what you could have done differently
  • Action plan for how you would deal with similar situations in the future, or general changes you might find appropriate.

There are also articles which explore the use of reflection in leadership practice.

Potter, C. (2015) "Leadership development: an applied comparison of Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle and Scharmer’s Theory U", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 47 No. 6, pp. 336-342.

Joiner, B. and Josephs, S. (2007) "Developing agile leaders", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 35-42. 

White, J V (2012) Students' Perception of the Role of Reflection in Leadership Learning
Journal of Leadership Education, Jul 2012 - Sep 2012, Vol.11(2), pp.140-157

Interesting further reading for anyone wanting to delve that little deeper!
I do hope that this article is of use to anyone at any stage of their managing and leadership development.  

Shelley Goodinson