Tag Archives for " reflection "

Sandpaper on the Affectus 4D Reflection Process

Is it too soon to talk about reflection and sandpaper?

Do we dare to go into this space?

Is it valuable to step into such a short-lived but fundamentally challenging idea as sandpaper?

Cue deep breathe…yep let's give this a go.

Will we answer any questions? Perhaps. But we will also have a few.

What is the connection between sandpaper and leadership?

This is a short reflection on sandpaper. And this, as for many of us, will be a piece from observations via the recent media surrounding sandpaper - overlaid on Affectus’ 4D Reflection model.

Values – were they present?

If, as we have suggested in earlier articles, reflection is a key part of leadership, my first question is:

'What were the core values of the Australian sandpapergate team?"

Fundamental to leadership action is knowing our values.

Had the team values been reviewed, openly discussed, reconsidered?

Did these values align with the behaviours of the team before sandpapergate?

How did the values that became the drivers for the behaviour for the team during the game(s) then lead to deciding that someone would put a piece of sandpaper in a trouser pocket?

Worldviews – we all have them

When anyone starts the process of reflection, as all the people directly and indirectly connected to sandpapergate have had to do, that person needs to consider the values and worldview he/she brings to the reflection. We also need the opportunity to bounce our reflections off others who see the world differently. We all see the world differently.

Prior to and during sandpapergate were there any others? Or was the team so hunkered down with a sense of “fortress Australia” in a foreign and competitive country that “others” were not readily available? Also, who are the others that the whole team have connected with since?

I am sure much reflection is happening now. These questions and concepts are important when we think about reflection. We need to think about these broader concepts that are essential for reflection to be helpful.

Now to the actual Affectus 4D process of reflection on the use of sandpaper.

The first and second “D” - Data – facts and feelings.

The 4D model asks what are the facts about what you are reflecting upon?

Now this will never be known by us out here in media-consumption land. What were the facts?  The facts:

  • of the moment
  • before the moment
  • immediately after the moment of sandpapergate.

What other facts might be included?

The first D - Data Facts

Mining for facts.

It is so important because it helps understand how we see the situation.

There would be no doubt in sandpapergate that this has been completed. The facts in sandpapergate will be mixed by powerful emotions and potentially impacted by “fortress Australia”.

It is important to see the non-linear nature of gathering facts. We need to spend time thinking about the facts and then pause and return to facts again later.

In such a complex matter as sandpapergate the facts may still be coming out. The hope is that all the facts, in some forum somewhere, have all been surfaced. In any reflection process if facts are hidden then the opportunity of real reflection has been missed.

The second D - Data Feelings

Feelings will have been high and angry, regretful and painful. We all saw a small portion of this on screen and it was hard to watch. Such raw pain.

Sometimes reflection will do this to us. Accessing our feelings of “after it happened” is usually more readily captured. It must be said that the feelings before and during sandpapergate are equally as important.

And (warning offensive material) have the men involved in sandpapergate been provided with good counsel to surface the feelings. It is my experience that some people find it challenging to do the “feelings” part. An older generation person once fed me, numerous times, to stop being emotional, which was not very helpful.

Is it important to surface the feelings? How do you surface the useful feelings? And are there any useless feelings?

The importance of feelings cannot be understated in reflection. Why? Because if we can surface them thoroughly then we will move from the Data component to the Decoding component with solid knowledge.

The third D - Decode Understanding

Why Decode?

Decoding is the third component of the Affectus 4D Model and is impossible to complete if the Data components are not done openly.

As media consumers, we will never know the decoding that went on around sandpapergate. But the third D – Decoding is complex and insightful.

My initial reaction, I admit, around sandpapergate was how embarassing – for us. These thoughts were formed with only one piece of Data – my own feelings. And then I moved straight to the fourth D - Decision. Decision - send them all (the whole team) home. Such a knee-jerk reaction. No contemplation. Doing-the-sandpaper might be how you could describe it. No decoding on my behalf, just straight to decision. And what an over-reach that might have been.

It should be noted that I chose the word reaction carefully. Because it was a reaction. It was not a decision. I reacted. Did other people just react? Or did they contemplate, collect data, decode and then decide?

Reflection gives us the gift of deciding rather than reacting because we learn about ourselves.

Decoding benefits from discussion with the others. Were others brought into sandpapergate at this point? Has a subsequent reflection on the response to sandpapergate been done? Have “others” been allowed into the reflection process?

