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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?