I am fortunate to have been in leadership roles my whole career. Sometimes I excelled in those roles and sometimes I fell short. I discovered through Agile a great tool to help me reflect and improve on my performance as a leader – the Retrospective. If you don’t know what that is, look it up on the web, there are plenty of great articles/YouTube videos that explain Retrospectives. As a leader, this is such a useful tool, not just for its use in the Agile working environment but as a tool for personal and professional reflection. How does it work?

Get the facts down!

Set the performance base line – document on a time line what you have done as a leader over the period of time, not just the basic leadership actions that are expected of you, but identify key events where you performed as a leader. This will help to refresh your memory and get your head in the right space to analyse your performance.

Analyse your performance, using the three questions?

  1. What went well? Write down all the things that “went well”, don’t over think this but look at the various actions, events, behaviours you exhibited and write down what you think you did well.
  2. What didn’t go well? Be honest with yourself, write down all the things that didn’t “go well”. Identify situations or events where you didn’t do what was required or weren’t happy with the way you approached it or you didn’t get the result you were after. These are your areas for improvement. A follow-up question for this may be What would I do differently, next time?
  3. What puzzles me? Finally, write down the things that “puzzled” you, either you were not sure what to do, why it needed to be done, or whether what you did worked?

Prepare an action plan

You have now the data to implement an action plan:

  • To help you prioritise, engage in focused discussions using your outputs with someone you trust to get their feedback on how to help you improve as a leader (if you feel safe to do so)
  • Look for development opportunities – not just what courses could or should you attend, but who is good at the area where you are weak/need improvement – look for mentoring/coaching support within your organisation (it doesn’t have to cost money)
  • Look for learning opportunities – what don’t you know about what is expected of you as a leader? How do you find out – read policies, guidelines etc. Just like with the law, as a leader, ignorance is no excuse. If you are expected to understand and guide you team on HR requirements such as leave rules, attendance rules, acceptable behaviour or diversity guidelines, then you need to know what these are.
  • Keep doing the things you do well!
  • Don’t try to do everything, pick the top two or three things
  • Do the Retrospective regularly, keep you action list visible (at least to you), track your progress.

The Retrospective is a fantastic tool for leaders. I would be interested to know if you are using retrospectives beyond Agile project delivery and if so how?