How to Close the Gap Between Self-​Reflection and Action

BY Kathy Crosett
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Business leaders know the path to success involves being able to step back and look at the big picture. Formal leadership training programs encourage participants to regularly take a few minutes to think about the direction they’re going in. Effective leaders do this on an annual, monthly, and even daily basis. The steps leaders take following self-​reflection may be even more important.

A recent Kellogg Insight leadership column outlines the daily reflection philosophy of business leader and strategy professor Harry Kraemer. One of the secrets to Kraemer’s success is to step back from the hectic pace of the business every day and think about what is happening. As Kraemer explains, business leaders must have a plan to finish the action items on the list, and they must be able to make assignments and allocate resources to achieve their goals.

If you are constantly running around putting out fires, you’re living on an adrenalin rush. That feeling may fuel your energy level, but it doesn’t allow for the need to stop and reflect on the general direction of the activity. For example, you may be rushing to get a product to market and the same bug keeps cropping up in the software. Instead of rushing to judgment or trying to solve the problem on the spot, add the issue to your self-​reflection list. By taking time to review the entire process, you can find the problem. You might determine that one of the team members should be assigned a different role. Or, you might decide that a specific feature needs to be removed or changed.

One of Kraemer’s practices is to take time at the end of every day to write down what he did. In this way, he holds himself accountable for his actions. He uses a series of questions for his self-​examination process. For example, he asks:

  • What did I actually do today?
  • What am I proud of?
  • What am I not proud of?

If you chose to formalize your process of self-​reflection, make sure to consider your plan for tomorrow. Perhaps the most important part of Kraemer’s philosophy is the way he pinpoints his future intentions. “Based on what I have learned today, what will I do differently tomorrow?” Include this question as you review each day and you’ll be sure to close the gap between self-​reflection and action.