Decoding can be complex. However, if reflection is going to be valuable to commence the decoding in your own bubble may not, perhaps never, give you a complete and thorough decoding.

The fourth D - Decide Commitment

Decision is the fourth D of our model.

Did the sandpapergate decision get rushed? Was it rushed because a thorough reflective process was omitted? How was the decision arrived at?

There were, within 14 hours of the “hand in pocket” moment, decisions made. We witnessed them. But what about reflection and decision about how sandpapergate was handled?

It would be a circuitous process (much reflection is of course). But what about reflecting on all of it, not just the micro-moment, as dreadful as that was. That is where reflection can sometimes take you - to a bigger issue and spending time contemplating, which is so valuable.

 But remember decision then needs action

Decision requires you to think – what next time?

Ah, sandpaper. We have much to reflect on.

The Reflection Process – A Summary

Affectus has blogged about Reflection during April and March this year.

This video is the summary of the process of reflecting that we have covered.

Please feel free to share with your friends and networks.

Or, to discover more about Reflection and other Leadership topics, head to our News page.

Who Reflects?

Who reflects and how does the reflection process assist them in leadership.

Do you ever wonder who reflects? And does it make a difference?

Have the leaders down through the ages demonstrated a propensity to sit down at regular intervals and cast an eye backwards and consider “what could I have done differently?”

Having done some desktop search it would appear that leaders do reflect and it does make a difference.

Recently in the UK seven executive directors where part of an in-depth interview to establish the use of reflection in the executive role. The research found that all seven agreed that reflection had been a major contributor to their own development as leaders.

It was interesting to note, that from this research, it was established that reflection was about intentionally creating thinking spaces to enable a different kind of structured thinking.

The research also confirms observations when facilitating reflection sessions during Affectus leadership programs and from my personal experience.

Reflection Insight

An essential part of reflection is having a process which enables you to learn from experience and to develop new understandings to apply in the world.

From the same research, it was clear that the thinking provided insight.

At Affectus, we see that reflecting unlocks:

  • new benefits
  • different ideas
  • creativity around issues
  • openness to personal change
  • relationship adjustments
  • behavioural insights.

We also see that people feel differently after reflecting. Empowered has become a bit yesterday but empowered is the most common feeling that results from reflective processes.

Missed Opportunities

One of the most startling components highlighted in the research was the missed opportunities of not reflecting.

The seven leaders identified loss of:

  • understanding
  • creativity
  • relationships
  • energy
  • productivity.

So, insight is what you gain from the reflection process. And, what you miss if you don’t have a process to look back to understand where you have been and what you have done.

Other Reflections

One of the international leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela, illustrated his reflection in his autobiography The Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela, although not using this language, used a four-lens reflective process. The lens assisted him to review the constant challenge of power imbalance, reappraise his assumptions, monitor his increased knowledge through observing his political party and reassess his behaviour as he moved through his years as a freedom fighter.

Elizabeth Patterson’s information is most useful for us in our reflective practice, Elaine Patterson (2015) ‘What are leaders’ experiences of reflection?’ What leaders and leadership developers need to know from the findings of an exploratory research study, Reflective Practice, 16:5, 636-651, DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2015.1064386.

Therefore, it focuses our intent when we move to reflection, it tunes-up our minds before we start the process.

During the reflection process

During your reflection process you need to:

  • be intentional
  • pause
  • create a “thinking” space
  • ask yourself open questions to explore what has happened
  • allow open questions to challenge your thinking
  • be brave and compassionate during the thinking – open and creative
  • have the conversations with yourself and potentially with others
  • commit to change during the reflective process.

To discover more about Reflection and other Leadership topics, head to our News page.

The History of Reflection and what it has provided us

When looking at the history of reflection, Reijo Miettinen states, in his academic writing about reflection, that reflecting on our practices stems from...

...the faith in an individual’ s innate capacity to grow and learn.

It is interesting that some of the initial thinking about reflection happened in the 1940’s. Even back then people were understanding the importance of looking at what they were doing and exploring the concept of reflective practice.

Some of that thinking suggested that the following concepts need to be considered.

  • Defining the problem and getting facts about it
  • Formulating action possibilities in the problem situation
  • Practising human relation skills needed to carry out problem solutions
  • Formulating general principles of action
  • Planning specific steps of back-home action
  • Self-evaluation of its own problem-solving activity

Cross-referencing our thinking

Some suggest that John Dewey did some of the heavy lifting on the reflective process and study. Then other people and developed some further key areas to consider. At about this time, as a society, we started to include in reflective activities:

  • our values
  • how we see the world
  • what that brings

This is a very important part of the reflective process to understand.  If we employ only a personal reflective practice and not cross-reference our thinking with others then perhaps our values may be clouding what we see.

