Posted on

Time to Think: The Importance of Introspection in Leadership

I have the privilege to work with leaders from diverse sectors including government, medicine, nonprofits, and the arts. Something that constantly comes up during coaching leaders is their near constant fire-fighting and focus on the day-to-day. Like the movie, Groundhog Day, it seems like the same things happen over and over again. The clients I coach want to break the cycle of crisis and reactivity, but seem unable to. Yet they know they are capable of leading differently.

When leaders lead by crisis management, often a root cause is a lack of introspection–an absence of personal and strategic think time. This includes time to think about the future, time to plan, and time to consider what is most important. One way executives can explore this phenomenon is by reviewing their calendar. When do they think? Do they have time, their most precious commodity, blocked on their calendar for introspection?

The classic definition of introspection is a reflective looking inward, an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings. A leader needs introspection time for looking inward–to consider who they are, what they value, what motivates them–to build their self-awareness. I work with leaders who know the value of this self-reflection; they show up focused and clear. I also work with leaders who lack this habit of personal introspection. These leaders tend to show up frustrated and unfocused.

Looking inward is critical for self-knowledge and building one’s self-awareness. And as we know through Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence, our most effective leaders are highly self-aware. Self-awareness is the gateway to self-management and relationship building–important competencies for effective leaders.

Introspection or examination of personal values, meaning, and purpose creates clarity. It enables leaders to focus on long-term success, not simply fire-fighting. There is power in envisioning and planning for a future. If you don’t take the time, either during your totally packed week or during your precious weekend time, you miss an important leadership duty–“the lifting of a person’s vision to higher sights, raising a person’s performance to a higher standard” (Peter Drucker).

Journaling is a simple practice leaders can adopt to strengthen introspection and self awareness. There is great power writing. Not only does it bring inner clarity, the act of writing increases our ability to achieve. The physical act of writing stimulates the base of the brain, a group of cells called the reticular activating system (RAS). In Write It Down, Make It Happen, author Henriette Anne Klauser says that, “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’ Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that […] were there all along.” And we know writing down our goals helps in goal attainment. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, studies goal setting and found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down.

Leaders need to schedule time to be introspective and increase their self-awareness. And the simple practice of writing down their insights, intentions, and goals helps them become a more intentional leader who gets the best out of themselves, their people, and their organizations.

Are you interested in leading Emotional Intelligence transformations? Apply today for the Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification. Whether you’re an established coach or new to the field, this intensive program offers the tools and first hand experience you need to coach for transformational growth.

Get the latest news in Emotional Intelligence delivered to your inbox!

Join our mailing list to receive news and updates from Daniel Goleman and the Key Step Media Team

Thanks! Don't forget to confirm your email address 🙂


Posted on

Room for Growth: Overcoming Our Fixed Mental Habits

Underlying beliefs play an important role in how we learn and grow. When you believe you can grow, you understand that effort will improve your performance and lead to increased happiness and well-being. Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck, coined the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset” to describe underlying beliefs people have about learning and intelligence.  

 

  • With a Fixed Mindset, you believe whatever talents or capabilities you have, including intelligence or creativity, are static, “you’re either born with it or you’re not.” You believe striving to improve will only get you so far–and there is an inherent inability to excel in something you aren’t “gifted” in. This fixed mindset also holds true for your belief about what others can or cannot achieve.
  • With a Growth Mindset, you believe your capabilities are a baseline and improvement can occur with intentional effort, persistence, and practice. You understand abilities can be developed.

 

Dweck’s research identifies how the beliefs you adopt about your ability to change and grow deeply impact how you live your life. The truth is we all vacillate between the two extremes of fixed and growth mindset, depending on our mood, our confidence, and the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Maureen’s Story

Take the story of Maureen, a manager in a tech company, who routinely felt sidelined in meetings despite her subject matter expertise. She struggled to move her projects forward because she was quiet, and her colleagues tended to talk over her. Maureen knew she was smart. She graduated at the top of her class from an Ivy league school and loved her field of work (no problem with a growth mindset, here). However, she believed her shyness was a personal deficit. She thought being a persuasive communicator was just not in her wheelhouse and never would be. Consequently, she resigned herself to remaining in the shadows of more extroverted peers.

Here, Maureen’s self-limiting beliefs (SLBs), a type of fixed mindset, were demotivating her from trying to improve. They were thoughts that became mental habits, leading her down a behavioral path that kept her from realizing her goals and potential.

Calling Out Self-Limiting Beliefs

There are times when our beliefs about ourselves get in our way. Often, SLBs are unconsciously-held beliefs. Increasing our Self-Awareness can enable us to recognize SLBs. But even then, sometimes we don’t see that which is closest to us. This is where working with a coach can be beneficial. A good coach can help us spot our SLBs before we spot them on our own. We can also actively retrain our brains to think with a growth, rather than fixed mindset. 

Cultivate a Growth Mindset, Try This:

Over the next month, notice when you have negative or self-critical thoughts about yourself. Pay attention to what triggers self-critical thoughts and how you feel when you experience these thoughts. Then, replace the self-limiting belief with a growth mindset response. Download our Growth Mindset Tracking Tool to help you along the way.

 

Everyone falls into SLBs sometimes. We just need to notice when our brains are stuck and remind ourselves that our brains are built to grow, change, and learn. What can you say instead?

  1. The power of yet: Add yet at the end of your fixed mindset statements.
    Example: “I can’t do this.” → “I can’t do this YET!”
  2.  Say stop: When your SLB voice is getting out of hand, tell yourself to stop and clear your mind before continuing.
  3. Start using the word you instead of I. Example: “I got this.” → “YOU got this!”

 

The most important thing to remember when it comes to mindsets is this: the thoughts and beliefs we hold have the potential to empower or defeat us. Our narratives are a significant part of our lives we CAN control. Growth mindset is the belief that skills can be nurtured through learning and effort. By reframing our self-limiting thoughts as they occur, we can train our brains for positive growth and open ourselves up new opportunities.  

Recommended Reading:

 

 

Want to learn about the competencies that comprise Emotional Intelligence? Our series of primers focuses on the twelve Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies, which include Emotional Self-Awareness, Adaptability, and Empathy.

The primers are written by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, co-creators of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model, along with a range of colleagues, thought-leaders, researchers, and leaders with expertise in the various competencies. Explore the full list of primers by topic, or get the complete collection!

 

 

 

 

For more in-depth reading on leadership and EI, What Makes a Leader: Why Emotional Intelligence Matters presents Daniel Goleman’s ground-breaking, highly sought-after articles from the Harvard Business Review and other business journals in one volume. It features more than half a dozen articles, including “Reawakening Your Passion for Work.”