Time to Reflect: How to Do an End-of-Year Review

Dr. Pari Namazie

18 December 2019 | VGL Insights

What did you learn from 2019 – and how to slide into 2020

“By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Confucius

The end of year is a special time. The mind kicks into reflection mode (the past), wonders what’s next (the future), and ideally also practices gratitude (the present). I do my best thinking at this time, as I close projects and reflect on the year behind me:

Was I able to add value to my clients?

What about the people and events that touched my life – that warmed my heart, made me remember how much I still have to learn, made me cringe a little and say, “Oh dear, I won’t be doing that again!”, that made me laugh loud and hard, or made me cry – did I serve those people at my best?

Then my thoughts turn to, What did I do well? What can I do better? And what can I do more of? How else can I contribute to my clients, to the people who matter most in my life? How can I continue adding value?

And then: What do I want next year to look like? I love this question most of all.

Why should you reflect?

Self-reflecting is a humbling yet powerful experience. It’s one of the best ways to maximize our learning, discover how we do our best work and improve our performance.

In its simplest form, reflection means taking time to think, examine and review ourselves.

Some people find this uncomfortable as it makes us take an honest look at ourselves: our current level of skills, our behavioral patterns, our strengths and weaknesses, and how we influence others. But for those who are willing to take an honest look at themselves, experience will turn into significant growth.

What is self-reflection in leadership?

In leadership, self-reflection is part of increasing our self-awareness and authenticity. This means taking time to review yourself as a leader, which is critical for leadership development.

Research shows that leaders who use reflective learning benefit in the following ways:

  • Learn faster
  • Deal better with unfamiliar environments
  • Do not repeat the same mistake twice
  • Question assumptions and make better decisions
  • Recognize connections between unrelated situations
  • Engage in energy-generating activities enabling more impact and influence

By slowing down and actively reflecting on past events, we maximize learning and accelerate our effectiveness as leaders. We become role models to our teams, who can also benefit from reflective learning to become more effective and faster learners.

The 6 stages of the reflection process

For more analytical people, it helps to understand the reflection process broken down into stages. These are:

  1. Descriptive What happened in the situation?
  2. Examination  What feelings did we experience during and after the situation? This is a good indicator to see what is (not) healthy for us, or how our coping skills need to adapt.
  3. Evaluation  What went well? What did not go well?
  4. Analysis / Sense-making  Here, the learner tests, validates, adjusts assumptions.
  5. Drawing conclusions  What else could have been done?
  6. Future actions  What will you do, if a similar situation arises?

Reflection is a structured process, which allows us to step back and systematically review past events. To get the most value, we must ensure we move beyond the surface level of what happened and dig a little deeper.

Self-reflective learning questions

You can take a piece of paper, that notebook you’ve always wanted to use, or your laptop, or if you prefer to talk, sit with a friend or partner. There are many questions you can use, but in a nutshell, the main questions to reflect are:

  • What did you do? — Make a list of your achievements this year. Probably more than you thought!
  • Why did you do it? — Did it serve a valid reason? Was it in line with your goals and values?
  • How did you do it? — Think about the process. Where did you fail? What did you learn to not repeat? Did you admit mistakes? Did you show vulnerability?
  • How can you do it better?  This is where you will evaluate, learn, and realize what to do next year.

Sometimes, you might even conclude that a task wasn’t necessary at all or could have been delegated to someone else.

For leaders, additional self-reflection questions might be:

  1. Did I act in a way to allow my team to feel valued and empowered?
  2. Did I create a safe environment fostering transparency and courage to speak up?
  3. Did I lead by example?
  4. Did I keep my commitments?
  5. Did I work according to my values?
  6. Did I admit my mistakes? Did I show vulnerability?
  7. What are some of my positive lessons learnt that I can repeat in the new year?
  8. What are some of my failed lessons, so I don’t make them again in the new year?
  9. How did I grow this year and how will I grow in the new year?
  10. Would I want to work with me as a leader?
  11. How did I feel? How did I make others feel? (Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”)

This reflective learning exercise helps you review and close the year with a true understanding of how you have performed and with a plan on what and how you want to improve in the new year.

I would take this further and suggest to continue your practice of self-reflection. Take a few minutes at the end or beginning of each day to reflect before or just after a big project.

  • What are three personal qualities I value about myself?
  • Am I being true to myself?
  • Am I allowing the things I can’t control to stress me?
  • Do I make time for the people who matter most to me?
  • Am I achieving the goals I have set for myself?
  • How do I ground myself when I feel overwhelmed?
  • What motivates me to make progress?

Find the questions that work for you, areas you want to be more aware of and track your improvement. If you struggle to keep accountability, ask a colleague or friend to ask you these questions, set an alarm clock at a certain time each day, with a morning coffee, or evening tea or any other means to keep this in your daily routine.

Let me know how it goes? Comment below with your your top three learnings or achievements in 2019 or book a free call with me!

And then of course, there is goal setting. I will be back in the new year to share some insights with you on setting realistic and achievable goals – I’m not talking new year resolutions, no, no, I gave up on those years ago! I’m talking personal and team goals to which you can really commit.

In the meantime, happy holidays! Wherever you are and whatever you will be doing, take a minute to smile, breathe, and enjoy the moments. It’s not always the destination, but the learning we acquire in our journey that brings us the greatest joy.

Best wishes,
Pari

Would you like some help in reflecting your leadership journey in 2019? I would be glad to help you! Book a free 30-minute call in January 2020 with me for your individual leadership reflection: Book free call

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Dr. Pari Namazie | Managing Partner

Pari is a coach, consultant and facilitator and has over 25 years of experience as an intercultural, HR and organizational improvement consultant to multinational and international companies.
Read more

Dr. Pari Namazie | Managing Partner

Pari is a coach, consultant and facilitator and has over 25 years of experience as an intercultural, HR and organizational improvement consultant to multinational and international companies.
Read more

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2 Comments

  1. Ali Niroomand Rad

    Great piece Pari.
    As hard as I tried to find fault I was unable to do so. Great questions for reflection and I really liked the quote by Maya Angelou.
    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and a wonderful holiday.

    Reply
    • Vienna Global Leaders

      Thank you for the great feedback, Ali. 🙏 Hoping your reflection time goes well!
      Wishing you happy holidays, a happy shabe yalda and a wonderful new year!

      Reply

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