Effective Team Reflection Sessions: Improving Alignment and Goal Setting

By Lauren Hopkins, Marketing Coordinator

As 2022 winds down, many of us are already excited about starting the new year with a clean slate and new goals. Depending on your journey over the past eleven months, you’re probably either getting ready to toast to another great year or saying, “good riddance!” and focusing on a fresh start in 2023. Organizations are already thinking about their next steps and what they’d like to accomplish next year, setting greater sales targets to meet, creating plans to launch new product, or researching new markets to enter. With all of the excitement, many organizational leaders overlook a key step that is critical for growth: reflection.

Reflection is an important part of improving future performance for every organization, especially those that operate under high uncertainty and constant change. Meaningful reflection allows you to deeply consider the events of the past year: successes and failures, team strengths and weaknesses, and the external factors that influenced decision-making.

Why Encourage Team Reflection?

Team reflection exercises provide insight from lessons learned over the past year to determine an action plan for the future. Leaders can use collaborative reflection sessions to give feedback to their team, to show appreciation for their contribution and how their work relates to the bigger picture, and nudge them to buy into organizational goals once again. When done right, these sessions promote collaboration, trust, and problem-solving, and just might help uncover hidden growth drivers for the new year.

How to Lead Effective Team Reflection Sessions

When planning a year-end reflection session, focus on asking your team these four questions:

  • What happened?
  • Why do we think it happened?
  • What new problems or opportunities did it create?
  • What might we do as a result?

Encourage your team to have open and collaborative discussions about different situations and events from the past year, applying these questions. Consider the following points to get the most out of your team session:

Before the Session:

  • Be as specific as possible about why you are reflecting and make this known among your team before beginning the session – what are you looking to get out of this exercise? At the beginning of the session, make a collaborative list of the things you want to reflect on as a team.
  • Encourage employees to be objective and honest throughout the session about what worked and what didn’t, but also to remain respectful. Remind them that reflection is not meant to be negative, and make sure employees are not too hard on themselves or their colleagues over things that didn’t work out. As a leader, you must ensure employees feel safe during reflection sessions.

During the Session:

  • Put your thoughts in writing on pen and paper to keep a record of discussion points. Consider interactive and creative ways to do this to keep your team engaged throughout the entire session.
  • Encourage your team to look for patterns in behaviour when reflecting on both team and individual successes and failures. Identifying positive and negative habits gives your team the opportunity to identify areas of strength and improvement personally and as a team.

After the Session:

  • Allow your team to let their reflection and discussions sink in. Then, carefully review this work, and create SMART team goals with action plans.
  • Ensure the goals set align with the organization’s business objectives. Filter these goals through an organizational lens to determine whether or not they make sense in terms of where the business is heading.
  • Revisit your reflection in a few weeks or months, and schedule regular check-ins. Monitoring the areas you reflected on will help ensure the maintenance or improvement of these areas and assess the effectiveness of your session.

Empowering Leaders to Create Engaging Workplaces

At PowerUp Leadership, we strongly believe in providing leaders with tools and resources to increase collaboration and alignment among their teams. In many cases, businesses have the potential to work key success factors into their organization but struggle to get started. As a solution, we offer support through customized Group Training delivered by an ICF- certified coach, and delivery and debriefing of alignment-focused talent assessments. One such assessment, The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, offers both Personal and Team profiles, specifically designed to deliver insight into how individuals can contribute to team success. Training and assessments give structure to help teams reflect on how they work best together, and to identify key areas to target for growth.

So whether you’re celebrating another successful year or looking forward to a better one in 2023, take the opportunity to engage your team in meaningful reflection to help maintain steady growth in the new year. Focus on what you can truly control instead of worrying about things that went wrong – but take the opportunity to learn from these challenges, failures, and mishaps.

We have always been told that we cannot change the past, so in this sense, reflection may seem counterintuitive. But remember, reflection is not about focusing on changing the past – it’s about learning from it, and it is crucial to moving forward toward the future.

“Learning without a reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous.” – Confucius