However, it is not writing that great speech or report that is the focus of this article. Rather, it is a form of writing that many of us shy away from – journaling. In his excellent book on leadership, Leadership from the Inside Out, Kevin Cashman focuses on personal writing, which is, writing that others won’t see.
Cashman highlights the value of journaling as a powerful component of the reflection process (This process is about building a practice of reflection, observing yourself, and taking action. Sentence structure and grammar are unimportant in this writing. Journaling is a process for thinking, feeling and capturing the essence of what is going on around you and to you. In capturing your thoughts and concerns you will come up with useful questions to be asked and ideas that need further reflection or investigation. Having written these down they will not be forgotten.
Journaling need not be restricted to only the facts of what has happened. In fact it should not be limited in any way and should include writing about your private feelings and reactions to events that have taken place. As you write you can make a note of what worked and what did not in certain stressful situations. Where the outcome was not what you wanted you can rewrite the script for how you would handle the situation the next time something similar occurs.
If there are recurring themes to interpersonal problems that arise these will be highlighted when you go back over your journal and you will become aware of patterns that exist. As your journal is private you can make an honest diagnosis as to the root cause of these situations. Maybe you need to change something in your approach or maybe someone else needs you to have a serious chat to them about their behaviour.
You should also use your journaling practice to reflect on areas that you have identified as personal growth areas. You can challenge yourself. Remember that you are the only one who can bring your vision and thoughts to the surface with the aim of growing as a person and as a leader. The more you listen to your inner voice, the more you will be guided by your character rather than your persona i.e. the act that some of us show to others as we play a role.
Real leadership is not a role we play; it is about being our authentic selves. Cashman refers to Journaling as a means of, “capturing our thoughts, insights, challenges, and inspirations – an important tool for having a deep, reflective dialogue with ourselves. It can deepen our experience of growth. It can give us just the mirror we need to build awareness and congruence in our lives.”
Using a journal allows you the opportunity to have those necessary frank talks with yourself and to capture your progress and perceived obstacles and fears.
In another book, Accidental Genius, by Mark Levy, the author discusses two important reasons for getting your thoughts and ideas down on paper, for making them a “touchable product”. “First, the physical act of moving your pen across a page, of hitting computer keys, is a powerful focusing force” and the second, “you should create a written record of your thinking in that it leaves a bread crumb path down which you can retrace your steps”.
Leaders often engage in rich and unique thinking. It is a pity that these chains of thought are often crowded out by emerging crises and day-to-day demands, never to be returned to. Start capturing your thoughts today. Build yourself a valuable yet totally private reference source to your thinking.