The Most Important Skill for an EntrepreneurJun 01, 2021
We believe that the most important attribute to have in a team member is to be self-introspective. Self-introspection is essentially the ability to look inwards to learn about something within yourself by seeing it holistically to understand it, and trying to grow as a result of that process.
That means we need to by understanding the overall skill to reflect. To look back, understand, and act differently next time - to view every outcome as either a success or a learning experience.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." —Søren Kierkegaard
The Skill of Reflection
Although we've called it a skill (because doing it effectively is fairly skilful), reflection is an action taken by someone who consciously wants to reflect on something that has happened. One could use this in their personal life, professional life, anytime, anywhere.
To reflect effectively, you need to be honest and realistic with yourself, and you also need to genuinely want to grow and be open to making changes in your life.
StartrHub founder Seven Jacobs tells this story about reflection:
"When I was 15 years old, a lot of my time was spent thinking about problems. I would talk about wanting to help other people and bring change to the systems I wasn't happy with, but this often just meant expressing how awful I thought so many things were."
"The problems here were twofold. Firstly, this was unrealistic because I wasn’t doing anything that would have a real impact on anyone. But secondly, and most importantly, what I was really expressing here was that I wasn’t happy; I wasn’t happy with myself, what I was doing, my abilities, or my choices, and what people kept telling me (which eventually sunk in) is that if you can’t help yourself, how can you expect to be able to do anything for anyone else? Until I was honest with myself about that, I wasn't able to make any of the right changes to my life."
We don't struggle with helping other first just out of some base selfishness, but because humans will be naturally occupied with changes in their own lives first, perhaps even subconsciously. And the most important step to understanding, helping, and changing ourselves is reflection, because it gives you the chance to analyse one aspect of your past - a decision made or action taken - and really understand it.
“If there is no enemy within, there can be no enemy without.” —Adaptation of a Nepalese proverb.
Before you’ve made any change in your life, before anyone has, even in fictional stories, they need to realise it first. Realise the problem, or the consequences of an action, and then start thinking about what else to do.
However, effective reflection is conscious. If you have the desire to reflect, you consciously remind yourself that you want to look back on the consequences of your decisions and your actions, as opposed to waiting around for them to negatively impact you because you did something without really thinking about it. Taking time out to reflect within yourself, or to have a reflective session with your teams, can be a tricky process to make really successful.
This diagram is something Seven developed to express how many different factors are at play in the reflective process, on an individual level and in teams. This is specific not to the skill, but to the act of taking time out of your day, on your own or with a team, to reflect.
As you can see, we've listed certain things as required for self-reflection and group reflection (important for teamwork in a professional environment), the latter of which is most effective when individual members of a group are able to do the former. There are also certain things, such as trust, which can make any of the things on either little list easier to grasp, complete, and live out. Although some of this is easier said than done, it has been helpful to explore how each individual point relates to our lives, and to work on developing each one.
The most important thing here is motivation. If you aren’t motivated, doing things to break habitual patterns will become exponentially harder.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of these points (even separately) are particularly useful for professional growth, even though I believe they should be applied to the personal life first.
So, the main point here, and the question we want everyone to think about: How important is self-introspection? Understanding reflection overall is important because self-introspection is the part of that important growing process that allows us to really confront the parts of ourselves that will make the biggest differences in our lives.
Being effectively self-introspective means that you’ll not only be more equipped to learn from your experiences, you’ll also show greater motivation and willingness to grow and adapt. Its importance is to the point where we don’t feel comfortable working in a team - and definitely wouldn’t accept someone onto a team - if they couldn’t show at least fairly well that they were self-introspective.
"When telling CEOs, managers, and the like that I think self-introspection is the most important skill to have in team members, they all express some level of agreement, but are usually shocked because they don't think about it. So, the main thing I want you to take away from this is to think about it!"
We hope that got some ideas flowing!
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