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The Importance of Thinking About Your Thinking



Met·a·cog·ni·tion


noun: awareness and understanding of one’s own thought process.It refers to the processes used to plan, monitor, and assess one’s own understanding and performance.

This is my new favorite word and something we all should do a bit more of. We have found ourselves amidst a culture in which performance is rewarded, outcomes are measured, and fast pace is expected. This leaves little room to look inward, dedicate time to reflect on our self-leadership, and create a practice of quietly and thoughtfully deciphering our own perceptions and values. If we don’t spend the time to consider how and what we need to learn, how can we ever excel?

Personal investment and introspection are admirable concepts but many would argue they “don’t have the time.” I would argue you can afford not to. Investing in reflection and self-leadership creates a foundation for personal fulfillment, clear-headed focus, and efficiency. Steven Covey ‘s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People outlines this well. He talks of “Sharpening the saw.”:


Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

“What are you doing?” you ask.

“Can’t you see?” comes an impatient reply. “I’m sawing down a tree.”

“You look exhausted!” you exclaim, “How long have you been at it?”

“Over five hours” he returns “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”

“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”

“I don't have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!”

This passage struck me as so relevant. Leaders who are overwhelmed, have more responsibilities than expected, and thus their team is ineffective yet, they don’t stop to invest in self-leadership or the development of new tools. The chaos continues and the spiral begins.

We recognize the problem but it feels impossible to step out of the tornado in order to implement change and garner insight and support. Covey goes on to say, “An increasingly educated conscience will propel us along the path of personal freedom, security, wisdom, and power...To keep progressing, we must learn, commit, and do- learn, commit, and do- and learn, commit, and do again.”


My question to you:

If you do nothing and continue this path, what will be the consequence? What will be the cost?

Burnout? Divorce? Career failure? Unfulfilled potential? How long do you have to go and how much does it have to hurt until you stop and invest in the foundational structure of health, purpose, and partnership? Seeking to find synergy with all of the dynamics at play.

I asked one of my great mentors (thank you Karen) the other day, “Why don’t you think leaders seek out support and learning as they see their team crumbling around them?” Maybe that is too logical of a question… her answer, “because many leaders are expected to know how to lead well, and if they admit they need support or guidance, they feel they may be in jeopardy of losing their job, so they don’t.”

THIS IS CRAZY!!


I understand this perspective but doesn’t this speak more to the lack of trust in their team rather than one’s own skillset? Is your culture so rigid that people would rather see their team crumble than ask for coaching?

If this is the case, what can you do to encourage sharpening of the saw?

My Challenge To You:

  • Lead by example.

  • Talk about your own insecurities and the steps you have taken to rise above.

  • Offer opportunities and support to integrate new learnings and tools.

  • Develop a mastermind group to share ideas and normalize fears.

  • Offer coaching as a reward for growing leaders.

  • Create a culture in which the development of leadership skills is a requirement and a celebrated accomplishment.

  • Integrate these types of conversations into your meetings. Steven Covey has a card deck with thought-provoking questions- start the first 10 minutes of each meeting discussing one card.

  • Use these Weekly Wisdom’s to jump-start conversation and connection.

There are so many simple steps that you can begin to integrate into your team. Commit to one each week, please!

In the latest episode of Coaching For Leaders, Dave and Bonni Stachowiak have a great conversation around this idea and inspired me to write this weekly wisdom. (Thank you Dave and Bonni!)



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