Do you even journal? You should if you want to be a better leader.

How many of those articles outlining the morning routine of leaders have you read? It seems the most successful leaders are up and about early. They are exercising at 5am and meditating and drinking green smoothies and reading the news and staying out of their inbox. I’m tired just thinking about it! I do have a few of those things on my morning routine list – exercise and green smoothies are regular features (although not starting at 5am if I can at all avoid it!). But there’s also one more habit I have in common with an increasing number of successful leaders – I keep a journal. Or, in line with language trends that seem to take nouns and make them verbs, I journal!

Nancy Adler wrote about keeping a journal in the Harvard Business Review and quoted research that outstanding leaders’ success depends on the ability to access their unique perspective and bring it to their decisions and sense-making every day. But to do that, you have to have a level of insight about what your unique perspective might be! That requires some self-analysis and in workplaces that value output and results much more than reflection and consideration, it can be hard to find the time and space to do this.

I started journaling (there’s that verb again!) on a regular basis after a coach I was fortunate enough to work with recommended a book to me called, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It says a LOT about this man that I actually bought it and read it! What possible relevance could that have to me? I am not, nor do I have any desire to be, an artist! But because I trusted him implicitly, I put my doubts to one side and dove in. I had to suspend my cynical voice, because there was a bit of God talk and a ‘if you build it, they will come’ vibe. But it was challenging also. It called out the cynicism and named it fear. Which of course gets right under the skin of someone who would rather poke fun than try something new and risk looking like an idiot. It called that out too.

One of the exercises in the book has you commit to writing ‘morning pages’, three pages of longhand writing every day. Even if you fill them up with “I hate writing these pages”, you must write. Before I made the decision to take a sabbatical year, I was journaling regularly in line with this principle. And the clarity came. Weirdly enough, it was actually quite a 'if you build it, they will come' moment. On an early morning flight, after I finished my pages, I re-read the pages I had written over three months and like a bolt out of the blue, I knew what action I needed to take. I was able to silence the noise, the negative, unhelpful self-talk and make a plan based on my clarified understanding of what was important to me. I can still remember the extraordinary lightness I felt as that flight landed.

The same principles that allowed me to see my way through the haze to make some personal decisions, can of course also apply to gaining insights into your leadership and work. The practice is likely to feel awkward and forced to start with and, even now, there are days where my writing basically sets out what I’m having for breakfast. But if you commit to the process, the insights and understanding will come.

To get started, Nancy Adler suggests some trigger questions that can be useful. Write these in the front page of your journal and use them as prompters if the pages are not flowing:

  • How am I feeling right now?

  • How am I feeling about my leadership?

  • What deserves my highest-quality attention in my leadership, in my life, in my world?

  • What is the most outrageous (or fun or novel) idea I’ve heard in the last 24 hours? What do I love about it?

  • What is the most exciting initiative I’ve heard about this week that is happening outside of my industry or in another part of the world?

  • What contributed most to my happiness this week (or to the happiness of my people)? How can I have more happiness in my life?

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – Find out what it means to...your workplace

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Participants in a survey by Georgetown University ranked respect as the most important leadership behaviour. Do the conversations and behaviours in your workplace indicate a culture of respect? If not, what can you do to start building a respectful organisation? 

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Shareholders agreements: Defence in the face of dispute

Shareholders agreements: Defence in the face of dispute

Good friends Alex and Joanne have come up with a brilliant new business venture. They’ve tested it and invested in planning and launch. It’s full of potential, and they’re all guns blazing. They get along well and are both enthusiastic and positive about their ability to make it happen together.  

Alex and Joanne work hard from day 1 and execute their business idea. So much so, their business explodes in its first couple of years. But then things go pear-shaped…

Disagreements and conflict are inevitable in any business relationship - even ones underpinned by friendship. Read on to discover how a shareholders agreement can make the relationship smoother and less problematic from the get-go.

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It's Monday morning and you're scrolling through all the emails that have arrived over the weekend. It's then that you open a rather concerning email; subject: Urgent - Potential Data Breach. Are you ready to handle it? Read on to discover how a data breach response plan can best position your business to effectively and efficiently prepare for and manage the breach. 

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Energy reserves or energy deficit? Your decision.

I was lucky enough to be interviewed by @Officeworks WorkWise recently on the topic of wellbeing and work for small business owners.  I came at it from the perspective of a small business owner, but also one who works with small businesses in the area of people and performance (a critical component of which is all about wellbeing).  For all of us, wellbeing either enables business growth and success, or (if not managed), holds us back.  I think of wellbeing through a lens of energy measurement and management (or acute maintenance at times). 

Our ability to work well and be well is enhanced or limited by what energy we have available to us.  Energy is available through many avenues and we each have our own energy needs – food, oxygen, good conversation, work that adds value, quiet contemplation … but when it comes to the workplace, not enough time is spent considering how we manage the energy of our employees, and as leaders, how we manage our own. 

It is our energy and the energy of our employees that fuels our business, so the more time we spend measuring and managing energy levels (ours and our employees), the better able we are to manage our organisational output.  Amazingly, energy is one of the simplest things to enhance – but it requires action, rather than inaction or avoidance.  And, importantly, we all need to have energy reserves left at the end of the day, rather than going home completely depleted… otherwise at some point the energy does burnout.

It’s also important to remember that wellbeing is very much a journey not a destination, and every day is different.  Some days I am great at managing my energy reserves and building them up, some days I know I am running on empty.  The key is to identify (measure) energy levels, and then take action (manage) energy levels, to see an improvement in that moment, and a trend in the right direction over time. 

What are you doing today to enhance rather than deplete your energy?  What are you doing today to enhance rather than deplete the energy of those around you, and those you lead?

See the interview here:  

 

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If you've ever worked alongside a good in-house lawyer, you're probably not surprised to know that the fastest growing competition to traditional law firms is the growth of in-house legal teams. Businesses are realising the positive impact a savvy and personable internal legal adviser brings to the table. 

But what if your business is not ready to take the plunge on a permanent lawyer, but still seeks something better from your legal advisers?

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So, you run a recruitment agency and you have invoices that aren’t getting paid. This might be the first time or it might be something that happens often. Either way, you’ve made a placement and delivered what you know is a valuable service. This is creating cash flow issues, staff issues and taking up time.

To improve debt recovery, cash flow and employee satisfaction use these idea blocks to build your approach.

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So, you have a new tender you really want to win and it comes with a proposed contract for the eventual winner. You just know it will be geared towards the customer and it should probably be reviewed. And an uncomfortable by-product of this review is that you will need to point out the inherent problems you have in signing the contract. Will this put your bid at risk?

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In my 12 years in senior in-house legal roles, I knew my time was always best spent giving my colleagues their time back. I wasn’t ‘on the clock’, but we all know nothing comes for free. If I was hard to work with, it didn’t matter if I wasn’t charging them. Clients would spend their time re-doing my work, or waste it working out other ways to get things done.

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