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Guide to Developmental Self-Reflection Template


A self-reflection gives employees a chance to pause and think deeply about their past achievements or their future areas for growth. Just like project teams run retrospectives and plan how to reach their set goals in the future, think of a self-reflection as a similar process for the employee on their own performance and development. In Culture Amp Performance, self-reflections can be used multiple ways:

  • During performance reviews: Most companies incorporate them into their performance review process because when employees are involved in the process, they’re more likely to be satisfied with the overall process and perceive it as more fair and useful
  • For employee development: Progressive companies also use self-reflections to jumpstart development cycles, giving employees the opportunity to reflect on how they’d like to develop and set goals and managers guidance on how they can support them to achieve them. In this article, we’ll share a template for a developmental self-reflection along with recommendations for how to customize this template. 

The science behind

Developmental self-reflections

Learning and development consistently come up as a top driver of engagement and retention across companies we work with. And many companies aren’t sure how to take action on this. A simple developmental self-reflection is the first step in self-directed learning and finding a development goal the employee is truly passionate about. When an employee has a chance to reflect on (and select) their own development goals, instead of being given goals, they’re more likely to be intrinsically motivated to improve. Not to mention, employees who take time to reflect have been found to be more productive, happier, and less burned out. 

The developmental self-reflection is ideally used as a starting point for a 1:1 conversation. While mentors can directly comment in the tool, we strongly recommend making timing to talk through the self-reflection in person. Instead, comments can be used to either ask for clarification or additional information. This conversation enhances the mentor-mentee relationship by:

  • Giving the mentor insight into the mentee’s aspirations
  • Aligning expectations 
  • Providing a focus for future 1:1s
  • Creating accountability 

The template

The template includes 7 core questions and 7 questions that you can choose to include or not. It moves in chronological order, mirroring how growth happens: Employees begin with looking back and reflecting on past growth, achievements, and hurdles before focusing on the future. We move through several questions to identify potential focus areas (including doubling down on strengths), and thinking through different time frames (depending on what’s relevant for your organization), before prioritizing. 

Prioritization is a critical step in the development process so that the employee has focus and clarity moving forward. Once a goal is selected, the template is based on Mental Contrasting, which compares the outcome an individual is hoping to achieve (their development goal) against the obstacles to achieving it. Being realistic about the obstacles, as long as they are surmountable, makes an individual more committed to their goals. Then we end on the employee committing to their next steps so they can move from thinking mode to acting mode using the science of implementation intention

In addition to the template questions, each item is accompanied by a Manager Prompt, which coaches the mentor through how to think about and react to what the mentee is sharing to prepare for the conversation. The prompts focus on coaching behaviors to:

  • Help their mentee check their assumptions
  • Provide an external perspective
  • Equip their mentee with additional context
  • Connect them with additional resources
  • Help them craft their career plan
  • Remove obstacles and barriers

Here is our developmental self-reflection template, you can learn more about the rationale behind each question here.

Question

Description

Manager prompt

Core?

What skills, knowledge, or behaviors have I developed over the last [time frame] that enabled me to be successful?

Consider how it has made you successful and give specific examples.

Review Goals. Add anything they may have missed. Praise the growth! 

Yes

What skills, knowledge, or behaviors would have helped me better achieve my goals over the last [time frame]?

Consider goals that you have not achieved yet and goals you could have achieved easier or faster.

Explain if and how this would help them achieve their goals. 

Yes

What skills, knowledge, or behaviors do I wish I had developed over the last [time frame] but were not able to yet?

Have you set yourself a development goal that you haven’t achieved yet but still would like to?

Is this still a priority? If so, think about ways you can help them develop in this area.

No

How have my goals and priorities (performance or development) changed over the last [time frame]?

Organizational, department and team priorities can change and your life circumstances can change as well. Reflect on how change has impacted your goals.

Does the change in priorities align with broader priority changes? If they weren’t able to reach the goal but it is still their priority, think about ways you can help them develop in this area.

