When we reflect, we are consciously thinking about our thoughts and actions: past, present and future, with an intention to learn about ourselves and improve our performance.
Practice implies repeated, habitual performance: conscious, recurrent action.
So fundamentally, reflective practice is simply thinking in a conscious, structured and intentional way about what you do. We humans often think about what we do, but much of the time it’s casual, unstructured, unintentional. The time and effort we put into our reflective practice is for the sake of continuous learning in order to take more effective action.
We can engage in reflective practice in a variety of ways:
- When: before, during and after taking action
- Who: alone or with others
- How: aloud, in silence orin writing.
Why do it? — The connection between reflective practice and your Leadership and Teaming abilities
Reflection is a powerful ally of learning: it strengthens your capacity to gain insight and learn from experience. When you think about what you did, what happened, and what you might do differently, you can gain insight into your own thinking and actions, deepen your understanding of yourself and the situations you experience, and open possibilities for acting more competently in the future.
Eight Specific Benefits for Leadership and Teaming
In the context of cultivating your leadership and teaming skills and dispositions for working and learning with others, reflective practice can:
- Improve your collaboration: reflective practice can help you understand where you collaborate well, what aspects can be improved, and how collaboration problems might be solved.
- Deepen your learning: reflection helps you to make connections between different aspects of your work and the collaborative relationships around it.
- Enhance your problem-solving: by considering and analysing problems that arise in your work more carefully, you will expand your capacity to find solutions together.
- Boost your critical thinking: reflection develops your ability to “think about your own thinking” (metacognition). This helps you to take responsibility for, and adjust your thinking, so you can be more effective in solving problems with others.
- Improve your decision-making: in your work, you may often have a number of choices to evaluate, and deciding can be difficult. Reflective practice helps you to make decisions in a more considered and effective way.
- Strengthen your organization skills: reflective practice can reach into every aspect of your work, and as you become more practiced at connecting with what you care about, thinking through your decisions and adjusting your thinking and actions, you will get better at organizing your time and activity to focus on what you care about most.
- Manage change more effectively: one of the most stressful aspects of working in complex knowledge work environments involves coping with continuous change in the nature of our workplace relationships, whether it's part of a corporate restructure, a reconfiguration of a product or project, or a change in team composition, resourcing or technology. The deliberate, honest, organized and critical thinking of reflective practice will help you develop a more calm, measured and positive response to this kind of change.
- Build your confidence in your own future: it’s easy to gradually fall into a negative attitude about your own work and abilities in relation to others. The techniques of reflective practice will restore the balance and strengthen your ability to “take your own advice” and be an informed, positive agent in the development of fruitful workplace relationships.