Our post is from a guest post from Chevy’s former Command and General Staff small group instructor, Mr. Brook Allen, Assistant Professor, Department of Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations. His posts asks us to take time to do some internal reflection in the pursuit of self-discovery. 

Have you been counseled to “go look at yourself in a mirror?” I have. And, at some point as I looked into the mirror I realized the mirror was flat, and I was left staring at an ugly mug.

Other clichés analogizing the practice of self-reflection are common in academia, specifically from counselor to counselee. Descriptive phrases such as “inward looking,” “self-examination,” and “self-development” provide noble thoughts of how one can enhance leader effectiveness through self-analysis.

“What does the man in the mirror tell you, Captain?”

“Major, what did you learn about yourself from the Myers-Briggs assessment?”

“Raise your hand if the Learning Style Indicator (LSI) revealed something new about how you learn new concepts.”

After approximately ten minutes or less of responses, the instructor moves on to the next topic. The concept of reflection or self-awareness becomes regulated to schoolhouse arena of – “apply when needed.”

The US Army Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC) gives their field grade officer student an opportunity to examine their personal strengths and weaknesses as part of their leader development lessons. Students hear that self-reflection is a means to become more aware of their individual personalities and learning preferences. This enables them to understand and appreciate how people are not only different, but similar.

Despite the initial emphasis on the importance of self-reflection and awareness, navigating through an accredited Professional Military Education (PME) program the students find the multitude of academic requirements preclude that opportunity.

The constraints of an academic course, regardless of length of attendance, should not restrain the self-discovery journey. Faculty member (counselor) and student (counselee) must realize the proverbial mirror is flat; it lacks the depth and holistic interpretation of the person. The evolution in teaching, coaching, and mentoring paradigms offer CGSOC the opportunity to leverage what many other graduate institutions have already implemented. These progressive teaching techniques, specifically the often quoted term – flipped classroom – exploit research that indicates adults learn best when allowed to read and reflect prior to a lesson, then apply their newfound knowledge during the next scheduled class. This adult learning taxonomy links to self-discovery! The process expects a student to self-read…self-learn…self-realize prior to engaging peers and faculty. How well do we practice and apply this method of self-discovery? Not well, I am afraid.

The following self-discovery roadmap based on the Operational Design Framework is appropriate for student, teacher, or leader:

1. Make time to study thyself! Ask yourself (or write down your findings):

a. Where am I today? What is going on in my life?

b. Where do I want to be (i.e. goals)? ( you could express your answer as close of business, by the end of the week, next year, or ___ years from now)

c. What areas prevents you achieving your plans and/or goals?

d. What can you do to mitigate obstacles and ways to achieve your goals?

2. Insert your results from #1 into your career tracker or evaluation support form or employee achievement checklist.

3. Motivate yourself to talk openly to your trusted friends, counselor, or mentor about your self-discoveries to gain their feedback, suggestions or encouragement.

4. Apply all of above, or least suggest this method, to those you lead, coach or mentor.

In the event that this fails, as you look into the flat mirror smile and tell yourself “Have a great day, good looking!”

Start a conversation, spark a transformation!

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