In the rapidly evolving world we’re living in, it can feel like we’re constantly being pulled in dozens of different directions.
That “new normal” everyone is trying to adapt to? Maybe it’s better said that continual change – sometimes abrupt – is our new normal.
How can we, as leaders, flex flawlessly when we’re bombarded all the time with fires to put out, challenges to respond to, and a host of other daily responsibilities tugging at us?
The answer may be simpler than we think…
“Reflection… Looking back so the view looking forward is clearer.” – Unknown
Why Slowing Down for Self-Reflection Can Actually Accelerate Growth
A KelloggInsight article featured in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University shared some fantastic insights from Harry Kraemer, a clinical professor and former CEO of healthcare giant Baxter International.
“Instead of constant acceleration, Kraemer says, leadership demands periods of restraint and consideration, even—perhaps especially—during a crisis. Leaders must regularly turn off the noise and ask themselves what they stand for and what kind of an example they want to set.”
For many of us, it’s almost second nature to react immediately (and sometimes, undesirably) when we’re faced with a situation that grabs our attention. Yet, something powerful happens when we come from a place rooted in self-reflection:
We’re empowered to lead – and live – from a far more stable foundation that actually enhances our performance and widens our impact.
Self-Reflection Increases Workplace Engagement
An HBR article aptly titled “How Self-Reflection Can Help Leaders Stay Motivated” points to a pre-pandemic, 2017 statistic from Gallup that found just 38% of managers and executives are engaged at work. This decreased even more – to 29% – for mid-level managers. Imagine what those numbers look like after the COVID impact…
“Given these disconcerting numbers, we were interested in developing an intervention that enhances leaders’ engagement at work,” write authors Klodiana Lanaj, Trevor A. Foulk, and Amir Erez.
The solution was quite straightforward: Each morning, leaders spent a few minutes contemplating and writing about three aspects they liked about themselves and that they felt made them a “good leaders.” This exercise resembles the one I give regularly to clients who want to expand their presence, productivity and joy.
Two studies went on to examine whether this simple intervention was useful. Not surprisingly, on the days the leaders did this exercise, they experienced lower levels of depletion and felt more engaged. What’s more, they also felt they had a positive impact on their followers.
Here’s another interesting finding: The positive effects of this easy morning exercise extended to the evening, which led researchers to believe the leaders also experienced greater levels of positivity at home, too.
So, What Are Some Easy Ways to Self-Reflect?
The best part is that self reflection is completely approachable for anyone – and it doesn’t involve staring at an object in space or focusing on the tip of your nose.
Robert L. Rosen, film producer, explains it in this memorable way:
“Self-reflection entails asking yourself questions about your values, assessing your strengths and failures, thinking about your perceptions and interactions with others, and imagining where you want to take your life in the future.”
The goal of self-reflection in leadership is to:
- Achieve greater levels of self-awareness
- Get to the core of who we really are so our True Self can shine
- Use our insights to continually improve our work, life and the relationships within these
All that’s needed to start a few quiet moments at a time of day (or night) that is most aligned with your schedule.
From there, here are a few pointers you might reflect upon:
1. Examine those priorities. Self-reflection can be an excellent tool to help us identify what our most important priorities really are. We may discover that things we thought were important aren’t – while other areas need greater focus.
2. Explore hot buttons & triggers. Consider what triggers your behaviors, what drives your reactions, and why? What about personal or professional blind spots? This area of self-reflection can help us achieve more productive interactions with our teams & with those around us.
3. Get to know…your “shadow side.” This is my favorite, because, while most often the most uncomfortable, it can also be the most impactful move we can make. It is said that “Unless you learn to face your own shadows, you will continue to see them in others, because the world outside you is only a reflection of the world inside you.” (Unknown), meaning that if we can spot it, we got it 😉 Yet, it’s the one thing few of us are willing to look at, let alone talk about. It’s that shadowy part of the human personality that lurks beneath our everyday awareness. And it can manifest when we least expect, knocking us off the rails & creating unintended and disastrous results…
With all of this in mind, it’s easy to see the value of self-reflection…
…especially when it comes to identifying areas of ourselves that can seriously impact our performance and quality of life.
Even as we peek at our “shadow side” – resist the urge to make judgements. Simply observe. The “shadow side” – those aspects of personality that we aren’t always consciously aware of – does not necessarily imply “bad” or “negative.” Most of the time, these parts of ourselves originate from circumstances way beyond our control. It’s not our fault, but it is our responsibility. And we can learn to channel once-hidden areas to our advantage.
Truly, self reflection can lift the curtain on areas of our lives that might otherwise go overlooked…or ignored.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin
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Colleen Slaughter, Proud Executive Coach to the UN World Food Program, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
As an Executive Coach for Women in Leadership and Transformational Facilitator, my intention is to help leaders in positions of high influence to understand their worth at a profound level.
Supporting women leaders to truly thrive and step into their greatness, while succeeding in male-dominated industries and spaces is my native genius.
My technique and approach show you how to achieve incredible career success without compromising any part of who you are and what makes you magnificent.