This reflective work focuses on assessing my personal weaknesses in different areas. It starts by a self –assessment of my personal development needs.The next section looks at the difficulties I experienced on various issues. Finally, the action plans for self-development in the various areas are suggested.
Portfolio Section 1
Planning and personal management skills
Using a paper exercise, I assessed my planning and personal management skills to determine areas of development. Concerning planning, I scored 13, which is a relatively low score. This indicates an area for development because my score was less than 24, which was the score I had to attain to show that I did not further development. I knew this was a weakness and a concern for me prior to starting my postgraduate studies while working full time. On the time management dimension, I scored 15 and this demonstrated a need for further development. I should have a score of above 24 to demonstrate that this area did not require further development. The issue of time management was a concern for me because of starting my postgraduate studies and working full time. I have had challenges in the past characterized by attempting to do too much at work and not managing my time effectively. The low scores on both planning and time management reveal that I have challenges with task prioritization. An action plan for self-development in these areas is presented later under task prioritization.
Honey and Mumford designed a Learning Styles Questionnaire that is used in assessing the learning styles of individuals, and these are categorised into activists, theorists, pragmatists, and reflectors (Jarvis, 2005). When I completed this questionnaire, the results showed that I have a strong preference for the activist learning style and a moderate preference for the pragmatist learning style. As an activist, I enjoy novel experiences, I am active and depend on intuitive decision making and I have an aversion to structure (Jarvis, 2005). I learn best from learning activities that provide new problems and experiences, role playing and working together with others in group tasks and opportunities for dealing with challenging tasks. In addition, I prefer tasks with high visibility including presentations, leading discussions, and chairing meetings.However, I learn less when I have to listen to lectures, think, write or read on my own, or absorb and understand a lot of data. Furthermore, my learning is impaired when I have to follow precise instructions without any form of flexibility.
As a pragmatist, I prefer risk-taking, group work and application and testing of concepts (Jarvis, 2005). I learn best when there is a clear association between the learning topic and actual issues in life. Learning activities should be structured around demonstrating techniques for accomplishing tasks with clear, realistic advantages. Furthermore, I prefer to be provided with opportunities for trying out and practicing techniques with feedback or coaching from a reliable expert. Similarly, I need examples or models that I can emulate, and I should be taught techniques that are presently applicable to my work context. I also prefer being offered with opportunities for immediately applying any new knowledge that I have learnt. As a pragmatist, l learn less when the learning activities are not associated with an immediate need, lack clear guidelines, and when there are obstacles to implementation of acquired knowledge. Such obstacles can be personal, managerial, organisational or political in nature. These learning styles have an important influence on the learning activities undertaken in the action plan for developing different skills as demonstrated later.
Assessment of how I work
In a paper exercise, I assessed the way I work and the results revealed that I procrastinate when faced with tasks that I do not really like, I spend a lot of time attempting to perfect things, and I am unable to find things and notes whenever I require them. This is an indication that I have poor prioritization skills, and this will be addressed through an action plan on task prioritization that is explained later.
I assessed my personality index using an online exercise, and the results demonstrated that I possess various traits. First, I demonstrate low assertiveness as I do not need to be in constant control, and I have a higher orientation toward teamwork than tasks. Second, I am an extreme extrovert because I need to discuss issues in detail with other people. Third, I am extremely impatient as I find it challenging to concentrate on repetitive tasks, and I have a high sense of urgency. Finally, I am highly detailed because I want to acquire knowledge and become an expert. These traits of my personality affect how learning activities will be structured in the action plan to improve learning.
Portfolio Section 2
In the first week of my course work, I was leader of my group. I did not know my fellow colleagues very well as we had just started on the course. Therefore, stepping up and being a leader of people I did not know was tough considering that I am not a manager or leader at work. I had to lead the group in the preparation of a group presentation on a case study of someone else’s leadership skills and present with them. I needed to take control and set the direction for the team more rapidly, and a lot of time was wasted as I did not know what was expected of me as a leader. For instance, a group or team leader is required to set the goal of the group and establish performance expectations (Morgeson, DeRue & Karam, 2010). This was a challenging undertaking as I decided to choose an informal approach to this activity where the group members actively facilitated the process of setting goals and determining how the members would be held responsible in relation to the performance expectations. This approach resulted in wastage of time because it was difficult for consensus to be achieved among the group members on the goals and performance expectations.
