We need great leaders now that will create even greater workplaces, organizations and communities. We need them to be thoughtful, emotionally intelligent and have the tools and resources necessary to help people succeed. I have had the amazing opportunity to work with thousands of leaders during my career, and what I have learned is that it is painful and expensive to promote people into leadership positions without giving them the skills to serve and flourish.
Most of us would agree that great leaders are made, over time, trial and error, risk and failure, and through human connection. Some are born with traits that ease the learning, but it takes exercising the leadership muscles in order to become a very good leader. One such muscle is reflection. To lead others, you must have a good understanding of the human experience, and how can you do that if you don’t understand yourself? Not being self-aware causes any number of ills in the workplace: lack of confidence in self and staff, lack of credibility, lack of trust, unclear intentions, and ultimately costly turnover.
Reflection not only helps the leader by building resilience, self-awareness, good communication, and problem-solving skills, but it also helps leaders develop others. To me, that is the most singular point of being a leader—mentoring, growing and developing others to be their best.
Most people find it difficult to schedule the time to reflect. Anyone in the workplace today, leader or individual contributor, has a day filled with email and meetings and can barely get their work done. In order to stretch and learn, we have to block the time and honor that time, knowing that investing in yourself is investing in others.
To begin a reflection practice, it is first important to be kind to yourself. Reflection is not about beating yourself up; it’s about your development.
You will want to find a time and environment that works for you. It could be 20 minutes or an hour. Most people reflect in writing, but some people may talk to themselves. Of course, if you are at a coffee shop, talking to yourself probably is not the best method.
Some people find it helpful to ask yourself specific questions. For example:
- How could I have helped my staff better today?
- What could I have done to have a better outcome in the leadership meeting?
- What perspective could I use to look at this employee issue?
- How can I honor my value of compassion more?”
Notice that I used what and how questions. “What” questions create discovery and force you to be present. These are preferred to “why” questions. My colleague, Deborah Ivanoff, explains in her book, “Manifest at Lightspeed: An Introduction to Self-Coaching” (set to release November 23, 2017). “Asking “why” throws you back into the past. Whatever problem you’re dealing with is in the here and now. Your point of power; your power of choice is in this moment. So a better question would be one that is grounded in the present moment and doesn’t address the why, which may keep people stuck.”
In fact, Deborah offers a process for a debrief (or reflection) that could work for anyone:
“The next time you perform a more significant task, especially if it is one you are wanting to master, or with which you are experiencing difficulty, go over these questions after each time completed.
What worked for me?
What did I like that I want to remember and do again?
What awareness can I celebrate or congratulate myself for?
What do I wish I’d done differently?
What quality would I like to embody next time (ex: patience, leadership, proactivity)?
What action must I take moving forward?”
Taking a slightly different approach, Emma Weber, CEO of Lever, Transfer of Learning, recommends, “Ensure if you are offering feedback to yourself, that you do it in the same manner that you would offer it to a person you were mentoring. What would you say? How would you say it? – bearing in mind that you are mentoring and want to motivate, encourage and get the best from the individual. The best way to experiment with this is by moving away from the desk and to a quiet area and reflect, as a mentor, just for five to ten minutes.” (6 Reflection Tools to Boost Your Learning)
Reflection is a super skill to develop. If that were the only thing a leader worked on, they would become a very good leader. If your calling is to lead, learn to master reflections. Our employees need you, our customers need you and the world needs you.
Check back often to see what leadership skill we are discussing. Much success to you!