Become a better manager with this 15-minute daily habit

You probably turn to mentors, industry events, conferences, books, podcasts, videos and articles for professional development tips; but if you’re always looking outside for suggestions on how to be a better manager, you may be missing an opportunity to tap into the most powerful source of real-time, actionable (and free!) feedback: Self-assessment.

Here’s a closer look at why management experts say a daily self-assessment practice may be the most impactful growth tool you can use to be a more effective, more fulfilled manager.

Action is not inherently productive

A day in the life of the typical manager is multifaceted: One hour you’re coaching an employee on performance issues, the next you’re fine-tuning budgets for executive leadership. All the while your inbox is overflowing and each meeting you attend results in more takeaways and next steps than solutions.

A diverse set of responsibilities can be an appealing aspect of management, but it also means little opportunity to pause, learn, evaluate and improve—unless you intentionally carve out the time to do so.

In fact, Harry Kraemer, best-selling author, professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and former CEO, says that without a clear sense of priorities and a way to consistently measure whether your daily actions align with them, managerial productivity isn’t even possible. You may be busy—but you’re essentially running in circles.

Two questions to guide self-reflection

A daily self-reflection practice doesn’t need to take more than 15 minutes, and doesn’t even require that you dig particularly “deep” into your day. It simply starts by answering these two questions as they pertain to your goals and job as a manager:

  • What is important?
  • What could be done differently to better achieve what’s important?

Each week, revisit your answers to these questions to ensure they’re current with whatever may have been added or removed from your managerial plate.

Take stock of how you spend each day

Your answers to the two questions above drive the basis of your self-reflection practice. At the end of each day, spend a few minutes writing down all the things you did—from the major, to the minute. (Try jotting quick notes in your phone every few hours, or draft an email to yourself that you can periodically update when you have a spare moment to keep a running tab of the day’s events.)

To begin each self-reflection practice, start by classifying each item on your list. Underline, highlight or add a star next to those that could be categorized as “priority” based on those important tasks or goals you’ve already identified. In the first weeks of your self-reflection practice, it’s possible that very few of the things you do in a day will correlate to the priorities and values you identified.

If this is your reality, it’s an opportunity to consider the second question: What can be adjusted or changed to achieve what’s important? The solutions will vary, but considering how to turn your action into actual productivity is the first step to growing your value as a manager.

Evaluate your day like a witness

Once you’ve shone the spotlight on all those little actions that aren’t correlated to your priorities, probe deeper into your personal and professional values to form the second half of your self-reflection practice. Consider questions like:

  • What did I do today that I am proud of? (And not proud of?)
  • How did I act like a leader today?
  • How did I act like a follower today?
  • What did I learn from today that I could apply to be better tomorrow?

As you build a consistent practice, you’ll begin to see strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement emerge.

Aim to apply your learnings to grow your own managerial skills based on the real-time feedback you’re essentially gathering from each day. When you see your performance through the lens of an impartial observer you can uncover invaluable insights about how to develop as a manager, better support your team and become more satisfied in your job.