The power of reflection: a leader’s catalyst to growth
‘Employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect.’
Harvard Business School - The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning
As a leader, when was the last time you created space to reflect?
The end of the year is a natural time to look back on the last 12 months. It helps us to:
Unlock business performance and creative problem solving
Strengthen self-awareness to make better choices
Be radically honest with ourselves so we can perform more effectively
Reflection is such an incredibly powerful tool for all of us, especially for leaders. So, why must it only be at this time of year that we set this valuable time aside to reflect?
‘Slow thinking’ and what you can learn
Psychologist Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow describes reflection as deliberate ‘slow thinking’. It slows us down to examine our beliefs and knowledge to make decisions from a refreshed perspective. The opposite is the norm of “fast thinking”, which is in the moment, reactive and instinctive.
As a leader you are expected to make decisions quickly, relying mostly on your intuition and experience. By slowing down and reflecting, you strengthen and develop confidence in your gut instinct. It brings all of your experience and wisdom to the forefront of your mind so you can tap into them more effectively.
Business leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates resist fast thinking by safeguarding time for personal development and extensive reading to stimulate perspective. This is a discipline also imparted by business tycoon and philanthropist, Warren Buffett. As leaders of some of the biggest businesses on earth, we think they’re on to something!
Reflection in practice
So, how do you self-reflect?
The answer is as little or as much as you can.
Make it consistent and protect it in your diary as an important event that you cannot move or cancel. It could be 5 minutes every evening or half an hour every Sunday morning. Or even an hour at the end of this year with a glass of wine in your hand would make a difference. You might use a journal, take time alone to walk or just sit peacefully with your thoughts.
This can be challenging for some leaders who find the process of slowing down irritating or inefficient. In this case, a coach or trusted partner may be the answer. This would offer a more guided and structured approach to reflection.
Questions to ask yourself about 2019 may be:
Did you set any goals at the start of the year?
Have you fulfilled them? Would your team(s) agree?
What’s gone well or derailed your best intentions?
How can you be proactive to make improvements in 2020?
Have you learnt from failures and understood what contributed to successes?
“Follow effective action with quiet reflection.
From the quiet reflection, will come even more effective action.”
Share the power with your team
In 2017, France implemented a law which gave employees the “right to disconnect”, limiting electronic communication outside business hours. The belief is that excessive communication undermines productivity and prevents reflective thinking.
With the Christmas break upon us, now is the perfect time to encourage your team to really switch off and reflect.
By championing reflective thinking, and engraining it within your business culture, you’ll inspire employees to liberate themselves from the reliance on and limitations of fast thinking. This enables us all to create space to explore ideas with full cognitive power.
If you agree that reflective thought is crucial to business growth, you must take action to create a culture of reflection within your business. It must absolutely come from you.
“There is a significant drive at this time of year to achieve targets and meet deadlines. Leaders who find the discipline to reflect on the year, and encourage others to do so, will help to build a culture that drives innovation and effectiveness.”
Cat Metcalfe, Brand Anthem
Look out for our upcoming blog on ways to develop reflective practice for yourself, and your team, in 2020.