Recent performance discussions with my team prompted me to muse a little bit about reflections and the power of reflective thinking. In my mind, the biggest single value of formal performance discussions is that it prompts us to pause, reflect, and decide what we want to take away and change from those insights. Forget the forms and processes – instead, focus on the insights you can take away.
So here it goes, my reflection on the power and value of (more than annual) reflections.
Reflect to celebrate and be proud
The most immediate benefit we get from reflecting on what happened in the past is usually a feeling of accomplishment and happiness. All too often, we are solely focused on what lies ahead, and we miss recognizing and being proud of what we have already achieved. Especially in today’s busy life, it is easy to look back at a day, week, month, or year and wonder what we had actually done and accomplished during that time.
Continuously and frequently reflecting allows us to balance the scale and not only see what still lies ahead but also be proud of what has already been accomplished. Write those accomplishments down to make them real for your brain; otherwise, they will be forgotten in an instant.
Reflect to celebrate. Reflect to be proud. Reflect to feel accomplished and happy.
Reflect to acknowledge and share appreciation
Similarly, we often forget to appreciate contribution and achievement from the ones who help us move along – family, friends, co-workers. Reflection is an opportunity to pause, think about all the help we received along the way, and express a quick but heartfelt “Thank you”.
We can only succeed together, and the true leader is not defined by what they accomplish but how they engage those around them to boldly go beyond their perceived limitations.
Reflect to say thank you. Reflect to appreciate. Reflect to encourage.
Reflect to learn
Last not least, we all make mistakes all the time. And that’s ok. It’s how we learn and grow.
Reflection helps us to analyze situations in hindsight and with the 20:20 vision that hindsight provides. If we don’t reflect, we are bound to make the same mistakes over and over again. If we reflect, learn, and adjust future actions accordingly, we will embrace those slips and use them as inspiration to grow.
The only thing we can really change is the “Man in the mirror” as the famous philosopher Michael Jackson told us back in 1988 (yep, I know, I just dated myself).
Hindsight is 20:20. However, you can only benefit from this clarity if you look back with the intent to learn.
As you dive into your reflections, find ways to share them. Keep everyone on the same page and take the people in your life along your learning journey. Do this, and you will get double the benefit for the same amount of time and work.
Reflections are a powerful tool, and they are a lot of fun once you get into the habit. You can do them daily (e.g., journals, work logs), weekly (e.g., status updates, learnings, plans for the coming week, this email), annually (e.g., annual discussions, progress on strategic goals, and necessary course corrections, post-mortems), or anywhere in between. The more often you reflect on past experiences and outcomes and let those reflections inform future priorities and corrective actions, the more you will benefit. Personally, I do all three of them.
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