"Quiet reflective time" was the phrase the\n\nspeaker used to describe what he needed to do his work most\n\neffectively. So valuable was this time that he blocked out days at a\n\ntime on his schedule months in advance. The speaker was none other than\n\nJim Collins, author of Good to Great. Collins explains that he might\n\nhave meetings during these reflective days, but he purposely kept his\n\nschedule loose so he would have time to think, research and write. John\n\nMaxwell writes about making time for thinking and reflecting in his\n\nbook, Thinking for a Change, in which he advises creating physical\n\nspace, a chair, a room, a garden, someplace where you can go and gain\n\nperspective on the topic. Such advice is not reserved strictly for\n\nmanagement gurus. The late Skip LeFauve, president of Saturn\n\nCorporation and high-ranking executive at General Motors, advised busy\n\npeople to schedule time for reflection on their calendars, much like\n\nCollins does.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nMaking time for reflection\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nReflection is a topic that I speak and teach in the course of my\n\nconsulting, but it is something that I probably do not do enough of in\n\nmy own daily life. Recently I had the opportunity to reflect on\n\nreflection at a leadership conference sponsored by the Wharton School.\n\nThis conference, an annual event created by Michael Useem a decade ago,\n\nbrings together men and women from diverse fields to speak and listen\n\nto topics related to leadership. What Mike and codirector Evan\n\nWittenberg have created is a confluence of leadership thought that\n\nmerges the life and work experiences of leaders in the corporate,\n\ngovernment, military and other social sector worlds. Participants\n\nbecome engulfed in a potpourri of stories and lessons that provide\n\nperspective on our world as well as insights into how to effect\n\npositive change. It also reminded me that reflection need not be a\n\npassive process; it is active and engaging. Here are some insights that\n\nresonated with me.Channel your enthusiasm. Helen Greiner has a passion for all\n\nthings robotic. So much so that she built a business on this passion.\n\nThe first decade of her business was a hard slog, financed as she says\n\nby credit card borrowing, but she and her team\u2019s persistence has paid\n\noff. iRobot, the company she cofounded and now serves as chairwoman, is\n\nearning healthy revenues by making robots for the U.S. military and the\n\nconsumer market. A point of particular pride is the fact that iRobot\n\ndevices are used in Afghanistan to detect and detonate improvised\n\nexplosive devices, a job that previously would have been done by\n\nsoldiers. Greiner\u2019s spirited style, evident in her presentation, makes\n\nher passion for what she does come alive.Be decisive. Michael Useem defines decision making as\n\npreparing for, reducing and managing uncertainty. It is a topic that\n\nUseem, a professor at Wharton, teaches and writes about, and that he\n\ndramatizes through storytelling. To illustrate the point of\n\ndecisiveness, he tells the story of Gustavus Smith, the second in\n\ncommand to Gen. Joe Johnston. In late May 1862, Union forces were\n\nclosing in on Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. President\n\nJefferson Davis rode out to get the firsthand look at the battle.\n\nJohnston was felled by a bullet and shrapnel and recommended his number\n\ntwo to take his place. When Davis asked Smith for his strategy to turn\n\nback the Union troops, Smith drew a blank. His indecisiveness led to\n\nhis firing and the appointment of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who as we know\n\nwas a brilliant general and pushed back the federals. Sadly for our\n\nnation, Lee\u2019s generalship prolonged the war another three years.Know your limits. The ability to choose and develop an\n\neffective team is an essential leadership trait. For people who depend\n\non team as a matter of life and death, teamwork is the salient edge.\n\nFilmmaker David Breashears tells a compelling, and at times harrowing\n\nstory of scaling Mount Everest to make an IMAX movie of the climb. The\n\nstory behind the story is one of choosing experienced climbers and\n\nsavvy technicians who respect nature and will sublimate ego to team\n\nwhen it matters most. Such a moment occurred on May 7, 1996, when the\n\nIMAX team was on the mountain. Sensing that the weather was changing,\n\nthe team decided to head down, forgoing a chance to summit the mountain\n\nin order to survive. Good decision. A storm did arise from the base of\n\nthe mountain, savagely killing a number of climbers and experienced\n\nguides on the mountain. Their patience not only saved them, but it also\n\nenabled them to remain on the mountain for another two weeks, when they\n\nfinally made it to the higher elevations and filmed the final stages of\n\nthe movie, which in turn has become a popular success.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nPast On Communication Leadership Columns:\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nLetter to a College GraduateCommonplace LeadershipHow to Blow Your Own TrumpetThe Art of CompromiseKeep Your Distance\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nInteraction makes reflection real\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nWhat really makes conferences such as Wharton\u2019s come alive is the\n\nability to interact with fellow participants. Again, reflection can be\n\nan active process that you engage in with others. Conversations with\n\nattendees may start with a comment about a presentation, but may lead\n\nto a discussion about your own work and perhaps a challenge that you\n\nand your team may be facing. Business cards may be exchanged, and in\n\nthe process networks are formed and learning is shared.There can also be moments of startling candor that cause you to stop\n\nwhat you are doing and really think. Such a moment occurred to me the\n\nevening before the conference. I was in conversation with some South\n\nAmericans about the topic of resiliency, a theme of this year\u2019s\n\nconference. In deference to me, a non Spanish speaker, the South\n\nAmericans were speaking in English and so I was asked to define the\n\nterm. I defined it as the ability to respond to a setback and come back\n\nfrom defeat. One of the gentlemen added that for him, resiliency (and I\n\nam paraphrasing) is the heart that you have to continue when you things\n\nmay be totally against you. Then he introduced himself as Roberto\n\nCanessa, one of the survivors of the Andean plane crash in which\n\nmembers of a Uruguayan rugby team survived for 72 days alone in the\n\nmountains; cannibalism was a means of their survival. Then only 19,\n\nCanessa, along with his friend, Nando Parrado, climbed down from the\n\nmountain and found help. It was a story made famous by the book, Alive,\n\nby Piers Paul Read and now retold by Parrado in his new book, The\n\nMiracle of the Andes.Certainly a man such as Canessa, who has survived such an experience\n\nas that crash and gone on to become a renowned pediatric cardiologist,\n\nknows more than most of us what resilience means and why it is so vital\n\nto the human condition. Such perspectives as these serve as touchstones\n\nthat shape our philosophy that in turn may make us more effective\n\nleaders, or at least human beings with a better understanding of the\n\nhuman condition.The author would like to acknowledge presenters in the Tenth\n\nAnnual Wharton Leadership Conference June 13, 2006. They include Jim\n\nCollins, Helen Greiner, Mike Useem, David Breashears and Roberto\n\nCanessa. Thank you one and all.