Reflective Practice

Sorry about not sending out my normal July email. Tomorrow is the last day before submitting my PhD thesis and I confess to burning the candle at both ends through most of July. However, the process of writing, revising and rewriting, has made me consider the importance of reflective learning/practice.

In the case of my thesis, reflective learning challenges me;

  • to read a section of thesis material/results
  • apply the pub test - does it feel right and evaluate my results within the context of the broader literature and then
  • put into writing how this new information does or does not change my approach.

You could apply the same process to how you react to a complaining client, your teenager decides to shave their head or your boss who dropped a spiky comment about your lack of professionalism.

In the broad stages of reflective learning;

  • you describe the situation/experience/happening
  • how did you react/how do others react/what were your thoughts or actions?
  • how would you prefer to act/react/do differently, bringing the best part of you to the situation - your 'next time' action?
  • practice/visualise/plan/rehearse your next time action so that it feels familiar

The key element of reflective learning is to actively engage in thinking about something you experienced, how you reacted and what you would prefer to do next time (a better alternative). I think another critical element that is often not mentioned, is that doing it later, often means you have removed the emotional element to the interaction. An if emotion is involved, it is pretty much impossible to think logically. The challenge for clinicians, and leaders alike, is that a common focus in today's society is productivity = seeing clients, or doing something that brings you face to face with your next client = marketing.

Leaders today are often measured on such productivity or performance; monthly sales charts, quarterly revenue, P & Ls, retail sales.... not much space here for wisdom, reflection, compassion and basic understanding of human behaviour.

Think about the leaders you admire. Do they earn your respect because of the number of clients they see or their thoughtful greeting each day, their bravado or their compassion, their confidence or their consideration, their me to or willingness to share, their 'I have all the answers' approach or their enquiring and inclusive mind?

As you can see reflective thinking is entwined with leadership, and leadership is entwined with learning.

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other" JFK

What qualities do you most admire in your leaders or heroes?