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The importance of reflection as a people manager

In the fast-paced world of leadership, reflection often takes a back seat.

However, this crucial aspect of professional development is what sets great people managers apart from the rest.

Why is reflection important?

Reflection is important as it allows us to consider the learnings from our experiences. And It's through reflection that we develop the emotional intelligence and self-awareness we need to positively impact our teams, enhance the quality of our interactions with others and improve our decision-making.

Reflection allows us to question and challenge the assumptions we might unconsciously be making. It provides a space to analyse our thought processes, ensuring that our actions are purposeful and well-considered.

Why don’t people managers reflect as often as they should?

So, if reflection is so important, why don’t people managers reflect more?

There are many reasons but these are the most frequent ones:

They don’t like reflecting – People Managers may find it boring or don’t see the value, and therefore, do not engage in it as much as they could. However, reflection improves our decision-making abilities and leads to a better understanding of ourselves and others.

They have a bias towards action - They may feel that reflection is passive and prefer to take action instead. However, reflection is an active process that can lead to better decision-making in the long run.

They don’t take the time to reflect - They may feel that they are too busy to reflect. However, taking the time to reflect can lead to increased productivity, better communication, and improved relationships with team members.

They don’t know how to reflect - Reflecting requires taking a step back and analysing our actions and thoughts, which can be a difficult skill to develop. However, with practice, anyone can learn to reflect effectively.

Knowing how to reflect

To facilitate the reflective process, we recommend adopting the Rolfes model, comprising three key stages:

  • What? The reflection process starts by describing a situation in detail and asking ourselves what happened. This sets the foundation for deeper analysis.
  • So what? The second step allows us to dive into the analysis. What was the learning? What were the insights? What did that mean? What did I notice?
  • Now what? And finally the last step helps us identify the actions and steps we want to take moving forward.


Knowing when to reflect

One of the challenges to reflection is knowing when to do it. Building reflection into your routine as a habit is key, but it doesn't mean we have to reflect every day.

Some key times to consider reflection include:

  • After setbacks: When something hasn't gone as planned, it is important to reflect on the experience to extract valuable lessons.
  • Unexpected situations: When caught us off guard, we need to take a moment to understand the situation and our response to it.
  • Emotional triggers: A particularly strong emotion from a situation, such as frustration, can provide valuable insights into underlying issues. Reflecting on these emotions can help us manage these better.

Reflection forms the foundation of our ability to develop self-awareness and draw on our experiences to enhance our impact as people managers. While it might seem challenging at first, incorporating reflective practices into your routine is a small investment that brings significant returns in personal and professional growth.

If you want to find out more about this topic, you can find tips and ideas in our social media posts on FacebookInstagram and LinkedIn and in our newsletter in the coming weeks.

CAPE Coaching & Development equip, empower, and enable brilliant People Managers through development programmes, workshops and 1-2-1 coaching. Learn more by visiting


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