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Engage Your Team in Purposeful Reflection and Planning

This article was based on episode 77 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get worksheets to facilitate the reflection and planning process when you become a member at

What are you proud of? Where are you headed in life? These may not be questions you typically explore at work. Effective managers are recognizing the enormous potential of practicing reflection as an individual and in teams. Incorporating reflection on work topics and personal lives helps strengthen relationships, encourage collective celebration, and generate goals for the future.

Carey Jaros received her MBA at Harvard Business School. She spent the first decade of her career at Bain & Company and has worked on and in over 50 organizations— from startups, to established public and private companies, to non-profits. Carey is now Chief Operating Officer of GOJO Industries and she will become President and CEO on January 1, 2020.

In our conversation, Carey shares the process and activities she uses to engage her team in purposeful reflection and planning. These practices have been refined, tailored to fit specific groups and evolved over the course of many years. In its most recent incarnation, the process consists of four parts: Your Future Self, Your Top 3 x “Top 3”, Key Areas of Your Life, A Personal 2x2.


It’s fifteen years from today. What does your life look like?

It’s important to start the day with big, broad thinking which sets the tone for the day. By asking participants to project fifteen years in the future, it forces them to imagine beyond incremental changes. It’s easy to picture life five years from now, but fifteen?! My children will be in their mid-twenties which seems almost unfathomable. What will my life look like? What dreams will I have accomplished?

Facilitate this session using the following framework:

  • Prompts: Imagine your life 15 years from now. How old are you? How old are the important people in your life? Where do you live? What do you do during the day? What do you do in the evening or weekends?

  • Writing: Spend 30 minutes writing. Use paper or computer. Get comfortable by finding a space in the room or elsewhere that will help you think deeply.

  • Discussion: Spend 10 minutes discussing the following prompts with a partner: (1) What was hard about this activity? and (2) What surprised you?


Next you’ll focus on accomplishments from the past year. What are you proud of, both inside and outside of work? Just as importantly, did you have a goal or plan to accomplish these? And does it matter?

  • Prompt: Identify your top three accomplishments in the following categories: (1) with my team at work; (2) individually at work; (3) personally outside of work.

  • Rating: For each of the accomplishments, rate yourself along a scale of 1 to 5 based on whether you had (1) neither a goal nor a plan, (3) a goal but no plan (or vice versa), (5) both a goal and a plan.

  • Discussion: In pairs or as a group, share a few of your accomplishments and whether you had a goal and/or plan. Don’t forget to encourage celebration!

Carey notes that most people find the first two questions relatively easy to answer. We’re used to setting goals and following plans at work. We’re also asked to evaluate and reflect on our accomplishments at work through one-on-ones, development plans, and performance review systems.

Generally, it’s the personal accomplishments that people struggle with. Carey commented that she most frequently sees accomplishments involving weddings, babies or new houses. This is in part because we don’t often set personal goals, intentionally plan for them or reflect on our accomplishments.

Carey offers this as an opportunity to encourage people to recognize the power of both setting goals and developing a plan. In the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “A goal without a plan is just a dream.”


The third activity begins to look at life holistically in order to help us create the life we desire.

  • Prompt 1: Identify up to ten areas of your life that are important to you. You may have very specific categories such as food, physical exercise, and mental health, or combine them into a broad category of health or well-being. Other examples include: relationship with partner, aging parents, community, spiritual life, hobbies, travel, family life, and career.

  • Prompt 2: For each area of your life, describe what success or fulfillment looks like.

  • Step 1: Using a spider chart template, label each leg as an areas of your life identified in the previous activity.

  • Step 2: Rate your current level of satisfaction with your performance or how fulfilled you are in each area of life. Use your own definitions of success. A rating of zero (in the middle of the spider) signifies complete dissatisfaction. A rating of five (at the end of the spider leg) connotes total fulfillment.

  • Step 3: Imagine that it’s five years from now. Using a different color pen, rate yourself on again on each leg of the spider, this time with your realistic vision of what you hope your life will be. Note: Do not score each leg as a five. Consider where you can make progress towards fulfillment and where you may need to pull back to make space in your life.

  • Step 4: Connect the dots of your first rating together to form a shape. Connect the dots of your second rating together to form a shape. Ask yourself, what do you notice about these shapes?

As you begin to think of how to move your current shape towards your ideal future shape, consider that there are really only a few ways to create more capacity.

  1. Combine activities to get more bang for your buck. Rather than thinking in zero sum terms or trade offs, how might you combine goals into a single activity? For example, if exercise and socializing with friends are both areas you’d like to increase, perhaps you could start taking a weekend morning run/walk with a friend or two.

  2. Outsource or delegate something that is not giving you joy. Removing tasks from our plate is the easiest way to free up time for more meaningful activities. For example, if you are spending a lot of time on housework and not enough time with your children, you may want to hire a housekeeper once a week or divide the chores more evenly among your family members.

Remember that not every area of your life is captured in the spider graph. As you think about what changes to make, consider activities and responsibilities you didn’t mention as well as those you did.


The final exercise is designed to set goals for the next year and commit to specific next steps. This will begin to move you towards your five year and ultimately your fifteen year vision.

  • Prompt 1: Given your current and 5 year ratings, what two goals or objectives do you want to accomplish next year that will move you toward that five year vision? Note: You may select two goals for one area of life or each goal may be for its own area.

  • Prompt 2: Brainstorm what steps you might take to make progress towards those objectives.

  • Partner Exercise: “Feed Forward” is an opportunity to brainstorm with a partner about how to accomplish your goals. A description of this activity follows.

  1. Partner 1 explains their first goal or objective.

  2. For two minutes (using a timer) Partner 2 brainstorms action items, recommendations and ideas to help you make progress toward the goal.

  3. During those two minutes, you nod, smile and record all of the ideas. Even though 80% of the ideas may not work, 20% of the ideas might be novel and revitalizing, giving you the boost you need to take steps toward your future vision. Therefore, it is important to stay quiet during this time. Do not discount any ideas, do not interrupt or share why something hasn’t or won't work for you. Simply accept the ideas as possibilities without judgement.

  4. Switch roles and repeat until each partner has completed the feed forward for each of their goals.

At the end of the Feed Forward session, review all the ideas for each goal and select two specific next actions you will commit to. Share these with your partner so you can lean on them for support and accountability as needed.


This reflection and planning process can feel both daunting and energizing. Help people begin with the right mindset by sharing an agenda with context for the session prior to the meeting.

As the day goes on, rotate partners or try debriefing as a group. Encourage people to share when they’re comfortable. This openness can foster deeper relationships and opportunities for team bonding.

End the session on an upbeat note by focusing on next steps and support. Feed Forward is a wonderful way to build relationships, increase energy, generate new ideas, and seed accountability.

Carey consistently sees how a few hours well spent can be transformative!



Get Carey’s worksheets to help you lead these activities with your team when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at

This article was based on episode 77 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.




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