Reflections on Reflection

I got me a posse!

Last week I spent three days immersed with a project team dedicated to enhancing the community leadership that will result in active, creative, and engaged communities.

As one of the group pointed out, it was like running with a pack of horses who took great joy in running fast and hard. Generally, we headed in the same direction but there were also a lot of diversions as the lead often changed, we slowed down to make sure others were running with us, or, interesting and sometimes prickly or insightful detours were taken.

In the end, the deep, rich discussion and wisdom in the room resulted in clear and often innovative direction. 

Despite the exhilarating ride, some of us also left at the end of three days feeling a bit uneasy.

There’s something about being in a room for three days having real conversations with people you trust and care about that contributes to a very different environment. The difference seems to be that there is time to exchange the stories and personal anecdotes that allow you to really get to know one another. These trusted relationships seem to lead to an environment where others poke and prod - sometimes deliberately, sometimes unintentionally -  beneath the surface and the front that each of us typically presents to the world.

As a result I think most of us walked away having learning something about ourselves that we hadn’t planned on learning that ultimately has made us grow.

It also reinforced that stories, relationships and the reflections they bring are tools that can impact our lives in a positive way. Additionally it made me realize how little time we make for both conversations and reflections.

The challenge is that in our fast paced world, people can’t or don’t make time for stopping to connect and reflect.

It seems to me that previous generations did much more connecting and reflecting. Instead of gathering around the television as we too often do today, our parents and grandparents used to gather around the kitchen table or sit on the front porch not only to relax but to tell stories and reflect.
It may also be that we don’t reflect because we don’t realize its importance, value it, or know how to do it.

But the truth is we sometimes reflect and adjust our golf game more than we do our own reactions to others. The same way golfers analyze and adjust their swings to get better so too do we need to stop and think about matters related to our job and life performance.

The same way golfers analyze what they could have done, should have done, or might have done on the golf course and then adjust their game to get better is what we need to do in thinking about matters related to our job and life performance.

So how can we get better at job and life reflections?

Our team has learned to formalize this process by simply adding an item to every meeting agenda called “learnings”. It forces each of us to think about what we’ve learned since the last meeting or during the current one.

During our most recent retreat we added an evening storytelling session complete with a circle of chairs, hot chocolate, and even a rocking chair that each of us moved to as we voluntarily shared our stories. As we listened, we not only got to know one another on a deeper level, we were also forced to reflect on what moved us or triggered a reaction.

More of our team leaders are also making time to blog as it too is a form of reflection not unlike keeping a journal.

Each of us also needs to carve out the time for reflection. Mine often happens in the shower or while walking. It also tends to happen more when the television is turned off.

It also means we need to get more skilled at asking the right kind of reflective questions. I know that for me writing this column is a form of reflection each week. Faced with a non-movable deadline, I’m forced to stop and think - What worked this week? What didn’t work?  What situation triggered emotional responses? What can I learn from that situation? What would I do differently next time? 

I’m also learning to look for what that reflection tells me about values, principles, patterns, and systems. Along the way I’m finding that the more I do it, the more I see it as a valuable tool that helps me grow as an individual and in my leadership work.

But perhaps this time I’ve gone too far? Seems to me I’ve just written about reflection on reflection. Hmmm.




Posted on 03-01-09

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