On 10/1/18 at 1:15pm, I took part in online professional development through Wake Technical Community College’s Leadership Program with the Session ULEA 126, Empowering Leaders through Self-Reflection! This was co-presented by Lori Dees and Emily Moore of Wake Technical Community College
LEA126: Empowering Leaders Through Self Reflection
Our overall goal for this course is to help improve our own practice of self-reflection in order to strengthen leadership skills. Upon completion of course activities and assignments, I was awarded a certificate for two hours of Professional Development credit.
Module 1: Self Reflection Basics: What and Why?
Upon completion of this lesson, we should be able to:
- Define self-reflection
- Locate several research articles on self-reflection
- Identify the relationship between self-reflection and leadership
- Discuss reflective leadership
Practicing Reflection Online
I have seen this famous quote at some point in the past. It speaks to the importance of reflection across the ages, and how it can bring us wisdom. I hope to keep this in mind and share with a little about my own journey with reflection. This should also help me consider some ways I can incorporate reflection into my practice as a leader.
Think its important here to define two key terms:
Reflection- consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose (Merriam-Webster)
Collaborative Reflection- sharing reflections with each other
Why is it important to learn about reflection and to be a reflective leader? I think that reflection is key to leadership. Reflection is powerful. Self-reflection is a powerful tool for self-improvement and for self-appreciation.
Again, this is another ancient quote that you may be familiar with. Although I certainly do not think that your life is worthless if you haven’t been practicing reflection regularly… :). Reflection is an important part of maintaining balance and focus in life.
Reflection is productive. Later in the lesson, I see I’ll be watching a video featuring Giada Di Stephano, a Harvard researcher. I already watched it though 🙂
In that video, she discusses the findings of a study on reflection. You will want to watch the video for details about the experiment and the findings of the research team. Essentially, this research demonstrated the relationship between reflection and learning. This study has some important implications for teaching and leading.
We do not have to rely on just the research to know that reflection works, however. Through our own experiences with collaborative reflection, we become convinced that it is key to personal growth and development and to leadership. As we explore the research on reflection, and practice collaborative reflection as part of this course, perhaps I’ll cover the redesign process myself, and come to some important realizations.
There are some common barriers to reflection, especially to collaborative reflection, including the fear of exposure (being vulnerable with ourselves and others) and insufficient time for reflection. Some possible ways to overcome these barriers include making reflection intentional, using online forums dedicated to reflective practice, and encouraging vulnerability. Asynchronous communication is great for millenials, but it can also be good for working professionals when reflecting with others.
We have developed two sites dedicated to online reflection through discussion forums available on Blackboard shells. The first of these is the one we call our “blue site,” which is our internal site available to Wake Tech employees. Membership on this site is open to any Wake Tech employee and provides you with the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across our campuses as you reflect together. They send a weekly reflection prompt to serve as a reminder to reflect and to give you a starting point for discussing issues and ideas together on the forum. In addition, there is an external site, our “green site,” that we use when we present to our community college colleagues across the country. This site is open to anyone, and is hosted on the Blackboard MOOC platform.
You can find and enroll in this class by doing a google search for PRO Project Blackboard Course sites. It is here: https://www.coursesites.com/s/_PROProject
This graphic shows a snapshot of the activity on the site. Although we have forums dedicated to different interests and areas of the college, our weekly reflection forum is by far the most popular. Comparing the number of “hits” to posts in the previous slide also shows that people like to visit the forums to consider the thoughts of their peers, even when they do not wish to post themselves. Some sites call this “lurking,” but we don’t! Participation in any form means that you are making reflection a part of your day. You can also post anonymously.
Looking at this, consider the difference between the “boss” and the leader. As I read over the list, I took a brief moment to reflect on the qualities of my own leaders over the years. How can I demonstrate the qualities that will make people want to follow me?
The Power of Insight
From Values to Action
Finally, in order to demonstrate my understanding of the first lesson, I was asked to reflect on one of the following topics, discuss my thoughts with others and report what we covered :
Thinking about what I have learned from the first lesson, including the article you read, identify three reasons for incorporating a regular practice of self-reflection into your practice as a leader.
Thinking about what I have learned from the first lesson, including the article you read, identify at least two qualities of an inspirational leader. How can I incorporate these qualities into my own leadership style?
