Why Adding Self-Reflection to Development Programs is a Good Thing

The unexamined life is not worth living. ~Socrates

Lately, I’ve noticed the term self-reflection popping up in a lot of articles about leadership, management, and coaching. Long a believer in the power of self-reflection, I think it’s an important addition to any employee development program, since it can lead employees to real clarity about their goals and role in an organization.

It’s amazing what we can discover when we take the time to sit back and reflect. It doesn’t even have to be in writing. Simply pausing to review the outcome of a business call or a meeting can provide us with insight about ourselves. Once we have that insight, we can use it to repeat what went well or change what needs to be done differently.

Several years ago, I was delighted to work on an onboarding event that included a component of self-reflection through journaling and other self-reflective and assessment activities that participants could choose to share with their peers. Later, I incorporated the same idea into workshops on leadership and diversity, all with great success. Here are a few of my favorite self-reflection exercises. Many don’t take more than a minute. Try these and see what you discover. Can they be added to your next program?

  1. One minute: In one minute, make a list of adjectives about your job. No pausing to contemplate. Just write the first thing that comes to mind and keep writing. Read over the list. What did you learn?Renton_ReflectionBlog
  2. Most significant: At the end of every day, write down the most significant thing that happened to you that day. Do this for at least a week; a month is better. No reading what you wrote the day before. At the end of the allotted time, read through everything. You might be surprised at what you find most important. Follow that lead!
  3. Ten breaths, two questions: Remember that phone call/meeting example I used earlier? After your call or meeting, pause to take 10 breaths, concentrating on each one. This will allow you to clear your mind and focus on two simple questions: What went well? What can I do differently? The great thing about this exercise is that you begin to recognize what went well, give yourself credit for it, and apply it naturally to all kinds of situations.
  4. One topic, many questions: This is a good exercise when you’re worried or bothered by something. Start with the simple question of why? Why am I worried? Why does this bother me? Based on the answer that pops into your head, ask another question related to that answer. Keep going. Eventually, you’ll dig deep enough to really understand the reason you’re worried/bothered. You can take action from there.
  5. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is simply that: paying attention to what’s happening right now. Try sitting quietly for 10 minutes and “watch” your thoughts. Don’t direct them. Just let them come. What keeps surfacing? Why? What do they tell you about yourself?

Consider incorporating some kind of self-reflection into your employee development programs. It can only help people get clearer about what they do and how to do it well.

Are you already incorporating self-reflection in your development programs? What was the result?

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