The Power of Reflection: How I Became a Better Leader

| Corey Simpson | Press

 Mistakes followed by positive reflection lead to growth.

Mistakes put us in a vulnerable place.  After a mistake is made, we have a choice to make. We can feel bad for ourselves and hide, or we can reflect and grow from it.  Reflection is a process that has to be embraced.  It isn’t always easy or pleasant, but I’ve always believed that reflection leads to clarity and truth.

I love hospitality and I love teams.  I worked just about every job you can in a restaurant during my time in the industry.  I’m a “people person”, so service is fun for me.  I’ve also always been active in sports, and loved the team aspect of it.  There is something special about coming together and achieving a common goal.  When you combine these, I naturally gravitated towards leadership and started working my way up the ladder.  I even moved to a different state for the opportunity to help the team and grow myself.  

After a decade of hard work, I finally achieved the promotion to the big GM job I really wanted.  At this point of my development, I believed a major part of my focus was to be on the team’s happiness.  It was highly important to me, but as an unintended consequence, many necessary conversations remained unhad.  Instead of upsetting them or making them uncomfortable, I was looking the other way, protecting their egos and avoiding their weaknesses. 

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It was a very talented, but very young team.  I was new to this level of leadership, so the last thing I wanted while I was figuring things out was to burn bridges with the team.  I wanted to get started on a positive note, not come in and potentially hurt anyone’s feelings.  They deserved to love coming to work everyday.

Deep down, I knew deep down that perhaps I wasn’t really helping my team.  At a certain point, I knew I was enabling some behaviors that weren’t productive, and someone needed to correct them.

It was a difficult conversation with a mentor of mine that really caused me to reflect on my approach. I remember like it was yesterday, and I come back to this moment often as it was a turning point in my career.   "Corey, they think you're a chump".

You read that right, C-H-U-M-P!

This hurt my pride.  My ego was shattered.  I had a choice to make.  Hide and protect my ego, or reflect and be honest with myself.  

I reflected and started asking myself why exactly I was avoiding difficult conversations.  Was I afraid of being that uncomfortable?  Did I believe I was qualified enough or the right person for the job? The team was certainly young and talented, but they needed a leader.  They needed someone to be candid with them as my mentor was with me.  By protecting my team, I was hindering their growth, but I was also protecting myself from being uncomfortable.

I knew I was the right person for the job, but I’d need to allow myself and the team to get out of our comfort zones if we were ever going to grow.  Having a hard conversation is caring about the team.  It took a lot for my mentor to be that candid with me.  My team deserved a leader who cared for them that much.  By not being honest with my team, I was depriving them of the opportunity to reflect and grow themselves.

I would be candid, but I would also be there for them to help them reflect and build themselves back up again, just as my mentor was for me.  Candor is received better when the receiver knows the speaker cares more about them than the problem. That they realize the feedback is not an attack on who they are or what they are doing, but rather that they want to see the situation improve and not decline. That if you did not trust the guy who called you a chump, you would have directed your energy in other ways.  Fight or flight. 

Through reflection, I saw the truth of my actions, but gained clarity on what I needed to do in order to be the leader I wanted to be.  I’m certainly not a “chump”.


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