How to Get into a Good Habit of Leadership Reflections

watch-icon April 16, 2021

How to Get into a Good Habit of Leadership Reflections

Reflective practice is important for leadership.  

If you think about reflective practice as a learning experience, rather than what we normally do, beat ourselves up. Generally we tell ourselves a story and then go over and over and over it, and then we look for all the ways in which the people in the story confirm that story in our mind.  

It might be after a situation where we’ve put a new idea forward at work and the new idea has received criticism. What’s our first port of call? Do we beat ourselves up for putting the idea forward? Do we think ourselves stupid because we didn’t think about all of the things that the criticizer has told us? Or do we go through a reflective practice to learn from the experience.  

Through my consulting and coaching work I regularly have conversations with leaders. These are good leaders, leaders who care about their people. They care about the outcomes, they care about their customer. And they work hard to understand themselves and the people around them. I’m very fortunate to get to work with these good leaders.  

Through our coaching conversations, we’ve explored many things. One of the common elements that comes up over and over again, is self doubt.  The constant battle with the inner voice that tells us we are not enough. The first question to ask when you hear that voice starting is  

“am I beating myself up or am I reflecting for learning?”  

The distinct difference is, when I’m beating myself up over something, or I just have a constant internal dialogue I’m just going over and over the same material. It’s the internal critical voice that can be useful or not useful, depending on how we engage it. Sometimes, the difference between a formal reflective practice and an internal critical dialogue is an expectation that if I beat myself up first, I’ll get in before others beat me up.  

If I criticize myself, then when others criticize me, I’ll be prepared.  

Unfortunately, this isn’t what we do. We criticize ourselves, and then they criticize and we feel the pain twice, instead of once. Also, we end up reinforcing that pain when we hear criticism from somebody else instead of our intent which was to avoid the pain. Beating ourselves up, listening to that inner critical voice without a formal practice is dangerous, because we start to look outside of ourselves for validation, instead of inside of ourselves for validation.   

It’s an essential underlying principle of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.  

So what do you do instead? Well, we do a formal reflective practice. Now there are a number of ways you can do a formal reflective practice. If you read the book, Dare to Lead™ by Dr. Brené Brown, or you’ve attended one of our Dare to Lead™ training programs, then you’ll know the reflective practice that includes the SFD or the ‘shitty first draft’. This is a formal and lengthy validation process and reflective practice that helps us understand failure and learning to rise again. It is a robust and valuable reflective practice. However we don’t always have the time for a big formal reflective practice. I’m a fan of starting small, because starting small means that you can integrate it into your life.  

Here’s a formal reflective practice that you can do on your journey home from work, whether you’re in the car, riding your bike, on public transport, or walking.  You can do this reflective practice at the end of every encounter, because it only takes between three (3) and ten (10) minutes to do depending on how much time and effort you want to put into it.

There are three questions that I asked myself, which are my everyday formal reflective practice. I asked myself these three questions at the end of the day, and also after interactions that either went very well or went very badly. Three simple questions that you can add into your reflective practice.  

Remember, the key component of this reflective practice is reflecting for learning.  

  • Question one. What went well?  
  • Question two. What could have gone better?  
  • Question three. What was my part? And what have I learned as a result?  

A bonus question that you can ask yourself, if you are an action oriented individual and want to get busy with change is “what action can I take now as a result of what I’ve learned?”  

If you get into a habit of asking yourselves, these few simple questions when you feel the inner critic coming to life, then you will start to get into a habit of reflecting for learning.  

You must get out of the habit of finding way to criticizing yourself and beat yourself up if you want to be a strong, competent, healthy and satisfied leader.  

If you want to know more about the Dare to Lead™ training program, the reflective practices that we build into our day, or if you’re interested in engaging a coach that can help you get into the habit of reflective practice. Please get in touch with us.

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Michelle Holland