A time for introspection

January is a good time to be introspective about your career, firm, and self.


In December 2010, I laid out a 12-step program for making 2011 a year of leadership for you and your firm. This made for a convenient monthly checklist for continuous improvement. Because the “devil is in the details,” I’m going to build on that list by providing details for each step on a monthly basis.

In keeping with the plan, let’s tackle January’s goal: Get introspective. Think about your career and firm and determine your needs for self and corporate improvement.

Introspection is a very powerful tool, but probably underused in today’s fast-paced, multitasking, overly crowded lifestyle. Introspection is not mere “navel gazing,” as some people put it. Introspection helps integrate current events with history and future, painting a holistic picture of where things are and where they are going.

Without introspection, you’re tiptoeing across an unsteady bridge between current and future, instead of boldly marching across it. And believe me, if you are leading a staff or team, they can tell the difference.

While introspection can be internal, it can also be external and interactive. For example, having coffee with a mentor can be introspective, if your mentor challenges you on whether you’re making good career choices. Asking staff, colleagues, and customers for evaluations can also be introspective, as you will be forced to adjust your perceptions of self with those whom you work with.

Introspection is often triggered by major events that are powerful enough to cut through the noise of everyday life, and they often cross boundaries of career and personal life. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks put the whole nation into a long period of introspection. The death of a friend, coworker, or family member is another boundary-crossing trigger.

However, major triggers do not happen often enough to guide major decisions. Major triggers also may not occur in a way that fuels career and company decisions, and the aggregation of minor decisions made without introspective periods could lead you astray. Therefore, a goal for 2011 is to become more proactive about introspection and to direct introspection to where you want it to lead you.

Introspection is individualistic—people have natural predispositions for carrying out introspection, and therefore should spend a few minutes realizing what their natural tendencies are. Are you one who keeps a journal or blog? Do you often seek guidance and feedback from others? Do you make and refine quarterly and multiyear career goals? Do you turn off phones, e-mail dings, and other distractions at any point during the workday to gain a few minutes to reflect on events that have happened or that are soon to occur? Whatever your inclinations are, lean into them. Refine your introspection processes so you can tap them more efficiently and effectively.

A few ways to build more introspection into your workday and career are:

  1. Think about an upcoming meeting for a few minutes before walking into it. Role-play both sides of an upcoming conversation.
  2. Establish quarterly and 3-year plans. Share them with a mentor, and meet with the mentor occasionally to review them.
  3. Create feedback loops with clients, colleagues, and coworkers on your ideas and performance. Ask, “How did (the project, idea, etc.) work out?” to make things less personal than “How did I do?”
  4. Schedule pop-up reminders randomly in your electronic calendar to ask yourself important questions. Do I like my job? How is my relationship with so-and-so? Have I reached a decision on my ultimate career goal?

However you do it, it’s healthy and productive. Get introspective. 

Ivanovich is the president of The Ivanovich Group LLC, which provides research, analysis, and consulting services to the buildings industry. Read his blog at http://theivanovichreport.wordpress.com.

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