Reset before you rebuild

Julie Cameron provides a self-reflection checklist to ensure we prioritise purpose as we start to get back to normal.

Everyone is talking about ‘building back better’. And whilst this is something that I actively encourage all UK corporations to do – especially if we can all start to prioritise purpose within this rebuild – I believe there is something that must come first…

…And that is to reset.

When you think about it, so much of our lives are carried out without us knowingly thinking about what we’re doing e.g. lifting a cup to drink, interpreting each letter to read a word, going to work, going about our daily routine.

This process of being on ‘auto pilot’ is of course extremely helpful, not least just to get things done, but at the same time doing things this way can often mean we can miss out on opportunities to get to know and learn more about ourselves and truly understand the problems we are trying to fix. Sometimes we need to step back and take a moment to self-reflect. This is what the Japanese call Hansei.

Many of us have lost touch, not just with one another, but lost touch with what we are working towards and what we want to achieve in our careers

Hansei, or self-reflection, is a central idea in Japanese culture, meaning to acknowledge one’s own mistake and to pledge improvement.

But why is self-reflection so important right now?

Since the pandemic began, anxiety and uncertainly about what the future holds has been incredibly high. Not to mention, of course, how many people may have had to step away from a business or their teams, whether that be as a result of furlough or indeed because they have had to take time off to care for a loved one.

Put simply, many of us have lost touch, not just with one another, but lost touch with what we are working towards and what we want to achieve in our careers. Teams have struggled to come together, both physically due to distancing, as well as mentally, morale has been impacted and employee engagement has been pushed down the priority list.

This is why it is so integral to reset right now. Not only as an individual, but also as a team together.


And to reset effectively, a process of self-reflection is required. Through this process a leader can regularly check in and review their team’s performance, whilst maximising further opportunities to improve. Self-reflection also allows the individuals of that team to understand what drives them, what makes them do what they do and ensure they can fully show up as themselves to enjoy the work they do.

The self-reflection process is really quite easy, and can be carried out as a simple checklist:

  1. To embed the habit, it is useful to start with some structure. So, select a regular time for your team can come together. Ideally everyone would know exactly what this meeting is for before it starts and also what needs to be achieved as an outcome.
  2. Ask all attendees to come with an open mind and encourage them to fully participate. Reassure the whole team that no matter their job title or level all opinions are encouraged and welcome. This levelling process is essential to ensure a  real collaborative process, rather than a top down diktat.
  3. Decide what you intend to review. You could start with the previous day, week or month or it may be a specific project, a theme, or simply on the overall team operation. Make sure everyone is aligned on this so you are all on the same page to start with.
  4. Ask each team member individually some simple questions and then share these with the group so that there is shared benefit with the rest of the team. Typical questions might include the following: How has it been? What did I do which went well? What have I learnt that has been useful? What would I do differently? What have I done that I want to avoid in the future? What do I want to do more of tomorrow?
  5. When problems are uncovered, discuss the problem-solving steps needed to solve them and put in place a countermeasure to ensure that you can avoid it happening again. Not to distract from the self-reflection process, you may need to organise a different time to have the problem-solving discussion. Talk about this as a team and consider the learning thinking about why the problem arose in the first place and what signs you all need to look out for in the future to spot any issues.
  6. Finally repeat, repeat, repeat. This process is about having an opportunity for you to stop and reflect and ultimately open yourself and the team up to learning. Just like anything in life, in order to get good at this process, takes practice. So, it should never be a one off, rather a regular process that you practice as a team.

It is essential to create and sustain daily opportunities to connect with and support your team by truly listening and engaging with them. It’s such an important restart step to get the team talking and engaging and to help them understand that the place that they work maybe different and is driving the imperative to change.

It also gives everyone the opportunity to provide a personal commitment to one another, create a strong team dynamic and ensure a positive energy. Ultimately this should go some way to help people to love what they do and show up as the best version of themselves.


About the author

Julie Cameron is managing director of DRIVE Engagement



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