Lindsay’s In Business: Mirror Mirror

Femflection is excited to run its first interview with blogger and businesswoman, Lindsay Uittenbogaard.  Lindsay has been writing the story of her transition from employment to entrepreneur with Mirror Mirror in Femflection for several weeks.  Now, we get to hear more about where she’s got to, how her business concept is taking shape, and how she is handling these developments.


So, you’ve been blogging in Femflection about setting up your own business.  Tell us, where are you with that right now?

It took several weeks to land the idea I’m working on right now.  It felt like quite an unusual position to be in actually – to know that you want to run a business but not have an idea in mind.

Once I’d investigated various concepts – from an art promotion business, to a one-stop home maintenance service – I have landed on something that is fundamentally about communications for the corporate market, which is my area of expertise. It also covers HR, learning, leadership and business improvement.

So here we are… it’s called Mirror Mirror – it’s a structured team situation assessment tool that helps team leaders with engagement, teamwork and performance.  It’s also a perfect team leader onboarding tool.  We’ve finished the design and are currently testing and refining it.

What is a ‘situation assessment’?

We often talk about ‘situations’ in business, because we know that:

  • leaders who adapt their behaviours to their situation are more effective
  • what people think and feel about their situation affects their behaviours
  • leaders and teams with a common understanding of their shared situation are more engaged and committed.

But there’s a missing question.  It’s WHAT IS THE SITUATION?  It may be that because there are so many factors in any given work context, people have thought it too complicated to analyse.

Mirror Mirror started with an initial question – can we ‘type’ a situation, much like Myers Briggs ‘types’ a personality?  Personalities are extremely complex, but it’s been done.

As it happens, it took Myers Briggs years to associate personality types and behaviours to the point that it became accessible.  I’m working with an ex-colleague and we realised that we weren’t going to be able do that.

But we do know, from current thinking in philosophy and from psychology, two things:

  1. That the understanding of a situation only goes as far as people perceive it
  2. That SHARED MEANING – i.e. how people perceive a common situation is only created in the interactions between people.

In this way, you can capture a team situation by asking people what factors they perceive are important and why, by digging deep to expose the underlying assumptions, and by asking how they feel about these factors. This would be in the form of anonymous interviews with all relevant parties: the team members, their team leader and their overall sponsor.

People themselves are also critical aspects of a team situation. We also wanted to understand the behavioural drivers of all involved (their values) as well as more about the style of the team leader. We chose Hogan assessments for this part.

If you put all of this together into a report, you get some amazing insights about where the alignment is – or not; where the issues are and what could be done about them. The report recommends changes, potentially across a number of areas, like learning, process management, communications, organisational structure, leadership…

How did you come up with that?

My own experience. I’ve had too many bosses who either grappled with trying to form a whole picture like this without a structured process to streamline it; or bosses who have expected to engage with their team and see results when they have no idea what is going on inside their heads. I was freelancing at Shell International a few years ago when the name ‘Mirror Mirror’ popped up into my head.  I guess it’s been percolating since then.

Who would use this?

When a team needs a kind of ‘performance jumpstart’ – this really does give people a chance to draw the line between the past and the present and take a fresh look at their work world. It’s a great exercise to run in advance of an away day.

Also, imagine a new Team Leader who needs to fast track their onboarding period from 3 months to 2 weeks, for example, while also generating some new momentum for the whole team. Mirror Mirror can deliver that.

Where are the stumbling blocks?

If team members don’t feel that they are in a safe space, they might not really want to open up.  In this case, what we say is that this is their opportunity to be heard, that the Team Leader genuinely wants to hear about what people think is important and why.

Also, this isn’t every Team Leader’s cup of tea.  There are plenty of them out there who seriously don’t think that what their team members think and feel is relevant to their performance.

How would you describe the journey you’ve been on so far?

There have been some ups and downs, but I just feel grateful that I have the freedom to pursue this idea right now.  It feels very right.  I’m also grateful to the dozens of people in my network who are chipping in to advance the concept. Really, it’s like everyone is giving a piece of the jigsaw and I’m there to coordinate getting the pieces together. I will be paying it forward, if you know what I mean!

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle.  We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections on 2016, or your hopes for the future –  in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection

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