Thinking this over, I decided to read an article on Leadership by Meier
Prompt 2: Thinking about what you have learned from the first lesson, including the article you read, identify at least two qualities of an inspirational leader. How can you incorporate these qualities into your own leadership style?
I felt most strongly attuned to the idea of flexibility in leadership. In thereadings for this first lesson. There was a great graphic representing the difference between a boss and a leader. The real leader here “Generates Enthusiasm” instead of issuing ultimatums, they “Develop People”, and values “Strength In Unity”. These values are not ones in while there is a set goal, but an ideal in place which must be adjusted and judged based on what every person can bring to the table. You cannot excite and enthuse people in the same way- each must be approached individually. You cannot develop people in the same way, or we’d all be wunderkind polymaths. Each person must be motivated and encouraged individually. Strength in unity is not built by seeking a wall of spartan soldiers, but in the creation of a set of individuals who can work together as a team with each bringing their own skills to bear to help the group. In the classroom, faculty approach the class with a single idea, but encourage each students with tweaks to performance and ability, finding the best in each and encouraging it. This helps me to find the leader within myself, and I can aspire to the difference between boss and leader, and of course by looking to the best examples of leaders before me.
In the article How Self-Reflection Can Make You a Better Leader, I was very taken by this phrase:
“Self-reflection is not spending hours contemplating your navel,” Kraemer says. “No! It’s: What are my values, and what am I going to do about it? This is not some intellectual exercise. It’s all about self-improvement, being self-aware, knowing myself, and getting better.”
I find the examination of your feelings and motivations to be an excellent introspective moment, allowing us to to feel out situations. This flexibility allows us to change our opinions, desires, and if needed, re-examine out choices and commitments. Will we shirk on those commitments, certainly not. That said, we can certainly approach them with the understanding and ability to work through the issues with the best intentions, and mindful of what our actual goals are, the equitable standards that we commit to internally, and solving the problem with the optimal outcome in mind.
I feel the judgment of the individual should be taken into account at every opportunity, constantly weighing in the best actions to go with each situation- while being mindful of the commitments you’ve made. This was great reading.
Module 2: Self Reflection Standards: What and Why?
Upon completion of this lesson, we should be able to:
- Identify four lenses for reflection
- Explain the relationship between vulnerability and leadership
- Assess key aspects (values and emotional intelligence) of their own leadership styles
- Discuss ways to apply the results of self-assessments for personal and professional growth
Three pioneers in reflective practice theory are John Dewey, Jack Mezirow, and Donald Schon.
Dewey brought reflection to the forefront of education in the early 1900s. In the late 1900s, Mezirow began developing his transformative learning theory, which focuses on using reflection to change one’s worldview. A few years later, Schon was exploring reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action. Reflection-in-action refers to reflecting in the moment.
Imagine you’re leading a group and you start to notice the session isn’t running smoothly. Through a quick reflection in the moment, you decide to change your approach. Next, imagine you’ve already finished leading a training. You return to your office to reflect on how the session went and make changes accordingly. This process is called reflection-on-action. All three leaders in the field of reflective practice have numerous publications you can explore for further information.
Stephen Brookfield is another leader in reflective practice theory. I’ve had a book discussion on Brookfield’s Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. At that meeting, we explored Brookfield’s approach to reflection. Brookfield sees reflection as a process that must utilize four lenses to be the most beneficial.
The first lens Brookfield proposed was the autobiographical lens. Using this lens, you want to remember what it feels like to be a learner. Because his book focused on the teaching profession, the lenses are explained from a teacher-student perspective.
As a leader, you can translate these lenses to your daily responsibilities. Some ways you can reflect on yourself are to reflect on any experiences you have had as a graduate student, in professional development workshops, or as a conference attendee. You may also want to reflect on your experiences in a new and intimidating learning environment.
Brookfield shares a story about his first experience swimming and his first experience driving. In both cases, he was an adult, and he could reflect on what it felt like to be in an intimidating learning environment for the first time. He reiterates how important it is for us to find opportunities to experience something new and intimidating so we don’t forget what it feels like to be led through a new process.
