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Leadership Skills: Hodology's Four-Step Business Journaling Framework

Navigating the leadership world requires skills, knowledge, and a robust self-awareness. That's where the power of business journaling comes into play.


Unlike the navel-gazing of icons like Bridget Jones or Carrie Bradshaw, a business journal isn't about recording romantic mishaps or fashion finds—it's about documenting your leadership journey, reflecting on your actions, and gaining crucial insights into your thoughts and behaviours.


Yet, for many busy executives in leadership roles, maintaining a regular journal can seem daunting or time-consuming. That's where Hodology steps in. We have developed a unique, structured journaling framework designed specifically to fit into the hectic schedules of senior leaders while still delivering the benefits of improved self-awareness and introspection.


Our four-step method is efficient, flexible, and focused on you—making journaling less about perfectionism and more about personal growth.


 

The Benefits of Leadership Journalling


Structured journaling has been proven time and time again to be an invaluable tool for self-reflection and growth. Dale Carnegie describes how the "president of an important Wall Street Bank" once described his Saturday night review of that week's engagements as having done "more for me that any other one thing I have ever attempted." One benefit of this approach is that you won't need to sacrifice your Saturday night; here are a few more.


Improved Self-Awareness


Our methodical approach to journaling allows for deeper self-analysis, uncovering unconscious biases or self-limiting behaviours—none of us are as immune to the messages we see and hear daily about what it means to be a success. By logging daily activities and reflecting on thoughts and feelings, you become more aware of your actions, reactions, and underlying motivations.


Personal Growth


Over time, regular journaling creates a rich repository—an opportunity to reflect on past experiences, learn from successes and challenges, and track personal growth over time. Your journal becomes a powerful tool for understanding where your head was in various situations and, with the gift of foresight, how you might have handled things differently. With consistent journaling, you can discover patterns in your behaviour and identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement.


Better Decision-Making


Self-awareness is a key component of effective leadership. When leaders clearly understand their thought processes and emotional responses, they can approach challenges more clearly and confidently. This leads to decision-making that is not only more informed and balanced but also more empathetic, as leaders with high self-awareness are better able to understand and consider the perspectives of others.


Smashing the Patriarchy


Research shows that even if it is ostensibly positive, feedback provided to women tends to be less actionable and less useful for leadership progression than feedback given to men, making it less likely that women will advance to more senior positions. Once you are in a senior position, the risk is that you are less well-equipped to keep it as a senior woman. By keeping a structured journal, women in leadership can generate valuable insights and take control of their leadership development.


Preventing Burnout


Through regular journaling, you will uncover stress patterns, identify key triggers, and determine more effective coping strategies. Plus, it provides a private space to vent, reflect, and strategise, diffusing immediate tension and stress. Over time, journalling for mental fosters emotional intelligence—the ability to positively understand, use, and manage your emotions—and resilience.


Business journaling is not merely about reflection but also a valuable tool for delineating the transition between work and personal time. Incorporating leadership journaling into your daily routine creates a definitive 'ending ceremony' for each day. Hopefully, one that is more constructive, or at least less problematic than a large glass of wine.


By journaling about your workday, you give yourself the opportunity to tie up loose ends, at least mentally.


 

The Benefits of The Hodology Four-Step Framework Leadership Journalling


Navigating the dynamic landscape of leadership requires robust tools and flexible strategies. Creating space for introspection and pattern recognition is essential. Enter the Hodology four-step business journaling framework: a method designed to fit seamlessly into the lives of busy leaders. So, how does the Hodology framework excel where others fall short?


The four-step Hodology framework for business journaling provides a unique combination of benefits that differentiate it from other approaches:


It's Built for Busy Schedules: Other approaches to journaling often ask for lengthy, detailed entries, which can be challenging for busy leaders. Our method breaks down the process into digestible parts, allowing you to engage with the activity to the extent your time and energy permit each day.


Gradual Deepening of Introspection: Many journaling practices dive straight into deep self-reflection. This handbrake turn can be emotionally taxing and discourages regular practice. The Hodology method eases you into introspection, starting with a simple factual record before progressing to thoughts and feelings.


Flexibility and Personalisation: The modular nature of this framework allows for a high degree of personalisation. You can stop after any step based on your current capacity, ensuring the process is always manageable and not a source of stress.


Promotes Regular Practice: You are what you do every day. Because this approach is less time-consuming and demanding, it's more likely to promote the habit of regular journaling, which is where the real benefits lie.


Facilitates Pattern Recognition: By separating thoughts and feelings and then returning to draw connections, this method encourages the recognition of patterns in behaviour, responses, and triggers that might be missed in other journaling approaches.


 

How to Follow the Four-Step Leadership Journaling Framework


Ready to transform your leadership style and reach new heights of self-awareness through leadership journaling? In this section, we'll break down the Hodology Four-Step Framework. This effective method combines cognitive behavioural therapy and reflective practice to create a structured yet flexible approach.


If you've ever felt drawn to but overwhelmed by the idea of journaling or unsure how to start, this simple, step-by-step guide is for you.


Step One: Recording Daily Achievements and Challenges


This is all about taking stock of your activities, both the hits and misses. This objective record keeping Abadesi Osunsade calls keeping 'work receipts'.


Collecting work receipts is about logging your actions without judgment. This can range from successful meetings you led, challenging conversations you navigated, crucial decisions you made, or tasks you completed. It can also include misses like missed deadlines or tasks left undone. At this stage, keep it brief and factual. The goal here is not to analyse or evaluate but to clearly record your day-to-day actions as a leader.


