Reflection is a skill to be learned as much as any other in a leader’s armoury. It’s true that most people understand the learning cycle of planning, acting, reflecting and concluding. However, it’s also true that most people do a bit of planning (slightly boring), do a lot of doing (very exciting!) and then jump to a swift conclusion (rather satisfying) – thus missing out the (‘oh, its soooo boring’) step of reflecting on what happened. Reflecting seems so passive, so ‘non-eventful’, so unproductive and so it is not surprising that most people don’t do it, let alone take time to learn how to do it.
But reflection leads to insight and insight is where to find the real thrill – to access that ‘Eureka’ moment. Imagine if Archimedes hadn’t reflected whilst taking his bath. Forever underestimating how much water would be displaced as we plunged in, we’d be a nation of flooded bathrooms.
There are lots of ways to reflect – they don’t all have to involve getting naked and wet but, heh, it’s an option. But very busy people might prefer a drier process so here’s a series of questions you can reflect upon in the car, on the train, or half way up Kilimanjaro if that’s where you happen to be.
Think of an event in the recent past in which you played a part – whether directly or indirectly – and work your way through the following questions.
- Start with you and ask yourself: How has this event affected me personally? What feelings did the situation evoke in me and why? What have I gained or lost?
- Now think about others who were involved and ask yourself: How has this event affected others around me? Which relationships have been strengthened and which have been weakened?
- Now position yourself in your mind’s eye above the event and look down on it. Ask yourself: What, according to my beliefs and values, was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the situation and what values were being upheld or transgressed?
- Before you draw any conclusions, ask yourself: What assumptions am I making in drawing my conclusions about the event, the people involved and their motives? What generalisations am I making and are they reasonable?
Finally, ask yourself: What should I, as a leader, take forward from this event for the greater good of all parties? What will I do differently as a result of this event?