YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


More Reflection Is Key to Business Success

May 30, 2000|Gary Izumo

"Reflection? Forget it. I don't have the time." Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon sentiment among managers and employees.

Our days are demanding. The pace of business continues to escalate. We need to get work done fast as well as right. And we are expected to get more done with less.

But instead of spending less time on reflection, we should be committed to reflecting more. The challenges of work today require thoughtful reflection. Without reflection, we lose touch with who we are and what we want to accomplish. Our connection to our purpose weakens, if not disappears.

We observe people getting lost in the volume and complexity of their tasks. Often, they are not able to see the meaning of what they do. We see people getting caught up in a group mentality. They are not able to hear the warnings of their inner compass. We see people getting frustrated by the repetition of mistakes. They are not learning from their experiences.

And what is a common denominator in these problems? A lack of reflection.

Yes, we are busy. But we don't need to feel powerless in influencing our future. We don't need to just react. We don't need to feel lost.

Thoughtful contemplation helps us stay centered. It helps us understand the meaning of not only what we do, but also what we seek to do. It sustains motivation and enables us to be effective and not just efficient. And reflection helps us recharge our creative energy.

With the demands and pace of work today, reflection is needed more now than ever. Here are three ideas for your consideration:

* Pick a time and place each day for reflection.

Review your situation. Are you taking anything for granted: your job, for instance, health or important relationships? How are you spending your time? Does it reflect your priorities? If not, is this a temporary imbalance, and how and when might you achieve a more reasonable balance? Think about your purpose, how it relates to the organizational mission, and how you spend your time. Assess how well your behaviors and the use of your time reflect your priorities and the progress you want to make.

* After reaching a milestone or completing a project, such as achieving a customer satisfaction goal, the introduction of a new product or an employee performance review, take time to review the results.

Assess how well it went, the link to personal and organizational goals and what can be learned from the experience. For example, "What went right? What went wrong? What could we do better? What might we do differently?" Reflect on your goals, what you want to achieve and the next steps you might take. Through reflection we learn, we identify personal and organizational opportunities and we define the direction of our next steps.

* Listen to your inner compass.

When it seeks to guide you, reflect on what you are doing, your situation, and why you might be sensing those inner warnings. Life, including work, is full of situations where our different values collide and create awkward, if not difficult decisions. It could be reconciling work demands with important family commitments. It can manifest itself in a desire to be liked rather than taking an unpopular, but correct stand on a controversial issue. Or it can happen with pressure to agree with your boss on a critical decision instead of sharing your own view. If you feel uncomfortable, take time to reflect. This introspection will help you navigate those inevitable issues that point out fuzziness in our value priorities. You will gain a deeper understanding of what is important. You will make better decisions. You will be better able to be true to yourself.

Reflection can be scary. We don't like doing things that might uncover imperfections or make us admit weakness. We might not want to deal with the realities of who we are and what we have accomplished or not accomplished.

And clearly, we all make mistakes. We all have regrets. Reflection should not be a time to beat ourselves up or feel sorry for ourselves. It is a time to learn. It is a time to renew commitment. It is a time to clarify what is important.

Reflection is vital if we are to grow, achieve purpose and understand the meaning in what we do and where we want to go.

Let's work smart and not just hard. Let's listen to our inner compass and be a person of integrity. Let's find time for reflection and experience meaning in our work.


Gary Izumo is a professor in the Moorpark College Business Department and has managed his own consulting practice. He is a former McKinsey & Co. consultant and practice leader for the Strategic Management Consulting Practice of Price Waterhouse. You can e-mail him at

Los Angeles Times Articles