Are you reaping the rewards of leadership journaling?
Leaders face an ever-demanding role as the business climate continues to speed up to counter threats. The pressures of superiors, stockholders and customers don’t seem to give you much time to catch your breath. Responses must be quick. Choices must be smart.
I’ve been thinking about this, especially as I wrote my recent series on resilient leadership. Expectations of you never diminish. In her 2016 Harvard Business Review article, Want to Be an Outstanding Leader? Keep a Journal, Nancy Adler puts it succinctly:
“Extraordinary leadership requires seeing before others see, understanding before others understand, and acting before others act.”
You strive to do this, but how can you initiate critical thoughts and keep them fresh under such circumstances? Wise leadership requires careful reflection of evolving ideas and feelings that may be forgotten from one day to the next. Mental processing is difficult enough without the distractions of the everyday pace.
The answer that many leaders have found, Adler states, is keeping a personal journal. Initially, this may seem banal. But research supports the benefits of this personal practice, and I’ve seen some pretty amazing examples of this simple practice in some of the organizations where I consult and coach.
Make the Effort
Journaling captures thoughts and ideas to be revisited. Difficult feelings can be worked through and tough concepts can be further examined. Consider journal entries as bookmarks in a volume of important thoughts whose pages are constantly turning.
Not only does journaling prevent your important mental notes from being lost, but it also improves your thinking. Setting aside time to journal quiets your mind so you can think more clearly. This is what research funded by The National Institute of Mental Health concluded. Settled brains are simply more effective at processing and problem solving.
Additionally, research sponsored by the National Institute of Health found that replaying experiences in our minds is a great tool for learning. Journaling essentially provides you a way to relive thoughts or feelings, and reflect on them. Identifying these in your journal is a critical way to learn about yourself and the world around you.
Dan Ciampa, author of Right From the Start: Taking Charge In a New Leadership Role (Harvard Business Review Press, 1999), believes that keeping track throughout your day of what went well and what didn’t is the best way to learn. You can glean from your successes and mistakes. And most importantly you can determine how to adjust and improve. All this requires quiet reflection. Making the effort to journal on these things is well worth it.