3 Reflection Tips for Better Leadership

Reflection on how you as a manager deal with collaboration, mutual communication, improvement, acceleration of change and realizing common goals and ambitions with your own team is very important. There are major differences in how managers deal with this. If there is tension in the organization, such as during a crisis or due to a reorganization or merger, the differences only become more visible.

I support organizations in which managers are increasingly encouraging collaboration, also between teams and departments. Where decisions are made quickly and people give each other positive feedback to further learn and develop towards achieving common goals and ambitions. On the other hand, I also guide organizations that seem to ‘paralyze’ more due to transition periods or under pressure. Where managers indicate that their people sometimes ‘need to be turned on’. Where panic reigns and people are especially busy putting out fires or saving ‘their own skin’. The differences between people and departments are only getting bigger in these organizations. And islands within the teams and organization are becoming even further apart. There is no optimal cooperation. And the goals and ambitions will certainly not be achieved.


Whatever phase you are in with your team or department, as a manager you and your colleagues have a ‘job to do’. Pursue Leadership requires reflection ambitions and achieve successful goals. Deliver high quality. That sometimes seems far away. Yet it is possible. Leadership is a verb. With which you can exert a positive influence. Do you really want to achieve more effective results with your team? Then as a manager, you must be willing to do something for that! And that starts with a reflection on your own performance and on the performance of your team.

Sticking Rücksichtslos patches on your team or yourself, or ignoring the hassle in your team, will not bring you a long-term positive effect. Successful personal leadership first of all requires that you look (more) and reflect. Gaining insight into the prevailing habits of ‘how do I/we do it / not do it in particular’, as well as the behaviors that form signals for ineffective behavior. In other words:

  • What are you doing right?
  • And what is not going so well and can be done differently / better?

And you are the manager, so if you don’t.


Experimenting and learning require looking at your own and each other’s qualities and behavior and the effect thereof. Are we doing the right things to achieve the intended effect? Or can we use better alternative behavior to achieve our goals?

Trading purely on experience and routine is outdated. Prof. Philip Wagner [i] sees the complexity in and around organizations increasing at an accelerated pace: “ This has to do with, for example, transitions in the field of digitization, sustainability and changes in demography, such as an aging population. Directors and professionals can no longer rely on standard solutions and experience. That makes reflection important. People who don’t reflect show old behavior and learn less. ”

But what exactly is reflection? And why is it so important? Wagner puts it as follows: It is actually about Reflection makes you (and your team) more successful taking a step back from the things of the day, creating more space and insight. The person who reflects really well gets a deeper insight into the things that concern him or her. And also in their own personality and motives. 

Learning by doing, combined with reflection

Other research also shows that one among the essential components of learning, reflection is. For example, an experiment in which a ‘learning by doing’ setting has been compared to a ‘learning by doing, combined with reflection’ setting. There appeared to be a significant difference in performance in favor of ‘learning by doing, combined with reflection’. Reflection is inextricably linked to successful learning. Self-reflection can feel uncomfortable, but just like exercise, it offers countless benefits and even gets easier and more fun the more you do it.

A large-scale study [iii] analyzed people who have drastically improved their reflective skills. The conclusion is that self-reflection is essential to success in your career. People who are self-aware and regularly reflect on their own behavior perform better at work. They get more promotions and better leadership. Organizations where professionals regularly reflect and share reflections show better financial performances.

According to the research, we have a clear (self) deficit of consciousness in our lives. While nearly 90% of people believe they are self-aware, less than 15% actually are! This lack of (self) awareness makes many of us wonder in certain situations. Situations where we could have anticipated more effectively if we had looked better with more conscious attention.


  • Check your assumptions you are surprised by a result, you can review your assumptions to assess where you may have misjudged the situation. If your assumptions are often incorrect, consider asking someone you trust for feedback to better identify your blind spots.
  • Consciously look at the impact of your behavior In other cases it is not about our assumptions, but about the impact of our actions. People who are constantly misunderstood or who are not getting the desired results can investigate if there is a gap between their intentions and the impact they are making. Team, but whose speech increases fear among team members. If you encounter this more often, it’s important to ask others for direct feedback (or rather feedforward) about a decision you’ve made or a statement you’ve made. You will not achieve the goal for everyone, but it is good to know where you stand with as many people as possible so that you can adjust your approach.
  • Get out of your “echo chamber” When you surround yourself with a group of people who think the same way as you do, you only get confirmation of your assumptions or decisions. The most important way to increase your self-awareness is to surround yourself with people who challenge you. You can actively shape this.


When I work with individual managers and teams and talk about reflection, I am often told that ‘there is little reflection’. The argument here is usually ‘time’. We often let ourselves be guided by the everyday rat race. Reflection is like having to slow down and that takes time, and we just don’t have that. Very understandable and not effective.

High performing professionals have a long-term strategy and goals in mind at all times. In the long term, what is the most important thing to pay attention to at the moment? What do I show or what do we show specifically in behavior and what effect does that have? And is that also the intended effect or can it be different? Excellent managers know that if you invest time in reflection now, it will pay for itself later in time. Self-reflection makes you a better manager. These executives also encourage their teams to do this. A self-reflective team is a team that has clear priorities and is willing to deal with any setbacks. [iv] Reflection is really necessary to learn (together) to perform better and better. So slow down to speed up!

Felix Tammi

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