Why you need to start self-reflecting

Monday 20 January 2020
Self-reflection is important – managers should set aside more time for it.
a room with a stool, plant and mirror

Andrew Stephenson, associate partner at EY workforce advisory, was not always a fan of structured self-reflection, but now he’s one of its biggest advocates. It was while completing a professional doctorate, which involved a structured self-reflective assignment, that he really started to see the benefits.

“It transforms your ability to process your thinking and make improvements throughout your career,” he says. “In the same way that I target my team to do CPD, I encourage them all to do a period of self-reflection. It doesn’t have to be as structured as the way I do it, but it is incredibly valuable.”

So what makes for effective self-reflection? Here are the core considerations:

Schedule it regularly

As a CMI member, self-reflection should play a critical part in your personal development planning. You should be recording, reviewing and evaluating your achievements and extracting learnings from them. Stephenson recommends reflecting on your activities at the end of every week, with another ‘big picture’ review every six months. “I see if anything is coalescing into a set of categories. Do I need to watch out for that, do I need to do a bit more learning on this? It takes a set of events over the year and really puts a structure around it that allows you to develop on it.”

Write things down

It’s all well and good to mull over your activities and analyse what you could have done better or what was successful, but without giving that self-reflection some structure, its usefulness will be short-lived. Make sure you write it down and try to give it a consistent structure, for example:

- What tasks were completed this week?

- Why were they done?

- What did I achieve?

- Could I have achieved a better outcome? (For whom?)

- If required: why didn’t I achieve the best outcome?

- What would I do differently in this scenario/with this person?

- Any skills I should be developing?

- Actions to take

This will give you a very clear and detailed view of your achievements and areas for development, and make it easier for you to keep track of your progress.

Be constructive

When self-reflecting, the focus should be on being constructive – you want to be focused on solutions and objectives, says Zoe Toseland, marketing and HR executive at E3 Consulting. She believes that self-reflection should be tailored to the individual: “I find taking time each day to self-reflect, even briefly, helps to capture learning objectively and in real time. It means you are better positioned to genuinely adapt in a positive manner.”

Be honest

Self-reflection only works if you’re honest and open with yourself about what you don’t do as well. You’re not going to make positive changes if you cannot look at your skills and achievements objectively. “Don’t view it as a weakness or shortcoming,” says Toseland. “However experienced we all are, there are still things we can learn and we all have the capacity to develop.”

It can sometimes help to get a second opinion to help you evaluate objectively, says Hugo Minney, chief executive of consultancy The Social Return Company. He believes that self-reflection is easier when it’s done with someone else, such as a mentor or peer. “You need someone who gives you the discipline to take time out to consider your options, and who's mature enough to question you – not steer you.”

If you’re looking to grow your skills over 2020, take a look at how drawing, not writing, your goals can help you achieve them.

If you’re reflecting on your achievements, you can submit this as part of your CPD journey to becoming a Chartered Manager. See how you can track your journey here.

Image: Unsplash