We live in a world that values action and where back to back meetings are a badge of productivity. Quarterly targets mean that we tend to be focused on the next thing on our to-do-list rather than looking back to evaluate how the last thing we’ve just completed could be improved. Few of us routinely take time out to reflect on past events. However, by missing out on opportunities for reflection you may be making yourself less effective than you could be. Reflection brings three distinctive advantages.
1. Reflection Makes You More Effective When Things Get Busy
Reflection is an invaluable activity, particularly in times when there is a lot to do. It plays a big role in the work we do at TalUpp to help leaders achieve top performance. Let’s take a quick look at how we define a high-performance mindset:
“A high-performance mindset allows you to achieve results that are better than those of your peers, over a longer period of time, by setting clear longer-term goals, understanding and drawing on strengths, by continuously learning and improving core capabilities and by being able to adapt to changes quickly.”
Reflection is a powerful technique that can help you set the most effective goals, identify your strengths, learn continuously and allow you to adapt to changes quickly. Try the following reflective questions to help you become even more effective than you already are:
What is going well right now and what do I need to do more of to achieve my targets?
What is not going well and what may be making me less effective than I could be?
What are the ineffective behaviours that I keep falling into as I run on autopilot during this hectic time?
What has worked for me in the past that I may not be doing right now?
What has worked in other situations that share similar features and challenges?
How are my values, world views or expectations helping or hindering me in dealing with my current situation?
What is the one thing that I will do differently tomorrow to be as effective as possible?
2. Reflection is Your Secret Superpower for Success in the VUCA World
In addition to helping you maintain high levels of performance during busy times, reflection helps you succeed in a world that is increasingly shaped by technology disruptions and uncertainty. As you are encountering unprecedented situations, there are no rule books and you must use trial and error to deal with the situation. This makes reflection important as you must make sense of your new challenges and evaluate the effectiveness of your new solutions. Reflection helps you avoid making the same mistake twice or at the very least makes you better at dealing with a similar situation next time ‘round. Reflection can also help you see connections between seemingly unconnected events which can help you anticipate future events and react more effectively to unfamiliar experiences.
3. Reflection Accelerates Your Personal Development
Reflective thinking also makes your knowledge more visible and helps you become more aware of your assumptions, values and views of the world that subconsciously influence your actions. Such increased self-awareness is an key prerequisite for changing your behaviour.
It’s not an experience itself that leads to personal development but the learning you extract from the experience. This extraction process can be significantly accelerated through reflection. If you don’t link thinking and doing, you are less likely to learn.
What makes reflection so powerful?
Reflection means that you take a moment to look back and critically evaluate what has happened. You ask yourself, what went well and what went less well, what did I learn and what will I do differently next time?’ Through reflection, you review your actions and evaluate how your learning from this situation may have changed your knowledge. You then take your new knowledge and apply it to future situations; you experiment with new behaviours and reflect again. This continuous interplay between theory and practice makes you better at what you do.
Finding a time and format that works for you
You don’t have to limit your reflections to working hours. Try reflecting while travelling to and from work, while exercising, going for a walk or doing any other activity that doesn’t take all of your mental concentration. It’s also important to find a format that works for you. Reflection can take many different forms:
Using paper and pencil or recording your reflections in a dedicated reflection app or noting them down electronically.
Reflecting on your own or with others – mentors and coaches can be great reflection partners.
Or you could bring together a group of peers or a more formal action learning group to reflect on past events together.
Blocking out one hour once a week or reflecting whenever you get a moment - even just two minutes reflecting on a good meeting, a disappointing presentation or a fraught conversation can help you become a more effective leader.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, slowing down and taking a look back to reflect, may be the best way to increase your effectiveness and speed up.