This isn't just a leadership tool, it's a basic personal development cornerstone. Without it, you are completely handicapped. With it, you can capitalize on your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses. However, it is time-intensive and must be purposefully engaged; therefore, it is often neglected.
Let's face it, unless you have an unbelievably amazing staff or you're a lazy leader, there is very little free time at the top. There is always more to do. The corner office might have a great view, but it likely doesn't get appreciated by the frenzied executive who spends the majority of their waking hours in that space.
My first three years as a leader are a blur. The pace was grueling and exciting. When I left my job, life went from 100 mph to 0. It was only then that I began to truly reflect on my experiences in leadership, the lessons I learned the hard way, and the larger impact I could have had if I just stepped away for a few minutes to refine my approach.
It's difficult to make time to do nothing when there is so much to do.
Productive reflection truly requires the absence of productivity. It's about time and space to simply absorb, digest, and consider our experiences.
Given the right environment, both mentally and physically, reflection leads to clarity and creativity. We gain a broader understanding of what we are doing and how we are doing it. Most importantly, we become acutely aware of our internal barriers to success and this insight can drive breakthrough change.
One of my brilliant clients reminded me of the classic tool, the Johari Window:
We get moving so quickly as leaders that we often shutter all but the known, public self. We don't make the time and space for reflecting on who we are as a person and as a leader.
Much of what we hide from public view can and should be integrated back in, producing a whole and genuine person that others can trust and follow.
Much of what we are currently blind to is readily accessible if we take the time to consider how others interact with us, how we respond to stress, and how our stakeholders view our actions.
This level of perspective is game changing.
Imagine the value of consistently engaging in your own proactive 360 degree assessment; refining your ability to observe and apply the feedback that others are constantly providing you about your personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
You may have moved into leadership because you're goal-oriented and driven, but you won't succeed as a leader if you continue to apply yourself solely to production without the aid of adequate reflection.
This goes for most challenges, including marriage, parenting, friendship, or starting a business.
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius
Take 15 minutes today, away from work and email and people, and allow yourself to put the pieces of the puzzle together in order to connect with the bigger picture.