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Rear-View Mirror: Reflecting Back to Move Forward

By December 21, 2010Wellbeing for You

[Guest blogger Nina Peterson, NCC, ACC is the COO and a partner at Wisdom Works. In her last blog, she explored boundary-spanning leadership.]

With ten days until 2010 becomes history, I invite you to consider how you are ending the year:

  • Are you racing right up to December 31?
  • Are you letting this year go, already thinking about 2011?
  • Have you carved out time to step back and reflect on your leadership?

The future is important. When leaders pursue the principle of sustainability, they are seeking ways of operating that will be the most advantageous in the years ahead. This focus on the future is certainly a key leadership function, but looking back is also critical. Think about sports teams: they are focused on the future, scouting the team they will play next. One of the most crucial tools for that forward-thinking preparation, though, is watching films of past games. Backward reflection can guide forward motion.

Maybe you have a practice of After Action Reviews for work projects. Do you apply that same rear-view mirror to yourself? A core question is: Do you know what structures, systems, and capabilities sustain your best results?

A year-end review can bring focus to the whirlwind of past activity and the crush of future demands. It’s a start toward creating a roadmap for success in the future. Each December, I take time to consider where I’ve ended up and how I got here. I flip through my whole year’s calendar, considering my client work, my efforts to continue building Wisdom Works, and the steps of my personal journey. This reflection helps me prioritize the upcoming year and set two or three specific goals for enhancing my professional capability.

For instance, last December I looked back over 2009. What surfaced was frustration about my professional credentials. After being a coach for nearly 20 years, I had no official designation. I determined that in 2010 I would complete the last steps toward certification from the Newfield Network and the International Coach Federation. I’m happy to report that as of October I checked off both of those goals. I think it’s less about the letters after my name, and more about the feeling of confidence that comes from achieving goals and knowing that next year holds the promise of further progress. That confidence lends energy, strength, and clarity to my coaching.

During my annual reflection, I also review what I learned over the year. This year, I explored new areas: social media, practice development, and NeuroLeadership. I am definitely still a student of all three: my year-end contemplation is motivating me to set further goals for learning in 2011. Reflection for me is not about counting up achievements, but about checking my progress (or regression) toward my goals and setting direction for the year ahead.

It’s December 22nd. I encourage you to make time in the next two weeks to mine the gifts of 2010. Here are five simple steps toward an effective reflection:

1.      Relive your experiences: positive and negative, memorable and mundane.

2.      Take responsibility for your results: Which risks paid off? Which qualities did you bring to situations that made a difference?

3.      Celebrate your successes.

4.      Embrace learning: Consider the partnerships and experiences that have built up your knowledge and skills to support your effectiveness.

5.      Set a course for your future: visualize a trajectory that will launch your leadership forward.

A little backward reflection might be just the thing to propel you forward to success in 2011. Happy New Year!

Photo by timsamoff