In recent years, a flurry of research in the areas of human development, leadership, and organizational behavior has shown us that practices of reflection and renewal have more significant impact on the performance capacity of individuals and organizations than we are often willing to acknowledge, even if we are aware of what the data tells us (that people who are healthier, happier, connected to community, and purpose-driven perform at dramatically higher levels than those to which these attributes do not apply).
This lack of acknowledgement (and resulting action) doesn’t typically stem from a desire of organizational leaders to see their employees suffer and their profits reduced, but rather from increased pressure they themselves feel to do more with less.
However given the facts, leaders that don’t dedicate time, space, and resources to developing opportunities for members of their organization to reflect and renew aren’t just acting in ignorance, they’re acting irresponsibly. In a climate in which organizations have been driven to expect fewer people to do more with reduced resources, rates of burnout, depression, and talent-turnover will likely continue to skyrocket unless opportunities for reflection and renewal are intentionally woven into the life of the organization.
We must realize that ‘mindfulness’ is an essential skill that doesn’t just exist, but rather must be thoughtfully cultivated at both the individual and organizational level in order to build performance capacity.
This week I am in Lawrence, Kansas, working with trainers from educational resource centers around the state to certify them as Excellence & Ethics Trainers (enabling them to deliver trainings on Power2Achieve Foundations, Excellence & Ethics Toolkits, and the Culture of Excellence & Ethics Assessment to schools, organizations, and individuals across the state of Kansas). I’ve worked with this awesome group of people before, so I know that because of their dedication to their professional craft and their families, their plates are exceptionally full, but their passion for building a culture of excellence & ethics had brought them together to deepen their understanding of our approach in order to enhance their future work.
Given a finite amount of time to facilitate a significant amount of learning and planning, I felt (self-inflicted) pressure to jam a lot of work into a small amount of time, but rather than accepting that the only option was to use every moment to force more information onto those I was training, I decided to bet that the renewal that would occur through a guided reflection activity would not only make our time together more enjoyable, but also more productive both in the short and long term.
After beginning the second day of our certification workshop with some assorted housekeeping items, I announced that before continuing any further with the formal training, we’d be doing some morning reflection.
We began our morning reflection with the 5 steps outlined below:
On the top half of their chart paper, each person spent a few minutes with the Excellence & Ethics Blueprint for Life Tool, listing thoughts from each of the areas identified by the orange boxes.
We then spent a few moments reflecting on the Excellence & Ethics Character SWOT Analysis Tool, and then on the bottom half of the chart paper each person identified strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that would impact their ability to reach the goals they had identified above.
When each person had finished their Character SWOT Analysis, we taped the pieces of chart paper in a row on the wall. We stood together for a few moments in front of our unique goals and desires, the strengths and opportunities we each wanted to build upon, and the weaknesses and threats we wanted to work on, and then we spent a minute in silence reflecting on how we could support & challenge ourselves and others so that we might do our best work and become our best selves.
If the hard-yet-enjoyable work that occurred during the rest of our day together can be used as an indicator, it would appear that the science that illustrates the benefits of reflection and renewal are right on point.