24. Gaze Out the Window

Our guest in this episode is HBS Professor Joe Badaracco. His latest book is Step Back: Bringing Reflection Back into Your Life. Joe begins with a story about a private equity guy who invests in start-ups and sits on their boards. He always tells young CEOs that if he ever walks into their office and finds them with their feet up on the desk, staring out the window, he’ll double their salary. He wants them to know that it’s okay to reflect, even daydream.

But why do we need permission when we know that stepping back not only helps us make wiser decisions, but also likely leads to a better quality of life? It’s because knowing something and actually doing it aren’t the same thing. On any given day many of us are working overtime to put out fires and meet looming deadlines. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have a chance to think about the picture. But tomorrow never comes.

Joe lays out three steps to make reflection a daily habit. One is what he calls “downshifting.” That might be taking a few moments to lift your eyes and watch a tree swaying in the breeze. The next is “pondering,” taking an issue and consciously trying to see it from a variety of perspectives. Finally, there’s “measuring up.” It’s about considering the various ways you could evaluate success. (Sometimes that involves making the best of a bad situation.) In the smallest of nutshells “stepping back” boils down to being, thinking, and doing.

Get started yourself by listening to Joe describe how other people, seasoned leaders and those just beginning their careers, allow themselves time to slow down and reflect.