My Mind Work: Reflection
By: Mary Lou Panzano, Vice President, U.S. Internal Communications, Bayer
The agenda took an interesting turn. Sometimes that happens at leadership team meetings for Bayer’s Corporate Affairs group. I’m so grateful it did last year. Here’s what took place and why it matters to me. I hope it will have meaning for you, too.
We just finished discussing a meaty topic when our boss shifted gears and asked us to think about this question: Are you headed for an energy crisis? A what?
In retrospect, the context for the question made sense. We had just talked about our plans for 2019 and the challenges ahead of us. If we as leaders didn’t have the energy we needed and learned to manage ourselves better, we probably weren’t going to be successful.
One of things I appreciate most about my boss is how much he cares about us as professionals and human beings. We spend a lot of time as leaders working to nurture and develop our teams but don’t necessarily put the same effort into our own well-being. He understands that and makes sure we take the time ourselves to learn, develop and grow.
Back to the meeting. My boss proceeded to hand each of us a piece of paper. I thought, a hand out? In today’s “digital” environment? To me, that meant this was different and important.
The handout was a short quiz he asked us to take to learn about ourselves and do something for our well-being with what we discovered. The quiz had statements broken into four categories — body, mind, emotions and spirit.
Along with my colleagues, I checked off each statement that was true for me and tallied my score. The total revealed how well (or not) I manage my energy. The statements I checked offered insight into areas that could use attention. As a team, we shared what we discovered. We then each committed to a personal goal and to holding one another accountable for it during the year.
So, what did I learn?
My score revealed I am reasonably skilled at managing my energy, but there was evidently room to do better. The statements I checked made me think about where I could benefit from some focused attention. I chose to work on this: I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategizing and creative thinking.
I made a special point of noting the lack of time I take to reflect because I tend to move from one thing to the next often without taking a breath. (I bet some of you can relate.) I had also been learning more about the benefits of meditation and felt focusing on reflection was something I knew I should do more often and would benefit from personally and professionally.
With a commitment to focus on reflecting more, I made time for it. I blocked time on my schedule to think about what just happened, what went well, what didn’t, what I learned, what I might do differently, how grateful I was for the experience, and so on. That cleared my mind and helped put things into perspective. When I shared those reflections with my team and listened to their points of view, we made better decisions and achieved better results.
This year I took the quiz again on New Year’s Day and can report my energy management score was better! But this isn’t about getting better scores. It’s about learning to focus your energy on what matters most for your overall well-being — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Many of us recognize that the first step to improving something about yourself is to identify it. Once you know what that is and acknowledge it, you can take action and begin making changes that will get you to where you want to be.
But you have to take that first step and do something about what you learned or all you have is a piece of paper with some check marks on it. Perhaps understanding that is the most profound reflection from this experience. I’m not ready to start teaching courses on reflection, but I do have a greater appreciation of how important and beneficial it is to make time for it.
Every Friday afternoon at 4:30, my calendar has an entry labeled, “MLP weekly reflections.” It’s my quiet time to think back on the week that just ended and apply what I learned to the week ahead. For me, it’s “mind work” worth working on.
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