By nature, I am a forward-looking person, excited by the future, new opportunities and experiences. What reflection does is help me acknowledge all the stuff I’d forgotten I’d had done. I know from these periods of reflection that I get nice surprises, rude awakenings and both deserve a bit of focus!
Recently I was preparing for a business pitch and thinking about the client’s circumstances and how I could best help them. I love my work and the purpose that drives me, which is honest and compassionate leadership. Leaders who create psychologically safe spaces and cultures for everyone to thrive are great leaders. Just loving your work though often isn’t good enough…
Time for reflection.
This brings me to reflection time. Not only does reflecting help you become more aware of what you have been doing, it also draws your attention to the effort, energy and impact to make it happen. Self-reflection has its place and yet it may create a flawed impression of reality. Personalities have default lenses. Lenses that might focus on positives over negatives and vice-versa. That is why it is important to sense check with trusted others, to challenge versions of events that occur in the workplace.
When I’m coaching, reflection time is a big part of the session-to-session process. It’s not unusual for clients to ‘brush off’ what they have done, to chastise themselves for their progress (or lack of it). Others may be delighted with their efforts, and not see that an opportunity has been missed. A full reflection of ‘what, how and why’ can make a big difference the next time a similar situation occurs.
It’s all about memory.
We rely on our memories to guide us in life. We use what we recall in terms of actions and felt emotions to steer our responses in the future. Analysing our activities allows us to re-assess how we have recorded the memory and if needed, adjust it.
A case study in reflection.
A client had a staff member, on probation who wasn’t performing well enough. My client believes in giving everyone a chance, in fact numerous chances. Some gentle conversations on attendance standards were had, with reassurances from the staff member that they would be addressed and there was no reason for them not to be. But they were still late, or ‘decided’ unilaterally to work from home on a day when they were meant to be in the office. My own thoughts on the matter were: If this happens on probation, what does it say about the individual’s commitment to the role?
My client, with some guidance, took the big step. They told the staff member they were not going to pass their probation. Our reflection time revealed and explored the ‘pain’ of having to do this, of wishing that they could have ‘saved’ this person, of having so much ‘hope for their potential’ and how they felt they had failed.
Now, you can leave it there or you can re-evaluate the experience and add it to the memory. The learning, opportunity and broader impact of the actions taken. In doing so my client now has a memory to draw on that acknowledges the emotions experienced. But they also see that as a result of the decision, there have been many benefits for the wider team, their reputation and their understanding of where taking individual responsibility for actions sits.
Reflecting can build confidence and resilience.
Reflection that resets memories to include learnings is a tool to build courage for future challenges. Leaders who are honest and compassionate can help create a culture that allows for safe reflection and personal growth. To understand more about effective leadership and building resilience based on past experiences, contact me today.