Ever felt like you’re plateauing? You’ve stopped enjoying the progress that comes with mastering new things at work. Now your biggest challenge is simply surviving the seemingly endless distractions and ever-increasing volume of work?
The most motivating condition we experience at work is a sense of progress towards something personally meaningful (Teresa Amabile et al.). In hectic corporate life, we can assume that progress is only linked with big things such as mastering a new role, taking on a new project or learning a new technical skill. Once we’re professionally competent, then what? It’s all too easy to work on autopilot, and our motivation and performance can stagnate as a result. There comes a point where we can’t learn more just by doing more.
But it needn’t be that way. With deliberate reflection, mastery can be continuously enhanced. As John Dewey (a pioneer in functional psychology and education) famously said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
What is deliberate reflection?
The academic terms of reflective learning, deliberate reflection and reflective practice are used interchangeably. In its simplest form, it’s deliberating thinking about what you do to improve the way you work. Importantly, deliberate reflection puts us in charge of our own learning and motivation. The term pondering sounds more enjoyable and accessible to me.
Deliberate reflection enhances performance and wellbeing
Research confirms that reflection improves job performance and efficiency. Yet in the workplace, learning can be pigeon-holed. Think L&D activities, on-the-job training and consumption of a steady stream of webinars, podcasts and industry articles. You may be fortunate enough to have a boss with an evolved leader-as-coach management style, or be receiving individual coaching. If not, it’s likely you’re never prompted to pause and ponder about your daily work experiences and the information you consume. This means you’re probably unnecessarily missing out on insight, meaning and motivation that’s well within your reach.
Pausing to ponder can also enhance wellbeing. Studies show that brief, positive reflective practices at the end of a workday can lead to decreased stress and improved health.
Why isn’t reflective learning more widely used?
If taking a moment to pause and ponder is so powerful, why isn’t it more widely used? In the Harvard Business Review article Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing IT) the author highlights that leaders typically avoid self-reflection for these five reasons:
- Don’t understand the process
- Don’t like the process
- Don’t like the results
- Have a bias towards action
- Can’t see a good ROI.
How to form the pausing to ponder habit
So how do we create the habit of pondering on our work, especially when initially we don’t feel like we’ve learnt anything new? The easiest way is to build it into your daily shutdown routine like we do. Pondering is the third P of iMastery’s 4Ps End-of-Day Checklist.
[For more tips about a daily shutdown rhythm see: How to excel at work and enjoy being on top of your game.]
Grab yourself a pen and paper and let some of these prompts guide you:
- What have I learnt and/or been reminded of today?
- What went well today? And what would be useful to replicate?
- What interpersonal/group dynamics would be useful to ponder more deeply?
- What alternative points of view have I not yet considered?
- What progress do I notice (no matter how small)?
- Which of my quarterly objectives (goals) would be useful to keep top of mind, even if I can’t action them tomorrow?
- If I was my own high-performance coach, what would I remind/advise myself?
At the end of most workdays, I open my gratitude journal, note my daily gratitude and continue to ponder and journal on a couple of these prompts. I rarely consider all seven prompts in one sitting. I’m decades into this practice, and still pleasantly surprised that 10 minutes of this typically leads me to an aha moment. These insights are energising and I would have missed them, had I not taken the time to ponder.
Yes, it takes a little resolve to get started. If the thought of taking this time on most days seems too much, start with weekly. Gift yourself a quiet 20-minutes on a Sunday. Remember to schedule your pondering time in your calendar and commit to it.
As with gratitude, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pondering for reflective learning; it’s about what feels meaningful and achievable for you. It’s a great idea to collect questions and prompts that you find inspiring.
If you’re interested in taking the power of pondering to the next level, consider investing in a coach. Coaching is largely a reflective practice, with your coach guiding you to ponder rigorously and deliberately, and supporting you to see things in new ways.
What managers can do to leverage the power of pondering
Managers, you can make a huge contribution to your team’s learning, sense of progress and motivation. It can be as simple as holding weekly check-ins with each of your staff and asking open questions that prompt them to ponder.
For more tips see: Why meaningful check-in conversations matter.
Reflection is what translates work and management experiences into learning. It’s also about creating time to pause at the end of a project, pitch, tender, audit, meeting, crisis or any event to debrief and ponder with your immediate team:
- What did we set out to accomplish, what were our objectives?
- What happened?
- What went well?
- What surprised us?
- What insights would be useful to acknowledge about how the team worked together?
- What knowledge, skills, ideas, insights and relationships will we take from this event?
- What needs documenting and sharing for future reference?
- What was useful about this reflection and debrief?
Integrating deliberate reflection in workplace training
Deliberate reflection helps to overcome the forgetting curve and increases the impact of workplace training. iMastery’s masterclasses are designed with this in mind and provide time for critical reflection. Even participants of our shorter keynote style presentations are supported with on-topic self-coaching questions.
We are in control of our learning, progress and motivation
Plato reminds us that, “We all have innate knowledge, we just have to be asked the right questions.” Even in these times of rapid change and disruption, we can take control of our own learning. With the simple tools of a pen and paper, a set of inspiring questions and the space to ponder, we can enjoy the motivating sense of progress that comes from learning by reflecting on experiences at work.
Over to you
- What would it take for you to deliberately pause and ponder more regularly and deliberately?
- When might be the best time for you to pause and ponder?
- How might you lead by example and encourage others to do the same?
Thank you for reading and sharing this post. I hope it adds value to you and your team.
Leader as Coach
iMastery’s Leader as Coach training supports managers to:
- Regularly and effectively check-in with staff
- Manage and evaluate performance based on outcomes
- Coach staff to accomplish priority work
- Compassionately hold people accountable to complete priority tasks
- Facilitate reflective learning.
Contact us to learn more and to book an in-house online or in-person training series for your team.
Start 2021 with the support of iMastery’s individual productivity and/or leadership coaching. Our holistic, evidence-based and field-tested strategies give you the ultimate advantage of:
- Current time-management techniques tailored to you, your team and lifestyle
- Optimised focus and more time to invest in strategic tasks
- Greater ease and success delegating work
- Reduced stress and increased energy and wellbeing
- Enhanced accountability and work engagement
- Increased productivity and output.
Contact us to learn more about our foundational coaching package of four sessions. We look forward to working with you.