Executive Master of Leadership Blog

3 Simple Ways to Practice Self-Reflection

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 24, 2018 9:42:00 AM / by USC Price

When leaders refuse to reflect on observations and experiences carefully, they forgo opportunities to grow as a leader.

Do you feel like the world moves too fast? Do you have more room for excuses than places to sit quietly?

When leaders refuse to reflect on observations and experiences carefully, they forgo opportunities to grow as a leader. For instance, a leader may believe he or she is an excellent communicator and servant to their team, but if the employees feel otherwise, it can create problems in everyday culture.

Self-reflection can come in many forms, including meditation. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, Oprah Winfrey, and even Jerry Seinfeld have all credited some form of meditation to their success. Weiner believes it helps him develop empathy and compassion, while Oprah feels it enriches her faith. Either way, studies show that self-reflection, be it meditation or otherwise, is a powerful method to reduce stress and enable people in leadership positions to make better decisions.

With each new generation of employees entering the workforce, self-reflection has become a necessary soft-skill in developing executive leadership. In order to continue growing as a leader, follow these three simple steps for practicing self-reflection. 

3 Simple Steps to Practicing Self-Reflection

Jennifer Porter, a contributor to the Harvard Business Review states, "The most useful reflection involves the conscious consideration and analysis of beliefs and actions for the purpose of learning."

Reflection enables leaders to create meaning from their experiences. "Meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions. For leaders, this 'meaning making' is crucial to their ongoing growth and development", Porter writes.

Take the Leadership Style Self-Assessment

1. Identify important questions

Before choosing a method or scheduling a time on your calendar, it may be helpful to prepare some questions to reflect upon.

  • Am I maintaining emotional intelligence with my team?
  • Am I communicating as clearly and concisely as I think?
  • Am I getting stressed over things I can’t control?

Porter suggests considering issues like “How am I helping my colleagues achieve their goals?” and looking at the opposite, “How am I not helping, or even hindering, their progress?”

Like any other meditative practice, it helps to acknowledge and healthily address the places where you may fall short. It will also create an easily repeatable routine that can be maintained even during the most intense periods of stress.

2. Choose a method

Sitting cross-legged on a cushion doesn't work for everyone. What many leaders often mistakenly do is try to speed up their productivity when they’re feeling overwhelmed instead of taking time to slow down. Even if you don’t know how to meditate, the cessation of work for even a half an hour can be a great place to start.

Former CEO of Baxter International Harry Kraemer stated, “Instead of constant acceleration, leadership demands periods of restraint and consideration.”

The only goal of self-reflection is to look inward on situations and being present to the thoughts that arise. Walking, running, sitting in a chair, or writing is an excellent way to practice self-reflection.

3. Schedule time

Setting time specifically for self-reflection will help you hold yourself accountable for practicing this essential leadership skill. Porter suggests starting small with 10 minutes.

As you hone your self-reflection skills, you'll be able to reflect for extended periods of time. Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, the practice requires commitment to be effective. If you dedicate yourself to the practice of self-reflection you’re on your way to growing as a leader.

Wrapping it Up

Powering through periods of intense stress to get everything done may seem like the path of least resistance. However, if you can spare the time, the respite from stress can increase long-term productivity, help you maintain your priorities, and ultimately strengthen your team.

As Kraemer states, “How can you possibly prioritize or allocate if you haven’t figured out what really matters?” Kraemer says that self-reflection has helped him allocate responsibilities and in doing so minimize surprises. By practicing self-reflection, leaders develop foresight and become better situated for anticipating outcomes that could happen.

Lastly, self-reflection can positively influence other soft leadership skills such as feedback, positivity, creativity, motivation, and communication. With consistent practice, self-reflection will become an essential component of your daily routine. Looking inward at how you lead and actively sharpening your soft skills will elevate your team’s performance, leading to more significant areas of self-improvement.


Topics: Leadership Skills

USC Price

Written by USC Price

The USC Price School of Public Policy's Executive Master of Leadership degree program is designed for experienced professionals ready to take their leadership to the next level.

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