The Level 5 Guide to Self-Reflection

Leadership and Self-Reflection: Why You Can’t Have One Without the Other

As we discussed in our last article (‘The Importance of Self-Reflection in Leadership: How to Begin and Make It a Habit’), leadership is not just about making decisions, but also about self-reflection.

You can use self-reflection to understand your strengths and weaknesses, so you can work on them and improve. It’s a great opportunity for you to get in touch with your emotions, thoughts, feelings, and desires. It helps you learn more about what you want from life and how you want your life to feel so that you can be successful in achieving it.

Self-reflection can:

  • Help you focus on your goals

  • Improve your self-awareness

  • Develop better perspectives

  • Help you to respond instead of reacting

In this article, we outline the process that we follow to embed, maintain, and sustain leadership reflection as a key element of each day.

5 steps to implementing habitual and effective self-reflection

To be successful with your self-reflection, you must first set goals for it. Be clear about what you want to accomplish by doing self-reflection. You must also consider if your daily habits support these goals, identify which are harmful and which are helpful, and use what you learn from your self-reflection to develop yourself purposefully.

Here are five steps to implement self-reflection as a consistent practice in your development as a leader.

  1. Schedule time for self-reflection

Set aside time for self-reflection. This is going to be new to you, so you may wish to start with 10 minutes once a week before developing a daily habit of self-reflection.

Whatever you do, don’t let this time slide. You should never be too busy to miss a self-reflection session. Block the time out in your diary. You’ll find that the more often you spend on reflective thinking, the more positive an impact it will have.

  1. Clear your mind before starting self-reflection

The benefits of self-reflection can only be gained when you are free from stress and can think clearly. Some people meditate for a few minutes beforehand. Others take a walk. Or you may prefer to move into self-reflection after a gym session. Use whatever technique you need to clear your mind before beginning. 

Whatever you do, remove yourself from all distractions, too. Turn off your cell phones and computers. Let those around you know that you are not to be disturbed. We’re not saying to sit in a darkened room, but you do need peace and solitude.

  1. Ask the questions leaders should ask themselves

During each period of self-reflection, you should ask leadership reflection questions that help you focus on how you can improve your performance. What are your wins? What lessons can you learn? What has fallen through the cracks?

Think about situations you have faced, and what you would do differently, and what you would do the same.

Consider meetings you have had or one-to-ones you have held. Perhaps a conflict in the workplace or a difficult client conversation. Did you handle it as well as you could?

Is there anything that you could have done to prevent something from happening?

What should you eliminate from your life? What has made you angry, or stressed, or unhappy? What can you do about it?

As you develop your self-reflection ability, consider both easy and hard questions, as you drill down to root causes. For example:

Q: “Why did I skip breakfast this morning?”

A: “Because I was late getting out of bed.”

Q: “Why was I late getting out of bed?”

A: “Because I didn’t hear my alarm.”

Q: “Why didn’t I hear my alarm?”

A: “Because there was a power cut, and the electric went off.”

Q: “What can I do to avoid this situation again?”

A: “Use a battery-powered alarm clock.”

It is this type of questioning that will help you realize the solutions to every problem you encounter so that mistakes are not repeated.

  1. Find your gratitudes and highlights

At the start of your journey of self-reflection, it is inevitable that you will focus on those things that are making you unhappy. The mistakes you are making and how to avoid them.

It is also important to spend time considering the things for which you are grateful, and the successes you have – your daily wins. Use a similar sequence of questioning to the one outlined above, to learn why a win has occurred – and then put in place actions to make those wins repeatable and automatic.

  1. Share your self-reflective discoveries with a mentor

Find a mentor with whom you can share your self-reflection experiences and what you have learned. Unpack your processes and experiences, and explore your conclusions. 

Even though you have taken all precautions to ensure that you are approaching self-reflection in the correct mindset, it is surprising how eye-opening a different perspective can be, including the insights and ideas that you may find difficult to develop – especially as a novice to self-reflection.

And finally… become a self-reflection journaling leader

We cannot learn and grow if we don’t understand our strengths and weaknesses and how we can improve on them. Asking for feedback is not enough. We need to take time out for self-reflection, and we also need to monitor our thoughts and progress.

A self-reflection journal will help you collect your thoughts and identify your challenges. The act of writing these down helps you unpack your feelings, discover the root causes, and plan the steps you need to take to improve as a person and as a leader.

Are you struggling to achieve your personal or professional potential? Book a free call with Level 5 Mentors today, and learn how we help our clients to 10x their growth.

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