6 Powerful Ways Leaders Reflect, and how Reflection Makes Your Team Great

What is reflection for leaders?

Reflection sounds like a passive exercise you do by yourself.  It seems to involve sitting in a chair in a darkened room and journaling about the meaning of things.  Maybe that’s part of it, but I think for leaders there is much more to it than that.

Leaders reflect actively, selectively, constantly, and in public.  And through their active reflection, they build skillful, capable teams that continuously become better versions of themselves.  Here’s how they do it.

6 Powerful Ways Leaders Reflect, and how Reflection Makes Your Team Great

Active Reflection

Leaders reflect the good.   One study found that on high-performing teams, for every negative comment made, there are four to five comments that are positive.  Leaders look for the good in what their teammates are doing and find ways positively reinforce them.  In doing so, they reflect positive energy back to the team.

Reflect the good things back to your team and you’ll get more of the same. Click To Tweet

Leaders reflect on what just happened.  The busier we become, the more important it is to find time to pause after significant events and think about what happened.

One effective way is to use the Stop/Start/Continue approach.  Identify what went wrong so you can STOP doing it, what would improve performance that you can START doing, and what you should CONTINUE to do that is working well for the team.

Another way is to make a habit of holding frequent, focused After Action Reviews.  Reflecting as a team is a proven way to continually improve performance.

Make team reflection a habit, and you'll make a habit of becoming a better team. Click To Tweet

Leaders help others reflect.  Candid, constructive feedback is essential for anyone to grow.  Leaders take the time for meaningful talks with their teammates to help them reflect on where they are doing well, and identify ways to add to their skill sets and raise their game.

Key point:  Don’t wait for the annual review; frequent, timely, informal feedback is what makes the difference.

Don’t wait for the annual review to coach teammates; help them reflect daily. Click To Tweet

Leaders reflect trust.    When you reflect a willingness to trust others, people generally try to be worthy of that confidence.  When you “mind the gap” and consistently demonstrate in all things that there is no space between what you say and what you do, trust grows and teamwork rises.

Trying to build trust? Be trust-worthy. Click To Tweet

Leaders reflect before engaging.  When it’s time to have that tough conversation, start with a little empathy.   Think about what the experience might have been like from their perspective and how your actions either helped or hindered.

Approach the discussion with an open mind, focus on behaviors, and keep in mind that they probably weren’t trying to fail on purpose.

Openness to change begins with empathy. Click To Tweet

Leaders reflect their aspirations.  Look at any person you admire, and you will find that they themselves had role models, mentors, and heroes that they tried to emulate.  Study the lives and actions of the people that inspire you, and reflect the best of their qualities in what you do every day.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. – Aristotle Click To Tweet

Leaders Reflect – The Takeaway

When leaders reflect in these ways, they find that over time their team will begin to reflect as well.

Their teams will reflect the positive, reflect after key events, reflect with each other, reflect trust, and reflect before they engage.

And in all that reflection, they reflect one thing more.

If you pause to look, you can see that they become a reflection of the leader.

Want to know what your future team will be like?

Look in the mirror.  It starts with you.

What are you reflecting?

Lead on!

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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