ASK THE EVERYWOMAN EXPERTS: I NEED TIME TO REFLECT BETWEEN PROJECTS; HOW CAN I GET MY LINE MANAGER TO UNDERSTAND?

An everywomanNetwork member writes…

I am a firm believer that we all need time to pause and reflect, both in our personal and professional lives. With regards to my work, I have been asking my manager for that much-needed time in between my projects to allow me to reflect on what we have achieved as a project team and what I have achieved as an individual, as well as to be able to consolidate my thoughts, say “thanks and well done” to others or simply to carry out admin tasks. My manager has acknowledged my request, but I’ve had no success in achieving that time between projects yet. I need help to articulate why it is so important to help me get buy-in and support from management and to begin to instil this in our work culture, not just for me, but for my team and the company.

ASKING FOR REFLECTION TIME ISN’T JUST ABOUT BUILDING A CASE FOR IT, BUT BEING EMPATHETIC TO YOUR MANAGER’S POSITION TOO, SAYS POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY COACH SHARON ANEJA.

Reflection is important because it allows us to slow down and analyse events and consequences, making us more strategic but also more flexible in our thinking. Most of us are occupied in ‘doing’ mode at work, but when we reflect, we start to make connections with what’s happened, why we’ve done the things we’ve done and whether they’re in alignment with wider goals. It sounds counterintuitive, but in a situation of fast-paced projects you’ll make decisions quicker and more effectively if you have time to reflect.

Given that, you say you’ve asked for this time again and again and you’re not getting anywhere. In my experience, when we ask for something repeatedly and don’t get anywhere it’s not because of the way we’ve articulated our request, it’s because we haven’t understood the perspective of the person we’re asking. In leadership coaching, we talk about ‘riding a lift’ as a metaphor for career progression — it allows you to take yourself out of the level that you occupy in the business and see things from the perspective of your leaders. If you’re a mid-level leader on floor three, for example, you will see the world through what needs to be done to get the project completed. But go up one more floor to where your manager lives and ask yourself, what do you see? What needs to happen here and how does that affect your perspective?

Solving this is not just about building a case for reflection time — one of the key things you need to do now is be more empathetic. Your manager may want to help but there might be something getting in the way at an organisational level that she or he can’t say or finds hard to articulate. It’s about finding out what the blocker is, and once you have context, you’ll understand what you can and can’t ask for and get a better outcome. In the meantime, though, why not integrate this time into the structures that you already have in place? For example, do a reflection exercise with everyone at the next team meeting using the SOAR framework — strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results — which I’ve found is a more expansive discussion than SWOT, and allows greater reflection with positive actions as a result. At the moment, you’re asking for something in theory; I feel you might need to go and use that reflection time in a practical way and that will give you proof of benefit to then show to the leadership team, which is much more powerful than trying to explain it.

Sharon Aneja is an everywoman expert, a Positive Psychology coach and founder of Humanity Works Consultancy and Recharge@Work. She helps organisations put out the flames of burnout by creating healthier workplaces.

TURNING TIME INTO A PIECE OF WORK AND EXPRESSING IT IN A WAY THAT YOUR MANAGER WILL UNDERSTAND WILL ALLOW YOU TO LEVERAGE THE BENEFITS SAYS EXECUTIVE COACH RASHEED OGLUNLARU.

First, well done for recognising that you need the time to pause to think and to plan in order to progress and do the best job that you possibly can. It can take courage to even acknowledge that, let alone flag it up to your manager, and it’s good that you’ve begun the conversation. It’s not unusual though to have to address things several times with people for them to become a reality. There are a couple of things that you will need to do to move this forward; firstly, you need to identify the precise amounts of time you will need, and why, and what the benefits will be. And then don’t be afraid to put those specific times to your manager and outline the benefit that it will offer to the organisation, highlighting specific actions that are part of this time.

Being specific with a manager is important — saying, for example, ‘it would be invaluable for me to be able to use Friday afternoon between 3 and 5pm to focus and to review’ is a more powerful request than ‘I need time to plan’. What’s important here is framing your case clearly, because often people think about planning, research or reflection as time you’re ‘not doing anything’ with, but actually it is still valuable work time. So, it’s about really turning that request into an update and articulating that — saying, ‘here’s what I’m going to be doing: I’m going to be spending the time reflecting on how we did on the last project and looking at the feedback that we had from clients or colleagues’. By doing this you’re turning that time that you’re asking for into a piece of work and expressing it in a way that managers will understand.

Finally, back up your request for this reflection time with background communication; mention ‘I’ve been leading on this’, ‘working on that’, ‘putting together some facts and figures on that’ in those day-to-day conversations and weekly meetings, drip feeding your working process to your manager — which is important because often people aren’t aware of what we do in day in, day out. It’ll also position you as somebody who’s diligent, looking ahead and adding a lot of value to the organisation.

Rasheed Ogunlaru is a leadership coach, founder of The Coaching Pod and Life & Business Coach partner to the British Library Business & Intellectual Property Centre. rasaru.com

REFLECTION TIME IS AN IMPORTANT CULTURE SHIFT, SAYS SENIOR LEADER ANNE MARIE MCCONNON — AND PUSHING FOR CHANGE COULD BE A PROFESSIONAL GROWTH POINT FOR YOU.

As a leader, I have my own objectives to meet and projects I continually need to drive forward, all while leading a global team of 150 people each with their own queries that they need guidance on or roadblocks they need my help to remove. So, I quite often feel conflicted, and it’s common — we all have to strive to find balance in a busy role.

The answer is in proactively adjusting things when they aren’t working for you though, especially when the benefits of reflection are so crucial to performance as well as wellbeing. Having space to reflect and recharge is the key to me being able to work at the pace I do and stay resilient. It’s about mental clarity — when you push yourself without a break on a treadmill, eventually your brain starts to push back. Your thoughts get cloudy, it’s more difficult to deal with stress and productivity goes down. To be resilient, you have to be able to respond rather than just reacting to what is in front of you. Setting an example is key, and this could be a great professional growth point for you as a manager.

The pandemic has allowed people to think about how they’re working and to do things in a different way — and this is the time to build positive new structures into your work. Giving yourself that time involves putting firm boundaries around what kind of work you do and when and knowing why — and no one can set those for you. You must be proactive about doing that for yourself. You also sound to me as if you are concerned for your team, and feel that they are also just running and running, without time to pause and reflect. If you’re not getting any buy-in from your line manager around formally building in your own reflection time, then reframe your request and make it broader.

Ultimately it is about increasing performance in the business culture — and this issue could be explored in a facilitated workshop, where you could look at the right approach for you all as a team and as individuals. The question for businesses should be how we can help our people to work more effectively and in line with the bigger strategy and vision, and to me, that starts with making sure those above you know that there are conversations that need to be had and top-down examples that need to be set. 

 

Anne Marie McConnon is Global Chief Client Experience Officer, BNY Mellon Investment Management

 

Are you an everywomanNetwork member with a workplace dilemma? Get in touch at contact@everywoman.com with ‘Ask the experts’ in the subject line.

 

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