As we begin a new year are you like many asking ourselves who we want to be in the new year?  Reflection is a powerful self-improvement tool many of the greatest leaders use.  Reflection involves the leadership questions you ask yourself before establishing priorities and goals for the new year.

“Learning without reflecting is a waste.  Reflecting without learning is dangerous”. Confucius

“Follow effective actions with quiet reflection.  From the quiet reflection will come even more effective actions.” Peter Drucker

Fun fact on the author of our last quote – Peter Drucker, in addition to being one of the most influential thinkers in management of all time he had over 20 honorary degrees from colleges and universities all around the world.  20!  So here’s a man whose work was so influential that these institutions of higher learning wanted his name associated with them.  That’s technically all an honorary degree is.  A way for a school to connect someone’s credentials, their accomplishments, their brand to the school.

That’s influence.  Creating an image so great that a university will give you FOR FREE something that has value in the US of let’s say 10’s of thousands of dollars.  So I ask you who wants your name associated with them?  What are you doing to build your brand? How are you manifesting your influence so that others want to be connected to you?  Maybe not colleges giving you degrees FOR FREE, but how about someone being proud to say “hey, I’m on so and so’s team.  This is the team you want to be on.”

I have an acquaintance who’s a speaker and author who would say it this way “do people salivate when they hear your name.” Extreme right?  Creating that culture where being on your team evokes more action and better results because people on your team want to be able to continue to connect themselves with your brand and to do that they know they need to perform.

Whew!  That’s influence!  That’s leadership!

Reflection

Leaders let’s take just a couple of minutes here and discuss reflection and the leadership questions you ask yourself.

First, what is it?  Reflection is about questioning, in a positive way, what you do, what you say and why you do or say it and then deciding if there is perhaps a better way.  Why it’s important? Self-reflection is essential for personal growth. Taking the time to create self-awareness will allow you to challenge your thoughts and to uncover breakthroughs. Without it, we have the potential to be reactive to people and situations. Reactive is not a position of power or influence.  It’s a defense.

Here’s another reason why.  We all know that growth requires change.  Change requires two things.  A starting point, where you are currently. And, a destination, what you are going to change.  Without creating self-awareness through reflection, it is going to be very difficult to assess the gap between the two and the proper actions needed to close the gap.

Here are 3 times when reflection can come into play.

Before you respond.

This one is my greatest area for opportunity.  I am a chronic interrupter. Have you ever said something and instantly regretted it?  Take the time to pause before responding.  Reflect on the outcome your words may have and select your words wisely.

Following a situation or conversation.

Here’s a real-life example.  There is a leader I have worked with who’s first reaction to everything is negative.  It doesn’t matter how great the plan, or the idea is she won’t like it.  Rejecting new thoughts could be in the way of her growth, her team’s growth and is keeping her from reaching the next level.  This is why so many leaders reach a plateau.  They had good ideas early on that got them the promotion, but now they need to expand and collaborate, but they are not accepting of the ideas of others.

To her credit, she practices reflection regularly.  She doesn’t say no and forget it.  She spends the time to think it through.  Usually by the next day not only has she accepted the plan she is already putting steps to action. I have even witnessed her quoting the initial presentation with amazing enthusiasm to sell her team on the idea.  Yep, the very talking points she rejected the day before.  She puts her ego aside and reconsiders.

Is there still opportunity for her?  Absolutely. But without taking the time to reflect she may have plenty of time updating her resume.

And, the third time to take a moment and reflect is before setting goals.

Recently I’ve listened to Matthew McConaughey on several podcasts discussing his new book Greenlights.  One of the life lessons he shares is embracing solitude.  One example he shared is when his career had a breakthrough and he hit it big.  Most would ride the tide of that instant fame and accept all movie offers that came their way.  He knew this was not for him.  He needed time to hear himself think and ask himself these tough questions: What do all these opportunities mean? What do I want to do? Who am I? What kind of work do I want to do? Although we love him in ROCO’s without reflection there might never have been Dallas Buyers Club, Mud and Lonestar.

There you have it.  If you are looking to be the best version of yourself, pause and reflect these three times: before responding, after a situation, and before establishing goals.

Leaders, spend the last few days of 2020 reflecting on your routines, your goals, your emotions, and your relationships.  What really matters most as the calendar turns to a new year and who do you want to be in 2021?

“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” John Dewey

And here’s a fun one from Pete Hall and Alisa Simoral “The more reflective you are, the more effective you are.”

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