Other ways you can explore the autobiographical lens are to write or review your philosophy of leadership, make audio/video recordings of yourself leading a group, keep weekly leadership logs that record your leadership experiences, create yearly leadership audits that you can compare at the end of each year, create role model profiles of leaders you admire, and write a survival advice memo that you would give to someone who was taking over your position.
The second lens Brookfield discusses is the student lens. To utilize this lens, you will need to reflect on feedback you receive from those you lead.
One way to implement this lens is to reflect on yearly evaluations from your team, training evaluations after you have led a training session, or conference evaluations after you present at a conference. Taking the time to reflect on this type of feedback is essential to becoming a good leader and reflective practitioner.
The third lens Brookfield discusses is the theoretical lens. This lens focuses on the theory behind your practice.
Brookfield encourages us to constantly seek out and reflect on theory in our field. Some ways you might incorporate this reflection are to complete LEA courses, read scholarship of leadership, attend conferences and workshops on leadership, and subscribe to professional leadership journals.
The final and most crucial lens Brookfield discusses is the peer lens. Without putting this lens into practice, the other three lenses will fall short in giving you the full benefit of reflective practice.
Brookfield strongly believes collaborative reflection is essential to a promising reflective practice. Ways that you might collaboratively reflect are participating in collaborative benchmark projects focused on leadership and intentionally participating in structured critical conversations on leadership.
It is important to note, that as you begin to incorporate these lenses into your reflective practice, particularly the peer lens, you may begin to notice a fear of being vulnerable. Being vulnerable is critical to growth in a reflective practice. One of your goals should be to embrace this vulnerability so you can become a stronger leader.
Brene Brown discussed her vulnerability research in a video below- which I had already watched. I watched all the videos before viewing this material, so it was a nice tie-in.
In her video, Brene talks about the importance of being willing to be vulnerable and how this practice can lead to personal growth. It was interesting.
In Brown’s video, she shares the quote on this slide from Theodore Roosevelt. After reading the quote and reflecting on why she may have chosen to include this quote in her discussion of vulnerability, I though about some of the times I had dared greatly.
“Showing up in the Arena” affected my worldview. I was able to see things from the place where the action was truly happening, and get a better understanding of the real problems being faced. I also had a chance to taste the real defeat and trials which covered that job. In short, I gained a new perspective and much more respect.
Do you think vulnerability is necessary for leadership? Why or why not? I don’t think that vulnerability equates to this “In the Arena” idea. I think vulnerability is not necessary, but flexibility should certainly be awarded. That ability to be wrong and still be a leader would be more important.
Let’s discuss some steps to increased self-awareness.
To experience the benefits of a reflective practice, It would be good to investigate and understand our personality types, personal values, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence.
Step 1 is to investigate your personality type. Knowing yourself and others will improve your leadership skills. As mentioned in Harry Kraemer’s video on reflection and leadership in Lesson 1, if you don’t know yourself, you can’t lead yourself, and if you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead others. If you know yourself, you will be able to easily recognize the personality types of those you are leading. If you know their personality types, you will be able to predict their behavior. Thus, you can take action to stop bad behavior before it goes too far and reinforce good behavior.
I might have gone a bit too far there, but I think you’re seeing what I’m saying.
Step 2 is to understand your personal values. We have two types of personal values: instrumental values and end values. Instrumental values are those you use everyday to make decisions. These values include being honest, polite, and logical. End values are those that reflect lifelong aspirations, such as equality, wisdom, and contentedness.
Why is understanding your personal values important as a leader? Your values set the tone for the people you are leading and help build trust within your group. If those you lead understand and sense what values are important to you, they will trust you and mirror those same values. Sharing values with those you lead allows for a more cohesive, productive team.
Understanding your employer’s values is just as important. You want to make sure your values align with your employer’s so you can positively reinforce those values with your team. Think about Wake Tech’s six core values.
How do your personal values align with Wake Tech’s values? I think that over the years, Wake Tech has chosen to value staff over faculty. As time moves forward, faculty breaks diminish, pay for faculty remains 47th in the nation, and no faculty member I know will admit to making at or above the median income for Raleigh, where the campuses are. I like the innovation here, but it can be very very difficult to move ahead.
