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The Power of Reflection

  • Plan Team Meeting

  • Respond to emails

  • Performance Reviews

  • 1:1s with Team Members

  • More emails

  • Prepare 2025 budget

What would happen if we added “Thoughtful Reflection” to this daily to-do list?

More often than not as soon as we complete one task, we move right to the next thing on the list before taking a moment to reflect. Reflecting helps us to develop our skills and review their effectiveness, rather than just carry on doing things as we have always done them. It is about questioning, in a positive way, what we do and why we do it and then deciding whether there is a better, or more efficient, way of doing it in the future.

Many years ago during a quarterly meeting with my team, a treasured colleague became unexpectedly emotional when referencing an upcoming move. She had bought her first home, which was exciting, but that also meant she was leaving her mother and sister, who had been her touchstones for her entire life. Rather than hold space with her, respond to her with the empathy an emotionally intelligent leader might have demonstrated, I went all Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms on her, focusing solely on the positive.

This interaction nagged at me the rest of the day, and beyond. It is through reflection that I accepted I handled that situation poorly, how I lost an opportunity to develop deeper trust with her and the rest of the team. I was looking at the situation from my own perspective, trying to make her feel better, which in hindsight she did not want or need. It is through reflection I discovered my toxic trait and learned how to become a more self aware leader and hopefully a better friend.

Although we no longer work together, we remain in touch and since then I have apologized to her for this blunder several times. She graciously says she doesn’t recall the incident. [She did, however, confess she had to google the Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms reference].

An aside: You know how you were always the youngest person at work, until [not so] suddenly you’re not? Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms and countless other examples force me again and again to be painfully aware of the gap.

Sigh. I digress.

Research shows the habit of reflection can separate extraordinary professionals from mediocre ones. Harvard Business Review goes so far as to argue that it’s the foundation that all other [human] skills grow from.  The practice itself is all about learning, looking back on the day to contemplate your behavior and its consequences. It requires sitting with yourself, taking an honest moment to think about what transpired, what worked, what didn’t, what can be done, and what can’t.

Reflection requires courage. It’s thoughtful and deliberate. Being at the “top of your game” only comes when you consistently extract from your past how to engage the future.

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