Reflection – Take Time Out For Strategic Insight

Last week I was wingsuit BASE jumping in the Swiss Alps.  I was going at it hard – I was pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and getting current.  Since then, I pushed myself further – I took some down time.  I made time and space to reflect.  By making time for this personal reflection I felt strategic inspiration both in my personal life plan and for driving my business forward.


Making time for reflection.  Enjoying the delights of Cinque Terre in Italy.

Making time for reflection. Enjoying the delights of Cinque Terre in Italy.

I travelled to the northern Italian coast to an area called Cinque Terre on the Ligurian sea.  From here you can hike between five small villages, all of which are situated aesthetically on the cliff edges of the sea front.  I spent the days hiking around the villages, coastal paths and foot hills with my fiancee and two terriers.  During this period I had significant time for conceptual thought that covered personal reflection and forward projection.

Taking a break to reflect won’t always go to plan.  We scoured one of the villages to find a restaurant that locals go to, away from the tourist trap.  We thought we had finally done it until we sat down, took another look around and found that the restaurant packed with local people was in fact packed with an American tour group.

We were hiking eight hours a day.  It was beautiful, inspiring, productive and motivating.  The 8 hours a day wasn’t totally part of the plan but we felt good and strong, ready to go.  This was just as well – many of the trails were closed which meant we had to hike 2 1/2 hours to get to our start point.  With Dodger, our 10-year-old dog, leading from the front we couldn’t exactly step down a gear.

Teamwork and leadership are critical to success – we know this already.  Many of us will also know that we need to use our brain power, and the brain power of our team members, to drive our business forward.  However, the reality is that many of us do not make the time commitment to fully enable this powerful tool.

Of course we use our brain power.  My point is that we often don’t enable ourselves to use it fully and to capacity.  Of course we look forward – we have strategy meetings, business plans and many other tools and techniques to enable us to drive forward.  I’m talking about taking this further.  I’m talking about allocating time to ensure we use and develop the conceptual focus to really think deeper, longer and further – to allow us to consider, both consciously and sub-consciously, our life and business needs in ways that we haven’t done before.

This can be enabled through reflection, both positive and negative, and forward projection.  All the time considering second, third and fourth order effects.  Enabling time for reflection and projection thoughts is a critical characteristic for leaders at all levels.

Here’s how:

  • Schedule time each week.  Block it in your diary.  Make it an appointment – one that you can’t cancel.
  • Create the setting.  Get away, free of distractions.  Do something relaxing.  Take your mind off other issues.

But don’t restrict this to just yourself.  Your team can also benefit:

  • Make others schedule it.  Use this productively – make them take responsibility for this development.  Ask them what they learnt, developed or hypothesised.  There’s no point re-inventing the wheel – lessons that others learn can be applicable to all.
  • Take your team away.  Got the budget for a skiing trip – go for it.  If not, just go for dinner.  Team bonding activities, however large or small, contribute to the reflective and strategic growth of this tool.

When opportunities present for reflective and projective thought then jump on them.  We hadn’t planned to hike for as long as we did in Cinque Terre but we made the most of them, dragged forward by our 10-year-old dog.

Making time for deep and powerful thinking is critical to strong positive success individually, as a team player and as a leader.  If you really want to step forward, schedule time to make this happen.

Question: How do you make time to reflect and what setting do you find most productive?

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