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The great reset: why self-reflection is key to improving performance now


The key to improving team performance in the aftermath of this year’s challenges is to reset, re-energise and re-engage.

21st Jul 2021
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Many people have been talking about ‘building back better’ post pandemic. While this is something that I actively encourage all UK corporations to do, I believe there is something that must come first. First, I believe we must all reset and take some time to self-reflect.  

So much of our lives are carried out on autopilot. This process is of course often extremely helpful, not least just because we need to get things done, but at the same time, doing things this way can often mean we can miss out on opportunities to get to know and learn more about ourselves and truly understand the problems we are trying to fix. This is why I want to encourage everyone to just take a step back and take a moment to self-reflect.

Self-reflection allows the individuals of that team to understand what drives them, what makes them do what they do and ensure they can fully show up as themselves to enjoy the work they do.

This is what the Japanese call ‘hansei’. Hansei, or self-reflection, is a central idea in Japanese culture, meaning to acknowledge one's own mistake and to pledge improvement. This is something that we can do alone and also, crucially, as a team.

Bringing teams back together

Certainly, anxiety and uncertainty about what the future holds has been incredibly high since the start of the pandemic. Many people had to step away from a business or their teams, whether as a result of furlough or indeed because they have had to take time off to care for a loved one. As a result, many of us have lost touch, not just with one another, but also with what we are working towards and what we want to achieve in our careers.

Teams have struggled to come together, both physically due to distancing, as well as mentally, morale has been impacted and employee engagement has been pushed down the priority list. This is why I believe it is so integral to reset right now – not only as an individual, but also as a team.  

To reset effectively, a process of self-reflection is required. Through this process a leader can regularly check in and review their team’s performance, while maximising further opportunities to improve as a team together. Self-reflection also allows the individuals of that team to understand what drives them, what makes them do what they do and ensure they can fully show up as themselves to enjoy the work they do.

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A six-step self-reflection checklist

Here is a simple to follow self-reflection checklist to reset, re-energise and re-engage:

  1. To embed the habit, it is useful to start with some structure. So, select a regular time for your team can come together. Ideally everyone would know exactly what this meeting is for before it starts and also what needs to be achieved as an outcome.
  2. Ask all attendees to come with an open mind and encourage them to fully participate. Reassure the whole team that no matter their job title or level, all opinions are encouraged and welcome. This levelling process is essential to ensure a real collaborative process, rather than a top down diktat.
  3. Decide what you intend to review. You could start with the previous day, week or month or it may be a specific project, a theme, or simply on the overall team operation. Make sure everyone is aligned on this so you are all on the same page to start with.
  4. Ask each team member individually some simple questions and then share these with the group so that there is shared benefit with the rest of the team. Typical questions might include the following: how has it been? What did I do which went well? What have I learnt that has been useful? What would I do differently? What have I done that I want to avoid in the future? What do I want to do more of tomorrow?
  5. When problems are uncovered, discuss the problem-solving steps needed to solve them and put in place a countermeasure to ensure that you can avoid it happening again. So as not to distract from the self-reflection process, you may need to organise a different time to have the problem-solving discussion. Talk about this as a team and consider the learning thinking about why the problem arose in the first place and what signs you all need to look out for in the future to spot any issues.
  6. Repeat, repeat, repeat: this process is about having an opportunity for you to stop and reflect and ultimately open yourself and the team up to learning. Just like anything in life, being good at this process takes practice. It should never be a one off, but rather a regular process that you practice as a team.

This process listed above is such an important restart step to get the team talking and engaging. It is essential to create and sustain daily opportunities to connect with and support your team by truly listening and engaging with them. Following these simple steps also gives everyone the opportunity to make a personal commitment to one another, creates a strong team dynamic and ensures a positive energy. Ultimately this should go some way to help people love what they do and show up as the best version of themselves.

Interested in this topic? Read The big reset: HR’s 20 priorities for building a better workplace.

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