I work at a winery on the weekends here in Sonoma. It’s a perfect compliment to my nascent coaching practice I launched 22 months ago, and since my husband is in the hospitality industry here in wine country, he has Tuesdays and Wednesdays off (all hands on deck for busy wine-country weekends when the valley swells with those seeking warmer territory than what San Fransisco offers). The winery allows me to add stability to my income while having flexibility in my own schedule during the week; plus, I’m working on a vineyard in Sonoma…it’s so ok.

It is also my social outlet since we moved up here recently and the perks are great, mostly though…it gives me a front row seat to the working world without the pressures of feeling responsible for a business (I’ve got my own for that!). It’s a very present, mindful job that I can transition easily from at the end of the day.

This weekend being Labor Day, I helped out a bit on Monday too. At the end of the weekend, another gal I work with asked an excellent question, “What went well this weekend, guys? And what could we do better?”

I often talk about how the first step to behavior change is awareness
Why did I like that question? Because instantly I felt a few things: proud that people care what I think work-wise and happy the mindset is to think strategically and proactively on how to do better in the future (a true learning environment). I began really thinking of my answer, I wanted to contribute. That’s gold. When people you lead want to help you, want to improve, they are invested, a short leap to engaged.

The question definitely enables you to be better prepared. And while you will still face tough times, since the mindset is one that embraces learning, you’ll almost always improve each time. When the challenges come, you’ll handle them much better as you’ve literally had conversations around problem solving before. Your brain is primed to figure it out and more importantly, feels confident to do so.

What can lead to the awareness that is so important is good questions (which is what great coaching is, asking great questions). With Cathy asking this one, we each began to reflect on the wins and challenges of the busy holiday weekend. When Columbus Day comes around, we will be that much further ahead in how to make our lives less stressful and provide our guests with an even better experience.

That one question excited me.

So how can we capture these opportunities for improvement?
If you don’t take the time to ask these questions, to reflect, then you’ll always do what you’ve always done. Each experience is an opportunity to learn your strengths, weaknesses, who on your staff surprised you either in a great way or from a place of concern.

But if you just focus on surviving til Friday or get immersed in the next thing, you’ll miss out on these opportunities. Reflection takes intentional time.

Slow your roll
I’ve learned that if you don’t ask you don’t get. If you don’t ask these questions, you don’t get improvement. You don’t get involvement, ownership, or engagement. People are waiting, hoping, to be asked, they want to be involved but are too nervous to speak first. That’s your role as a leader, to do the asking.

And if you come across a few that couldn’t care less, that’s ok. You don’t need them to be, you just need the ones that do. Keep asking. It’s kind of like when you let someone into traffic, but they don’t offer the thank you wave. At first, it’s like “Grrrr…really, no thank you?” But, we don’t do it for the thank you, we do it because we feel good when we do it. We’re not looking for the gold star, it’s us being true to us.

Those people on your side, willing to work hard to move forward, are your fuel. They want what you want. They want to feel fulfilled with their work, feel accomplished and purposeful for the time and energy they are putting forth. They’re in.

Reflection may just seem too simple, a pain, or in the “we know we should but it’s so simple we don’t bother” category. Rudimentary, dismissed. As the Dewey quote says above, experience is nothing until its lessons are gleaned through reflection.