The Reflective Practitioner

Published on November 29, 2018

I am regularly asked “but how can I be a better leader or manager?” And one skill that I feel is vitally important to develop is that of being an effective reflector. That is keeping an open mindset. When something goes wrong or you may have made a decision or taken an action that you are not too happy with ask yourself “why?”. Don’t blame others. Don’t be defensive about what has happened. Take the fly on the wall approach and look at the situation from the outside in. Think how you would feel if that action or decision had been taken against you. Ask yourself some open questions - The What? The Why? The How? The Where? The Who? Why did he/she take this approach with you? How could you have dealt with the situation better? What factors contributed to this explosion of tempers? What could you have done differently?

Sometimes the answer will be – ‘well I couldn’t have done anything better’. But sometimes you might just have that little niggling thought that perhaps you didn’t perform an action as well as you could have or perhaps a decision was made in haste without using your good listening skills (look out for future blog posts about effective listening!). And what do you do if you feel that perhaps you didn’t do the right thing. That is up to you and your leadership style. You have various choices including:

Choice 1 – Ignore it and do nothing. Bad!

Choice 2 – Don’t do anything directly but make sure you have learned your lesson and, if a similar scenario were to crop up again, you do things differently.

Choice 3 – You meet the person(s) and talk about it. It makes a good leader to say “sorry I was wrong” or “sorry for that action which maybe wasn’t the right thing to do”. However, there are many intrinsic and extrinsic factors to consider before taking Choice 3. At the end of the day it is your call on which direction to take. You are the leader. Do what is right for you at the time.

Choice 1 achieves nothing. Choice 2 this is ok. It may not be the right time for you to take the action in Choice 3 so Choice 2 is fine. You take Choice 3 when you are confident enough to know that taking this action will make things better between you and you will be ready to move on to bigger and better projects.

As a leader and manager for 15 years I didn’t always get it right – that’s for sure! But I hope that I learned from my mistakes. Yes I did go back to staff and apologise but mostly I did Choice No 2. Learned from the error of my ways. It is important to continue to learn. Whether in personal or professional lives, give yourselves a wee bit of space to think and reflect. You will feel all the better for it.

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