The Importance of Reflection

Do you want to accelerate the development of high-potential leaders in your organization?  The time-tested model is very simple.  Put them into stretch situations where they have to work hard and well to achieve their goals.  And then give them the opportunity to reflect on what they learned.

Most organizations are much better at the first step than the second one.  Business leaders tend to be people of action.  How many companies do you know that operate on the principle of “Ready, Fire, Aim!”  Business leaders tend to barge ahead from one project to the next, without stopping to gather the learnings from what they have done.

This is a big problem for developing excellence in business leadership.  It leads to organizational amnesia and to a tendency to make the same mistakes over and over again.  It leads to ignoring or covering up failures, rather than discussing and learning from them.  And it interferes with the learning and growth of the next generation of leaders.

How can business leaders foster reflection as part of their leadership style?

  • Set aside time in your schedule to think.  In its glory days, IBM had the slogan “THINK” emblazoned on its walls.
  • Schedule post-mortems on projects to discuss what worked and what didn’t work.  Doctors do this about their patients, and it’s a great idea for other settings as well.
  • Work with a coach.  Helping executives reflect on themselves and their organizations is a big part of what coaching is about.
  • Ask questions of the people you are mentoring that encourage them to reflect on their work.

What do you do to build reflection into your leadership style?

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