Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
In the final part of this series, Marshall Goldsmith explains the relevancy of reflection in today’s world. It has always been a vital ingredient to success, but it becomes critical in the age of the knowledge worker. Jeremy Hunter teaches courses on The Practice of Self-Management at The Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management. He emphasizes a focus on reflecting in real-time—in the present—in order to align both our intentions and behaviors so that we might bring about the results we seek.
Marshall Goldsmith, executive educator and coach:
I believe that the process of reflection is more important today than ever before. I also believe that it is more challenging.
We live in the age of the knowledge worker. Peter Drucker defined knowledge workers as 'people who know more about what they are doing than their boss'. Knowledge workers need to think and reflect. They have to listen and learn. They cannot just 'do what they are told', since their managers know less than they do about what they are doing.
On the other hand, we live in a world of constant stimulus. Our minds are barraged by media of all forms. Cell phones, emails, text messages and personal computers have reduced our already-limited attention spans.
One of the great challenges for the knowledge worker of the future is finding the time to think - in a world that is screaming at you to act.
Jeremy Hunter, Adjunct Professor, The Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management:
When we think of “reflection” it tends to be retrospective. Where I think my work is a bit different is that I focus on what a leader is doing right now as it is happening––reflection and awareness in the moment. Most people's immediate action will very likely be an automatic non-conscious process that they're not aware of. Throw in a little stress and emotional reactivity and people find themselves doing and saying things that are destructive to themselves, others, and their goals without understanding why nor knowing what to do about it.
The big issue is that the retrospective analysis alone can’t necessarily change a person's immediate habits. Science tells us that 90% or more of the brain’s activity is automatic and non-conscious. However, we have a worldview that focuses largely on conscious processing, we think that having the answer makes change automatically happen. A friend might say, “You know, Ruth, when you’re confronted with a challenge from a superior, you react too strongly.” OK, now Ruth knows that. We assume that just because Ruth knows what she does, she will change it. But there’s a whole other process that has to happen to change the wired-in, non-conscious, automatic pattern. Ruth may be 100% aware of what she does but then the trigger happens and it plays out in the same way. And then it’s, “Oh no, I did it again.”
Change happens in the choices we make right now. So my interest is in, how you actually retrain the brain by interrupting that automatic habit and doing something differently. You may have to do it over and over again but at some point the rewiring function will happen. And that’s a function of interrupting that immediate non-conscious habit and doing something different.
I give people a model of this process from the triggering moment of contact to the final result. All along there are intervention points. Of course, the earlier you can intervene, the better. Not everyone can interrupt the process early on, but what I emphasize is that you just need to interrupt it somewhere. And the more practiced one gets at it, the earlier you can see what is happening. It’s really about becoming more conscious about what you are doing, why you are doing it, what result do you want and do these behaviors get you there, and if they don’t, what do you need to be doing instead?
You always start with the repeated unwanted result. What’s the thing that keeps happening that you don’t want? For example, Ruth might say, “I notice that whenever I’m confronted, I fight back too aggressively or I get too hostile.” So now she knows that about herself and that’s the reflective piece. Now, let’s tie that reflection to action.
The next step is to build awareness of when and how that habit plays out. For example, “I have this meeting with my boss and I know he’s upset about something. What is it I do that might push back too hard, that gets me in trouble?" And so in that moment she's bringing attention to all the things that happen automatically--what is she doing? What is she feeling in the body? Tension? Pressure? What emotions are arising? What are the stories in her head? Directing her attention to her internal experience creates the awareness of the non-conscious habit. She now has the opportunity to step outside all those automatic reactions and make a different, more conscious choice. We’re tying the process of reflection to immediate behavior. Again, change happens in the choices we make right now.
As people are increasingly “burned out” from the stress and uncertainty of the economic reset, it’s too simplistic to just return to basic vacation policies, doing little to introduce meaningful distinctions between home and work. When the workday rarely ends, given technology’s ability to engage employees any time and anywhere, sabbaticals offer a refreshing moment to simply pause. Sabbaticals lead to people stepping back to see their work and creativity through a different lens. Daniel Patrick Forrester, Consider
—Daniel Patrick Forrester, Consider
More in this Series:
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization
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