At a time when when most of Scotland is in our second lockdown, when homeschooling has become an additional role for many working parents and carers, when cases numbers are higher now than last Spring,  it is hardly surprising that those working across our health and social care landscape are feeling the pressure on time, energy and patience.  Everyone is feeling the length of the pandemic.

Yet now, more than ever, it is key to make time. Time to reflect and time to connect.

Reflective practice is a powerful tool in every leader’s repertoire, regardless of level, location or role.  And yet we know that thousands of leaders across the career spectrum, believe that they just don’t have the time to do this, that this is a luxury rather than an essential part of practice. Some believe that it is ruminating rather than a valuable reflection and therefore fail to see the benefits of it as a practice despite there being a growing evidence to show the link between intentional reflection and high performing teams.

Why take the time?

We are running the risk of coming out of the other side of this pandemic burnt out and without any insights from our personal and shared experiences if we don’t take time to learn as we go.  We know that taking the time to stop, to notice what is going for us right now, to look at that in context of what is going on around us and to consider how we feel makes a difference. To notice and name the impact on us and to choose what we want to learn from that, to choose how we move forward from that,enables us to look up and look forward.  It enables us to learn with perspective and hope, even if the context is hard and the lessons are tough. Creating spaces to stop and breathe has never been so important.

How to create space and build practice

How do we create the spaces and then prioritise the space and time? In ways that work for us wherever we are whatever our situation.

Individual reflection, or reflective practice, can be whatever works for you but it has to work with either your daily pattern or be easy enough to be done in the moment.  Building a regular practice into your routine can support your wellbeing, offering a short time of calm. You can try 10mins of quiet reflection using a few key questions, or journalling either freehand or using a journal with daily questions to answer or consider.  For in the moment reflection you need an easy access method that you can do anywhere when you feel a reaction that you want to work through, manage or learn from.  You may want to carry a notebook or use a notes app on your phone to stop and take 5 – 10 mins to notice how you are feeling, reacting, struggling or winning in the moment.  For more ideas and insights you can watch the Leadership Links webinar with Jenni Jones and Joanne Rafferty called The Reflexive Leader which walks through both the why try it as well as some ways to try it out.

The Power of Peer Reflection 

Personal reflection helps you connect with your own feelings, reactions and learning.  To connect with others peer reflection or peer learning offers ways to gain perspective from another and sometimes we find having others ask questions of us can bring different, deeper answers than we may have asked ourselves.  We also know that when peers learn together and reflect together they learn deeper and better and this is spurred on through the peer support, challenge and, in some cases, even competition.  Working things through with others requires thinking out loud, articulating our thoughts, feelings or responses and this can bring conversations and insights we would ever come to ourselves. The creating of a safe space where you can connect with another with no retaliation or fear of appraisal comments and the opportunity for fresh perspective is increasingly attractive. We learn from the experience, expertise and insights of others and also benefit from human connection, often with humour and a level of camaraderie not possible alone.

Peer Reflection can be formal or informal:

  • meeting for a coffee to catch up with a colleague, peer or team mate and chatting through or socialising our day
  • meeting together using an agreed format or set of coaching questions to think about a specific situation or topic
  • Participation in managed programmes such as:
    • Peer Thinking or Learning Sets
    • Action Learning Sets
    • Peer Mentoring
    • Paired Learning
    • Exchange Programmes across sectors, professions or career stage

What next?

Peer reflection and learning has the potential to be the key to connected leadership across levels, roles and the wider system. It is very much a matter of personal choice and if you are interested in finding out more join us at our community event The Power of Peer Reflection on 23rd February at 12:30 – 14:00 online. **

** If you are reading this after the 23rd February we will sharing an insights pack from the event once collated. You can find this on the event page at any time once published and we’d love you to take a look.

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