Teams change through self-reflection. At least they are able to do it if this process is intentionally initiated and controlled. Team self-reflection is the nucleus for ongoing improvement and renewal of a team – both operationally and structurally. Team self-reflection makes the unconscious conscious and team processes visible, allows the comparison of individual perceptions, the appreciation and use of different perspectives (especially in contrast to the perspective of the team leader) and is arguably the single most important tool for building, developing and leading teams.
Self-Reflection – Approach
The most appropriate approach is to introduce a short period of reflection at the end of each team meeting and to make a habit of it. At the second or third attempt someone always finds a subject about which to think might be important.
Sometimes, however, the climate is already so disturbed, the situation already so bogged down that self-reflection no longer seems possible. What could be done in those cases? The same – albeit in tiny increments: By taking up seemingly random remarks of individual team members and discussing them; by not blocking conflicts but talking about observable emotions, just preventing them from boiling over; by targeting negative and positive aspects of a particular situation and addressing underlying factual issues or behavior patterns.
Self-Reflection – Example
Simply observing that there seems to be a penchant to blame particular team members for more general mishaps, causes a change because no team member can escape the suspicion that he or she could end up in the role of the scapegoat in the future.
Initiating Team Self-Reflection
Initiating team self-reflection and leading the reflection process are very important leadership tasks. A repertoire of process questions is helpful, such as:
- What is the job of our team?
- How satisfied are we / our customers with our own performance?
- In which respect is our cooperation excellent / average / clearly worse than expected?
- Where would we like to see more cooperation?
- Where would we need more fighting spirit?
- Who could provide faster / better information (on…)?
- Who needs more / less support (by…)?
Already the very basic first question often leads to amazing surprises. Everyone assumes that everyone else knows just as ‘good’ as they themselves know what the task(s) of the team are. Therefore, no one talks about it. Under these circumstances, starting a reflective conversation may trigger a sustainable team development.