Becoming a More Collaborative Teammate Through Internal Reflection
Explore the ways you can model a team retrospective on a personal level to become a more authentic version of yourself, for you and your teammates.
I recently had the opportunity and privilege to (virtually) visit where I went to graduate school, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, University of London), and talk with students who are about to graduate and enter the workforce. I was asked to speak on teamwork and share my experience of working across several teams in my role as Senior Project Manager at Palantir.
During the session with soon-to-be SOAS graduates, I focused on the importance of intentional inward focus and reflection to become your most authentic self. Having an honest check-in with yourself is one of the most effective ways you can bring your best self to work, for you and your teammates.
At the team level, just as most Scrum teams, Palantir does retrospectives on a two-week cadence at the close of a sprint. Retrospectives are built into our regular cadence of ceremonies and serves as an opportunity to identify changes to improve the team, workflow, and project.
One of the ways I’ve grounded myself in my work through the challenges of the last 6-8 months is by building regular, personal retrospectives into my daily practice. I start my mornings asking the same 3 key questions of a retrospective of myself. These regular moments of reflection have helped me be a better teammate to those I work with at Palantir, as well as remain centered and calm through the day. I hope this blog post serves to inspire you in any way that you need it for the moment you are in now.
What am I doing that is right? What should I continue doing?
At the team level, we often start our retrospectives by talking about the things that we are doing right. The benefit of talking through what worked well is that we can pinpoint moments of success and work to continue those patterns.
You can start your personal retrospective with the same question - what are you doing that is right? This helps you pinpoint what you should continue doing. You may reflect on a set of goals, a goal in particular, or how you are filling your role on a team -- or you may choose to reflect on non-work related topics. What you discover you’re doing well will become a priority to continue outside your retrospective.
What is not working well for me?
Similar to how you’d begin your team retrospective by stating that we are assuming good intent of our teammates, you can begin your personal retrospective with this same intention.
Everyone experiences setbacks and failure -- it’s a natural part of learning and life -- but it's how you come back from it that matters. Asking yourself this honest question of what is not working well for you is an opportunity to identify one or two areas where you can focus on for improvement and growth.
Where should I adjust?
The last question you may ask yourself in your personal retrospective is ‘where should I adjust?’ Reflecting on what you identified earlier as not working well, you can use this time to ideate on how you may take steps towards improvement.
The improvement steps certainly don’t have to be sweeping life changes -- and, in fact, I wouldn’t recommend they are. Rather, aim for 1% better every day, knowing that these small improvements that you are making will amount to something more significant over time. Save yourself the pressure and allow yourself some grace!
Try out a personal retrospective and see what works for you. Perhaps it's best to do this in the early morning, with a cup of coffee, handwriting your reflections before the rest of your household wakes up. Or, maybe you can carve out some time to type your insights on a monthly basis. Make sure you’re doing the retrospective during peaceful times (that is, not when you’re stressed) and you can be fully present). However often and in whatever format you choose to pursue personal retrospectives, know that you are taking a great first step towards becoming a better person and showing up as a better teammate for those you work with.