So what have I learned in 2015?
- Reflection is critical for improvement. As I wrote earlier this year, studies show that regular, intentional reflection leads to improvements in productivity. So in 2015 I set about to build more time for reflection into my life. When I did it, I almost always was able to identify ways in which I could tighten my work processes or change my approach to improve my results. Without the reflection, I found myself repeating mistakes unnecessarily. Even still, I found it was a challenge to make and keep an appointment with myself for reflection on a daily basis — even when I knew it was for my own good.
- Reflection requires discipline. Why do we need discipline for reflection? Because doing it right requires consistent and concentrated effort. If you have ever tried to stick to a diet or build a new habit, you understand the challenges of discipline. As a knowledge management professional, I have preached the value of reflection to myself and my colleagues for years. However, even if you believe in it and see the results, you still need to set aside time regularly to actually do it. That’s the hard part. That’s the necessary part. That’s where discipline comes into play.
- Cognitive dissonance will bite you in unpleasant places. When things don’t add up, we often brush them off as aberrational. However, an after action review often reveals that the outlier data we ignored earlier were actually warning signals of an impeding disaster. So what’s the best way to address this? If you can do it, stop for a moment and ask yourself, if these data are not outliers but, in fact, warning signals, what are they likely to mean? Even if you cannot accurately predict the exact nature of the potential failure, this brief exercise will make you alert to other data that seem to be outliers, but that taken in the aggregate create an unwelcome pattern.
- Show up. As a consultant, each year is only as good as the clients and assignments I’ve won. Thankfully, 2015 has been a very good year indeed. I’ve had the pleasure of repeat business with some of my favorite clients and I’ve also been privileged to work with some new clients. Interestingly, some of my key projects this year have not come from specific marketing efforts, but rather from simply showing up. For me this has meant being present for face-to-face encounters and also being present online. It especially means staying in touch with people over the course of the year. As I have discovered this year, when you are top of mind, you are recommended when projects and opportunities arise.
Let me close this final blog post of 2015 by conveying my gratitude to my readers who ask the questions and provide the comments that keep me stretching, learning and growing. I look forward to continuing the journey with you in 2016.
[Photo Credit: Barry Vaughn]