“You’re always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”
— Conrad Hall
Life these days is all about instant gratification. We see it with everything: instant news, communication in the matter of milliseconds, and instant shopping (just think how grocery “shopping” has changed in the last few months) to name a few. Nothing wrong with advancing as the times and market change. We’re all learning we need to do this quickly before we’re left behind. As leaders, we need to be careful. Moving too fast may lead to overlooking important steps we need for growth. Reflecting can help us slow down and focus on the steps needed.
Think of our thoughts, actions and ultimately the decisions we make each day. At times this process becomes monotonous and we become numb to the outcomes. I remember as a young administrator, I didn’t value or appreciate reflecting on my practices. I was always moving to the next issue to try and stay out in front. While it appeared on the outside that I was dutifully handling the requirements of the leadership role, I wasn’t growing professionally. I wasn’t taking the time each day to get better. This is why reflection is such a vital piece of growth minded leadership.
“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
— Peter Drucker
The benefits of reflecting on your leadership are vast and provide us with many opportunities. Let’s take a look at how reflection will make us better leaders:
We need to make a daily practice looking for ways to get better. Reflecting on our actions and decisions drives the best leaders to find ways to improve. Using a personal learning network (PLNs) and resources available provides the means to research quickly and efficiently. The day and age of not reflecting due to a lack of time to research are long gone.
Fine Tune Success and Pitfalls
Its great when things work well. It’s even better when they work well and we find ways for them to work even better. It’s important to utilize reflection to determine whether our success has met stakeholders’ expectations and our own expectations. Reflection allows you to appreciate what is good in your life, appreciate your team and support group, and what you have in your profession.
It goes without saying that when things don’t go well, we reflect and wonder why it didn’t work. We need to be careful of not falling into the trap of feeling sorry ourselves and making excuses. Instead we need to analyze our thoughts, steps and decisions to find out what went wrong and how to improve upon our mistakes. Seeking the advice of others and asking what they may have done differently helps immensely, but it will not happen without the drive and desire to reflect and collaborate.
Many of us with PLNs know our network is our biggest resource for professional gains. Sharing and working with others to improve is important in our field. Reflection allows us to ask others for help and guidance. Not only do we get feedback from others and grow, we share with others to help them grow as well. Taking the time to reflect will not only help us, but leadership as a whole especially when we collaborate with others.
Model for Others
As leaders, we have to practice what we preach. Reflecting and using it to your advantage sends the message to others. I regularly discuss reflection with members of my staff. It’s important as teachers to reflect on our daily interactions with students. We need to look at each part of our lessons, instructional methods, relationship building, and resources used to reflect if we can do better for our students. I often suggest breaking down class periods in 5 minute increments to take a deep dive into reflecting on what was said, mannerisms, methods used, student learning and feedback. As administrators, we need to break down our days the same way. Look at them in smaller increments and find areas we need to improve. If we expect our staff to reflect, we need to do it as well.
Initiate Necessary Feedback
A major component of leadership is effective communication. Problem is, the communication we are involved in isn’t always positive. Sometimes difficult conversations need to take place to correct weaknesses and as Jimmy Casas refers to as, “addressing underperformance.” By reflecting, leaders have the opportunity to gather information, get advice and feedback, and prepare for difficult conversations that are necessary for organizations to move forward. Too many leaders today steer away from these conversations. For the betterment of organizations and the education field, this needs to change. Simply reflecting and organizing your thoughts and actions would be a good start if you struggle with these types of conversations.
There’s no right or wrong way to reflect. I prefer writing blogs using applications such as Blogger and participating in Twitter chats, but there are others who use Voxer or simply pen and paper. Reflection can take place in many ways as long as you are using it in a way to help you grow. Author Sonya Teclai says it best, “Self reflection is a humbling process. Its essential to find out why think, so and do certain things….then better yourself.” Use reflection to improve your decisions, thoughts and actions. It will help slow down life for you in the process while making you a better leader in return.