Without reflection there can be no learning. This is one of the conundrums of modern corporate life. Finding Leaders who say they don’t have enough time is common place. Activity rules. Agreeing strategy and action plans, budgeting and monitoring, investigating new partners or possibilities, chasing down deals, integrating new businesses, selling off businesses, delivering consistent high quality services, innovating. The doing list is without end.
I was with a highly experienced HRD this week who said his greatest concern is that the Leaders in his organisation have little or no time to reflect. Per se, this doesn’t sound critical: after all if people keep producing outputs, surely that’s the most important thing? But it’s actually the spin offs of no reflection that are unseen, and over time business limiting, because we get caught in the “if you do what you’ve always done, you get what you’ve always got” paradigm.
We all know that when we take time to zoom out of “the here and now” and hover like a helicopter from above, that we see something different because it is a new perspective that we have from a high. This in itself is a step forward, but the reflection could still be very focused on task. Actually the thing that will transform leaders and their organisations is reflection on the way they lead and unleash capability and thinking in others. And then using this reflective practice as a step on the journey to developing their leadership presence and impact is key.
No one can make Leaders learn: they have to do it for themselves. But my job is to help them in their learning process so it becomes integrated in their leadership practice and has sustainable outcomes for those around them. That’s why in my view a “sheep dipping” approach to leadership development has some immediate benefit but is unlikely to be long lasting or transformational for the individual or the organisation.
The learning cycle has ‘reflection’ as one of the first stages in it. If we don’t reflect on what our impact is now then how can we start to think about what we would like it to be? We need to learn to be observers of ourselves in order to become attuned to our impact. What is working and what is limiting? Throughout this process, reflection is called for. For example: why did that meeting go well? Why did that one to one not feel great? What are the triggers for me as I go into this situation? What do I want to avoid? What do the people in my team require of me now? I know my natural response in this situation is X, but do I want to behave differently? The business is going into a new phase: what does that call me to step up to?
When Leaders stop developing themselves through this process of reflection and modifying, sure as eggs are eggs their organisations will feel the ripple effect. Show me an organisation that is stuck, and I can guarantee its leaders are also stuck. The mantra of “if it’s not broken don’t fix it”, will sooner or later come and trip you up. In this dynamic world that we live in, reflection is not a luxury. It is essential.
For more information, please contact Judith Nicol.