DALLAS, Texas (Dec. 28, 2008) -- Journaling is a trendy sort of thing. I know people who have been doing it, religiously, for years. Others started but did not stay with it. It is like a routine of physical exercise, I guess. I know others who have started after taking a journaling class. Interesting. I did not know there was a class for something like this – teaching you to write thoughts and ideas in a book.

My interest in journaling did not come from a lofty notion that I had something important to say, recall or reflect upon. No, it was much more superficial. It was a picture in a magazine of a great looking leather notebook and a beautiful pen (in what you write, and with what you use to write, is very important to some journalists). A rugged looking model posing as one of the world’s great adventurers/writers was making notes while sipping what looked to be a glass of expensive single malt scotch. That was the purpose of the magazine advertisement, not the merits of journaling. That leather journal and the pen made an impression. Then during one of my frequent business trips – not to Africa or some exotic Far East destination, but Wichita -- I saw someone else making notes in an interesting notebook. He, too, was using an interesting looking pen. Then I heard a speaker at a leadership conference talk about the value of reflective journaling. I learned that some of the most celebrated leaders in the nation -- in business and the military -- journal on a regular basis

I began to think about the idea from time-to-time. As a former crime writer and investigative reporter for a major Texas newspaper, I missed the “art” of writing although there are those who would argue that this type of writing – a report on some bloody killing or bizarre auto accident – is really 250 words in short declarative sentences organized in three or so paragraphs masquerading as tomorrow’s history. About seven or eight years ago, I began to make notes in the classic spiral notebook on how I could improve my business and my life, as well as notes on tasks for the next day – something that I do more and more frequently as my hair continues its march to total grayness. Occasionally I wrote something that was good but most of the time I rarely went back and reread the previous entry's musings, except to look at my notes for the Outlook calendar. Then I met Rand Stagen,Senior Partner at Stagen, a Dallas-based management consultancy. Mr. Stagen helped me connect the concept of reflective journaling and improving as a leader – Chairman and Founder of a JohnMarch Partners, an executive search firm. He believes, and I am now a Stagen devotee on this issue, that there is a correlation between the discipline of reflective journaling and an executive’s ability to master the art of next-level leadership. To read more about this deeply important leadership concept and download a copy of this white paper, visit his web site.

I am no next-level leadership expert as I am clearly about to demonstrate, but borrowing from Mr. Stagen’s excellent work is very helpful when I talk to students in graduate healthcare management programs. I frequently use one of Rand’s great examples: the head football coach. Television cameras cut to a close-up of the head coach on the sideline at crucial times during the game, plotting his next move. Stagen makes an important point – that the coach may have the final say in calling the next play, but he has the worst seat in the house – at field level, which precludes him from gaining any perspective with regard to how his offense is being defensed. However, he does have a headset and he is talking to a member of his coaching staff who is located in the press box high above the playing field, Stagen writes. That coach may not be as smart or as experienced as the head coach, but he does have a different perspective and he (rarely, if ever, a she) can see opportunities the head coach cannot see. That, briefly, made the case for why every leader should keep a journal.

The discipline of reflective journaling allows a leader to move high above the playing field to revisit key decisions or events, and think about how a decision was made and executed. To gain a sense of perspective of what was overlooked or misjudged when the actual decision was made. And to learn from the experience.

My journal entries today cover my Firm's efforts to achieve next-level recruiting, on the critical decisions we make in our searches as well as ideas for future blogs. As the birthdays fly by, and I am required to make more (reminder) notes on day-to-day operations, I keep a separate log to update my Outlook tasks list and calendar.

Today I have graduated from the spiral notebook. I journal in the classic Moleskine and I have a really good pen.

John G. Self, Chairman and Founder of JohnMarch Partners, is the Firm’s senior client advisor. A 32-year veteran of the healthcare industry, he is a former investigative reporter and crime writer for a major daily newspaper. Candidates and clients say he is one of the most thorough executive recruiters working in the healthcare industry.