Similarly, I had challenges in structuring and planning the group in terms of developing a shared understanding among the group members on the best approach for coordinating action and working together to achieve the established goals (Morgeson et al., 2010). I faced difficulties in determining how the activities would be performed, the individual’s responsible for specific tasks, and when the group activities would be done. On the issue of when the group activities would be performed, it was challenging to achieve consensus because the group members had conflicting schedules that interfered with choosing an appropriate time for the group meeting to determine the progress of the tasks. Although I faced various challenges during the initial process of forming group, I eventually embodied the role of the group leader. However, I did not always allow everyone to have input. It is suggested that soliciting and using continuing feedback from the group members is vital for achieving the group objectives (Morgeson et al., 2010). By failing to allow the group members to offer their input into the group presentation, I ended up not including their diverse and useful perspectives on the group activity.
I acted as a coach on how to reactively write. There are specific skills required of coaches including social competence, emotional competence, listening, questioning, framing and contributing (Maltbia, Marsick & Ghosh, 2014). Social competence is associated with establishing relationships with individuals being coached by increasing a supportive and a safe environment that is characterized by freedom in expression thoughts, mutual respect, and trusted partnership (Goleman, 2006). However, I lacked in this competency as I did not allow the individuals I was coaching to freely express their opinions on reactive writing. Rather than encouraging engagement with my peers, I monopolized the coaching process. Emotional competence is associated with having self-awareness of one’s emotions and those of other people to ensure that the coaching relationship is experienced as productive, flexible, and open (Maltbia et al., 2014). I had a difficult time managing my own emotions when coaching others as I got angry whenever any person I was coaching did not understand what I was communicating to him or her. Furthermore, I did not recognize the effects of my actions on the emotions of the people I was coaching. For instance, some of the people I was coaching were visibly frustrated during the coaching process but I did not take time to address these issues. Listening involves understanding the meaning of what the person under coaching is saying with regard to achieving desired outcomes (Maltbia et al., 2014). When I started the coaching session, I did not ask the person I was coaching the specific outcomes they desired from this activity. It is suggested that a hierarchy should not exist in the relationship between the coach and the people being coached (O’Broin & Palmer, 2009). By failing to include the objectives of the people being coached into this relationship, their agenda failed to take precedence in the coaching process.
As a coaching skill, questioning entails inquiry for revealing the information necessary with the highest benefit to the client (Maltbia et al., 2014). I was lacking in this competence as I rarely asked the person I was coaching questions related to the coaching process. I took on the role of an active coach and required the people I was coaching to assume a passive role in this process.Framing is characterized by expanding the world views of the people being coached through an examination of whether learning is rooted in experience (Maltbia et al., 2014). This skill requires the coach to establish whether the coaching process has had a positive effect on learning in terms of addressing the initial challenge or problem that influenced this activity to be undertaken. During the coaching sessions, I did not frame the coaching process to establish if the people I was coaching had benefited from this activity. Finally, contributing entails effective communication during the coaching session as a mechanism for achieving balance between the support and challenge required for facilitating growth and learning (Maltbia et al., 2014). As initially mentioned, I monopolized conversations, and this prevented the people I was coaching from effectively contributing to the coaching process. Moreover, I failed to offer adequate challenges to promote learning in relation to reactive writing.
Role playing as a manager in an appraisal
Performance appraisal is an important process as it is utilised in assessing recent performance and addressing future opportunities and objectives (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2014).). When conducting a performance appraisal, employees have to be provided with sufficient notice of the expected performance standards and timely and regular feedback about their performance (Heslin & VandeWalle, 2011). During my role play as a manager in an appraisal, I did not offer timely and regular feedback on individual performance toward the achievement of expected performance standards. It is also suggested that employees should have an input in the appraisal process and be provided with opportunities for challenging it if they view it as being unfair (Heslin & VandeWalle, 2011). Conversely, during the appraisal, I did not allow the individuals with opportunities for presenting their views and opinions in relation to assessment of their performance. In this regard, I failed to consider the voice of these individuals that would have provided a deeper understanding of the performance achieved.