No

What behavior(s) have I consistently demonstrated that align to [company name]’s values?

When are you role-modeling our values? Give specific examples and explain the impact your behaviors had on goals or colleagues.

Praise them and encourage them to continue to demonstrate these behaviors. Add any positive behaviors you’ve noticed that they didn’t include.

No

What skills, knowledge, or behaviors have I achieved over the last [time frame] that I could continue to develop to build on this achievement?

Reflect on how your growth enabled you to move toward achieving or exceeding your goals.

Praise their growth and consider how they might be able to apply their learning and development to manage some of their opportunities. Consider offering stretch goals.

No

What skills, knowledge, or behaviors do I need in order to reach my goals for the next [time frame]?

Where could you develop to achieve your goals even faster or more easily. Think about further building on your strengths or working on your opportunity areas.

Does this align with your expectations and the feedback you’ve received about this mentee?

Yes

What skills, knowledge, or behaviors do I need in order to reach the next stage at (Company)?

What do you see as your next steps and what do you need to do to get there?

In your perspective, what is the gap between your mentee’s skills and knowledge and that needed for their next role? How can they start to close it?

No

What skills, knowledge, or behaviors do I need in order to realize my long term career aspirations?

Where do you hope your career is going, and what do you need to get there?

Explore if there are any stretch projects, L&D resources, or mentoring opportunities that could align with these aspirations. 

No

How might I leverage my strengths to achieve my goals?

What are your strengths (whether currently being utilized or not)? And how can you utilize them to both achieve, and energize you towards, your goals?

Employees need to be aware of their areas of opportunity, take responsibility for them, and then use their strengths to manage them. Do you observe other strengths in addition to the ones outlined? 

Yes

Of the opportunities identified, what are the 1-2 I want to set as goals to reach over this [time frame]? 

If one of your goals feels like it’s too big for this time frame to complete, consider how you can break it up into multiple goals and decide which to tackle first.

Do you agree with this prioritization? If so, encourage them to create this goal in the platform so you can track progress!

Yes

What are the potential obstacles I have to overcome to reach my goals?

Are these obstacles a skill or knowledge deficit or are they something that is outside of your control?

Are these actually obstacles? If so, think about how to help them overcome them, specifically, identify which you can help remove and which they need to tackle on their own. If they are not, help them see why these aren’t obstacles.

Yes

What would be the impact of reaching my goals on

  1. The business
  2. My career

Briefly describe how your team, department, or business would benefit from you reaching your goals. Reflect on how you can benefit from it in the long-term.

Do you agree with and can you add to your mentee’s perspective?

No

Remembering my strengths, what are the 1-2 next steps I will take to achieve my development goals?

For example, any L&D resources, or experts, you can take advantage of? Bonus points for writing as “if x happens, I will do y”. Commit to a date by when you will have accomplished this.

Are there any other resources you’d recommend? Check in on progress based on their committed timeline. 

Yes

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How to customize

Based on your use case

First, you should customize based on what the employee is expected to do coming out of the self-reflection. There are three common scenarios we see. 

  • For some companies, the focus is on purely development goals, meaning the knowledge, skills, or behaviors the employee wants to develop. 
  • For other companies, the focus is on development goals that will directly impact their role performance. Thus, the goal recap and setting spans across developmental and individual, team and department goals
  • Still, other companies choose to forego formal goal-setting and instead focus on an intentional conversation between mentor and mentee to set clear expectations

In the table above we call out which questions are most appropriate for each type. Additionally, some companies choose to include items that focus on their company values and corresponding behaviors so we have included optional questions on that topic. 

Based on your company specifics

Finally, you’ll want to customize based on your company nomenclature and specifics. You can update the length of your cycle anywhere it says [time frame]. Additionally, you may want to update based on what you call the manager - direct report relationship, we use the term mentor and mentee in the template. 

Next: Learn how to set up your self-reflection cycle or teach your mentors and mentees how to write effective goals with our guide.



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