Reflective leaders are distinguished by patterns of regular self-assessment and analysis. Reflective organizations employ similar mechanisms of collective reflection and shared stock-taking.
But how are such structures established in the workplace?
At the heart of any robust system of organization-wide assessment is the collection of data related to workplace culture and perceptions. Drawing from both quantitative and qualitative evaluations, metrics of this kind allow the human dimensions of organizational life to be assessed in specific and concrete terms.
Data, though, find their greatest utility as a stimulus for discussion and reflection. Facts and figures are important, but conversations are the primary point of leverage in any survey process. It is through conversations that shared understanding is built, insights are identified, root causes of challenges are articulated, and ideas for action are generated.
Leaders must therefore find ways to facilitate dialogue through the entirety of an organization. They must not only talk about the importance of collective reflection, they must devote time and resources to nurturing it.
This can and should take place through formal and management-directed structures. But an organization that reflects only when a meeting is call to do so is not a reflective organization.
Leaders must therefore also work to nurture informal patterns of collective reflection, those spontaneous conversations emerging organically around the water cooler, the lunch table, the parking lot.
Finally, just as individual leaders often benefit from seeking out the perceptions of others, organizations may sometimes wish to seek assistance from external resources. Fresh viewpoints and perspectives can shed great insight on an organization’s own internal findings.
Strategies such as these help code purposeful and unified reflection into the DNA of an organization. They help establish habits of reflection that ensure that whatever external challenges an organization might face, its internal functioning will continue to grow and develop.