The Power of ReflectionDec 17, 2023
As you race around to wrap up your holiday shopping and your end of the year business goals I want to encourage you to slow down a bit and spend some time reflecting on your professional accomplishments and setbacks from the year. People don’t talk about the power of reflection very often. We seem to just be too busy crossing things off our to-do list. Research shows reflection may be the secret sauce to greater success.
Be careful to avoid regret while reflecting. The goal is to learn from your past realities in a way that allows you to uplevel decisions moving forward. Don’t sugar coat the past, but don’t wallow in it either. Be honest and think about what worked and what didn’t. This takes courage and intentionality. Which of the myriad of things that happened this year deserve a little extra thought to determine what you should keep doing, what you should stop doing and what new strategies you need to create to enjoy greater results. Bottom line: make a list of at least three things you learned this year.
Harvard Business Review did a survey of 442 executives to see which experiences most advanced their professional development. The research found three main themes: surprise, failure and frustration.
I don’t know anyone who likes to be surprised professionally. Most business leaders work hard to research their plans to create desired outcomes and when things don’t go as planned we’re thrown off track and let’s face it we’re dealing with humans and we can’t always predict how people will react: our customers or our team members. When we expect one thing to happen and something very different happens, we struggle. Lapses in judgments, wrong assumptions and mistakes deserve our reflection.
Here’s the difference between surprise and failure. We can usually keep surprises to ourselves but our failures are often seen by others. When we take the time to reflect on our failures, as painful as they can be, we’re more likely to never make THAT mistake again. Harvard’s research provided, “raw evidence of what we should not do in the future.” We all know, even if we don’t like it, we learn from our mistakes. But we can’t learn from our failures, if we don’t take the time to reflect.
I don’t know anyone who enjoys being frustrated, but it happens a lot in business. Our products didn’t arrive on time. A client didn’t like the service we provided or that critical project cost twice as much as we budgeted. These are just a few common frustrations we face as business leaders. The leaders surveyed shared, frustration became growth opportunities upon reflection and that leads to change, improvements, problem solving and innovation. Four pretty awesome outcomes, don’t you think?
Hopefully now you see the power of reflection. Don’t wait until the end of next year to do it again. Create a weekly practice for yourself moving into 2024. You can find lots of ideas online, but I’ve been using a simple technique for years. Each Sunday afternoon, while relaxing on the coach, I reflect on the previous week with three simple questions.
- What? I ask myself what worked and what didn’t work last week.
- So what? Then, I think about how that impacted our organization either in a good way or a bad way.
- Now what? Finally, I process my next steps based on last week’s results. What will I stop doing? What will I keep doing? And what will I do differently?
This allows me to process the events strategically and move away from the emotion of disappointments. I’m not recommending ignoring your emotions. Laugh, cry, vent, do whatever you need to process them during the week, but when that week comes to a close, it’s time to move on.
I hope these simple tips help you see the power of reflection and encourage you to give it a try.