A lesser talked about skill for effective self leaders is the ability to be reflective. It’s easy to pack in reading, webinars and workshops about the tangible leadership skills such as communication skills, developing a vision and motivating teams. But no matter what the area of learning is, self reflection is always a magic ingredient to make that other learning stick.
WHAT IS SELF REFLECTION?
Broadly speaking, self reflection means allocating time and space to analyse, evaluate and dig deep into your thoughts, feelings, motives, attitudes, desires and understandings. Because being introspective can cover such a wide array of topics, there is no ‘one way’ to do it well. The key is to actually pause and make sense of our decisions, actions and sense of self rather than falling into the trap of doing things thoughtlessly (and coming to regret them later).
WHY IS INTROSPECTION IMPORTANT?
The benefits of self reflection are obvious, making it a key skill for all self leaders:
- Self awareness – taking time to get to know your motives, desires, habits and strengths means that you are highly in tune with who you are. This knowledge can help to create a sense of peace and acceptance as you navigate life.
- Aligned goals – increased self awareness also means that you can set goals for yourself which fulfil your desires and are realistic for your growth; taking into account where you are now and where you want to be aid better action planning.
- Better responses to situations – being self reflective equips you with extra knowledge about yourself, your relationships and your situation. This means that when making decisions you are more likely to choose responses and courses of action which fit your values, consider the consequences more rationally and perhaps even notice options and possibilities that you wouldn’t have thought of before
- Stronger learning and development – people who are confident in self reflection take time to reflect on their professional learning and may even draw lessons and learning from informal situations (what did I learn from this project, this relationship?) Self reflection allows you to identify insights, evaluate other ways of doing things or make connections between topics to create deeper understanding
HOW TO ENCOURAGE SELF REFLECTION
In a professional setting, it can be challenging to get into the habit of self reflection because there is a temptation to maximise the number of ‘productive’ hours doing the tasks of the organisation. However, actually ring fencing time to encourage team members and leaders to introspect will lead to better quality work down the line.
- Topping and tailing – identify significant chunks of time in your workflow which you can start and end with reflection time. This may mean beginning the week, a meeting or a project with some reflective time and then ending it with reflection to foster good habits.
- Group reflection – although self reflection can sound like a solitary process, working together to reflect as a group can be valuable as each person will add their perspectives to the mix and teams get to know each other more deeply. This can aid effective teamwork and empathy.
- Collect your lessons learned – whilst self reflection is important for individual growth, it can also benefit the direction and growth of your organisation. Get into the habit of using reflection times to identify next steps, lessons learned and new ideas and actually collecting and using them as tool in your organisation.
- Ask excellent questions – anyone familiar with coaching will know that questions are a powerful tool. Being able to ask good questions is the key to self reflection as these are the starting point for any reflection. Collating a bank of questions or even investing in coaching training can help to aid the reflective culture in your team.
QUESTIONS TO AID SELF REFLECTION
It is important to select the right question for the job and this will depend on whether your goal is to deepen learning, raise self awareness, make a decision or something else. Here are some examples of questions which may spark interesting reflections:
- How do you feel about…?
- What did … experience mean to you?
- Where does … emotion come from?
- What do you need from … situation / interaction in order to feel positive?
- What does… experience / situation say about you?
- How does … sit with your view of the world / yourself?
- How might … change your perspective going forwards?
- Are your decisions in line with your values?
- What new insights have you had?
- How does … topic relate to what you already knew?
- Since learning … what have you noticed about yourself / others / the organisation?
- What else would you like to learn / experience in order to keep growing?
Planning / growth questions
- What changes have you already made and what results have you had?
- How are you going to use / apply …?
- What are the steps to making a change?
- What are your options for reaching this goal?
HOW DO I START BEING REFLECTIVE
The best thing you can do to start your reflective process is to give yourself time. Allocate 15 minutes somewhere in your week or work day to reflect on a key question. How you reflect is up to you – journaling, silent thinking, talking things over with a coach. The actual ‘how’ doesn’t matter too much as long as you make time to think in a way that works for you.
Need help in developing your reflective practice? The Self Leadership Initiative provides bespoke training experiences built on a foundation of self-reflection to ensure deep and high impact learning. Why not book a consultation to find out how training or coaching could level up your team.