Some Reflections on Reflection …

Dan Rockwell is a renowned expert on leadership development and an award-winning blogger.Writing at The Leadership Freak , Dan is conducting an interesting exercise.    He has provided 16 quotes about leadership and invited folks to “expand, correct, clarify, and/or modify” one or more.

At the core of this simple exercise is Reflection. 

Reflection is essential to the learning process.  This learning skill involves three related elements when we reflect on something, whether it is an event, a statement, or an emotion.

As leaders, we should regularly engage in the practice of reflection:

ACKNOWLEDGE- We decide to pay attention 

First, we have to actually regard the thing on which we reflect.  We have to pay attention to it, focus on the dynamics and the characteristics of the thing.

When we reflect on statements, one effective technique is to consider each word and its meaning separately at first.  This focus on parts can often reveal deeper meaning than when we just consider the whole.

When we pay attention, we notice things that otherwise are missed.

This step may seem obvious, but how often have you or someone you know been “too busy” to stop and focus?

AnalyZE -we consider the alternatives

Then we then have to consider what to do about that stuff we have noticed. 

In the case of the leadership quotes, we get several options:  We can add to  or amplify the message as we understand it, and change it if we do not completely agree.

The trick is to decide which to do.  We need to weight and test our option before making a final decision.  Reflection truly takes time, which is why many do not engage in it much.

ACT – we decide to do something

After focusing and considering, we ultimately must decide what to do.

In reflection, this is not the execution step.  It’s the step BEFORE the execution step.

Again, many leaders  have a bias for action and tend to gloss over this step.  Not a good idea, because here is where you shift back into a reflective mode and consider this important question:

What do I need to do and say, now that I have decided to do?”

Thinking about the ramifications of an action, even a terribly beneficial and wise action, are important.  As someone once said, “The devil’s in the details.”  Of course, this appears to stem from an earlier saying that “God is in the details”.

Either way, being thorough is a good thing:)

Below are my first comments on the following quote from Dan’s list: 

No. 3:  “Dream, imagine, think, and plan all you want. Nothing happens until you take the first step.”

Execution is absolutely essential.  Dan, you have nailed one of the great barriers to actual accomplishment.

However, I would note that this statement implies a linear process where we engage in creative thinking, then move on to execution.  I believe that the process of doing involves a continuing dance between creative and critical thinking.  After all, most of our visions which form during the creative stages change and morph, due to new information or discoveries, or as we gain additional insight from trying to execute a not-quite-perfect plan.

In other words, create/act is a continuous and repetitive process.

I’d also suggest changing the wording of the sentence to “Dream, imagine, think, and plan … then do it.”   For some folks, that “all you want” is a bottomless pit.  I know, because I used to be one of them and still suffer occasional relapses into what can only be called “stalling”.

If you enjoy responding to such challenges, head on over to Dan’s site and join in.  The water’s fine …

Reflecting on my reaction to another one of the leadership quotes in the Heartland ….