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Reflective practice is a practice in which managers and leaders use their own self-awareness, behaviours and interactions as a source of learning. It is common practice for this management and leadership style to emphasis the development of emotional intelligence and performance within those practicing it.

Through developing reflective practices, a manager or leader has the capacity to use challenges as learning opportunities, build stronger alliances and experience a greater sense of purpose and satisfaction, not only professionally but personally.

Personal and Professional Wellbeing

As stated above, this has the ability to increase a person’s overall wellbeing and happiness, as it addresses elements within the positive psychology model of PERMA. In which a person needs to cultivate Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships (Positive), Meaning and Accomplishments. These five elements are considered the scientific formula for happiness and wellbeing.

Reflective management is a practical approach cultivating elements of PERMA throughout its practice. While also using an action learning theme within the context of managing. It facilitates the manager or leader in adapting to the demands of the current situation, with live information such as the emerging needs, resources available and formulating a solution focused problem-solving approach.

Although it is often dismissed as an unnecessarily step for managers and leaders, RP plays a fundamental role in developing strategies and an effective organisational culture.

Without using reflective management, it is easy to acknowledge the emerging challenges, however the clarity as to what to do with those challenges and who is responsible for such changes can be skewed. Often facilitating a crisis led, blame culture within an organisation.

Learning, Performance and Innovation

Learning is the key word here, when a manager has an attitude of curiosity and learning, they seek out opportunities for growth and development. They tend to outperform those who ignore the personal development needs within their management style.

There is inbuilt innovation within reflective practice as the approach is responsive and informed in nature, allowing the customer, employee and organisational needs to inform the direction of choices, rather than a personal agenda.

Ineffective management results in lower performance, lower team morale and internal struggles within teams. These all take from the performance of a team and in the results that the organisation can achieve using this team. Managers and leaders have the ability to role model ideal behaviours, starting with personal responsibility, a willingness to reflect and re-act effectively and to demonstrate the process in which this can occur within teams. The process being reflective practices and effective actioning through an informed understanding of what occurred and the role the manager or leader played within it, rather than assigning blame.

Purpose and Utilising differences

One purpose of reflective practice, is often there is an assumption that everyone see’s things the way we see them. A manager can easily fall into the trap of believing that the value, beliefs and common sense informing their choices is universal. Which just isn’t the case. Reflective practices leverage difference and use it to develop a broader sense of the situation and solutions.

Facilitating a greater presence of strengths, clarity of blind spots and effective action. Otherwise these differences will inevitability impact the capacity to relate, evolve, manage and perform.

There is significant differences in terms of positive results when coaching managers and leaders who engage in a reflective practice. With an improved awareness over the personal and professional practice and values used by the manager the positive results become integrated into the team and wider organisation over time.

Reflective practice for managers can be the marking point between good results and great results. When a manager see's and uses the 'self' and its impact on others, as an instrument in their management and influence style they equip themselves with an irreplaceable skill set and can strategically meet the demands of many agendas.

Reflective management reduces conflict and group think within teams, a need for mediation or disciplinary process and facilitate a solution focused culture.

The Self as an Instrument in Strong Management and Leadership

Within a reflective management practice a manager learns to understand their own triggers, conflicting requests and how to get the best from those that report to them. They also learn about how their style of management might impact employee’s performance.

The self is the main instrument in this managing style, the skills as an individual, knowledge base and limitations, all play into the style of management one offers and the level of performance a team can meet. The Johari window is one approach that is often used to explain this theory and raise awareness, as well as 360 reviews and personalities tests to assist a manager in developing a greater understanding of self and impact on others.

Within management it is easy to look externally for the problems and solutions distributing blame and responsibility throughout a team, with little to no effective reflection on the impact of the role and approach of a manager on a situation. Often in dynamics where there are evident power indifferences, such as a manager over a team, without reflective practice there can be a stagnation in the manager or leaders approach.

Without a level of awareness, a manager can start to work for the ‘boss’ over completing the requirements of the managers role, which often involve being a bridge between the higher levels of the organisation and the ground realities. Which include supporting and directing a team, meeting customer needs and feeding back effectively to those they report to of the on the ground realities. When power dynamics are at play within an organisation, which they always are and reflective practice not engaged, a manager can pigeon hole their approach through unconscious fear and perceived threats.

Key Best Practice Guidelines

and the impact of reflective management and leadership

To engage with reflective management effectively, there are four key best practice guidelines within reflective practice to facilitate high performance and overall congruency:

  • Developing the personal skills to reflect, objectively review, and ask for input effectively.
  • Engage in unbiased third-party feedback from a supervisor/consultant/coach external to the organisation.
  • Evolution of an individualised, evolving framework to manage within the needs of the customer, organisation and employees effectively.
  • Placing a high value on learning and solutions over needing to be right.

Through reflective practice managers and leaders sync with employees, employees with the customer and an organisation with its purpose.

In an organisation lead by reflective practice a ripple effect occurs that facilitates organisational development and personal leadership at every level.

Reflective Practice in Organisational Development and Culture

Any interference in people performance within a team, personal or professional interferes with the organisations performance, profits and development. People make or break profits and brands. Bad and good decisions are made by people within an organisation on a daily basis.

Reflective management creates a culture that encourages and facilitates thought and accountability. Demonstrating to employees how to think in line with the organisational goals, values and culture, resulting in less need to micromanage and solve problems. As at each level of the organisation, reflective practices inform the solution.

When reflective management leads, it creates a responsive culture of effective thinkers who take effective actions. Which results in improved happiness and wellbeing, not just of the individual but team and wider organisation.

Take Away Points

Reflective practice equips a person with skills to manage personnel more effectively, as well as inform organisational development and innovative solutions.

Reflective management reduces conflict, gaps in knowledge or data and steers away from problematic blame cultures.

A reflective manager out performs non-reflective managers and leads through role modelling verses micromanagement.

Reflective practice is an approach with a number of easy to apply techniques.

The return on investment truly outweighs the adjustment and adoption of new techniques required.