Taking time to reflect and evaluate

December 15, 2015

By: Sarah Calderon, Managing Director

One of the first tasks I was charged with when I joined ArtPlace eight weeks ago was planning a staff retreat. Not knowing much about the organization and most important, our amazing staff, I was a bit wary about the outcomes with me at the helm.

At the same time, I believe in staff retreats and the need to reflect on an organization’s progress. In my previous positions I had always carved out time for the organization to reflect on its work and strategically plan. I was excited to jump in as I knew it would be a great crash course on the organization and my new colleagues!  

While finding time to reflect on an organization’s work might seem like common sense, not all organizations do this and we often busy ourselves to avoid thinking. Even fewer individuals take time – especially at work – to reflect on their personal accomplishments and shortcomings. It is rare for there to be reflection time built into the workday and work week. Yet social psychologists have demonstrated how important the time for reflection can be. As Francesca Gino et al. (March, 2015) found from their study on reflection in the workplace, “when we stop, reflect, and think about learning, we feel a greater sense of self-efficacy, we are more motivated and we perform better afterward."

Even in ArtPlace’s funded projects we ask grantees to reflect, evaluate and asses the change they are working towards and if whether or not it is happening. In addition, we try to figure out how artists can support and evaluate this part of the community planning and development work. So, if we are going to ask our grantees to reflect and evaluate, shouldn’t we?

Our question for our two day retreat was how do we work smarter, not just harder? We began each day with team building activities focused on better understanding of who we are as individuals, group members and communicators. We then dove into the deeper questions that we have about our mission and values. And finally, tackled organizational structure and communication. It was a whirlwind but we left with homework, next steps and renewed energy and focus!

Of the next steps I can share, my homework is to first, figure out how to better structure our meetings for what we have time for and so each team member has a voice in our strategic discussions.

Second, is to create a meeting structure that makes everyone feel informed but not overwhelmed with information. And finally, structure meetings that are productive and effective.

My solution? I’ve started with reading the book, Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni that was recommended by our retreat facilitator, Arshad Merchant, of Boost Social Sector Consulting. It is a great, easy read and recommends a concrete meeting structure that I believe will be effective for ArtPlace.

Now we just have to implement it and then reflect on the process to make sure it is working! We’ll make sure to update our ArtPlace followers with any new findings and advice as I’m sure we’d all like to learn how to have more productive meetings!

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