Reflective coaching, where a team considers what has and hasn’t worked, and whether they have or haven’t worked together according to their own rules, can be an effective ongoing approach to improving effectiveness.
Reflection is linked to outcomes directly: Regular team reflection has been found to significantly impact effectiveness and innovation, two of the most sought after qualities of high performing teams.
- Schippers et al. (2015) showed that the relationship between reflexivity and innovation was significant, accounting for around 12% of the explained variance. Teams are more effective and innovative to the extent that they routinely take time out to reflect upon their objectives, strategies, processes and environments and make changes accordingly.
- De Jong & Elfring (2010) showed how increased reflection and focus on actively improving performance are likely to translate into higher team performance.
- West’s (2009) report on developing teamwork in NHS Trusts found that the most important activity of team meetings was was collective reflection. West encourages team leads to set aside time periodically for reflection.
- The employee training research of Di Stefano et al. (2014) in a tech-support call centre also supports the effect of collective reflection on performance. The study group spent 20 minutes of their daily job training reflecting on their lessons of the day and sharing these with fellow trainees. The study group outperformed the control group by 25% in tests.
Reflection (or reflexivity) is important on an ongoing basis
End-points, where a team completes a block of work, are typically considered to be a good time for reflection. At this point, it is usually clear whether work has been a success or failure, and that knowledge can lead teams to misattribute blame or praise to individuals (often the leader), rather than to consider how they worked as a team. This makes end-of-work reflections a particularly important place for coaching structure to be introduced.
However, in the mid-point of a team’s work, reflection and strategic interventions are particularly useful. Woolley (1998) showed how drastically team performance could be increased (in an experimental setting) by introducing mid-point reflections. When a team has enough experience to reflect on, but still enough time to make use of new strategies, they have the most to gain.