Acting as a consultant
I took up the role of as a consultant in a team of two individuals to pitch to a client our ideas for their people strategy of their new business. According to the Institute of Management Consultants (2014), consultants need competencies to deliver consulting services. Some of these competencies are balanced judgment, awareness of the organisational context and external environment, and listening (de Caluwe & Reitsma, 2010). Balanced judgment entails a comparison of potential courses of action and evaluating available information and using relevant criteria, which leads to realistic decisions (de Caluwe & Reitsma, 2010). In the role of consultants, my colleague and I only focused on a single course of action for the organisation in relation to the people strategy for the new business. Consequently, when the clients asked us any alternative courses of actions that might be undertaken, we were unable to provide satisfactory responses because we were unprepared. Furthermore, external environment awareness is related to being adequately informed about issues in the business environment that have influences on strategies and utilising such knowledge for the benefit of the organisation (de Caluwe & Reitsma, 2010). In our case, we considered legal, economic and technological factors that affect an organisation’s people strategy. However, we failed to consider trends influencing human resources in the organisation and political issues. Thus, the clients were dissatisfied as the people strategy we developed did not take into consideration all the factors in the business environment that have impacts on the organisation’s human resources management strategy.
Listening skills are important in management consultancy as they provide the client with the space for expressing their opinions, focusing on their reactions, responding suitably and posing further questions (de Caluwe & Reitsma, 2010). Regarding this, my colleague and I did not focus on the clients’ reactions. We were focused on pitching our strategy and thus we were unable to capture nonverbal signals that would have communicated to us whether the clients were in agreement with the arguments we had made in the people strategy that the organisation had to adopt. Regarding organisational context, management consultants are expected to understand how an organisation operates and considering these issues when developing an action (de Caluwe & Reitsma, 2010). We strived to develop a people strategy that reflected the organisation’s current practices related to management of human resources. However, the information related to this issue was not easily available. Therefore, we ended up pitching a people strategy that we considered as non-existing in the organisation. We later discovered that some aspects of the people strategy were already present in the organisation, which means that we had not provided a more effective solution to the clients.
I had two finance classes but missed the first one but then I attended the second class. It was only after attending the second class that I realised that I should have attended the first one. The content covered in the second class was only a continuation of the issues addressed in the first class. Therefore, by failing to attend the first class, I missed out on the necessary context for understanding the topics covered in the second class. This negatively interfered with my learning. Upon reflection, I learned that I did not attend the first class because I did not prioritise the things that I had to do. I have to deal with conflicting demands of working full time and pursuing my postgraduate education (Armstrong, 2012). In this regard, I missed the first finance class because I was attending a meeting at work where I was presenting an important report to senior management.
Negotiating as a Client
My colleague and I assumed the role of a client negotiating with a software vendor on delivery times and price. As clients, we argued and debated with the software vendor on the relevant issues. For instance, there was prolonged argument and debate on the delivery times because we were considering small insignificant factors on this issue. The outcome was that the arguments related to the main issue of delivery times were largely neglected. Indeed, it is suggested that it is important to have awareness of any insignificant arguments that might derail the negotiation process (Pinet & Sander, 2013). In our case, we concentrated on being right rather than winning the arguments associated with the price and delivery times. The negotiation process deviated from the agenda established prior to the meeting with the software vendor. Consequently, a lot of time was wasted on these arguments and compromises were achieved after a protracted process.
Portfolio Section 3
This section presents an action plan for developing my postgraduate, management and leadership skills further. The action plan covers skills required for group leadership, management consultant, appraisal manager, coaching, negotiation, and task prioritization as presented below.
