Why Great Leaders Practice a Leadership Reflection Routine

Two of the questions from last week’s tip were suggested as part of a reflection routine.
What is a Leadership Reflection Routine? Regularly scheduled time where you examine your underlying assumptions, core beliefs, and knowledge, while drawing connections between apparently disparate pieces of information.
Reflection serves as a bridge between experience and learning. It is an effort to understand how the events of our life shape our leadership, how we see the world, ourselves and others. And it is essential for any leader.
This can be as simple or complex as you want to make it.  Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Get a journal. Write to capture your thoughts as you reflect. Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal, explains that “the point of reflection is to make sure that the things you’re pursuing continue to matter to you even as life changes around you. It will help you focus on the why rather than the what.” Using a journal enables you to clear your mind by “flushing” your thinking onto the paper!
  2. Schedule unstructured thinking time. Many top leaders block their calendar to ensure adequate reflection and processing time.  Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linked In, schedules between 90 minutes and two hours every day (check out his post, as he does an excellent job of explaining why this is so essential). Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of O2E Brands, blocks an entire day each week. Here he describes why successful people spend 10 hours a week just thinking.
  3. Cultivate questions that you use for regular reflection. Marshall Goldsmith talks about his daily question process in this post. He has someone call him every day to ask him a list of 32 questions! That enables him to remain focused on what really matters. Harry Kraemer, clinical professor of strategy at the Kellogg School and former CEO of Baxter International, also uses a daily question practice for reflection. His list of eight questions can be found in a post on How Self-Reflection Can Make You a Better Leader. Find some questions that work for you and use them on a regular basis to assess your leadership, your progress and what matters most to you.
  4. Combine reflection with solitude. Mike Erwin, co-author of Lead Yourself First, defines solitude as “the subjective state of mind, in which isolated from input from other minds, works through an issue on its own.” Through Mike’s research, he has discovered that solitude fortifies four key components of character: perspective, emotional balance, creativity, and moral courage. Solitude is a critical practice for successful leadership. William Deresiewicz makes an excellent case for solitude and leadership. He challenged the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point to put down their electronics and stop multi-tasking. He says, “multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it.”

There are many approaches to creating an opportunity for reflection. When you decide to accelerate your leadership practice (because leadership is an action not a position), set aside time for reflection.

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