Views: 94

Comment by Maureen Sharib on December 29, 2008 at 9:35am
I hope to see more from you, Mr. Self. I have often wondered what coaches did in the days before headsets and how today's model differs from yesteryear's.
Comment by John G. Self on December 29, 2008 at 9:47am
That must have been in the (olden) days when the quarterback actually called the plays. Or they used hand signals!
Comment by Maureen Sharib on December 29, 2008 at 11:30am
But it seems to me the use of headsets maybe makes it a different game? How does the use of technology change our "games" today? What changes? What remains the same?
Comment by John G. Self on December 29, 2008 at 11:52am
There is a part of the executive search business that has changed - we use the power of computers and the Internet. Gone are letters with resumes and even facsimile transmissions. Now comes videoconferencing interviews to save travel expenses. Bad idea for retained recruiters.

Contingent recruiters and staffing firms benefit mightily from these technological advances since so much of what they do involves speed and managing costs. The real challenge is for retained recruiters -- those who work at the executive and C-suite levels. How do we move to next-level of performance WITHOUT sacrificing quality?

We use extended placement guarantees (3 years at the C-suite, in-depth candidate screening, video summaries of our interviews with the panel of recommended candidates and we are willing to put a portion of our fee at risk – the true-up settlement based on the candidate’s bonus.

2009 is going to a challenging year -- with or without headsets. Remember, the headsets help the coach with strategy, not with execution.
Comment by Maureen Sharib on December 29, 2008 at 11:57am
Oh yeah. I forgot about the paid "team players".
Comment by John G. Self on December 29, 2008 at 12:07pm
Thank you for your comments.

72 percent of the CEO candidates say that vision and strategy is more important than execution. But at the end of the day, it is all about execution. Best wishes for a successful year and let's keep up the conversation. Face-to-face is better but this is a nice alternative.

Cheers, Maureen.
Comment by Steve Levy on December 29, 2008 at 12:24pm
John - How do we move to next-level of performance WITHOUT sacrificing quality? a few months back through the kindness of Dennis Smith, I attended Kennedy's Executive Search Summit. You can imagine how the blue-suited, red-tied blue bloods in retained search responded to social media. Here's what I proffered to the audience: Imagine you're conducting a CEO search and on your firms Facebook page you note this. One of your connections is a 19 yo college student who knows his CFO Mom/Dad is unhappy where they are and let's them know about it. Bingo!

72 percent of the CEO candidates say that vision and strategy is more important than execution. Hmm, must be Harvard MBA's... Vision and strategy play well to Wall Street but in the end as you noted you have to crap or get off the pot (sorry, I'm here in New York).

Write more John.
Comment by John G. Self on December 29, 2008 at 12:32pm
Spot on Steve. Thanks so much for your insight. If you read my blog on recruiter accountability, you will know that I am not the most popular person at the retained search cocktail parties. Russian roulette in Recruiting was another. Yes, although I qualify in the blue suit/power tie crowd, I am certainly not afraid to challenge our little country club to move to the next level of performance.

We are moving to the next level by adding quality through innovation. Video summaries of the interviews we do with the recommended candidates is one way, and believe me the clients love it. Our in-depth background check is another. Several of the major global search consultancies have been caught with their pants down over the past three years on little issues like candidate nonperformance (they were consistently bad!), and background issues -- DUIs, forged credentials, felony convictions, etc. LOL. That is where being a former investigative reporter pays off.
Comment by Steve Levy on December 29, 2008 at 12:35pm
Dirty secret to retained search - yes, clients love videos; can you guess why?
Comment by John G. Self on December 29, 2008 at 12:37pm
Yes, and some for the wrong reasons. Overall, though, we find it extremely helpful in terms of the match. In 15 years, I have had only one major C-suite search go into a ditch before the placement guarantee expired.

Happy New Year. Thanks for your comments.

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