Reflection: The overlooked & underrated tool for growth

Self-reflection is a process that is often avoided for fear of having to ‘dwell’ on unfavourable or unbecoming situations in the past.  However, I have come to understand that act of reflection is an overlooked and underrated tool for both personal and business growth.

Of late, I have heard the phrase ‘hustle culture’ time and time again and I have consciously observed the aspects of this ‘hustle culture’.  Essentially, ‘hustle culture’ promotes the idea of working long hours and sacrificing other aspects of personal life in order to succeed, with the embedded promise that if you give work all your time and attention, you can achieve anything and everything.

As a business owner or people leader, it is easy to unintentionally subscribe to the ‘hustle culture’ because you’re trying to do it all for the benefit of the business.  I for one have unintentionally subscribed to this culture for longer than I realised because I like to just ‘get stuff done’ – as I’m sure many  business owners and people leaders do.  The danger of the hustle culture is that we give our time and energy to the wrong parts of the business.  We do what we need to do, to get it all done however, we are blind to the bigger picture.

The process of reflection can assist you in taking stock of how your time has been spent and what proportion of your time in the past month or past quarter was spent providing non-revenue generating support, generating revenue or creating growth and future revenue i.e. the bigger picture!

Now, reflecting on some of my busiest periods (in a former life), I can very clearly see that at times (actually most of the time), I only focussed on getting through the revenue of today with no consideration for the growth or revenue of tomorrow.  In hindsight, had I implemented a process or set time per month or per quarter to reflect on each period, I may have identified that next to none of my time was actively spent working on future growth and then rectified this.

Taking the time to reflect on the business and recognise where time and energy is spent will allow you to reset and identify what is lacking in the business and where time and energy is needed.

As business coaches, we work with clients to ensure the business is fully functional by taking time to stop, reflect and then map out the business workflows and allocate these to the costs, the revenue of today and the revenue of the future (or as we categorise them – the ‘Red’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Black’ of the business).

What Beckon Business loves about this –  we get a front row seat to witnessing our clients unlock growth in their business.

~ Stephanie Toutountzis

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How distance can improve business fitness in an era of social distancing

Last year my work colleague Ak Sabbagh, who often has moments of startling wisdom, wrote a blog about the similarity between Astronoauts and Business Coaches in which he explained that the gift they both have is PERSPECTIVE. To quote from Ak’s blog –

It is a phenomenon called the “overview effect” – described by space philosopher and author Frank White as “seeing the Earth from a distance, and realising the inherent unity and oneness of everything… The viewer moves from identification with parts of the Earth to identification with the whole system.”

The “Overview Effect” was brought back down to earth in COVID-19 and became a powerful exercise regime for keeping our coaching business and our clients’ businesses fit during lockdown. Lockdown caused society and businesses everywhere to cease ‘business-as-usual’ and stay still, whilst keeping on going – and that was the challenge that sent our minds and feelings into turmoil.

What immediately emerged, no matter how aware and well coached we were, was a reactive response of – ‘well that means I can’t do the things that keep me and my business healthy anymore, so I’ll just have to get fat and unhealthy!’ As a collective we felt disempowered because we were ‘prevented’ from making our own choices.

According to neuroscience, funny things happen in the brain, when we feel like this – and we probably don’t need neuroscience to tell us that, do we!  Our brain loves ‘autopilot’ and feels mighty uncomfortable when things aren’t ‘normal’, as Lyra Puspa, leadership coach and neuroscientist explained to me. In practice the brain unconsciously feels secure when the past, present and future are connected.

One client told me how helpless he felt when lockdown was announced and swimming pools closed because his ‘normal’ exercise regime is a 5am swim three times a week. This keeps his body, particularly his back, fit. He blamed the government for making him ‘fat and unhealthy’. In desperation he decided to try a new exercise, walking, allowed under the COVID-19 regulations. He found it wasn’t too bad, although it was slow and not really keeping him fit. He needed to jog, but knew he couldn’t because his knees wouldn’t stand it. However, he tried it once and came back feeling invigorated and no sore knees. Now he is jogging his way through COVID-19, staying fit to emerge from lockdown with a new level of fitness and equipped if this situation comes back.

What is happening from a neuroscience perspective is that to manage the discomfort caused by being prevented from swimming, the brain looked for things that in the past have provided security. This is called Attachment – and the past things we are attached to affect the present and will flow through to the future.

However, the brain is stimulated by new things and also likes familiar or old things. New things, different behaviours can be exhausting for the brain as they demand energy. Therefore, the brain attaches to Familiar patterns because it requires less energy when changes take place. The attachment to something that worked in the past and is familiar, makes us think we are in control of the situation and have Agency. Our brain tells us it’s okay, “I know what is going on here, even if things are different out there”. This is called Certainty and is what helps our brains grow. Uncertainty gives rise to fear which shrinks our brain, as Lyra explained it. Hence, my client’s reaction to changes with lockdown can be explained by neuroscience. His past attachment to swimming and feeling of helplessness when it was taken away by  government lockdown, in the present made him view the future as fat and unhealthy.

The same applies in our business lives. One client, a business owner of a highly skilled dental practice was significantly impacted because her industry was the first to be totally shut-down when COVID-19 emerged. Despite having the initial response of ‘What are we expected to do NOW???’ this client decided to use a low-energy activity, to ‘go digital’. This felt a bit like walking as an exercise, it wasn’t really making the business fit, just keeping things moving. This client extended her energy to keeping ‘business-fit’ by building her leadership team and strengthening them to lead the practice out of lockdown, fitter and stronger than ever. Now that the business can return to it’s pre-COVID business regime, there is a new energy in the place and a strong and well-equipped leadership team to manage things back to normal.

In this new normal of unknown, uncertain times, as we move out of lockdown, we can stay fit and healthy by adjusting our view from focus on the individual parts of our business, to view this from above, looking at the entire business system itself and strengthen and develop the parts that make the whole strong.

In this age of social distancing, creating a space which allows you to objectively consider your business is a healthy move towards Finding a New Business Balance.

If you don’t want to wait around until the ‘new normal’ is dictated upon you, but you do want to pro-actively create,  define and shape the new normal for yourself and your business, then join us on 21st August at 9am with other business leaders and owners for a Zoom conversation to discuss what we’ve collectively learned, what we take forward, leave behind, and how we Find a New Balance.

Join us to Find a New Business Balance , click here to register now

Margaret Armitage

Coach & Mentor

Beckon Business




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Events this week – Acknowledging the Leader

Leading a business can be challenging at the best of times let alone in the uncertain times we find ourselves in today.  So I thought I’d reach out to you to say g’day and to also invite you to a Zoom conversation along with other business owners and leaders.

Why?  Because right now as a leader you are probably focussed on everything but yourself: your staff, your business, your strategies and contingencies, your suppliers, cash follows, clients, commercial rent, mortgages, income, family, kids, and obviously COVID-19!

Yet for any system to manage well, it needs to be looked after, particularly the main cog in the wheel.  And as coaches we want to support you in this.

To that end we’d love you to indulge yourself for 40 minutes – take some time out to connect with other leaders we know – to think about:

  • Who is supporting you and how are you supporting yourself as a leader?
  • What tools can you use to help you get clarity, maintain your energy and stay in context?
  • Your focus and presence.

Earlier this week I was asked to co-present, along with professional psychologists, on working people strategies around COVID-19, to a large  group of business owners and leaders.  It was so well received that it was suggested we share it with our clients and community.

Please let us know which of the following dates and times (WA zone) you would like to join so we can send you the link to join us.

Wednesday 8th April at 4:00pm – 4:40pm (join us for a virtual drink!) Register here

Thursday 9th April 9:00am-9:40am  Register here


Ak Sabbagh

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