A sweat-drenched player and a somber looking coach took their places at the press table. The first question went to the player: “What happened out there tonight?” The player, still exhausted from the game, forced an answer: “What can I say? We played hard, but they scored more goals! We’ll get them next time.” The next question was for the coach: “Coach! This is your second loss. What are you going to do?” The coach responded in an even and measured tone: “First, I want to say that I am proud of this team. They continue to put everything into each game. We are going to spend next week pouring over the game tapes before we consider making any changes.”
The coach doesn’t add value to the organization by “working harder”. The coach adds value by reviewing what is being done, assessing options and implementing changes as required. In other words, the coach adds value by thinking. It is the same for the team leader. Leaders are charged with overseeing their entire work process: past, present and future. What is working? What is not working? What changes need to be made? This takes thought and it takes time. These times of reflection allow leaders to assess root causes and identify contributing factors. Reflection allows leaders to put both successes and failures into context and to learn from both experiences.
Reflection is the core activity that leaders perform to add value to the organization. However, this critical activity has diminished in importance in our increasingly results-oriented workplaces. The irony is that in the pursuit of short-term results, we have devalued the very activity that will ensure lasting success. This vital activity is becoming so rare that many leaders feel guilty (or made to feel guilty) for taking more than a few minutes to reflect before spinning off in the pursuit of the next result. I am not proposing something that fits in a slogan, like: “Take ten minutes a day to reflect”. I am suggesting take Wednesday or all of next week to reflect. Take the time it takes to think about and assess your team experiences. Bring value to your team and the organization by unashamedly sitting in a quiet spot and doing nothing but reflecting.