Congratulations come from all directions when we secure our first role as a leader of people in the workplace. It is very exciting to know we have been appointed in the role, to be acknowledged by our colleagues, other leaders and members of the new team.
This is also an opportunity to reflect on why you were appointed to the role as a leader, your achievements and the road you travelled to get there. To acknowledge when moving forward there is much you need to learn about leading people, your new responsibilities and recognizing your blind spots as they arise. We start to develop greater self-awareness through this self-reflection process.
Developing the ability of self-reflection to build self-awareness is an important skill as a leader, it helps us to understand the way we think and feel and how to understand and engage with others. Perhaps most importantly it can help minimize our blind spots, let’s explore:
You may recall a moment in your life when you acted in a particular way and suddenly had the thought “how did that happen” or ‘why did I just say or do that’. This can be an automatic response that sometimes occurs and may be positive or less so.
Intentional self-reflection requires us to stop and consider what has happened in these situations along with the impact it had on you mentally, physically and emotionally. It is the habit of taking the time to stop and pay attention to how you feel, what you are thinking, the decisions you have made or are about to make as well as your behaviours. You may also consider the persons contribution to what has happened.
Being objective during our self-reflection time allows us to consider what is unhelpful thinking and what is realistic. It is beneficial to consider both perspectives as we can identify what is not working in our favour and start to consider what could work more in our favour. Depending on the complexity of what could work more in our favour, it may be as simple as reframing our thoughts, an ongoing conscious effort to grow or speak with someone we trust to further explore our thoughts and feelings.
It may be helpful to set aside a small amount of time each day for self-reflection and it may also be beneficial immediately after an event. Some other opportunities may be through behaviour profiling tools such as DiSC or Myers Briggs, meditation, exercise or something else that will work for you.
Reflection with others
Creating an environment where it becomes normal for moments of reflection with team members, the whole team and your manager during scheduled weekly or fortnightly meetings can also be very beneficial. These conversations may create stronger relationships and higher levels of performance and behaviour.
Two simple questions to ask with high impact are ‘what is working well and why’ and ‘what can we improve and how”. It helps everybody to have a voice, creates mutual understanding and continually improves what we are all doing.
We may then reflect on how we stimulated the thinking and productive discussions with others.
The practice of self-reflection and reflection with others contributes to the ongoing development of our self-awareness.
Self-awareness is knowing and understanding our thoughts and feelings, what stimulates us and what pulls us down, our preferences and dislikes. We understand the impact we have on others and the impact individuals have on us. It is being 100% present in what we are doing and who we are doing it with.
When we are fully present with others our attention and focus is on them. It is similar to being in sync with yourself and the other person. We tend to know the questions to ask, the responses to provide or questions to ask that best suit the occasion. We openly and honestly explore different perspectives, possibilities and potential outcomes to achieve the best result. We understand and acknowledge mutual agreement may not be reached. We may accept this or take time out to further our thinking and options then reconvene.
Should a situation arise where various outcomes are explored and our preferred option is not selected then we feel comfortable to acknowledge and accept the better option and move forward with the best solution.
In reality, knowing, understanding and managing our behaviours may be routine for some whilst many of us may find it uncomfortable or troublesome. Take the time to recognise your thoughts and feelings and manage these for the greater good of ourselves and others.
Peter Cullen is a Fellow of IML ANZ and is a management training facilitator and coach.