Mirror, Mirror On The Wall...

Issue 77

It's been estimated the average person spends 11 days per decade simply looking at themselves in the mirror. Frequently however, I see people in business who rarely, if ever engage in any form of reflective practice in relation to their business or how they lead it

The imperative of pragmatism in business can often drive people more to action over thought. This can result in everything from a “fail to launch “outcome through to the familiar “busy fools” phenomenon, wherein action lacks traction.

I find I have considerable resonance with the pragmatic mantra of “done – not perfect” as an antidote to procrastination, over analysis or perfectionism. However, a balance still needs to be achieved between getting things “over the line” and being truly thought out with fitness for purpose in mind.

Modern organisations must balance drives to be first past the post with ethics, values, desired cultures, staff retention, wellbeing, workforce planning and other considerations. Often rapid progress is mired by the unintended consequences of capricious actions that have not been fully thought through. The rapid, quick-fire decision-making, so prized in the era of “heroic” leaders, increasingly must now be subordinated to a more nuanced, subtle approach.

I still get quite surprised that even after Covid, there is an impetus to immediately get things back to “normal” without a reflection on where we truly are. For example, in what was tacitly described as the “new normal”, more savvy firms are now re-considering the whole nature of hybrid working. It was a convenient means to an end during Covid, enabling economic activity to continue, but one must reflect on this becoming an ongoing working practice and many are already considering the deleterious effect of teams being split up, lost synergies, reduced communication and damage to esprit de corps. Whilst hybrid working may be “family friendly” and have many other merits, as with all phenomena there are pros and cons that need to be carefully weighed. Things created in crisis may create new paradigms but equally may be dismally unfit for the long haul.

We are creatures of reiteration and algorithm in our thinking. Consequently, matters of importance need to be carefully considered in ways that factor in different emotional, environmental and situational factors so that we can come to durable decisions and workable courses of action. It’s an imprecise science, but far better than some of the “shooting from the hip” we see daily with the gunslingers involved calling that leadership!

I rarely apologise for encouraging people into deeper reflective practice. Sure, it’s great to write a strategy, analyse and work through a process or cement a team’s working relationships. However, crucially time spent by business owners and leaders in their own personal reflection, looking at their direction, its impact on others, its impact on markets, society and wider outcomes bisects not only notions of effective leadership but those of common humanity.

Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. He meant that the person who did not reflect upon her/his life fails to derive meaning or true purpose in existence, can be focused on self to the neglect of others and can lead to cycles of self-defeating effort.

At Gedanken we never lose sight of business pragmatism but equally we work with leaders and others to explore their highest, most reflective selves, calling upon them to see leadership as not only a concept but a personal path, something that impacts upon organisations and self in equal measure and looking at the inextricable links between the two. Complex stuff, but necessary for an effective and fulfilling leadership journey

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