The Power of Reflection

One of the most common reactions I get from people who experience executive coaching is:

“Wow, just having the time and space to think about that issue I’ve been grappling with has been great!”

When was the last time you hit the pause button?

When was the last time you hit the pause button? The Leader's Digest, by Suzi McAlpine

Today’s business landscape is fast paced, complex and demanding, so it’s little wonder this environment has moulded many of us into literal ‘action men.’

Einstein said, “there is more to life than increasing speed” – but almost all organisational environments encourage us to do just that.

Action Man, The Power of Reflection, The Leader's Digest by Suzi McAlpine

Whilst I recognise that a bias for action is a powerful strength in a leader, so too is the ability to press the pause button to mull over issues and challenges on a regular basis.

I firmly believe that reflection itself is an action.  Harnessing the power of reflection is integral, not only to the success of a leader, but the success of an organisation as a whole.

Why is reflection (particularly self reflection) such a vital tool for leaders?

The following model illustrates the four step reflection/action cycle:

The Power of Reflection Four Step Cycle, The Leader's Digest, by Suzi McAlpine

By carrying out a constant stream of actions without taking time to reflect, we miss out on the ‘holy grail’ that follows from reflection – insight – which in turn inevitably leads to better quality decisions.

Whether its ensuring you block time out in your diary explicitly for strategy, employ exercise as your daily ‘thinking time’ or use those waits in airport lounges to write down your contemplations and ruminations, I challenge you to make more time in your busy schedule for reflection – and reap the rewards.


Try this simple reflection exercise, based on The Egan Coaching Model*:

Think of a work related problem or challenge.  Put aside 20 minutes uninterrupted and write down the following:

Step One: Problem Identification

What exactly is the problem? Be as specific as possible. What is contributing to the problem? What effect is this problem having on me? others? What are my thoughts and preconceived ideas about this problem which may be hindering a solution?

Step Two: Generating Alternatives.

Brainstorm as many alternative solutions as you can think of (no evaluation at this point).  The goal here is to come up with as many ideas and viable solutions as possible.

Step Three: Evaluate the Options.

You could use simple pro’s  and con’s, consider the consequences of each particular alternative, weigh up each solution against the objective, or simply ask, “what is the best fit for me and why?

Step Four: Choose a solution and develop a plan for implementation.

– Suzi

*Ref: Egan, Gerard.  The Skilled Helper, 6th edn. Pacific Grove, California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company 1998.


  1. […] Reflection 2. Feeling 3. Sensing 4. Silence 5. Intuition 6. Pausing 7. Soul 8. Listening 9. […]

  2. […] holidays provide us with a natural hiatus to stop, reflect and press the ‘reset’ […]

  3. […] like the GROW or Egan coaching model can help. Even brainstorming with action points can stimulate solutions to move forward and solve […]

  4. […] It reminds me of the value of reflection. […]

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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