Below are our simplified steps of John Dewey's model:-

  1. Disturbance and uncertainty – “my habit does not work”
  2. Define the problem – “I have got my habit that does not work clearly in my mind”
  3. Observe the environment (the conditions in which this habit occurs) – “where does my habit and behaviour crop up”
  4. Think through what is really going on – “what really happened”
  5. Develop a new process – “what could I do next time”
  6. Test the new process – “I have tried a different habit, action or behaviour”
  7. Solution or back to No. 1 – “I now can see that a new habit is useful” or “That didn’t work let me rethink that”

These are powerful concepts that are covered in a general manner in the 4D Reflection tool we provided in our last blog.

We talk in more detail about our 4D Reflection tool in the weeks to come. What we need to mention is this tool is always used in conjunction with many of our reflective practices. This allows participants to establish their ideas about personal changes, in the environment the changes need to occur.

What needs to occur

Having looked briefly at the history of reflection we believe the following must occur for it to be valuable.

  • Time – I need to pause to think
  • Willingness – I need to be willing to look back with openness and honesty
  • Values – I need to have a clear understanding of the personal values that drive me
  • Process – I need to cover off the number of concepts for value to be delivered
  • Communication – I must think through who to talk to about my reflection

The Habit of Reflection

"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way"
Margaret Wheatley (Leadership and New Science)

More than three decades ago I commenced my career in assisting others to discover their own personal leadership. At that point, I also discovered the power of reflection.

Reflection was part of reflective practices during my initial years of schooling and university reflection. But, it was not discussed formally even during the educational psychology components of my undergraduate study.

However, the practice of research is always about looking back; reviewing what others have done before you in the field and in the laboratory.

Studying and learning, growing and developing was always about “look back to see where to go next”. But it was in my first (short but successful) career as a teacher that reflection first became a personal practice.

Pausing at the end of each frantic day during my first year of teaching was scary and valuable all at once. That daily ritual of staying in the environment of the school and sitting at the staff table as the building emptied and collecting the data was powerful and at times sanity saving. That data included the facts and the feelings, finding meaning and deeper understanding of what went on and then planning out my next day and week.

I had a clear goal of where I wanted to get my students to by the end of the year. Reflection assisted me enormously in becoming a sound facilitator of people who are looking to stretch and grow into leadership.

I didn’t know the Kierkegaards quote then but I knew it.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”
Soren Kierkegaard

What is the habit of reflection and why is it so important.

The definition of reflection is serious thought and reflection. Serious thought requires time and brain space.

When I think of reflection I think of the chapters in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where Dumbledore extracts his memories. The extraction of the memory was valuable as it allowed the professor to see the circumstances, the events again and with new eyes.

When I commence a period of reflection now I actually create a space, (no, not where I draw out a wand and point it to my temple), where I have stillness to allow my thoughts to come to consciousness.

The first step of reflection

The first step of reflection is finding the time.

Yep, there goes the gong – time! Where do you find the time?

There is always this tussle about time. However, what you need to consider is what is valuable time usage.

If you spend your time moving forward without looking back then you are at risk of doing the same thing over and over again. Doing the same thing over and over can be useful if what you are doing is worthwhile.


But, and it's a big but. BUT, if your endeavour is repeating the same mistake over again then this is a waste of time.

A recent example in my life was that during a time of intense work pressure I fell back into the habit of not checking the dates. The result was a time-consuming fix-up job. If I had spent ten minutes reflecting on my management and leadership practice I would have seen where I was headed. And I would have avoided the fix-up job.

Jennifer Porter states in her article that research demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting on lessons learned performed 23% better after then days than those who did not reflect.

Porter also goes onto say that you need to find a process for reflecting. We agree, which is why our tips section may assist if reflection has slipped off the agenda for you or if you never really hooked into the concept.

Claude Monet said

“It is on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve…”

And we would add to Monet’s quote with

"then find new meaning and implement change in behaviours."

It is important to not just do the Albus Dumbledore pensieve process of extracting our memory. Also, consider what does this mean and what action should/could/must I take to change my ways.

Have a look at our 5D Reflection Model here.