Blog Post

How to Implement a Practice of Regular Reflection in 2019

Jeff Miller

Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, Cornerstone OnDemand

This article was originally published on Forbes.com, under Jeff Miller's Forbes Human Resources Council column.

In the early days of the new year we tend to fixate on goals. Maybe this is the year we get promoted or take on a new role. Once we set these goals, we move forward, we take action — but the biggest mistake most of us make is that we never look back.

It's natural. Many people have action bias: a predisposition to do in an effort to have control over a situation. And, as change expert Ann Salerno discusses in her book, The Change Cycle, action typically takes place in our mammalian brains, which is easier to engage than our complex brain, used for thinking deeply and reflecting.

While it might not be as easy, reflection has a proven, positive impact on our performance. In 2014, research by Harvard Business School students found that call center employees who reflected on what they had learned from a course for 15 minutes performed 23% better on a written test than their colleagues who took the test without time for reflection.

You might already know what you want to accomplish by the end of 2019 and will keep those goals in mind. But to get there, it's important to implement a regular practice of reflection.

Here's how to get started:

Schedule Weekly Meetings With Yourself

We often struggle to make reflection a priority unless we are reminded to do it — usually, during the end-of-the-year performance review. Instead, start scheduling weekly meetings with yourself on Mondays to set goals and then on Fridays to reflect. By approaching goal-setting on a weekly basis, you set yourself up for incremental progress toward larger goals. Moreover, the opportunity for regular points of reflection creates time to course-correct or pivot as needed.

Avoiding this reflection time can be tempting when you feel busy; even an hour of inaction can feel like too much to sacrifice. If that's the case, try adding "create more time in my schedule" to your list of goals each week. Manish Chopra, a senior partner at McKinsey, wrote that setting aside time to meditate on each week helped him identify the things he truly needed to be involved in, and those he didn't. As a result, he ended up freeing 10-20% of his time.

Set Smart Goals

Set goals that are achievable but not trivial each week. You might have heard the term "SMART goals" (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) and those are generally good guidelines to follow.

Say your goal is to become a better networker. That's a very ambiguous goal, so instead, get more specific. How many people do you want to meet this month? With specific outcomes to track, you can be honest about whether you actually achieved the goal or not.

Remember that you don't need to be good at setting goals right off the bat. I've been practicing this weekly goal-setting for over a year and I still set unachievable goals. Simply keep reviewing the goals you set and be honest in your reflection. Over time, you'll be able to find a balance between goals that are challenging and push you to do better but that aren't so high-reaching and ambiguous that they're unachievable.

Ask Questions To Guide Your Reflection

When your Friday afternoon reflection meeting rolls around, focus on the goals you set for yourself on Monday and consider questions like these:

  • Did you achieve the things you set out to do on Monday?
  • What did you learn about yourself this week?
  • What did you learn about others this week?
  • What action items are still sitting in your inbox and why are they there?

The goal is to foster honesty and self-awareness so you can set better goals — and achieve more — in the future. It can be tempting to avoid this reflection when you didn't get things done because it makes you feel bad, but reflection is not about beating yourself up. It's about understanding why you achieved some things and why you didn't achieve others to continue to improve.

Enlist An Accountability Partner

If you're making commitments every Monday and not meeting them each Friday, try finding an accountability partner. Self-reflection requires a high degree of emotional intelligence, and sometimes we struggle to be honest with ourselves or see our own actions clearly. If you can find someone who will be candid with you about your progress, it will help you see where you're going wrong. Not to mention that once you've told someone else your goal, you've made a deeper commitment to achieving it.

Telling other people your goals will also give them an opportunity to support you. For example, I decided I wanted to pursue photography in 2018. But I don't have a camera, and I don't often buy things for myself, so I put the goal off. In October, my wife got me a beautiful camera as an early birthday present. I've probably taken 2,000 pictures since, and I couldn't have done it had she not supported me through that first step.

Remember that having goals and reflecting on those goals isn't about creating a scope of work you have to meet or a contract you have to fulfill. Instead, it's a mechanism for you to get into a cycle of continuous improvement. I achieved my goal in 2018 to get back into photography. In 2019, the goal is going to be more about the quality of pictures (and I'm still working on making the goal more achievable). By setting these smaller goals and reflecting on them weekly, you'll not only continue to push the needle on the loftier goals you want to accomplish by the end of the year but also set yourself up to be more efficient in doing so.

Photo: Creative Commons

Related Resources

Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.

Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

Blog Post

Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development

There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. A recent survey—titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change"—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. According to the "Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes. For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy. To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.

Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today

Blog Post

Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today

When we think of diversity in the workforce, we typically think of it along the lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. But focusing only on those four is its own sort of constraint. To truly create a successful and diverse workplace, you need to ensure you're also embracing neurodiversity too. Understanding neurodiversity In the late 1990s, a single mother in Australia named Judy Singer began studying Disability Studies at University of Technology Sydney. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with what was then known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” a form of autism spectrum disorder. As she read more and more about autism as part of her studies, Singer also suspected that her mother, and she herself, may have had some form of autism spectrum disorder. Singer describes crying as she realized that her mother, with whom she'd had a tumultuous relationship throughout her childhood, wasn’t purposefully cold or neurotic as she had thought. She just had a different kind of mind. In her honors thesis, Singer coined the term “neurodiversity.” For Singer, people with neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia were a social class of their own and should be treated as such. If we are going to embrace diversity of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., then we must embrace a diversity of the mind. The following video is an excerpt from the "Neurodiversity" Grovo program, which is available in the Cornerstone Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription. Neurodiversity in today's workplace Recently, neurodiversity has become a trendy term in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging spaces. And many organizations are working to hire more neurodivergent people, as well as give them opportunities to thrive at work. That’s why, at Cornerstone, we recently produced a series of lessons on neurodiversity. If your organization hasn’t prioritized neurodiverse inclusion yet, here are some reasons why it both supports your people and organization. 1) Neurodivergent people are underemployed Neurodivergent people, especially people with autism, are widely under-employed, regardless of their competence. In the United States, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed. According to a 2006 study, individuals with ADHD have higher rates of unemployment than individuals without. However, there is no evidence that neurodivergent people are less competent or less intelligent than neurotypical people. Organizations are missing out on talented people. 2) Neurodivergent people are more common than you may think Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. It can encompass autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome, and many other conditions. And as scientists have learned more about what makes someone neurodivergent, they're identifying more and more people. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in every 162 children have Tourette Syndrome, and roughly 8 percent of children under 18 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And that's just children. How many adults, like Judy Singer's mother, have struggled their whole lives without a diagnosis? People who are neurodivergent are everywhere. Diverse organizations are stronger Diverse organizations and teams not only have better financial returns than less-diverse ones, but they also perform better. Having the different perspectives presented by people who are neurodivergent can help your team solve more difficult problems. Different perspectives and different ways of thinking lead to creativity and innovation.

Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated

Blog Post

Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated

Many organizations face a leadership gap and cannot find the talent needed to grow. We could blame the retiring baby boomer phenomenon, the free agent nation, or the lack of investment made in developing leaders. But since blame is a lazy man’s wage, I will not entertain that debate because there are too many options out there for developing leaders. There are many leadership development programs in the market. In minutes, with a simple Internet search or over coffee with your head of human resources, you can discover myriad high-quality leadership development programs that you could use in your organization to develop leaders. The problem is not finding a good program, but in choosing one. Answer the Right Questions So how does one choose? The problem we face in evaluating leadership development programs is that we get caught up in evaluating the content rather than asking a simple question, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Each organization is unique in how it answers this question. And that is where the secret lies. If an organization can select a program that matches the answer to the question above, the selected program will likely be the right one. After all, each leadership development program is very good in some way. It is not so important which one you select. It is important that you use the one you select. In other words, the key is to not let it become another un-opened binder on the bookshelves of your management team. Be An Effective Leader Let me give you an example: If an organization’s answer to the question above is, "We want our leaders to be proactive and focused on the things that drive results," your choices are narrowed down to only a few programs that would deliver on that answer. And if I had to pick one program that would deliver on that answer, without hesitation, I would choose, "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker. It is a classic, and all five of the behaviors of effective executives taught in the book remain vital skills that any leader should practice if he or she wants to be effective in his or her organization. In the book, Drucker teaches that effective executives: Know where their time goes Focus on contribution and results Build on strengths Concentrate on first things first Make effective decisions This is not a book review or a plug for "The Effective Executive," though I do believe if you had to choose one set of skills to teach your leadership, it would be the five from Drucker’s book. This is a challenge for every organization to simplify the selection of leadership development programs, and ask, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Answering this question clearly will help you choose the right program. After all, many programs are excellent. The secret to success is not in which program you choose, but that you get people to apply the program you choose. Photo: Can Stock

Schedule a personalized 1:1

Talk to a Cornerstone expert about how we can help with your organization’s unique people management needs.

© Cornerstone 2022
Legal