How Chief Executives Can Improve Their Performance with Personal Reflection

Wise experienced leaders from all walks of life tell me that personal reflection is one their most valuable tools for remaining effective and ahead of the game.

When I seek to pass this advice on to my clients, I often get this question “How does one effectively reflect?”

Reflection is the point of maximum learning from one’s experiences. Whilst experience is learning, reflection about the experience provides even more learning.

To maximise the learning opportunity from reflection, create a simple process that enables you to think clearly and record your reflections.

Here are some tips you can adapt to suit yourself.

1. Choose a regular time to reflect, say 20 minutes early in the morning or at a quiet time in the evening.

2. Choose a quiet place with no disturbances such as phones or TV.

3. Keep a reflection journal to record insights, thoughts or decisions you make.

4. Play soft music – 60 beat per minute works well, or baroque music.

5. Choose a specific experience; event; time block; or relationship for reflection.

6. Ask yourself a series of questions that stimulates deeper and improved insights about the topic of reflection.

7. Here are a series of questions you can build upon or adapt to suit yourself: –

a. What are your current dominant impressions about the subject?
b. What might lie behind the matter (or between the lines), without making uncheckable assumptions?
c. If you were to go through the experience again, what would you do differently?
d. Is there another way of looking at this subject?
e. Who else could I discuss this subject with to get another valuable view?
f. What might I be avoiding in connection with this subject?
g. What’s really important about this subject?
h. What action could I best take in connection with this reflection?

Additionally, here are some topics chief executives could reflect upon: –

1. Do you really understand your direct reports – their feelings, concerns, pressures, needs, aims, strengths, weaknesses and future?

2. How are you designing the best possible future for your organisation?

3. How are you consistently communicating the values and vision of the organisation to all your people?

4. Do all your people have absolute clarity about their roles tasks and responsibilities in achieving the current goals and vision of the organisation?

5. If there is a noticeable trend for HR professionals to assume the functions that traditionally belong to the leader, why do you think that might be?

6. Are you unwilling to participate in development/training initiatives together with and at the same as your people, or do you prefer to do that alone or with peers? If so why is that?

7. Do you have a coach or coaches?

8. Are you more of a leader or more of a high end project manager?

9. If you just discovered your company will run out of funds in five years, what would you do now?

10. Are you willing to plan now to use alternative fuels and alternative technology?

11. How do you personally attract talent to your organisation and then how do you personally act to retain and develop them?

12. What is your personal ratio of leadership functions to management functions?

13. If the ideal leadership/management ratio is different to the actual, what are you doing about it?

14. Which is more important, effectively engaged employees or delighted shareholders?

15. To what extent have you become isolated or insulated from your people?

16. Do you have a team of well-chosen people from each area of your business, whose task it is to reduce and streamline the ever growing bureaucracy?

17. What is the truth about your relationship with your board of directors?

18. Do you know how to make your organisation an employer of choice with a waiting list of talented people?

19. Do you know the relationship between being an employer of choice and your bottom lines?

20. If you died tonight, would your company know who to replace you with?

21. If you discovered you were going to die in a year’s time what would become your three top workplace priorities and what would be your three top personal priorities?

Reflecting in solitude is really useful. Other times reflecting with a group of trusted people whose values you share, is also very useful.

Chief executives often find themselves isolated.

I encourage and support them to form non-competitive and secure self mentoring groups, where they can feel connected and free to discuss issues and help one another grow and improve.