Do you feel comfortable working in an environment where these values are important? I am a team player. Sometimes its more important to support the team than to run after individual dollars and concerns.
Are you an advocate for these values in your team?
Take Time to investigate your cognitive style. Cognitive style is equivalent to learning style. Consider the questions: How do I process data for making decisions? How do my team members process data? If you understand how you process data, you will be able to more easily identify how your team members process data. Understanding how your team members process data is important when you build committees or other small groups. You want to be sure to include team members from all cognitive styles on a committee so the team is balanced. Diversity is key when it comes to cognitive style and a productive team.
Step 4 is to understand emotional intelligence.I have already completed LEA 114 on emotional intelligence, and you may be familiar with these tenents. Emotional intelligence relates to emotional self-awareness, empathy, a positive outlook, emotional self-control, and adaptability.
Lastly, in order to demonstrate my understanding of the second lesson, I’ll answer ONE of the following discussion prompts.
After taking the quiz on Emotional Intelligence provided in Lesson 2, reflect on your scores. Choose one or two competencies that seem well developed (look at your highest scores) and think about how you can exercise them even more fully. You may also want to reflect on your lower scoring competencies. Why do you think you scored lower on these? What could you do to develop these competencies more?
After taking the personal values assessmsent provided in Lesson 2, complete the Self-Development: Exercise 2 included in the report. What insights did this activity provide? Will you attempt to stop any of your current actions? Will you attempt to start any new actions?
The item I had the highest score on (23 out of 25) was Emotional Self-Awareness, but I don’t really want to talk about that. I have a good handle on why I’m feeling the way I am. that’s a bit of a no-brainer.
The 2 items I had the next highest scores on were Adaptability and Positive Outlook. I am sure these are clear because of my background in the field. As a designer, I am constantly having to work with shifting schedules, clear guidelines which change at the last minute, and clients who change their minds or fail to choose clear winners in the design process. If one is not adaptable to change, they will quickly find themselves out of work, out of time, and without a pipeline of work coming in. Adaptability in the classroom keeps us on our toes, and allows us to structure and restructure the curriculum to meet the needs and abilities of our students- while making minute and major adjustments along the way to ensure that low skills get more time while advanced skill timelines are preserved. I have often thought that I could expand my knowledge in adaptability by taking some improv courses. I also found that I scored high in positive outlook. I think this was a high score because I surround myself with people who are uplifting, joyful, and superior workers. I am happy to be with them, talk with them, and thrive and grow alongside them. In my classroom, I reach out to students and share my positivity. In return, I am bolstered by their positivity. I could possibly improve this aspect of my life by tkaing prozac… just kidding. I could possibly improve this by shining UP the flagpole instead of simply working with my peers and students.
My Final Thoughts
The two items I scored lower on were empathy (17 of 25) and self-control (15 out of 25).
I think many of the questions with empathy were stated in a way that did not appeal to me, in which case I think I railroaded myself into a poorer score. Many of the questions for empathy seemed like they had to do with the discovery of others’ personal feelings, curiosity into how people are feeling and why, often questions came off (to me) as though you’d be demanding to know the emotional state of others, and that’s something I do not value. Every student is slammed. Those with jobs, families, etc., even more so. If a student is performing well, has their work in on time, and is participating in the class, there is no reason for me to be demanding to know their emotional states and why they feel certain ways. I have had numerous students crying in my classes, crying in my office, crying in the hallway or breakroom… they have very real feelings and are under tons of pressure. Students who are clearly hurting or in need of help are open to approach, but more often than not, a student in control of their faculties is just trying to keep things together. I’m happy to share their passions, joys and pains, but I will not be actively pursuing the reasons behind their emotional states unless they are forcing it on me. I open most conversations with students by asking “how’s your semester going?”. This is a nice, open question that invites others to talk about their wellbeing, but is non-invasive.
Self control is also a weak point. I think we all try to clamp down on our emotions and let our heads lead the way. I have a great deal of issues with self-control with impulse buying especially. I often give in to what I want and procrastinate. I can certainly increase this score if I were to exercise more self-control. There is always room to exercise more patience, indulge others before myself, and to work on deadlines first and personal choices last. But, of course, its easy to say you’ll do better, and difficult to make that a reality.
I found this class and this exercise to be quite reflective.