Why Journaling Makes Better Leaders

Businessman Writing A Letter Or Signing
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Why Journal?

There is much written about journaling, most of it on how to keep a journal, covering mechanics, tools and discipline.  It is more difficult to find information on the benefits of journaling from real-life experiences, especially pertaining to leaders.  Most of what is written on the benefits of journaling is about self-discovery, but I believe it can help make better leaders, too.

Many famous people kept journals or diaries.  These people came from all walks of life:  business (John D. Rockefeller); military (George Patton); inventors (Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison); presidents and prime ministers (John Adams, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill) and many authors (Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway).  These journals left a chronicle of thoughts, events and critical decisions as well as documenting their legacy.  But what about the rest of us?  Why write in a journal?

Years ago, I became interested in journaling.  At the time, I was very stressed and overloaded with responsibilities.  I needed something to help me stay focused.  I read several books, but one by Julia Cameron, The Right to Write, was the most helpful.  After reading her book, I began to journal and found it very beneficial.

Eventually, as I found myself in more prominent leadership positions, I found journaling helped improve my leadership in the following ways:

  • Better Organization
  • Improved Decision Making
  • Improved Demeanor, Attitude and Judgment
  • Enhanced Intention
  • Positive Reinforcement

Here is why writing in a journal makes better leaders.

 

Better Organization

One recommendation from The Right to Write is to write “Morning Pages” before the start of the workday.  I have found that to be the best time for maximum benefit.  Writing early in the morning gets the juices flowing before your mind has its normal defenses and filters in place.  There is something about writing early in the morning before engaging in the day’s activities that is very helpful — sort of like how your best ideas often occur in the shower.  Here are the main reasons:

  • Helps to reduce all the things in your head to key priorities
  • Allows you to ramble, then organize your thoughts for the day
  • Provides a way to better formulate tasks and frame issues
  • Gets mere ideas formed into concrete terms
  • Starts the day with a clear framework in mind
  • Improves the quality of your To-Do list

Writing in a journal in the morning will help you be more organized during the day.

“Write in a journal in the morning to be more organized during the day.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Improved Decision Making

Writing in a journal is a great way to facilitate problem solving and decision making.  Here is how:

  • Provides a private, non-judgmental forum to work through issues; no one is watching and pressure is off
  • Helps facilitate idea generation and new perspectives
  • Facilitates better problem definition to make sure you are working on the right issue
  • Helps to develop alternatives and examine their positive and negative implications, resulting in better choices
  • Gives you the chance to formulate tasks and frame issues properly before “real time” in meetings
  • Provides a way to examine causes rather than symptoms for issues and problems
  • Provides a forum to ask “So What?” about problems, issues and directions
  • Makes your decisions and explanations more crisp
  • Turns thoughts, decisions and ideas into actions

If you are skeptical, just try it on some decision that you are contemplating.  Write and refine the problem definition; quickly list alternatives; structure the list; examine implications of each alternative; choose an alternative and list the actions that need to happen.  I predict it will help.

Leadership Tip: try journaling to improve decision-making.

 

Improved Demeanor, Attitude and Judgment

Leadership Vertigo: How the Best Leaders Go Off Course

falling and screaming businessman in formal wear over white back

What To Do When You Are Off Course

Do you know a leader who insists everything is fine when everyone else knows trouble is ahead?

Have you watched someone so oblivious to signs and signals that employees are not engaged?

How do leaders accurately assess and view how they are perceived in an organization?

 

My friend Tanveer Naseer recently co-authored Leadership Vertigo: Why Even the Best Leaders Go Off Course and How They Can Get Back On Track.  It’s a thoughtful read designed to help leaders accurately diagnose and solve problems with culture and leadership.  I recently spoke with Tanveer about his book. Tanveer leads his own leadership consulting company and is an award-winning leadership blogger.

 

False Signals and Leadership Danger Ahead

What is leadership vertigo?

Let me first start off by explaining what vertigo is. For most of us, the word vertigo brings to mind the famous scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s film where we see the lead character looking down a staircase and seeing the floor below suddenly pushing off into the distance.

In reality, vertigo refers to a perceptual phenomenon where our brain sends us false signals about our motion, which we believe to be true. The best known example of this is the crash of John F. Kennedy’s Jr.’s plane in the Atlantic Ocean, where his brain was convincing him that he was flying his plane level, even though the gauges on his instrument panel were telling him that he was in fact heading on a downward angle towards the ocean surface.

 

“Leadership vertigo is the gap between how we view our leadership and how others experience it.” –Tanveer Naseer

 

So with this understanding of what vertigo is, leadership vertigo basically refers to the gap between how we view our leadership and how those we lead experience it. It refers to those moments where we’re convinced our actions and words are creating the right conditions for our employees to succeed, and yet that’s not what our employees are getting from us.

