A common challenge for the Ministry Leaders and Business Executives I coach is how they can learn from their daily encounters and experiences. The art of reflection is often neglected in the push to add another meeting or another appointment to the day.
Yet I am often reminded of the words of my mentor Dr. Bobbie Clinton, “The number one reason leaders fail to finish well is they plateau.” They stop growing.
Here is a simple way to stay in a learning mode which will allow you to make better decisions and relate to the challenges and relationships in your life with wisdom and discernment. You must create the space by hitting the pause button and reflecting on a short period of time. Once a week will not work. Too much is forgotten and goes stale before you can gain from it. Instead install a “startup” and “shut down” rhythm to your day. Here is a suggested pattern I use. It has been refined over the years as I borrow ideas from other leaders.
A PRACTICAL TOOL TO HELP REFINE, STRETCH, and CORRECT YOUR PERSPECTIVE:
The shutdown ritual should be they last commitment in your work day. Set the appointment with yourself in a quiet area. The same technique is very helpful as a recovery and buffer pause to capture key learnings after a messy challenging encounter.
SHUT DOWN APPOINTMENT WITH YOURSELF:
(10 to 30 minutes) at the end of each work day or right after a strategic meeting.
Use a consistent tool to capture your thoughts as you examine your day. Consistent capture tools may be 3×5 cards, a written journal or private document online.
QUESTIONS TO ASSIST YOU IN REFLECTION:
What did I see today about individuals with whom I had interaction?
What did I see today about our culture? (NOTE PLUSES AND MINUSES)
What di I see about myself today?
What do I offer up in thanks to God?
What do I lay before God in confident faith he will provide the way forward?
How do we want people work together differently?
Based on what happened today what 3 things do I need to do tomorrow and what do I change in my daily plan for tomorrow to create space for these actions?
PART OF THE SHUT DOWN RITUAL IS TO RETURN THE GIFT OF THE DAY BACK TO THE ONE WHO GAVE IT TO YOU.
LAST ACTION BEFORE YOU LEAVE YOUR WORK DAY…
HANDS — PALMS DOWN ON DESK.
THANK GOD FOR LETTING YOU STEWARD THE DAY.
TRUST HIM FOR GRACE AND STRENGTH TO BRING FRUIT AND GROWTH FROM TODAY’S WORK FOR HIS GLORY. GIVE THE DAY BACK TO HIM.
Once you have the shutdown routine in your rhythm add a “start up” routine
When you first wake up in the morning turn on to your back and look up. Raise both arms with hands palm up to God.
A sample prayer could be: “Father thank you for the rest during the night and now you are offering me a new day to manage. Today is a (work day, play day, rest day, family day, etc., define the major purpose for this day). You have gifted me with this day. Help me to be a good steward and invest it for eternal reward.”
Caution yourself to not pollute the day. If it is a work day don’t lose focus and waste time tracking your teams online. If it is a rest day do not pollute it with work. You get the idea.
Now begin a “perspective” and “getting current” mini-retreat
Read David Allen’s GTD – Getting Things Done book for an excellent overview of a weekly check in. To his words I would add these ideas. In a period of a storm of major changes you need this mini-retreat once a week. Let me suggest you set aside 1/2 of a day to fast, pray, rest, and look back over the recent days by reviewing your daily shut down notes and review your commitments to see if you have not drifted off course.
If you are not in a storm of change you may be able to do the mini-retreat every 4 to 6 weeks.
The most important person you lead is yourself . Poor decisions are made in a reactive rather than reflective mode. It requires discipline to engage in a time of pausing and reflecting which creates space for your thinking and feeling to get to an inner quiet and hear from God. Those who seek him and his wisdom do grow and develop confidence and contentment in their leadership.