What's Your Story?

What are you doing to develop yourself as a leader? I am talking about leadership skills not domain expertise. How do you set personal goals for yourself? How do you use your experiences to measure progress and make modifications to your behavior? 

There are different ways to approach this problem. Some leaders may get a coach who helps them see where they can improve. Others may join a group of leaders in a monthly roundtable. Still others may seek out a mentor. 

I think all of these approaches have their advantages. I suggest another method to consider. Keep a leadership journal. What is a leadership journal? A leadership journal is a place to keep ideas, goals aspirations and plans. It is a place to dump your frustrations and sketch out your aspirations. It is a means of helping you hold yourself accountable for your growth as a leader. 

In the middle of everything it gets hard to see the bigger picture. Writing something down, even if it is a short note, captures a moment that might be lost. I have a daily diary I use to every day capturing the things I did, the people I met and what I learned. I also reflect on what I could do better. Since each day has a dated page I can see when I am missing days and renew my commitment. It has helped me see things I would otherwise miss. I also note my goals and progress. 

So where do you start? Start by using the journal as a place to capture elements of your day including your victories and frustrations. Victories are a great raw material for identifying and refining strengths. Asking yourself why something went well, what did you do and what impact did your actions have can help bring out your core capabilities. Frustrations provide context to consider what you could change in order to improve. Consider how you can use your strengths to overcome your challenges. 

Keep track of your decisions and critique yourself on the quality of your decision making process. As the decision plays out note the outcomes and resource expenditure. Record what you may have done differently. Make time to record some of these events and reserve some time to reread and reflect on what you have learned. You don’t need to record everything to benefit from a leadership journal. 

Capturing things in a journal requires discipline. It requires some critical thought to express ideas. I should note that I do not wait until I have thought something all the way through before making journal entries. I use journaling as a means of thinking things through. Most of these blogs start as a single thought. My journals are loaded with sketches of ideas, concepts, illustrations, goals and plans that evolve over time, becoming more refined as I bring my experience to the content. As you gather some glimpses of your personal leadership landscape through the entries in your journal, you will see yourself not just in the present entry but also over time. You can begin to see how your thinking changes over time. You can find yourself serving as your own coach with your journal helping you act to improve yourself as a leader. 

Whether you use an app, a bound journal or a spiral notebook give it a try for a month. I close with Plato quoting Socrates, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  Make your life more worthy. 

Joe Thompson

© 2016 Differentiating Strategies, LLC