Our days are so busy, no matter the positions we hold, and no matter the size of our organization. Because we often find ourselves on a treadmill of a weekly routine, we often forget to take the time to reflect on our jobs, our successes, and our challenges.
And we especially forget to reflect on what we’ve done to become good leaders.
From a basic definition, reflection itself is the process by which we take time to review past events in a way that allows us to move beyond the surface level of what transpired. In a nutshell, we think about the things that happen during our workday: who was involved, the outcomes, what challenges arose, what we did well, and ultimately, what we could have done better. As we get better at the reflection process, we can often test assumptions and structure our daily work and happenings in a way that streamlines processes, garners more successful outcomes, and ultimately positions us as better leaders in the workplace.
How We Reflect
The practice of reflection will be different for everyone. You don’t necessarily need to take stock on paper; often, a ten-minute meditation on the day will work just as well. No matter how you decide to reflect, there are typically four stages involved:
1. Examine what happened and how you felt about the situation, event, or just your day in general
2. Evaluate what went well, what didn’t go so well, and think about what you could have or should have changed (if possible)
3. Analyze your own biases — preconceived thoughts about a situation or person — and determine whether those had any bearing on the eventual outcome of what happened
4. Come to a determination of what you might do differently in the future
Good reflection practices can help us in many ways, especially as leaders. We can learn faster from mistakes or errors in judgment, which ultimately helps us not make the same mistakes twice. We can learn to adapt a bit better to challenging situations or work relationships, helping to recognize when these should cause concern for us versus when we can probably shelve something for a bit. And, finally, we can question our own biases, which then allows us to relate better to all of our employees (and those we work with externally as well).
We must learn to worry less, so we can focus positively on things we can change.
Yet, aside from the benefits listed above, wouldn’t you like to just worry less as a leader in general? Worrying is part of any job — that’s a given — and as you move into positions requiring more decisions, it feels as if the amount of worry can be at times insurmountable. However, we must learn to worry less, so we can focus positively on things we can change and leave ourselves with the energy to feel motivated to actually make those changes happen.
So, in addition to reflecting, how can we take it a step further and use our reflective practices to worry less?
1. Stop worry by writing down what you are most worried about2. Give yourself only a certain amount of time to worry about things you absolutely cannot control, and stick to that timeframe
3. Choose one positive in your life you can think about when doing idle things, such as driving or sitting for a long period of time
Worry itself is your brain figuring out if it wants to “fight through” what you are worried about or, instead, using the “flight” response, “worry about it tomorrow” or ignore it altogether. This tug of war in your brain is what causes the worry to persist. Using tools to better deal with worry will help you move from a place of stress to a place of action. This is a practice you can get better at, if you do it often.
So, leaders, reflect more to worry less. Focus your time efficiently, so you can leave yourself with time later to experience life inside and outside the workplace with less stress, and more productive conversations, outcomes, and relationships.