This is exactly what we see in all the studies of the past few years that show that despite the growing knowledge base on how to engage and empower our employees, most leaders are still not connecting their message with their employees. It’s because they’re convinced that they are being the kind of leader their organization needs, despite all the evidence around them pointing out the contrary.

 

4 Key Leadership Principles

Briefly walk us through the 4 Leadership Principles of Leadership Vertigo.

1. Build community.

The first Leadership Principle, “Build Community,” refers to recognizing that in order for us to better understand the realities our employees face, we have to consistently demonstrate our respect for them as individuals; that they’re not simply there to do a job, but they’re there to help us collectively succeed because they see and understand the value of our shared purpose. And we can engender this feeling by recognizing the value of their contributions to that shared purpose, as well as promoting a culture of shared accountability to encourage equal and fair participation.

 

Leadership tip: Respect employees as individuals who contribute to a shared purpose.

 

2. Develop competence.

Leadership Vertigo Book CoverThe second Leadership Principle, “Develop Competence” refers to how we show up for those daily interactions with those we lead. Are we going into those meetings and those conversations with a genuine interest to learn and understand what our employees have to say? Research has shown that emotions are very contagious and that our brains are hard-wired to pick up the non-verbal cues we give off before we even say a word.

So the minute you walk into that meeting room, your team members have already read those non-verbal cues you’re giving off, and everything you say and do is going to be filtered through that initial perception they got about your emotional state.

3. Earn credibility.

The third Leadership Principle, “Earn Credibility,” looks at something that we’re seeing more and more in discussions about leadership today. Specifically, how do we go about increasing our awareness, both of our own mental state as well as the realities of those around us? What’s critical to this principle is being open with our employees that we don’t have all the answers because only then can we free ourselves to be genuine about what it is we’re after, what it is we need, and what we can give them to be successful in their efforts.

4. Cultivate compassion. 

Power Your Creative Thinking With the 4 Lenses of Innovation

Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission

Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission

  • Do you want to create a culture of innovation in your business?
  • Do you want to tap into your inner creative voice?
  • Do you want to power your creative thinking?

Power Your Creative Thinking

I love reading about the world’s greatest innovators. Whether it’s an innovative individual or a company, I am fascinated with the stories behind history’s greatest breakthroughs and inventions. Recently, a terrific new book on the subject crossed my desk and captured my attention. After reading it, I had the opportunity to converse with the author. The insights in this book can help any company improve its innovative culture and any individual become more creative.

That author, speaker, and consultant is Rowan Gibson. Rowan is one of the world’s foremost thought leaders on business innovation. He is the internationally bestselling author of three books on business strategy and innovation – Rethinking The Future, Innovation to the Core, and his latest, The 4 Lenses of Innovation: A Power Tool for Creative Thinking.

 

4 LENSES OF INNOVATION

Challenging Orthodoxies

You share four lenses or perspectives on innovation. The first is challenging orthodoxies. There are many examples of people who stand up and say there is a better way. Perhaps that child with a rebellious streak may have a great future?

Almost by definition, innovators tend to be contrarians and nonconformists. As Steve Jobs put it, they “think different.”

 

“Almost by definition, innovators tend to be contrarians and nonconformists.” –Rowan Gibson

 

I just saw the movie “The Imitation Game” about the work of Alan Turing during the Second World War. This guy was obviously a genius, and a pioneer in the field of digital computing. He almost single-handedly built a machine that broke the German Enigma code, which undoubtedly helped the allies win the war. But Turing had no regard for prevailing wisdom, or for military authority, or for anyone else’s way of doing things. He believed only in his own revolutionary ideas.

Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission

So, yes, maybe that rebellious school child has a great future. Turing’s headmaster told his parents he was wasting his time at school because he wasn’t willing to be educated in classical thinking. Einstein was so rebellious he was actually expelled from school. But it was that rebelliousness toward authority that led him to question Newton’s seemingly unassailable laws of motion. Richard Branson was another rebel at school and eventually dropped out at age 16—going on to create Virgin Records.

If you recall some of the other famous individuals who were featured in Apple’s “Think Different” ads, such as Martin Luther King, John Lennon, Thomas Edison, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Martha Graham, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Pablo Picasso, they were all misfits and rebels. The saw things differently from others. They wanted to challenge and change the status quo.

There are just so many examples of companies that have innovated very successfully by challenging deep-seated orthodoxies: Swatch in the watch industry Dell in the computer industry, Southwest in the airline industry, IKEA in the furniture industry, Enterprise in the car rental business, Zara in the fashion industry, Chipotle in fast food, IT’SUGAR in candy retail, and the list goes on.

A recent example is Beats by Dre. They asked themselves why every other field of consumer electronics—TVs, laptops, smartphones—was being dramatically improved, while people were still listening to music with cheap, low-performance earbuds. What if there was a market for premium headphones, costing hundreds of dollars, that would reproduce music the way artists wanted their songs to be heard? And what if those headphones could be marketed as a fashion statement, not just as an audio accessory? Luke Wood, CEO of Beats by Dre, told the press, “People thought we were crazy. They said the marketplace would never support a $300 headphone.” Well, once again, here’s to the crazy ones. Today, premium headphones are one of the fastest-growing categories in the consumer electronics industry, making up over 40 percent of all headphone sales, and Beats owns over 60 percent of that market. Last year, Apple acquired Beats Electronics for $3 billion.

Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission Copyright Rowan Gibson; Used by Permission

 

2. Harnessing Trends

The second lens or perspective is harnessing trends. How do you spot the trend in time to ride a new wave?

Well, you have to be very sensitive to what is changing in the world. It’s not about having a crystal ball and trying to predict the future. It’s more about having a wide-angled lens that allows you pick up important trends and then exploit them in some way.

5 Simple Steps To Blow Your Productivity Through The Roof

Octopus In Business

This is a guest post by Tor Refsland. Tor decided to leave his six-figure job to follow his passion – to help online entrepreneurs free up more time, so they can do what they love. Want to become more productive? Download his free eBook and learn how to double your productivity in 7 days.

Have you ever experienced this?

You are sitting with your laptop late at night and you have had waaaay too many cups of coffee. You could probably have stopped with your cup number 5, since your body seems to have become temporarily immune to the invigorating effect of the caffeine.

This is NOT the way you wanted to spend your evening. However, you know that you didn`t have a choice. It was a choice about YOUR life and death.

You have procrastinated for so long, and while you were looking the other way, your neglected tasks formed an evil alliance to bring you down.

You know for a fact that if you can’t handle the ever-growing to do list tonight, you will drown.

Can you relate?

If so, no worries. I’ve been there, too.

Relax, there is still hope.

Let me show you the 5 simple steps to blow your productivity through the roof today.

 

“The big difference between successful people and people who aren’t is how they spend their time.” -Tor Refsland

 

 

1. Long-term goal setting

Step 1 is to have clarity and know where you want to go. This should be a long-term goal.

They say that successful people are good at making decisions that will bring them closer to their long-term goal, while people who are not successful make decisions that give them a quick reward.

Life and business are like chess.  A good chess player has the ability to think many moves ahead.

What is the best destination for your business and life?  Do you know what you want to achieve?

Find out and then set the correct goals.

Great, let`s move over to the next step…

 

2. Planning

Brian Tracy says that every minute spent in planning saves you 10 minutes in execution.

You should put all your tasks in your master to do list.

What does that mean?

It means that you should have ONE to do list. How many?

One.

 

“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.” -Brian Tracy

 

There are 3 methods when it comes to handling your to do list.

A. Plan your to do list one week in advance

B. Review your to do list the night before

C. Review your to do list first thing in the morning

You probably think that method A will take some time, and it does. However, it will make you crazy productive. This is for the hardcore people who want BIG results.

I would at least recommend you to use method B and C.

The big difference between successful people and people who aren’t is how they spend their time.

Needless to say, if you don’t already use a to do list, you should start now.

If you have many to do lists, start using one.

Okay, you get the importance of a to do list.

Then over to the…

 

3. 80/20 rule

5 Tips to Master the Art of Power Listening

Power Tips from Ken Abraham

What does it take to land on the New York Times Bestseller’s list nineteen times, with three books hitting the number one spot?

This is the current record of one of my friends, Ken Abraham.  Not too long ago, I sat down with Ken to ask him about his phenomenal success.  Ken’s specialty is collaborations.  He works with celebrities, politicians, sports heroes and others to tell their stories.  He writes authentically in their voice, not his own.

I have known Ken for some years and will tell you a few things that he would never say, but they are characteristics that fuel his success.

Ken is what I call a “power listener.”

Power listeners:

1. Know that it is all about you.

Too often we listen faintly as we form another question or clever comment in our mind. We wait for the person to breathe so we can get our point in. Learning to listen well, extraordinarily well, has been a long-term goal of mine. I’m not even close to attaining it. Ken is a master.

Despite Ken’s success, he is one of the most humble people I know. That humility seems to work especially well in his work because Ken is more interested in learning about you than in talking about himself.

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” –Doug Larson

 

 

2. Are able to communicate what they heard accurately.

Good communication is not about saying something. It’s not about the audience hearing it either. It’s when the listener understands your message and can repeat it back. It’s when that person understands the nuances, the emotion, and the content.

Ken’s ability to do this propels him to the top of the world’s greatest listeners.  His writing skills are amazing, but I believe it starts with his unique listening skills.  He can only capture an accurate and authentic story because of his listening mastery.

“I think part of my gift..is that I love listening.” –Eric Clapton

 

3. Stay in the present.

A good listener is not thinking about tomorrow’s to do list or yesterday’s meeting. A good listener is with you, in the moment, practicing the power of now.

When you speak with Ken, you just know he is right there. He is with you in the moment, listening and learning.

“So don’t ever worry about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow will worry about itself.” -Matt 6:34