This morning was the first Lightbulb Moment Reflection Friday! Mike and I started it after attending the Modern Learning Leader workshop where there was a healthy dose of reflective practice.
That experience, and the conversation Mike and I had about communicating and working together, prompted us to set aside some time every Friday morning for reflection.
Today was our first one that we could schedule in some weeks after the workshop and we wanted to share our approach and reaction as part of working out loud, giving other people ideas if they are beginning this same journey and prompting the wider conversation.
Do as I say, not as I do…
Probably we all know that reflective practice is a good thing to do. A lot of people are really invested in it, perhaps writing journals, blog posts, drawing or other artistic endeavours, part of a conversation group, meditation or a myriad of other options.
I’ve done various reflective practices in the past, found them good and useful, but usually only stuck with them as part of a project or programme.
The reason I wanted us to start doing this at Lightbulb Moment was to improve the already good communication and working relationship between me and Mike, focus on our individual and joint creativity and positively impact our business.
Mike and I were both invested in finding time in our week to do this, as we’d been through the experience together on the workshop. Had that not been the case, one of us might have been more reticent and we wouldn’t have had a common language or experience to draw upon to get started.
This was the case with the workshop in the first place – Mike was very honest during the two days, saying that I’d basically signed him up as a “good thing” for his personal and professional development and he wasn’t as invested in the programme as I was. I had made the classic manager-training mistake of sending a direct report on training that they weren’t really interested in.
Luckily the workshop was really good and Mike soon became invested in the process and as the outcomes for our professional relationship were revealing and insightful it was an obvious thing to do to continue this.
Mike and I work geographically remote from each other and use Skype instant messaging and voice call a lot. We planned to use Skype video call in this instance to get the visual feedback and feeling from each other. In future weeks we’ll plan to be working in the same location to do this together.
Both of us had thought a little bit about what we should discuss but hadn’t put any rigid agenda in place. In another instance, with different people, this might be more appropriate.
We decided to continue the conversation and approach from the workshop, which was to reflect on our working week – what we had been working on and achieved – then move into focusing on our communication and working relationship, finishing with some wild writing.
Mike and I chatted through our working week in summary to update each other. This segued nicely into our communication and working relationship. It was a bit of a meta analysis really – revisiting some of the discussions we had and understanding what we thought the other person thought and how we handled it. In most instances we were spot on with what we were picking up and how we dealt with it. It was good to revisit though and make sure.
Mike comments on this part of the process that:
“It was very interesting to discuss the working week but with a mindset of the goal we had in place for the reflection; analysing working tasks and focusing on the aspect of our communication and relationship floated some thoughts to the surface. These were how we could improve – that otherwise would have remained out of sight”.
One of the elements we discussed during the workshop was our communication, bearing in mind we are working remotely from each other. We already had great communication, but there’s also always room for improvement. Certainly on my part I’d made much more effort to explain my thinking and give more detail to any tasks I’d asked Mike to do. We think very similarly and that strength can be taken advantage of and turn into a weakness.
The focus turned to more of the relationship and how we work together. Largely it was all fine and positive with no major issues. What was interesting is that it was an hour into the conversation of “this is fine, this is good, this worked well” that we actually got through some layers into a fundamental assumption that was manifesting in a certain way.
Virtual team communication
With regards more regular Skype instant messaging, and the type and tone of conversation there, Mike had made the assumption of “Jo is busy, so I won’t bother her” whereas had he been sitting next me, he would have seen I wasn’t on a call or a virtual classroom session and just said “hey, what do you think of this?”. It might have been a two minute conversation – this is something we were missing out on by working remotely.
Without having this Reflection Friday we might not have had this conversation or got to this point of detail. It allowed me to understand why there was a very small but pertinent barrier in our communications. It gave me the opportunity to update Mike’s thinking to explain how I like to work and then we discussed trying a different way of working in the future.
This is the reason this reflective practice is so important, virtual team or not.
We got to the point where we had talked about doing some Wild Writing – where you just keep writing and see what comes out. We’d done some in the workshop and I thought it was a technique we should continue.
Mike had suggested he felt that we’d had “wild conversation” and that we’d pretty much covered what we needed and didn’t feel that the activity would be of great benefit. All well reasoned and very reasonable.
I made the suggestion that this time was for building reflective practice, trying new things, that we’d gotten benefit from it on the workshop and we should try it. If we decided it wasn’t working, we didn’t have to continue.
So we did! We mute ourselves but left webcams on and tried it out.
Mike wrote on paper, I used Notepad on the computer and typed (no spelling or grammar mistakes would be highlighted with red squiggles to distract me!). I found I was typing a lot of “and now what else shall I say”.
I also found it interesting to do this typing whereas last time I was writing with a pen. This was part of my wild writing: “it’s almost like I want to think of it before I write it maybe it’s because I’m typing… that I can type quicker than when I think and write with a pen”.
We had some discussion after the writing. Mike had reiterated the conversation we’d already had, which I saw as good confirmation that he was happy and there wasn’t a lot else going on.
I had some things I reflected on personally, plus focusing on the work I say yes to and how I focus on the best work and projects for the business moving forwards.
I found it useful to go through a short version of this activity – just maybe five minutes writing and five minutes debrief between us. It’s taken me longer to blog about it than do it!
Mike’s thoughts on it:
“After initially thinking I had already covered everything in the conversation I was dubious what extra value would come from the wild writing. Once done it quickly highlighted the main points and stressed the need to move through with them. It was also interesting that Jo had come up with some personal reflections that also helped my understanding from her side.”
We’ll share more as our practice develops. So far, it’s been a nice way to start rounding off the week. It’s been personally insightful, as well as for the working relationship with Mike.
I’d love to read your thoughts and comments on what you can take away from what we’ve shared, and also perhaps what you are doing too!