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There are many aspects to developing effectiveness as a leader.

Understanding the context you are in while adapting to the evolving needs of your stakeholder groups, offering clarity or direction in times of doubt and staying true to your values when they are being challenged are just three aspects to being an effective leader. We believe that what makes practices stick is the development of a discipline of reflection as another aspect to developing effectiveness as a leader.

The power of reflection is well known. Socrates, the first ever leadership coach, famously said a life unexamined is not worth living, or words to that effect. Tim Ferris, host of the most downloaded business podcasts on Apple iTunes, says that 93% of his guests have a discipline of daily or regular journaling as part of a reflective practise.

Our recent global experience of Covid-19 has surfaced an outpouring of pondering and question asking. What is the new normal? Do I want to go back to an office? Do I have to travel to see clients when I can video call them- it worked fine for the last three months!

On a personal level we have had many conversations with leaders who are asking more searching questions of themselves including, what does my world of work mean to me? What is striving in the new normal? Do I want to continually strive going forward given how much I have appreciated ‘being at home’ in the last few months?

We believe these are great questions and worth exploring in a reflective practise.

But, if reflection is useful, how does a leader maximise the practise of reflecting?

There are many ways to do so. Just asking questions as per the example as above is a good place to start. But reflecting in an ad hoc or unstructured way is going to have a limited impact.

When we are working with leaders, we invite them to foster an end of the week discipline to create a structure of reflective learning. We recommend the leader takes 10-15 minutes each Friday or Saturday morning to think through three questions.

The same questions are used each week for at least three months, i.e. twelve weeks. Many leaders email us their reflections each week. Some prefer to talk them through in a bi-weekly call. Others compile them and collate overarching insights each month.

No matter what the preference is for each leader, the structured discipline of asking these questions raises the power of reflection to beyond ad hoc into a discipline that can be transformative. Surfacing and recognising patterns of behaviour bring to light times when the leader is very impactful or maybe on occasions is unwittingly destructive. The power of pausing to ponder at the end of the week brings a close to that week’s leadership effort and impact. But it also opens the door to a fresh start the following week. A start that is influenced from a learning perspective.

Always a good way to recommence the new week.

Our suggested questions include:

  1. What did I focus on this week? Why? What was the impact of my focus on our larger plans and objectives?
  2. What did I learn this week?  What am I noticing about my leadership impact as a result of that learning?
  3. What would I do differently now, given what I have learned?

We invite you to trial these questions at the end of each week. You do not necessarily need a partner like a leader advisor or Executive coach to send your answers to each week. Share your insights with a friend, a colleague, your spouse. Indeed, the discipline of answering these questions in a solo effort each week will elevate your learning and leadership impact.

If you would like to find out more or discuss your leadership context and what help you might need, contact us here.

Padraig (Pod) O’Sullivan is the Founding Partner of The Leadership Context, a leadership advisory firm specialising in top team development and accelerating leadership transitions. He is the author of the award winning ‘Foreigner In Charge’ book series.

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Greg Lourey is a Partner within The Leadership Context. His background in financial advisory, psychotherapy, as a musician, a pilot and martial arts student, makes every conversation with him an interesting one.

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