Action plan for group leadership skills
To improve my skills in leading and managing groups in completion, of course, related tasks
Read and brainstorm with my peers on available literature including books, reputable online articles and journal articles about team leadership. I will focus on literature that looks at leadership functions on the different phases of teams namely the transition and action stages. The transition stage is a time when a group or team focuses on activities associated with the team’s structures, planning tasks, and assessing the performance of the team in terms of the whether the team has the ability of achieving its objectives (Marks, Mathieu & Zaccaro, 2001). The specific leadership skills that I will learn about for this phase include defining the mission of the team, goals, and performance standards, structuring responsibilities and roles in the team, and promoting feedback processes (Morgeson et al., 2010). The action stage is where the team or group members are focused on tasks that directly contribute to goal achievement (Marks et al., 2001). In this phase, I will learn relevant leadership skills including creating a positive climate in the group, encouraging autonomous actions by members, resource acquisition for the group, problem solving, involvement in the group’s work, and monitoring the group(Morgeson et al., 2010).
Discuss with managers and leaders in my workplace about effective approaches for leading and managing groups or teams
After acquisition of the necessary leadership skills, I will apply to future group assignments in my course work. I will evaluate the acquired group leadership skills by asking my peers to rate my performance as a leader. I will design a checklist where the group members will provide their responses about my overall leadership skills and areas that require improvement.
The reading of literature, applying the relevant knowledge to actual practice, and evaluating leadership skills will be reviewed on a regular basis whenever there is a group assignment.
Action plan for coaching skills
To become a very effective coach
Read books, journal articles, and online publications on the coaching process and the required skills and competencies for this activity followed by a brainstorming exercise with my colleagues.
Participate in training in coaching provided by my organisations to equip with necessary skills.
Ask a senior manager in my workplace to act as my coach to enable me to understand this process from a practical perspective and model it.
The knowledge acquired from literature, training, and on-the-practice will be utilised in coaching my peers in coursework on different topics. The performance data that will be collected to establish the level of my effectiveness as a coach will be obtained from interviewing the individual that I will be coaching.
Ongoing throughout my course work.
Action plan for management consultant skills
To enhance my skills as a management consultant
Read available literature on management consultancy and look at case studies on the process of management consultation. After reading alone, I will brainstorm these issues with my study group.
Discuss with management consultants within and outside my organisation to learn the criteria for success.
Evaluation will be based on establishing the extent to which the client is able to achieve desired outcomes in relation to the consultation services I will offer them. This will be achieved by using a questionnaire to ask the clients whether I demonstrate the skills of a management consultant. Review date
Ongoing based on management consultancy projects.
Action plan for managerial skills in appraisals
To improve my skills in conducting performance appraisals
Read widely and brainstorm on skills for performance appraisals.
Role playing with my peers on posing the right questions to the individual under appraisal.
Discuss with senior managers in my workplace about successfully performing performance appraisals.
The assessment of my skills in this area will be based on determining to which I successfully complete a performance appraisal. This will involve asking individuals involved in the appraisal process to rate my performance using a checklist.
This activity will be completed on a monthly basis.
Action plan for negotiation skills
To improve my negotiation skills as a client
Reading widely and brainstorming with colleagues on negotiation skills for clients to understand negotiation skills, negotiation phases, and sources of conflict in negotiation process.
Engage in role play to assist in clarification of responsibilities and roles in working in a negotiating team.
Evaluation will involve collecting evidence indicating whether I applied competencies and skills required in negotiating as a client. This will be achieved by interviewing the other parties to the negotiation process to determine the level of my skills in negotiating as a client. Review date
This will be completed by February 2015.
Action plan for task prioritization
To enhance my skills in prioritizing both work and education tasks.
Listing all the tasks that I have to perform on a daily basis in my work and college and categorising them based on their impacts on my work and educational pursuits.
Using a personal calendar to plan my tasks.
Using a checklist to determine completion of tasks on daily basis.
Performance in task prioritisation will be evaluated by assessing the extent to which I complete all the tasks required in my workplace and at college.
This activity will be completed on a daily basis.
This reflective work has identified areas that require further development in improving my managerial and leadership skills. Based on this reflective work, it is evident that I lack skills in different areas including leadership, task prioritization, effective coaching, managerial skills in performance appraisal and management consultancy. Therefore, these skills have to be improved to ensure that I am effective as manager and leader. Therefore, action plans for improving the different skills have been presented. It is expected that implementation of the action plans will equip with skills that are applicable to my workplace and educational setting.
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Pinet, A., & Sander, P. (2013) The only negotiation book you’ll ever need. Littlefield Street, MA: Adams Media.
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