This section may look something like this;


  • Met with HR to discuss open roles

  • Met with Sales to understand Q3 targets

  • Drafted analysis for Q2 performance report

  • Agreed £500K CapEx investment

  • Disagreed on £500K OpEx investment


If you can get into the habit of doing this, you instantly have a note to hand of failures survived to inspire and motivate yourself and a crib sheet for when you need to remind others (or yourself) of your achievements. This is particularly helpful during your first 100 days in a new role. Even if this is all you can find the time or energy for today, this is good enough.


Step Two: Reflect on Your Thoughts


Now that you've listed your day's activities, it's time to enter the second phase of our journaling process: reflecting on your thoughts. But remember, this is an optional step only meant for if you have the time or energy.


Consider each activity on your list in this phase and note what it made you think. What thoughts were prompted by that challenging conversation? What ideas did that successful meeting spark? It's all about understanding your thought processes around your day's work. It might be a new strategy that occurred to you or perhaps a realization about a team member's skills.


During this step, staying in your cognitive, logical headspace is important. Keep it concise and only comment on points that triggered significant thoughts. This is not yet the stage for emotional exploration; it's about gathering your thoughts and laying them out on paper (or screen).


This section may look something like this;


  • How many meetings does it take to get a hire approved?!

  • In the sales meeting, I thought, why isn't this an email?!

  • Do people here care more about planning than they do reporting?!

  • The team did a great job of making the case for OpEx. I don't understand why it didn't land with the board.

In the same way as the last step, if you're done here, let it be. By reflecting on what each task or event made you think, you're enhancing your cognitive awareness and broadening your perspective. This step aids in identifying patterns in your thought process. It enables you to recognise recurring thoughts or ideas in response to specific situations. This is valuable without doing anything else.


Step Three: Identify Your Feelings


The third step in our journaling journey shifts the focus from the cognitive to the emotional. In this phase, we want to understand how your day's activities made you feel. This, like step two, is an optional part to be done if you have the time and energy.


It's more than just stating whether an event made you happy, sad, or frustrated. Try to delve deeper. How did that productive meeting affect your confidence? Did the conflict with a colleague leave you feeling undervalued or misunderstood?


This step is crucial for understanding your emotional responses to your workday. It’s about recognising that your feelings are valid and they play a significant role in your leadership style. Remember to be honest and accept your emotions as they come, without judgment or analysis.


This section may look something like this;


I'm feeling a general sense of frustration with inefficient processes - from the hiring process and the meeting that could have been an email to no one caring about performance. I feel like I am speaking a different language. The board's unexpected reaction to our well-prepared case for OpEx has also left me puzzled, adding to my disappointment and raising concerns about possible gaps in my communication or understanding. Overall, I'm left wondering about what I am missing.

Self-awareness isn't a switch that can be instantly turned on, especially for those of us who spend the majority of our time analysing external information. By warming up with Steps 1 and 2, you're laying the groundwork for more in-depth introspection.


Trying to dive deep into self-awareness can be intimidating. This approach of progressively going deeper into your reflections makes the process less daunting, increasing the likelihood of maintaining a regular journaling habit. Even if you write nothing else today, you have already accomplished something important.


Step 4: Drawing Connections


The final step of Hodology's leadership journaling approach is arguably the most transformative - drawing connections. This stage may not occur immediately after Step 3. Some leaders find it beneficial to revisit their entries later, providing some distance and perspective to their initial thoughts and feelings.


After the immediate rawness of your emotions and reflections have been given some space to breathe, it's time to go back and look for patterns, common threads, and correlations between what you did (Step 1), what you thought about it (Step 2), and how you felt afterwards (Step 3).


Drawing connections may involve recognising a consistent emotional response to certain types of events, pinpointing thought patterns that occur in relation to specific actions, or identifying times when you felt most productive, effective, or satisfied with your leadership. It may also be about noticing where you felt frustration, stress, or dissatisfaction and exploring what was happening and how you were thinking at those times.


This process of drawing connections provides you with the opportunity to explore deeper insights and understand the interplay between your actions, thoughts, and emotions. Doing this lets you see where you may need to make changes, address challenges, and leverage strengths. It's the final, crucial step in achieving full-circle self-awareness, a key to effective and resilient leadership.


Closing our example, this leader might find she benefits from making these connections;


I’ve noticed a trend: my frustration and confusion often arise when I feel there's a lack of transparency in our processes. On reflection, I realised my need for clarity and transparency isn’t just a preference. It’s an essential part of how I operate effectively as a leader. I thrive on understanding the 'why' behind decisions, the logic behind operations, and the strategy underpinning our plans. This is a strength.
In preparation for future meetings, I will ask for the information I need to understand the context. I will encourage a culture of transparency in my own team, making sure that the ‘why’ behind our actions is clear to everyone.
I can also manage my responses better when my need for transparency is frustrated. Understanding that this is a personal trigger for me allows me to take a step back, regulate my emotional reaction, and constructively seek the clarity I need.

Remember, this is not an immediate process; it takes time and continuous practice. It's about making your self-awareness a living, breathing part of your leadership, which will evolve and grow with you as you journey through your career.


With Hodology's structured business journaling method, you're empowering yourself to be a more self-aware, reflective, and impactful leader. And that's an investment worth making every day.

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Hi, I'm Libby

I am a Founder, NED and Chief Special Adviser, but most of all I am a leadership nerd. Hodology is my consultancy and methodolgy.

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