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Writing a journal: reflective practice for leaders.

by Jennifer McCoy

I wonder how many people, on reading the words 'journal' and 'writing', were spun back to their teenage years, when writing a diary was the thing to do. Well, for girls anyway.

A diary full of secret thoughts and plans. About boys too of course. A diary squirreled away at the back of a cupboard in the desperate hope that mothers wouldn't discover it. Worse, actually read it!

A reflective journal, especially for leadership, is quite different. The insights and leadership skills that grow from reflective practice, recorded in a journal, can be profound.

At the simplest level, taking the time to reflect and then journalling those reflections, can help you to:

  • be conscious of your potential and limitations
  • challenge and develop existing professional knowledge
  • recognise what you do well and also not so well
  • learn from successes and mistakes
  • plan and improve your leadership

Knowing how and where to start is often a challenge. Faced with a blank page the task can be daunting. Writers block instantly seizes the brain.

The framework below is one that I introduce to MBA students. It was developed from research into this same challenge and might be useful for you too.

The 4Rs Model of Reflective Thinking
The 4Rs model of Reflective Thinking
Stage Questions to get you started
Reporting and responding

Consider the issue that interests you.

  • Why is it relevant? Or important to you?
  • Respond by making observations, noting your opinion or questions.

Make a connection between this issue and your skills, experience, knowledge.

  • Have you seen this before? Or something like it?
  • Do you have the skills and knowledge to deal with it?
  • Have you met anyone who voiced an opinion about this?
  • Have you experienced/read anything like this?
Reasoning, making sense

What are the significant factors underlying the issue?

  • Why are they are important to understanding the issue
  • Consider different perspectives eg;
    • What might other people, with different views or values think?
    • Are there ethical questions involved?

What might you do in the future?

  • How might you deal with this issue in the future?
  • Are there different options? What might others think?
  • What might happen if...?
  • Can you make changes to benefit others? Do you want to?

Remember, it's reflective practice that is important. Give yourself time to sit quietly and reflect on, eg: issues that have arisen, events that occurred, decisions you made or need to make.

Just start! And use dot points and simple ideas. Nobody else is going to read it unless you invite them to.

Read/Browse: Ryan, M. and M. Ryan (2012) Developing a systematic, cross-faculty approach to teaching and assessing reflection in higher education. final Report. ALTC. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology.