"Tracey’s Takeaways" is a regular feature that focuses on employee development, management issues, leadership and organizational culture.

Like line crews that gather around the truck tailgate to review the upcoming job, taking a moment for personal reflection is a great practice to build focus and prepare you for what's next.

When your job is literally to keep the lights on, there may be too many things on the to-do list for daily reflection. This article makes the case for finding time to reflect at least periodically.

Self-reflection, or introspection, means giving serious thought to what you've done, are doing or about to do, and why to gain new understanding. Engaging in this careful pondering is important for learning, growth and building your leadership potential. While conducting a tailgate session may be familiar to you, knowing how to take stock of your thoughts and actions and make sense of them may not be. Here are a couple of tips to get started:

1. Identify what questions you want to explore. These questions will form the basis of your reflection checklist, just like a tailgate session typically starts with a checklist review of the task to be performed, associated hazards, necessary equipment, etc. Reflection questions ideally ask not just "what" but also more provocative questions of "why." The following examples can help you craft your own list.


  • Key tasks need to be completed in the next three months to reach my goals?
  • New information has come in that might require me to rethink my plans?
  • Assumptions have I been making that I really need to confirm or refute with more information?
  • Would happen if I started doing _________ or stopped doing _________?


  • Is this project not going as well as I had hoped?
  • Am I feeling _________ [fill in any emotion you are experiencing]?
  • Did that conversation about _________ with _________ go so well?
  • Did I react the way I did when _________?

2. Schedule time and find a method that works for you. There is no single right way to reflect or perfect time. You might consider any of the following:

  • Talking it over with a mentor, peer or spouse.
  • Keeping a journal to record your answers.
  • Taking a walk.
  • Just sitting still.

The key is to carve out time regularly to review your questions, whether that's 10 minutes each day or once a month, first thing in the morning or late at night. Ideally, you want quiet time without distractions or interruptions.

3. Just do it, and know you'll get better over time. As with learning anything new, it probably won't feel like you did it just right the first time. You may need to change your questions or pick a better time. Adjust and keep going. The goal is not perfection, but uncovering what motivates you, what holds you back and what could make you a better leader.

Want to read more about self-reflection? Here are some resources you may find helpful:

Tracey Steiner is NRECA's senior vice president for education and training. Her 27-year career at NRECA has spanned a variety of roles starting in communications and marketing positions, then 15 years as an attorney focusing on cooperative governance and public policy issues before moving to Education & Training in 2012.