LEADERSHIP | Be a Wise Woman Leader with these 10 Reflective Thinking Questions

publication date: Jun 15, 2022
author/source: Kathy Archer

Have you noticed that when your thoughts are swirling around, you're often stuck reliving a memory that didn't feel so good or rehearsing a tragedy in the future? Neither feels good.

OMG, that meeting was awful! I can't believe they said that!

  • Then we "re-watch" that particular part of the meeting that caused us so much pain in our minds. It feels gross all over again!

UGH! I don't know how I'm going to handle that call!

  • Then we "pre-watch" that particular part of the call that we "know" won't go well. We can see how bad it will go, preparing ourselves for the worst!

Your thought process can provide learning opportunities

Our thoughts don't always need to spiral us into a downward tailspin. When we slow our thinking down, pause, and add an element of mindfulness to our thought process, our thinking can become a learning tool. Following the learning component, we may change our mindset, behaviour or perspectives on what happened or is coming up. 

Sometimes, when we slow our thinking down, we become more strategic. Other times, our more conscious thoughts help us plan or make a decision. Today, I want to focus on reflective thinking.

First, let's look at different kinds of thinking and roughly categorize them as unconscious (swirling thoughts) and conscious thinking.

Unconscious thinking

Worry, anxiety and regret - Full of judgment, blame and shame statements; often polarized or absolute thoughts. 

  • right / wrong 
  • good / bad 
  • my way/ their way

Conscious thinking

  • Strategic thinking - connecting dots, seeing the big picture, looking into the future
  • Planning - adding action elements
  • Decision-making - critical thinking, decisiveness
  • Reflective thinking - curiosity, openness and exploration

We often miss the reflective thinking piece that so often would be wise to do before the other kinds of conscious thinking. 

Reflective thinking as a practice

In our sector, practitioners are often taught the skill of reflective practice. The idea behind turning reflective thinking into a practice is specifically for learning opportunities. Experience alone doesn't always teach us what we need to know. 

Developing a practice of reflecting on what happened helps us create meaning from an experience. This new meaning allows us to deepen the learning of an experience and helps us to consider perhaps what we'd like to do differently in the future.

How to be a good reflective thinker

Reflective thinking begins with a question instead of a statement.

Most of the questions we ask ourselves during our reflective thinking time are “what” questions—a “why” question often evokes defensiveness. But instead, what questions help us be more curious and ditch the judgment.

The ultimate goal of reflective thinking is to learn from your leadership experiences. You are considering three main points.

  • What happened?
  • What did you do?
  • What will you do differently next time?

10 Reflective thinking questions to prompt learning 

To help you deepen your learning after an experience, take a few moments to journal your answers to the following questions: 

 1) What happened?

 2) What body sensations did I experience?

  • racing heart
  • sweaty palms/pits
  • socked in the gut

3) What thoughts were going around my head?

  • beliefs
  • opinions
  • judgements

4) What emotions did I feel as it was happening?

5) Which of my values were triggered during this exchange?

6) What perspective was the other person(s) in?

7) What did I do well in managing the situation?

  • What worked?
  • What didn't work?
  • What did I learn?

8) How would my “best self” handle a similar situation in the future?

9) What strengths do I need to put to work more often?

10) What will I do differently next time?

When you take time to pause, when you slow down your thinking and reflect, you'll learn more. That learning will provide insights into how to change your mindset, behaviours or intent, thus leading more authentically and effectively. 


Leadership Development Coach Kathy Archer helps women develop confidence, maintain their composure and lead with integrity! She is the author of Mastering Confidence and the “Surviving to Thriving” podcast host. Kathy blogs for women leading in nonprofits at www.kathyarcher.com/blog

Homepage photo by Jacki Drexler on Unsplash.

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright © 2011-Current, The Hilborn Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List