How To Be A Reflective Leader

Reflection

Some thoughts on how to be more reflective as a leader

I read somewhere that reflective leadership was about disengaging from the hurly-burley of everyday business and crises and taking stock of the situation. This struck a chord with me as it highlighted the day-to-day reality for so many leaders who inadvertently let themselves get bogged down in the business-as-usual activities of their own organizations. The moment they put their head up and take time to think things through they start to realize that perhaps there are other things that ought to be taxing their mind.

But having the time to think things through and consider what has been happening is so often an issue in itself. Leaders find themselves far too busy dealing with their day jobs. These are exactly the times when leaders need to take stock and consider if what they are doing is appropriate for their organization. A frustrated senior leader once asked me the question “If you’re fully booked all day long when do you have time to think?” to which my response was “Who books your time?”.

Notwithstanding the reality of any busy day-to-day operation there is always time available to reflect on what has occurred. Some people have in their mind the concept of a retreat away from their working environment that allows them to clear their mind and fully consider everything and anything. Now I’m not denying that this would be great, although it might be a little unfocussed without assistance, but the reality is that such luxuries are available to very few people.

It doesn’t have to take long to reflect on what has occurred and how you might alter things in the future – it’s a habit that can be developed. So when should you reflect? Well, start by building time into your schedule to allow you to become more reflective:

  • after a conversation – probably only need a minute or two reflection
  • after a meeting – maybe 5 or 10 minutes needed at most
  • each week – 30 minutes should be enough
  • every month – an hour only
  • each quarter – a couple of hours
  • annually – half a day to a day

It is perhaps worth remembering that this is about becoming a more reflective leader. Such leaders appreciate how they have impacted their organization and those around them.  It is all too easy to focus on business performance alone – unfortunately that is what most leaders are used to doing.

Reflective leaders ask themselves searching questions

Reflective leaders ask themselves some simple questions each time they reflect. There is no benefit in asking ourselves questions that are easy to answer, such as “Did I get the outcome I wanted?” which will be a Yes or No.

Effective leaders know that it’s how they interacted with others that matters and that’s what they concentrate on when they take time to reflect. Harder questions that’s for sure, but more useful if they are considered carefully:

  1. How did my contributions make a positive impact?
  2. How do I know my contributions made a positive impact?
  3. What might I have done differently to achieve the same or a better outcome?
  4. Where were we a month ago? – or any other time period, this starts to help understand the changes that occur but often get over-looked due to the hurly-burley of everyday crises.

After a while each individual leader will develop their own set of questions.

That’s the benefit of reflection, it allows you to consider what works and what doesn’t and then change things for the better.

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© Paul Slater and Reflect & Lead, 2013.

 

 

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