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Reflect Regularly

Last time, we talked about how crucial it is to Return and Reflect often. Here are some ways that you can create great spaces for using the power of reflection to enable the experience to stick.


Hold regular Reflection Sessions: A Reflection Session is just a chunk of defined time dedicated to reflection and celebration. It’s a space that invites open and honest feedback, encourages curiosity and truth-telling, and encourages verbal acknowledgement and celebration of wins. And it doesn’t take much time at all for these to be very effective. They can focus on a timespan as in, “Reflect on the last 90 days,” or they can be about something specific, such as, “What did we learn from our last version launch?”


  • Step One—The Question: At a very general and simple level, you can ask, “How did it go?” This is very open-ended and allows the other person to take the answer wherever they want. An upgrade to this question is, “What did you learn?” This gets them to think at a deeper, more intrinsic level. To really add clarity, ask the question as a distinction, using opposite ends of a spectrum on their reflections: “What worked and what didn’t work?” “What did you like, what didn’t you like?” “What was easy and what was hard?” I’ve noticed that when I ask the question based on the distinction, this produces the deepest level of thinking. This question gives a tighter framework or direction to the brain, so the brain can find the answers more quickly. This step is brief, and often takes less than 30 seconds. All you need to do is ask the question, give simple instructions for Step Two, and let the brain do the rest!


  • Step Two—5 quiet minutes: After asking the question, give your people 5 quiet minutes to think about the answers to the question and then ask them to write the answers down. Directions for this section include: 

  • There are no wrong answers. 

  • There is no requirement of content. 

  • You can write one thing or 15 things. 

  • You must write it down. 


There are three main cognitive functions going on during this step.    

  • Recall: The thinking brain actively engages in remembering past events, feelings, activities and conversations. The more opportunity we give our brains to recall events, the faster it will work and the more accurate the memories will be. 

  • Elevation: As the brain looks back on an event or a time period, it naturally sees highlights and meaningful moments. As it recalls these, it metaphorically rises above the situation and can observe it from an outsider's perspective. People who reflect are able to observe their actions or reactions outside the heat of the moment. 

  • Logic: There is something powerful that happens when you are asked to put your thoughts into words. By moving the memory through the logical, prefrontal cortex of the brain, where our language center is, the thought becomes more rational, more true, more realistic, and more clear. Just the act of deciding what to write down increases the validity and effectiveness of the reflection. 


During the 5-quiet-minutes portion of a recent reflection session with a new client, I noticed that one of the leaders wasn’t writing down his thoughts. When I encouraged him to write as he was thinking, he said he had bad penmanship, so he doesn’t like to write. When we started sharing what we’d each written, his thoughts were unclear, rambling and he was disappointed that he didn’t see the positivity in the situation like the rest of the team did. The next time we had a Reflection Session, I encouraged him to write, even if he couldn’t read his own handwriting. The second time around, he shared with the group that he was stunned at his own clarity and how much more confidence he had in the growth of the company in the last quarter. 

        

  • Step Three—Share what you wrote with someone else: This can be simple: participants read from the page they wrote on, or complex: participants discuss, in depth, each thing they wrote. When time is limited, I ask people to just share one thing they wrote. When you ask someone to choose just one or two items to share, their brain now needs to filter everything they reflected on and decide which is the most significant reflection. When this occurs, what they share is “tagged” in the brain as significant enough to store to memory. This is how we take advantage of experiences that people have within our company. This is how we create a company that has the Thinking Advantage.

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