Cy Wakeman believes leadership  is not about motivating people or solving their problems or ordering people around.

Leadership, Cy believes, is about inquiry.  We are at our best when we ask ourselves and our colleagues thoughtful questions, which lead to self-reflection and ultimately to action.

Today we examine the power of self-reflection.  Self-reflection is the path to insight.  It is how we become true experts in our own lives.

It is also difficult to do when we are triggered emotionally.  

Step one is often to let someone share their feelings and emotions, experts like Dr. Daniel Friedland agree.    

So, as leaders, we begin by listening.  We encourage the other person to share.  We let them talk.  There is value in letting someone speak their mind.  

But, our real job as leaders begins once the emotion peters out.  

Step two is to be curious.  To ask questions.  To encourage the other person to reflect and search for insights and solutions to the situation at hand.

One of Cy’s core beliefs is: Our impact as leaders does not come from what we tell team members, but from what we get them thinking about.  

Our role is not to solve the problem but to invest our energy in helping others self-reflect, discover their own solution, and anticipate potential obstacles.

“Self-reflection is the ultimate ego-bypass tool. It is also the core driver of accountability,” Cy writes.  And, “accountability is the death of ego.”

A great time for self-reflection is immediately after giving someone feedback.  

We encourage the other person to reflect on the feedback provided.  The goal is to give “the mind a place to start and ego a place to rest.”  Which in turn leads to meaningful self-inquiry.  

Later, we engage in a follow up conversation to see what insights have been gained.  How did the reflection help the person to see their role in the results?  What shifts in the person’s thinking do we detect?

Here are some questions to ask ourselves and others to generate self-reflection:

What would great look like right now?

If there were other explanations for someone’s behavior, what might they be?

What do I know for sure?

What would be most helpful in this situation?

What could I do next to add value?

What could I do right now to help?

Would I rather be right or happy?

What do I want?  

What am I willing to do to get that?

What am I really trying to achieve?

What is getting in the way of taking action?

What is my part in the outcome?

What did I say that helped?  Hindered?

What is my current approach?  

How is that working for me?

What would I like to change in that approach?

What would happen if I just chose to agree and help?

What would make this successful?

What will I do to ensure that?


Reflection:  Consider a current situation where I am stuck.  Select two questions from the list above and journal my answers.

Action:  Look for an opportunity today to encourage a colleague to self-reflect. 

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