The most useful reflection involves the conscious consideration and analysis of beliefs and actions for the purpose of learning. Why do we hate taking out time for self-reflection? Why we have a bizarre aversion towards working on ourselves? I was reading an article on reflection where the coach shared that the difficult leaders are those, who do not reflect. If reflection is so helpful, why don’t many leaders do it? Maybe they don’t understand the process, they don’t know what to reflect, how to reflect? Maybe they don’t like the process, as the process can lead to valuable insights and even breakthroughs, but it can also lead to feelings of discomfort, vulnerability, defensiveness, and irritation. Reflection requires leaders to do a number of things they typically don’t like to do, slow down, adopt a mind-set of not knowing and curiosity, tolerate messiness and inefficiency, and take personal responsibility. Generally, after reflection, leaders see where they were effective, where they could have done better, the tendency is to dismiss the strengths and dislike the weaknesses. Sometimes during the process, they become defensive, so they don’t learn anything. From early roles, leaders are taught to invest where they can generate a positive ROI—results that indicate the contribution of time, talent, or money paid off.
Sometimes it’s hard to see an immediate ROI on reflection, particularly when compared with other uses of a leader’s time.
If you have found yourself making these same excuses, you can become more reflective by practicing a few simple steps.
Identify some important questions.
– What are you avoiding?
– How are you helping your colleagues achieve their goals?
-How are you not helping or even hindering their progress?
–How might you be contributing to your least enjoyable relationship at work?
– How could you have been more effective in a recent meeting?
Select a reflection process that matches your preferences. Many people reflect by writing in a journal. If that sounds terrible but talking with a colleague sounds better, consider that. As long as you’re reflecting and not just chatting about the latest sporting event or complaining about a colleague, your approach is up to you. You can sit, walk, bike, or stand, alone or with a partner, writing, talking, or thinking.
Schedule time. Most leaders are driven by their calendars. So, schedule your reflection time and then commit to keep it. And if you find yourself trying to skip it or avoid it, reflect on that!
Start small. If an hour of reflection seems like too much, try 10 minutes.
Do it. Go back to your list of questions and explore them. Be still. Think. Consider multiple perspectives. Look at the opposite of what you initially believe. Brainstorm. You don’t have to like or agree with all of your thoughts—just think and examine your thinking.
Ask for help. For most leaders, a lack of desire, time, experience, or skill can get in the way of reflection. Consider working with a colleague, therapist, or coach to help you make the time, listen carefully, be a thought partner, and hold you accountable.
Despite the challenges to reflection, the impact is clear. As Peter Drucker said: “Follow effective action, with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
(Inputs from article by Jennifer Porter, HBR)