The Power of Personal Reflection

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The Power of Personal Reflection

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I think one of my superpowers is that I’m highly reflective. I’m continuously thinking about past major (and minor) events in my life. Think of it as nearly continuously running retrospectives as a means of checking myself, reviewing my actions, making real-time adjustments, and learning from my past successes and mistakes.

I guess a big part of it might be my personality type. I’m an introvert and a quiet learner. I love to read, learn, reflect, and learn some more.

As a leader, this often surfaces as changing my mind. For example, anyone who’s ever worked with me understands that I might take a very firm position (decision) on something given the situation and the expectations that I need to decide right away—making a snap decision if you will. And I can do that.

But as an introvert, I prefer thinking carefully about all sides before weighing in. If I’ve made a snap-decision, then I get to “thinking” about it more deeply later and I often see other perspectives as I “sleep on it”. Perhaps 50-60% of the time I’ll come in the next day and unapologetically take the opposite (usually other sides’) perspective. This often frustrates some folks, but hey, then give me a little more reflection time in the first place.

But I digress. Here I want to explore the notion and value of reflection. Not necessarily scheduling a periodic retrospective, but more so incorporating active reflection as a part of your daily routine. I’ve found the very act of reflection to be incredibly helpful to me in “figuring out” what’s been happening to me in my personal and professional journey.

Consider it an act of increasing your self-awareness. Let’s explore some examples—

Here are a few events where I might put on my reflective thinking hat in considering all aspects of the event—

  1. You were passed over for a promotion. Reflect on possible reasons? What were instances or interactions that could have negatively influenced the decision? How can you correct them in the future? 

  2. You weren’t selected in the interview process. Reflect on the interviews, questions, your responses, etc.) Think about specific things you might try differently next time? 

  3. If you were promoted or hired. Reflect on why you were selected? Consider the major and minor factors that were involved. And consider strategies for meeting the expectations of your new role. 

  4. You just met with the CEO, what was said? How? What wasn’t said? and should have been said? This is a crucial conversation whether you think so or not, so consider it deeply.

  5. You just had an outstanding week of work and nearly single-handedly got the release out the door. But you notice that nothing positive was said to you about it. Reflect on why? What might be going on? 

  6. You just joined a new Scrum team at work. Reflect on how you’re going to enter the team/system? What will you focus on? How will you best help serve the team? 

  7. You had a conflict with a colleague. Reflect on the drivers. How and why were you triggered? What were the language and emotions like? If you had it to do over again, what would you keep? What would you change? 

  8. You were given an opportunity to do something outside of your comfort zone and declined. Reflect on why? What could have been changed to make it work? If the opportunity arose again, would you make the same decision? Why?

I’ve quoted Jerry Weinberg more and more recently and I want to do it again here. Jerry had the Rule of 3s, which I think is helping here, but I’ll twist the point just a bit.

For any of the above events, I want you to think of three reasons that could have come into play. For example, if you were turned down for a job it could have been because:

  1. You were late for the interview;

  2. You were underqualified;

  3. You were overqualified;

  4. You didn’t ask any meaningful questions;

  5. They found a more qualified candidate;

  6. They actually changed their minds about the need for the position.

You get the idea. By considering alternatives you broaden your situation and create space for multi-variant reflection. In some cases, you can’t do anything about it. But in others, you could reframe and adjust your strategies and actions. And this helps to consider specifically what changes you might make.

So, add the Rule of 3, to your reflection tool-kit and see if it helps broaden your considerations and thinking.

I’ll wrap-up with an interview example where I’ve mentored/coached many people who keep getting turned down after interviews with little/no feedback to take action on. And they are clueless as to what to do next.

I contend that a deep-dive personal reflection of the interviews would give them some actionable data to consider in making adjustments. And whenever I explain it, I’ll hear later that indeed, they were able to mine the events for useful feedback.

In 2017 I wrote a piece about becoming more aware of your blind spots and reflection was/is a big part of that. I think it compliments this article quite nicely. Please take a look.

So, I simply ask you to reflect on this article and reflect on some recent events that lacked apparent feedback. See if you can mine them for more insights now. I hope that you can…

Stay agile my friends,


Within a week of writing this, I came across a LinkedIn post that referenced the Manifesto for Slow Thinking. After a bit of thought ;-), I realized that it complimented this post incredibly well. I’d encourage you to read it…

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