Are you operating on auto-pilot?

Auto pilot

Interesting what our minds do once we slow down and take time out to reflect. I often hear stories about the life-changing decisions people make whilst on holiday – how they finally made the call to resign from an unsatisfying job, start the business they’ve always wanted, or sell the house and travel overseas.

Probably not that surprising really, when you consider that few of us take time out during our busy working lives to reflect on what we really want to be doing. Operating on auto-pilot is not likely to provide any great insights.

But, as Albert Einstein said: “Without deep reflection, one knows from daily life that one lives for other people”. 

Makes sense, then, to build reflection time into daily, or at least weekly, routines rather than waiting until the annual holiday. Not only so that we’re living our lives more consciously and purposefully, but to positively impact the work we do every day.

According to management consultant Peter Drucker, we should “follow effective action with quiet reflection. From that quiet reflection will come even more effective action”.

Thinking back on what we did right – or even what we did wrong – and applying what we have learned to improve future results is obviously a useful skill. Related to that, and one that I reiterate in management communications training, is the ability to really listen and be open to feedback from your team.

From my experience as a consultant, I know that coming into an organisation and seeing it with fresh eyes can provide valuable insights that managers don’t always have when they are busy and consumed with day to day operations.

However, while managers might have conversations with consultants to hear their views and observations, few tend to do the same with new staff and team members. And that’s a golden opportunity missed.

What’s working well and what’s not is often starkly obvious in those first few weeks on the job. While coming to grips with the organisation’s way of working – its culture, communications, systems and processes – new staff are experiencing first hand what it’s like to be an internal customer.

The opportunity

If you want some valuable insights into how you can improve your workplace, take the opportunity to hear from your new team members in their first month or two on the job – before they, too, get consumed in the busyness of day to day operations.

At the very least, you will get to hear how effective (or otherwise) your induction process is.

But be aware of the power imbalance. If the new person is in any doubt about your genuine interest and motives for asking the question, they may decide it is potentially too career limiting to give an honest answer.

This is where your ability to build trust and confidence as a manager will be put to the test.

Lucy Sanderson-Gammon, MBA, is director of Luminous Consulting Limited. She provides management and communications consultancy and short term contracting services, as well as business and career coaching, and manager communications training.

This article is also available on LinkedIn.