“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.”

When I started my first business my growth curve was like a vertical cliff. I would often tell my newly recruited staff “Hey – I’m new to this too”. As the company grew so did the hours I worked.  I loved the thrill of a deal, the development of staff, the excitement of growth. As my business followed the typical S curve I did all I could to try and ensure the growth continued. Looking back with that wonderful thing called hindsight, I wish I’d taken a step back, looked in a mirror, and studied the reality rather than perception of my situation.

The problem is many leaders are time poor, and I was no different. Rushing from meeting to meeting, phone in hand whilst keeping at bay the various sharks which seek to rip us apart. Not much time for reflection there.

Which is why creating time for reflection is so important. Forget the forward, greater, stronger mantra for a second. Take your foot off the accelerator, slow down and stop. Now look. Really look. See yourself and your business for what it really is, rather than what we hope it is.

Internal reflection is expression without words, a calm, lengthy and internal consideration. We’re able to review our experiences and challenges. To absorb the realities of a situation. Prioritise problems and actions. Find new solutions by linking experiences, commonalities or interrelations.

As we reflect we raise our awareness as to the true causes of an issue, and where we really stand in relation to them. Such awareness has the power to be life changing, as we are able to recognise our passive response thus far. Instead we gain clarity, focus and a determination to act in line with our character, values and vision.

Activities to help us reflect include;

  • Pro actively taking time out from activity in order to think, in a relaxed setting. Many leaders I speak to state walking the dog provides for such a time. It’s also why some leaders stress the need for a lunch hour – as it creates time away from the coal face. Prayer or meditation are powerful reflective techniques and proven to make us happier.
  • Writing a personal journal which focusses (reflects) on the days/week’s events, personal emotions and responses, thoughts and fears. (I can hear you now – but I don’t have time! Listen to yourself.. What are you really saying?).​ 
  • Working with an executive coach or business coach (or even life coach) whose coaching style enables such personal and organisational reflection. The greatest tool the coach has is asking the right questions, at the right time.. You’d be surprised how powerful a question can be.​

Here are some questions to ask yourself as a starter for ten, and see if you can take just a couple of minutes to reflect on the answers; When was the last time you took time out to reflect? If you were to reflect, what might you gain? What’s stopping you from reflecting? What have you lost sight of? Where are ‘you’ in your activity? If you could change one thing to be more effective – what would it be?​

A big regret of mine is that I didn’t reflect enough with my first business. I wish I had a) forced myself to take more time off, b) given myself down time during the working week to really rest and reflect and c) engaged with the services of a business coach or mentor who had been there/done that. I firmly believe doing so would have made me far more successful. And by success I don’t just mean pounds, shillings and pence.

Flickr image by Tasha Chawner.