Article · 6-minute read

Reflection: The Key to Team Effectiveness

By Isabella Heath & Sarah Brooks4th July 2024 

‘Teams that periodically reflect on how they are doing are more likely to benefit from shared thinking, information-sharing and collective memory.’

This statement from the CIPD’s High-performing Teams Review won’t come as a surprise to most of us who work in a team. Yet the majority of us can also probably hold our hands up and admit we don’t reflect on how we, and our teams, are doing nearly often enough.

So let’s reflect on reflection; what makes it so key to team effectiveness and how might we be able to get better at it?


Team effectiveness is often defined by performance, measured through achieving objectives. Yet efficiency involves both achieving results and managing costs effectively. Essentially, a team is most effective when it meets goals efficiently and sustainably.1

One key way in which reflection can therefore help improve team effectiveness is by increasing self-awareness and pinpointing specific strengths and development areas, to enable the group to leverage and develop these as needed on both a team and individual level.

For instance, in our work with various teams in STEM organizations, we have seen that a scientist might initially think that a strong preference for analytical behaviors is the main ingredient needed for their success. However, through reflection and feedback, many individuals go on to discover that additional behaviors such as resilience, communication and determination to succeed can also significantly contribute to their effectiveness both in their role and as part of the team.

By encouraging teams to speak openly and honestly with each other in this way, we can start to create more self-aware and, in turn, high-performing teams, who trust each other and really care about each other’s success.2

In terms of performance, research also shows that after tackling a challenging task, taking conscious time out to reflect on the learnings means we are more likely to perform better next time.

With a growing body of research behind it, placing more emphasis on reflective methods could be a real game changer for creating happier, more cohesive teams who perform better over time.3


Despite the evidence that should point us towards a more reflective way of working, when competitive pressures increase, the temptation to ‘just keep going’ can be overwhelming. To help us better understand what stops us from reflecting, we have broken some of the barriers down to the following:


As we all know, nurturing team reflection requires dedication and time. However, amidst busy work schedules and stringent deadlines, there is often limited space for reflective practices. Immediate tasks and pressing issues frequently take priority over team reflection activities.


Cultural Barriers
In organizations without a reflective culture, or where mistakes are stigmatized, teams may not prioritize reflection. This reluctance to openly discuss failures can hinder innovation and collaboration. Embracing failure as a learning opportunity fosters resilience and a fearless spirit, essential for team collaboration and innovation.

“There’s no team without trust. When trust is absent, team members may withhold honest feedback and feelings.” – Paul Santagata, Head of Data Transformation at Google 


Psychological Safety
Studies consistently show that high-performing teams share one key attribute: psychological safety.4 It’s crucial for individuals to perceive the team as a safe environment where they can freely voice opinions, take risks, be creative, and contribute without fear of embarrassment or rejection.


Inadequate communication skills can impede constructive reflection and feedback within teams. Misunderstandings can escalate into conflicts rather than fostering a productive atmosphere for reflection. Strong teams, according to Gallup,handle debates without fragmenting; they grow stronger and more cohesive during challenges.

Tips & techniques

Different techniques will work for different people and teams, depending on a large number of factors. Here are some potential starting points to consider.

  1. Regular Reflection: Set aside a specific time weekly to reflect on your experiences (and protect this time).

  2. Work Journal: Document your activities, successes, challenges, and lessons learned. Try to ask yourself specific questions.

  3. Seek Feedback: Regularly ask colleagues and supervisors for feedback.

  4. Review Goals: Reflect on your progress towards goals and make necessary adjustments.

  5. Use Tools: Utilize reflection tools like SWOT analysis or the WOOP technique.

  6. Mentor Discussions: Discuss your reflections with a mentor, coach or manager.

  7. Action Steps: Identify and implement actionable steps for improvement.

To kickstart some of these reflective practices, Saville Assessment’s Work Roles solution offers a unique combination of individual reports, digital team analytics and engaging workshop materials. So, even if time is of the essence, Work Roles reports provide individuals an opportunity to reflect on their work methods and offer a range of practical tips to help them collaborate more effectively with colleagues who have different strengths.

Regular team-building activities can also help enhance and sustain familiarity and cohesion.6 Our engaging and flexible Work Roles workshops can be led by one of our experienced consultants or delivered in house with our free Work Roles activities toolkit. They are designed to enable teams to understand more about their own working style, gain a deeper understanding of their colleagues’ preferences and think about how the group’s strengths can help them to achieve their specific goals and objectives together.

To find out how our group workshops allowed a Life Sciences organization to productively invest time into team effectiveness and creating tangible actions and results to support ongoing reflection, see here.

Open the door to high-performing teams

Our Team Effectiveness package combines digital analytics and individual insights to drive better collaboration that meaningfully impacts team performance.