Increase Efficiency by Slowing Down

Amy Schuman
Amy Schuman

Here’s an appealing headline, from the Harvard Business Review “Daily Stat” on May 7, 2015:

Taking Time to Reflect Makes People More Productive
“Trainees at a business-process-outsourcing company in India increased their performance by an average of 22.8% over the course of a month by spending the last 15 minutes of each day reflecting on and writing about lessons they had learned, Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and Bradley Staats of the University of North Carolina write on HBR.org. Reflection prompts people to be more aware of their progress and gives them confidence to accomplish tasks and goals, the researchers say.”

My colleague, Deb Houden, recently shared this nugget with our group, knowing that we often engage our clients in thoughtful reflection as part of our consulting process.

For example, as a facilitator I regularly end meetings by asking participants to reflect on the time we spent together. Typical reflection questions might include the following:

“As you leave our meeting, what will you take with you and how will you apply it?”

“When you think about our meeting, what stands out?”

“Take a minute to reflect on the time we just spent together: Write down one word or phrase that captures a valuable nugget or insight. We’ll go around the table and briefly share before closing.”

Reflection doesn’t happen only at the end of meetings. If energy droops in the middle of the morning or late in the afternoon, you can take a short diversion from the planned agenda. Go around the table with a reflection question to focus and energize the proceedings, for example:

“What’s one of your unique skills or talents? How can you bring more of that to this meeting?”

“Think about leaving this room at the end of our meeting. What is the most important thing for us to accomplish? What action can you take — immediately — to help make it happen?”

It can be uncomfortable to ask a group to stop for reflection. I often have to weather some rolled eyeballs or other resistance. However, the discomfort is worth it! Meetings are invariably more productive, focused and enjoyable after even a very brief reflection break.

Have courage. Take the risk. Take steps to balance out the bias towards energetic forward motion. Use reflection as a tool to slow things down in order to  ultimately be even more effective.

If you are already trying this approach, let us know how it’s going!

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