Reflection = Learning

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

Peter Drucker

I might amend this quote to say “follow action with quiet reflection.” There is just so much value that comes from taking the time to simply think about what happened and what one can learn from any action, whether it was successful or not.

I had a rare and wonderful privilege today to take time and sit and think about leader ship, growth, and ways to become a more effective leader. It was time that was wonderfully well spent and very enlightening.

I would highly encourage anyone to be very intentional with the practice of active reflection and intentional learning. It will not happen by accident or simply through desire it must be intentional. This means that it must be scheduled and followed through on with the same discipline that one would treat any other meeting.

If you don’t practice reflection then growth and learning is left to chance and circumstance. That doesn’t seem like a very good deal to me.

The conversation in your head…

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

Peter Drucker

Listening to the words that are being said is a hard proposition. All too often I catch myself listening just well enough to create my response. In many cases I, and most people, aren’t really listening at all, the mind is rehearsing its response to whatever is being said.

How do you achieve a higher level of listening which is more than hearing all the words? How do you listen well enough to understand the “why” of what is being said? Once you get to that level only then are you truly listening.

I have found two things that help me move past the natural tendency of my mind to be framing a response prematurely.

First, I remind myself to seek to understand the “why.” I want to do everything I can to be able to understand the why well enough to be able to see the conversation from the other side of the table or from another perspective.

Second, as I quiet my mind and truly listen to the words I remind myself to listen in order to ask questions. Listening to respond versus listening to ask questions takes a very different mindset. If one is focused on asking insightful questions in order to understand you can get closer to understanding the “why.”

Neither of these things are easy, and they are certainly not my natural tendency. Doing it well takes both diligence and intentional effort. In many ways it reminds me of a good meditation practice. When you fail, you catch yourself and simply begin again. Do it often enough, and with enough discipline, perhaps you can find yourself truly listening to the conversation that is going on and not just the one in your head…

If you want to hear the music, do the work…


“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

Peter Drucker

A great symphony isn’t of any value unless there is an orchestra there to bring it to life. To convert the written notes into the music which fills the air takes tremendous effort, collaboration and direction from many people all aiming for the same thing, to bring to life what is essentially just a written plan.

I don’t know anyone who achieved anything without dedicating themselves to the work necessary to turn their plans into a new reality. There are no free rides in life. Do the work, the hard work, or you won’t be able to hear the music…

Create a daily discipline around what matters most!

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Peter Drucker

I’ve been guilty of this one more than a few times.  Doing a great job on something, spending time getting it right, but it not being the most important use of my time or energy.  Why does this happen?  

Focusing on the things that matter means you have to be highly intentional at taking the time to understand the problem and thinking through what the most important or impactful solution will be.  Where should the effort be focused?  Sometimes you identify the right thing, but the situation and environment changes and the initiative or effort should be dropped.  That can be hard to do, but it is critical if you want to make real progress.  

Create a daily discipline of asking yourself “what is the most important thing for me to be spending my time on today?” Ideally this should link back to your most important goals, or the “big rocks” as Dr. Stephen Covey calls them.  Otherwise, it is so easy to get off track because we are doing something that is fun or that we particularly enjoy…  

 

Effort versus Effect…

“Efficiency, which is doing things right, is irrelevant until you work on the right things.”

Peter Drucker

How much time do we spend in life working hard versus stepping back to ensure we are working right?  The impact of our effort is really what matters, not just the fact that we worked extremely hard.  Sometimes it can feel way more rewarding to be “busy” than it can to be effective.

For example, is it more important to check something off your list of to do’s than it is to take the time to think through whether the task should be on your list in the first place?  Have you ever completed a task and THEN written it down just so you could check it off?  Sure, you get this nice little dopamine boost than comes from accomplishing a task but did you actually sit back and make sure that the task needed to be done in the first place?  Why do we do this?  (yes, I have been guilty of this too…) 

I have found that because activity gets measured daily it can be easy to become a slave to being busy and lose sight of the desired results. In today’s multi-tasking as a measure of success world we can often justify our worth by being busy and having lots of activities going on at the same time.  However the real measure of effectiveness is whether or not the desired results are being delivered.

If you were to add one thing to your list to improve your effectiveness I would suggest this:  Schedule time weekly to think through what needs to be done in order to achieve your desired results.  Without this, you might have lots of effort but little to show for the work.

One last question.  Does your measure of success at the end of the day come from how many things were checked off your list or whether or not you were checking the right things off your list?

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