Reflective practice, Slow Thinking, Uncategorized

Learning from your mistakes as a manager

“Managers learn from the meaning they give to experience, not from the experience itself, and they give meaning to experience by reflecting”
Sievert & Daudelin 1999

This is a pretty powerful idea – you don’t just learn from your experiences but you learn from reflecting on those experiences. During my career I have seen some leaders make huge mistakes, reflect on them honestly with themselves, learn and grow in to even better leaders because of them.
Likewise, I’ve seen other leaders make similar mistakes, have similar outcomes but due to a lack of real reflection never learn from the experience and thus repeating it many times over.

Alan was a great up and coming manager, he was learning from an excellent people manager who was well respected in the business and eager to take on advice and apply it to his own journey as a leader. A tricky employee issue came up – Steve was a handful in the workplace and with a couple of (minor issues) some mental health issues began to surface.
Alan was eager to do the text book right thing (although maybe was a little overzealous in some discussions) – Steve didn’t take it well and it a long process was entered in to that took a lot of time and effort on the part of Alan’s manager, the business and the HR team.
Heaps of people have been in Alan’s position. Your first few years of management aren’t easy and you will always make mistakes.
Alan’s manager, being a great people manager coached Alan through the process and the aftermath – in a way that set could Alan up for real success with learning opportunities from this difficult situation.

The next point is where the great people leaders and the perpetual managers differ (and I’m sure you’ll be able to recognise people from both camps). What does Alan do next?

A.        Does he think about his role in the outcome, sort through decisions he made and see how they inter played with a mental health and performance issue in the workplace learning how he might deal with a similar issue differently in the future?

B.        Or, does he reflect and critically evaluate, no matter the mitigating factors (the performance issues and mental health concerns) that he had preferences, biases and a limited frame of reference. Does he then take time to reflect on how his responses could have differed at different stages of the process? How may these tendencies play out in other, less similar circumstances? May he learn something from his process, his behaviour that might make a difference with an entirely different situation in the future?

Alan A think’s he’s being reflective and learning from the situation – but his focus is external. What would he change being given a very similar issue in the future?

Alan B is being reflective and will really learn from the situation. His learning and subsequent behaviour change will transcend a very similar issue and will be able to be applied in many future situations.

When you learn a lesson, face a challenge or hit a wall, do you critically reflect? Or do you pay lip service to the process but never really change your behaviour?

Alan A can be called a ‘single loop learner’ – he’s looking at feedback (did something succeed or fail) to help establish what he could try next.

Alan B can be called a ‘double loop learner’ – he’s looking at feedback but he’s asking additional questions which help him get to the root cause, underlying beliefs, values  and assumptions.

If you want to encourage double loop learning in your practise try asking yourself:
Why did I try that in the first place?
What made me think that would work?
When have I experienced similar results?
What has this shown me about myself?

Formal learning, Reflective practice

Reflective Practice

How do you encourage reflection in your work life? Do you actively dedicate time to reflection or is it something you do when you realise you’ve made the same old mistake again?

In learning we know that reflection is the most important part of the process:
“We do not learn from experience… We learn from reflecting on experience” – John Dewey

Despite being someone who is pretty loud and proud of my own love of learning and the amazing things it can do for individuals and groups to help us accomplish great things… I’m surprisingly average about creating time for my own learning reflections.

This blog is one way I’ve tried to develop the habit and I am a bit of a journaler – but these things can quickly become inconvinient, or worse, habits, that have lost their meaning.

Part of my 2016 challenge (and the ‘year of the rocket’) has been to bite the bullet and enrol in my last paper for my Masters of Management. I’m hoping that throwing out that I’m doing this so regularly will help hold me accountable to the amount of work I’m going to have to put in to my research. But also a part of the paper that I really like (go Massey University!) is that 30% of my final mark is determined by a series of reflective journals. I’m interested to see how reintegrating reflective journaling practise in an academic sense impacts on my own process of awareness and learning.

Now I just need to cross my fingers and hope that good reflective practise helps spawn some amazing insights into modern workplace management and organisational development!

Formal learning, Working in People & Culture

It’s February?!

It’s February!! (?) I don’t know how this has happened.

I returned to work last Wednesday after 10 days holidaying in New Zealand, which consisted of visiting family and friends, threatening to kidnap my nephew and bring him to Australia as carry-on luggage. Normal family stuff.

It was wonderful to reset myself – I didn’t take a real break over Christmas/New Year’s and by January 16 my brain was crying out for some holiday time. There was a couple of times that I realised I was near to stabbing an innocent colleague with a fork (and not a particularly sharp one) just because I needed some downtime so bad. (No need to worry, really the worst it would have gotten was a passive-aggressive sulk in my office while I stewed on a transgression like stapling a document in the wrong place, serious stuff.)

I, like many People & Culture people, am really excellent at reminding others they need a break from work. Some reset time with family and friends to give your mind a chance to recalibrate. I, also like most People & Culture people, am terrible at taking my own advice.

This time I did it and while it did take me 3 good days to get my brain back in the game I feel like a whole new person.

As much as it feels like you can just keep going because you love your job (I know the feeling). Don’t. It’s not until you have a real break that you realise how much you needed it.

During my time off I also made some life decisions – I’m going to re-enter the world of studentdom to complete my Masters – I only have one double semester paper to go, but I can’t figure out yet if this is an incredibly silly or brave move on my part when I’m only 4 months into my new role.

But it’s the year of the rocket! And I’m defining it with being kinder to myself (I have two lots of leave booked before July. TWO!) and getting back on the study bus. Clearly I’m not defining it with excellent English (study bus?) – but perhaps 2017 will be the year of expanding my vocabulary.

image

The picture is taken from the Taranaki coast in the North Island of NZ

#humblebrag #proudkiwi