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Why Great Leaders Journal (and how to start)

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Here are 4 tips to start integrating the habit of leadership journalling into your development process and quickly become a more effective and valuable leader.

When people want to improve their leadership skills, they often ask me what they need to do.

People rarely ask me is how to be.

The difference between doing and being is simple.

Being is embodying your leadership style.

Doing is taking specific actions.

Being impacts the effectiveness of your doing.

Great leaders are masters of their ability to BE their best leader more often.

They are self-aware.

They manage their thinking.

They are masters at regulating their emotions.

This is something great leaders work at. They aren’t born this way. It’s a learned skill like any other.

And it’s developed through reflection.

More specifically, great leaders keep a leadership journal to help them expand their self-awareness.

Manage their stress.

Assess their performance.

Grow their emotional intelligence.

Teddy Roosevelt did it.

Oprah does it.

Peter Drucker recommends it.

And I could go on and on.

The challenge is the idea of leadership journalling might make you uncomfortable.

You might think you’re not the leadership journaling type. Or you think you don’t have the time. Or you don’t know what to journal about.

I hear you. I used to be like that too.

And if I can do this… anyone can.

Here are 4 tips to start integrating the habit of leadership journaling into your development process and quickly become a more effective and valuable leader.

1: Set Aside The Time

Set aside 10 minutes a day and make it sacred.

For new journalers, this might feel like a big ask. But 10 minutes executed consistently, will save you hours wasted on stress, worry, and ruminating on the events of the day.

And it will quickly improve your performance. You’ll more easily break behavioral patterns that slow you down, and adopt more effective behaviors.

It’s a pretty good ROI for 10 min.

And if you need help getting used to this new habit, take a page from Atomic Habits by James Clear and add journalling to the front or back of a morning routine you already have.

2: Align To Your Goals

You have leadership and career goals that you know right now. Start with what you know.

What are some of your leadership development goals? Speak with authority? Listen patiently? Collaborate openly with peers? Believe that I could be a C-Suite Exec one day?

Pick one topic to start with and let the exploration begin.

P.S. If you’re not sure about your development goals … then that can be journal topic to brainstorm about.

3: Get Curious

Now that you have a topic to explore, get curious. Your job is to explore what’s going on with you when it comes to that topic. And you can explore the past, present or future by asking yourself questions to answer.

Here are some questions to get you started. Start by asking yourself one question a day, and dive deeper when you get more comfortable.

How do I feel about my current abilities [in this leadership skill]? What do I appreciate about those abilities? Where do I want to grow?

What are some patterns I’m noticing when it comes to [leadership skill]? Remember you learn as much from the “welcome” patterns as you do from the “unwelcome” ones.

What are the actions I see myself taking when I’m doing [the leadership skill] the way I want?

Evaluate your daily performance with [this leadership skill] by asking yourself; What worked? What didn’t work? What will I do differently next time?

What were the thoughts going through my head today when I didn’t [execute against leadership skill]? Are those thoughts factual, or a story I’m creating?

What were the thoughts going through my head when I did [execute against leadership skill]? What other scenarios can those thoughts also help me?

4: Do It On “Paper”

You will feel compelled to try this process in your head. It won’t work. Your head is where the messiness is. The whole point of journaling is to organize the mess so you can see it.

That’s when you get insight. That’s where connections are made. That’s when ideas pop out of your head you didn’t know were in there.

In order to get the benefit of this work, it needs to be written on “paper.” That can be the OG paper or a digital journal, but handwritten works the best. Typing is ok but less effective.

Myself, I use my iPad and the GoodNotes 6 App.

This can be the most intimidating part for people. They are scared of seeing what comes out of their brain. But you’ve done scarier things than this with less return. You can handle it.

Bottom line: Leadership Journaling is a Tool To Help You Get Smarter Faster

When you know what the problem is, you can fix it. And journaling is a reflective tool to quickly grow your self-awareness and effectiveness as a leader.

HI, I'M MEL

I have 20+ years working as a leader in the corporate world. I know what you need to do. And I combine that with four years of training as a cognitive behavioral coach. I know how to help you naturally think like the leader you want to be.

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