“It is necessary…for a man to go away by himself ... to sit on a rock ... and ask, 'Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?”
― Carl Sandburg
I recently spent a half-day with a colleague who graciously offered me her support as I considered my business plan and asked myself the questions (again): Who am I? Who are our users and buyers? What do they need? How can I meet that need differently than my competition? During this process she challenged me to evaluate how I came to be where I was now, and in so doing, I discovered something new and different about my work around The Cycle of Transformation.
Mindfulness is coming of age as we learn more about the value created when employees are present and attuned with their work. Mindfulness practices in the workplace are linked to lower stress, employee satisfaction, healthier relationships, and improved business results. Mindfulness can simply be defined as attention and awareness to the present moment. There are many opportunities to practice mindfulness techniques in the workplace, depending on the situation, but I want to focus on those opportunities that are linked to evaluation, assessment, or a debriefing of action that has been taken.
Recently I read about the distinguishing characteristics of mindfulness to-action, and mindfulness in-action. This idea really resonates with me, because for years I’ve practiced reflection to-action as part of the transformative cycle for individuals and organizational systems. I can clearly see how mindfulness in-action strengthens the Cycles of Transformation, during the action phase, through full presence and awareness of each moment that one is engaged in “the doing.” The next phase of the transformative cycle happens when one reflects on “the doing.” The greater the ability to stay present and re-experience the completed activity, mindfulness to-action, the greater the opportunity for new insight as the individual or the organization remains agile and iterative about what happens next.
Cycles of Transformation become expansive, in part, through the practice of learning through reflection. We evolve and grow systems by examining past and current realities and pondering questions about priorities, impacts and desired outcomes. Mindfulness to-action, or Reflection, when embedded in the coaching or learning process ensures necessary time is spent to consider if we will repeat, adjust, or abandon a past course of action. Attention creates intention.
I have included three tips to support your success at the Reflection phase of the Cycle of Transformation process. These will help you use mindfulness to-action.
Contemplative Inquiry: To look at, or view, for an extended time. Deeply considering our own actions is an important element of a personal growth strategy. This level of reflection and inquiry can lead to self-awareness and deep insight about what is most important and what action we want to curtail or commit more time and energy toward. Some individuals like to find a quiet place to think, others prefer to walk, hike, or run while considering an important question, and still others journal or draw while in a reflective state. Figure out what works best for you. The same holds true for organizational systems. Appreciative Inquiry, Strategic Planning and Executive Alignment sessions are examples of structures that organizations use to take a step back and engage in contemplative inquiry by asking questions such as: Where have we been? Where are we now? Where do we need to go next? What actions will we choose to take?
Comparative Outcomes: The identification of effectiveness for specific activities. Looking back to compare and contrast what happened in different situations can often help excavate the pieces and parts that did or didn’t work. When in doubt regarding the best future course of action, look to the past and you might find a hybrid, or a combined approach based on several past experiences. Start by brainstorming all the times you have solved a similar problem or encountered the situation at hand. List everything you can remember about what took place and the outcomes. Discard what you didn’t like but be careful that you are discarding it for the right reasons.
Coaching Reflection: Leaders can support others in their reflective process by asking coaching questions about past actions. The coaching skills, listening and intuition, to name just a few, are also extremely valuable and can help uncover opportunities to deepen clarity and create new insight. Reflective coaching has a purpose; to create learning for another person that supports his or her desired, future-growth. Beware of creating a focus that erodes self-regard and confidence. Below are questions that may help you coach reflection, or mindfulness to-action.
- Describe what happened.
- How did that support your goal; objective; desired outcome?
- What would the ideal outcome have been?
- What did, or would lead to that end?
- What would you change?
- What could be done differently to improve the odds?
- What are you especially proud of?
- What will you repeat?
- What will you discard?
- What happens now?
If you are interested in becoming a performance driven organization that’s able to balance a drive for results with caring connected leadership; a mindfulness to-action and reflection practice may be part of the solution you’re looking for. Schedule a free consultation today and learn how to use Cycles of Transformation to grow your team.
Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing the unique talent, values, and purpose inherent in all.