Leadership reflection: how it helps managers and leaders enhance their learning.

man reflectingA common challenge that managers, leaders and business owners have is not having enough time to actively or proactively reflect.  Attending to the daily schedule of meetings and appointments,  managing the team, customers and board relationships along with unscheduled things that pop up often leaves time for little else.

And yet the ability to reflect is a critical part of a leader and manager’s growth and development.

It is through reflection that we are able to cull out the juices from any encounter and move forward more confidently.

Reflection enables us to dig deeper and come up with insights and gems that may not have been so apparent initially – often tapping into the wisdom of the unconscious.

This is one reason that more and more organizations and executives are resorting to coaches to have that committed time, space and listening.  Being able to reflect on things with a trusted other enables powerful learning conversations to occur.

It brings forth analysis as well as synthesis.

The ability to reflect does require a conscious shift in gears  though – from busyness and action to slowing down enough for some mindful reflection.  It means getting present, noticing how one is feeling in the moment and also “what might be up?”

I had one executive who even when he scheduled time for reflection would then end up filling this with something else. In his case, the questions was so:

How do I go about this process of reflection?

Just getting into a quiet space with a journal and pen, ipad, laptop, or even a café napkin and allowing the mind and body to go still and inwards can lead to interesting insights.

For some of my clients, repetitive physical activity such as swimming or running is what channels them into this space with a different mental, emotional and spiritual rhythm. This creates enough of a “gap” for insights to bubble up into ones consciousness.

If you need a structure to reflect on what may have just happened, Dr. Marilyn W. Daudelin  has an effective  four stage model:

Stage 1

Articulation of a problem – this defines the issue that the mind will work on

Ask “what” questions.

What occurred?

What did you see, think and feel?

What was the most important thing?

Stage 2

Analysis of that problem – this consists of a search for possibilities

Ask “why” questions.

Why was that important?

Why do you think it happened?

Why were you feeling that way?

Stage 3

Formulation and testing of a tentative theory to explain the problem

Ask “how” questions.

How is this situation similar and different from other problems?

How might you do things different?

Stage 4

Action – the articulation of a new way of acting in the future

Again ask “what” questions

What are the implications of this for future action?

What should you do now?

Daudelin highlights that the type of questions that are most effective in enhancing reflection vary depending on the stage of reflection.

  “Questions are thus one of the most basic and powerful elements of the reflection experience.”
– Dr. Marilyn W Daudelin

The ability to reflect, come to deeper understanding and then take appropriate action has to be one of the core competencies for any effective manager or leader.

Reflect and be richer for it!

Jasbindar Singh is a leadership psychologist who together with her executive coaching clients creates a conducive space for reflection than action! 

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