If you’re like most of us, you arrive on the job every morning with your schedule in front of you and the intention of getting a good day’s work done. Quickly, urgent issues are brought to your attention, and your time’s been hijacked. Because of this or that situation, you change your focus to what’s in front of you—not necessarily what’s important to you.
When that happens, although it may not feel like it, you’ve made a choice. You have opted to adopt a tactical rather than a strategic approach, which is not inherently a bad thing. However, a tactical mindset will not set you or your organization up for success. Strategic vision—consistently keeping your eye on the big picture—drives tactics not the other way around.
And, plenty of people in the organization have the expertise to carry out tactics. Like a military general, leaders need to focus on strategy.
That’s where the opera box metaphor comes in. When we work with our coaching clients, we talk about the importance of being in the opera box and, at the same time, performing on the stage. A tactical approach may help you feel good that you got something done, but it will probably not get you where you want to go.
Bill Joiner, our colleague and the author of Leadership Agility, refers to this as the Art of Stepping Back. He states that “the core capacity of highly agile leaders is the ability to step back from what they are doing on a regular basis, gain a larger perspective, then bring the attendant insights with them as they re-engage in action.
He continues, “As leaders grow in their capacity to step back in this way, their perspective broadens and deepens, and they become more adept at reflecting and course-correcting in the moment.“
We agree. The ability to create a long-term vision and hold the big picture is not enough. To maintain and see different perspectives, leaders need to be on the stage and in the opera box simultaneously. They also need to be engaged in a “reflection” practice on a regular basis.
Making the time to reflect on “what went well” and “what we need to work on” provides the space for profound insights to emerge.
In our own practice, we’ve learned that we have to create the opportunity; it does not magically appear. Reflection requires attention and intention.
When you do, the rewards are personally and professionally rewarding. The act of intentional perspective-shifting can allow you to see things in a way that may illuminate a new path to an organizational goal, lead to a product or a service innovation, a process improvement or any number of new insights to move your organization forward.
In our coaching engagements, we recommend committing to a daily practice of reflection, which would include:
- Setting aside quiet time in the morning for reflection
- Choosing a comfortable space free of distractions
- Practicing a few minutes of meditation (http://bit.ly/YRBAos)
- Setting aside end-of-the-day reflection time
- Keeping a reflections journal
During these sessions—whether alone or with your team—we recommend asking questions such as these:
- What went well yesterday/today?
- What could we or I do better or differently today/tomorrow?
- What is important for me/my team/our organization to make progress on this day/week/month?
- Are we/did we honor our shared values? If not, what do we need to do to make it right?
- Did we acknowledge those who helped?
So…going forward, resist the urge to tackle your To-Do list as your first order of business and, instead, consider spending some time in reflection.
For more information on Leadership Agility, click here: http://www.changewise.biz/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/LeadershipAgilityWhitePaper_FromExpertToSynergist.pdf