You are about to leave for an important business engagement. You really want to make a good impression; you have worked hard to get ready, and now you are walking out the door.
You pass by the mirror next to the threshold. Do you:
A) Check yourself in the mirror to make sure your clothes are clean, everything is buttoned properly, and there is nothing in your teeth; or,
B) Walk right by the mirror.
If in fact you are really concerned about hitting the mark, the answer is clear: you take a look at yourself to make sure everything is in order. Your reflection tells you what’s good and what needs changing.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, because leadership – life, enterprise, growth, you name it – is something that we want to hit the mark on. And to that end, I mean to illustrate the importance of reflection.
John Maxwell says that, despite what we’ve heard, experience isn’t the best teacher; evaluated experience is.
Often, we go from one phase of life to the next, enjoying the highlights, rushing through the rough patches, and surviving the challenges, without stopping to see what we could, or should, learn from our experiences.
If you have known me long, you know I am a people person. I am an extra-extra-extrovert.
This presented a bit of a problem for me as a young leader, when I had to tell my team – who I saw as my friends, and who saw me as their friend – that we would not be getting bonuses one year.
They saw it as a betrayal. And since I was more friend than leader, after this news, I was neither. I had no authority and I had not stood up for them in their moment of need (in their eyes).
And what did I walk away from this having learned? Never get close to your people.
A laughable position for a leader to hold.
Of course, since then, I have begun to build relationships with my team. Staying an arm’s length away from my people was not the solution.
But such was my knee-jerk reaction. My emotional self took over, I made a drastic declaration, and any greater lesson went right over my head at the time.
In the following years, I came to see that important moments in our lives like these have to be analyzed intentionally.
I began dedicating time at the end of each week to consider the week before in preparation for the next; I even started taking a few days off every three months to ask big picture questions like,
- What should I stop doing?
- What should I start doing?
- What should I keep doing?
- What should I do less of?
- What should I do more of?
Reflective respites like this help me to adjust my trajectory as I lead – gaining clarity in my vision, informing my perspective, seeing clearly the roles that others play in the organization, and aiding the planning of best next steps.
In Leadership Gold, chapter 17, John Maxwell develops the idea of reflection, highlighting its importance to the impactful and effective leader. At the end of the chapter, he asks three big questions that I think will help you as you evaluate your 2021:
1. How often do you set aside time to assess your experiences?
I have mentioned that I set aside a little time every week and a few days every quarter to reflect. I find this time, and the insights I walk away from it with, crucial to my weekly and quarterly planning.
How often do you make an appointment with yourself to put your actions and their results into perspective?
2. How do you keep track of your thoughts?
There are many sources outlining the helpfulness of journaling, and I must say I find it helpful, too. It helps me authentically detail my thoughts, and then I can return later and find practical ideas to implement.
Writing something down is the first step to making it real. What do you do to log your reflections?
3. How do you approach your self-evaluation?
It is easy to say, “Evaluate;” it is not as easy to actually evaluate.
Look at your calendar to think about the landmark decisions you made this year, or the important life shifts you experienced, or the events that left a major impression on you.
Consider how you went about them, how you went through them, and what kind of impact they had on you. Look at the effect that your approaches, actions, and reactions had, and develop a learning model to move forward with.
That’s all for now.
Until next time,
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