Have you ever met someone who insists on being right all the time? Perhaps they storm ahead, claiming, “I’m always right — I can’t even remember the last time I wasn’t right.” People with this mindset typically make poor leaders because not only do they lack vulnerability, but they also lack the key component of reflection. They won’t grow or improve if they already consider themselves in possession of everything they need.
The impact of this mindset also trickles down to the teams they lead. Over time, their teams get used up and worn out by navigating an environment that lacks reflection. They realize that nothing will ever improve, and they’ll likely have to face the same challenges over and over again.
Why Journaling is Important
To be a successful leader, you need an openness to change and an awareness that growth needs to happen. You have to be willing to absorb new information and modify your understanding where necessary.
A journal is the commitment to reflect daily on what you’ve done. It provides you with a mechanism to do so. Allow your leadership journal to become a cornerstone of your self-improvement. As we wrote in our book, Would You Work for You? — The Quest: Discovering the Leader Within, “We’re not talking about a locked journal you hide under your pillow. What we’re encouraging is a process that encourages you to be curious, a listener, a seeker, reflective, and intentional.”
Even leaders who are already very skilled and experienced can stand to benefit from consistent journaling. Premier athletes, musicians, and artists reflect on their own performances constantly, because doing so helps them gain the mental edge required to move forward and grow. Why would leaders be any different?
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O’Connor, author
Structuring Your Journal
Be organized and intentional in your approach to writing. As a leader, journaling should allow you to reflect on the ways you’re living out your stated values and determine where there’s room for improvement.
We recommend you consider structuring your journal around the basic principles of leadership and asking yourself the following questions:
1. Have I nurtured and grown the relationships around me?
Was there something you did that made the relationships better somehow? How well did you listen to your team members? Did you say thank you, or demonstrate an appreciation of someone’s contributions? Did you get out of your office and make a personal connection?
2. How well did I go about analyzing and improving the environment and systems within which my team members work?
Did you pay attention to points that might be creating unnecessary friction? Did you investigate new ways to support your team’s work? Did you solicit input or feedback from others? Was there something you did that made everyone’s lives better?
3. Who did I help grow this week?
Did you make a point of helping one of your team members reach a personal goal? Did you help them meet an obligation? Can you point to something specific you did that contributed to the growth of your team?
“Writing in a journal each day allows you to direct your focus to what you accomplished, what you’re grateful for and what you’re committed to doing better tomorrow. Thus, you more deeply enjoy your journey each day.” — Hal Elrod, author, speaker, and coach
Building a Habit for the Long Term
Committing to journaling regularly is a commitment to your own growth. Cultivate the practice the way you would build other beneficial habits, like exercising or celebrating the good work of your team. Consider that, in life, you are either getting better or you are simply getting through. Just like the moon, which is either waxing or waning, stasis does not exist.
When you journal and embrace reflection, you’re participating in an activity that will sustain you over the long term. Don’t neglect the habit. Fit it into your life, view it as an opportunity, and make it a priority.
Are you ready to get started? Download our free eBook, and learn to practice self-awareness, define your purpose, and set meaningful goals.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.