“Follow effective action with quiet reflection.
From the reflection will come even more effective action.”
This quote is attributed to Peter Drucker, esteemed management guru and champion for building personal and organizational strengths, even up to his passing in 2005. My interpretation of this quote is that sometimes we have to slow down to speed up.
If we wish to make a difference in our work and life, we need to lead with strengths; and that starts with awareness. Reflection helps us slow down and generate awareness around which strengths are needed in any given moment.
Try the practice below to help you reflect and lead with your strengths.
Today’s pace of change can be dizzying. Basic routines like caring for our health, educating the kids, working, socializing, and others are constantly evolving.
One practice that can help us take a breath, reset, and lead with strengths is reflection. We know from research that reflection is essential to effective leadership for both “Big L” leadership, conveyed through a title or position in an organization, and “little l” leadership, the character strength of leadership.
In “Big L” leadership, reflection can generate self-awareness around important matters like how a leader is helping or hindering the progress of her team. Or when he felt highly effective, or ineffective, and the contributing factors to each. This type of reflection can help reveal not only what to avoid, but what to embrace to achieve important goals.
However, not everyone has a title or professional position. Everyday “little l” leadership is just as important because it leads to connected communities by building what’s strong in families, neighborhoods, and social groups.
In the realm of character strengths, a healthy majority of us don’t have a meaningful awareness of our strengths, according to this strengths book excerpt from Alex Linley’s book Average to A+: Realising Strengths In Yourself and Others. A meaningful awareness means being able to deliberately apply one’s strengths to benefit ourselves and others. To feel engaged and vital. To function at a high level, tackle hard challenges, and move forward from adversity.
In his recent blog post, Robert Quinn, co-founder of the Center for Positive Organizations, mentioned a great practice from his favorite author. I found it clever and useful, so I decided to share it below. Note that I modified it by applying a lens of character strengths.
In this series, I typically offer a practice followed by a reflection question. However, in the activity below, the reflection is the practice.
The Reflective Practice
- Open your calendar and find 5-10 short, empty time slots over the next two weeks.
- Block those times out for reflection.
- During each reflection time, reflect on one of the prompts below, or create your own. Then go about your day feeling refreshed and prepared to lead with strengths.
Reflection 1 – The Mindful Pause
Take a Mindful Pause. After the pause, ask yourself: Which of my strengths do I need to lead with right now? Why? Perhaps you need to elevate humility to admit you don’t have all the answers. Or teamwork to generate cooperation and collaboration. Then put that strength into action.
Reflection 2 – Be Intentional with Your Strengths
Reflect on the following: Which strength have I been actively living into today? In what ways has this benefited my well-being, work, or relationships? Perhaps you actively engaged fairness and that helped you outline an agreement all parties are thrilled about. Or humor, and that raised your team’s spirits so they could move through a challenge. Think of a situation later today that can benefit from this strength, then deliberately put it into action.
Reflection 3 – Balance Your Strengths Use
Reflect on the following: Which of my top signature strengths have I overused or underused today? If you’re not sure of your signature strengths, take the free assessment. Choose 1 signature strength and reflect: How did this misuse affect my work, a relationship, or my well-being? Perhaps appreciation of beauty and excellence slipped into overdrive, raising your expectations of yourself to impossibly high levels. Or underuse of zest is keeping you feeling lethargic or sedentary. Make sure you choose another strength to help balance this under or overuse, then put it into action!
For helpful tips on using each character strength in a new way, click here.
New situations arise every day, so feel free to re-use these prompts when necessary. As you become more comfortable in this practice, create your own reflection prompts, or contact me for more options.
May you lead with your strengths to fuel growth and creation,