The unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates

Self-development is the hallmark of Action Learning—a journey rich in challenging new encounters and events. Keeping a journal helps participants draw together the threads of their experience by connecting their recorded observations and insights about themselves, their colleagues, and their work environment.

A journal enables the writer to take charge of his own development by promoting self-awareness, accountability, and adaptability: capabilities indispensible to learning.

Benefits of Keeping a Group Coaching Journal

  • Learning from experience (successes, mistakes, uncertainties and challenges).
  • Tracking the evolution of thoughts and actions.
  • Holding oneself accountable for achieving goals and responding to complex situations.
  • Applying ideas and concepts to actual work/life experiences.
  • Broadening existing perspective–viewing situations from various angles.
  • Sorting out and expressing feelings and complex emotions.
  • Recognizing behavioral patterns and organizational realities (and their impact) over time.
  • Anticipating, considering options, and planning future actions.
  • Reframing past experiences in light of present knowledge or wisdom.
  • Examining assumptions, values, and beliefs.
  • Sustaining performance by documenting activities and accomplishments.
  • Posing provocative and challenging questions.
  • Recording ideas for future presentations, articles, or projects.
  • Reflecting on personal insights.
  • Recording memorable quotes from speakers or colleagues.

How to Use your Journal

The Overall Process

  • Identify a trigger event or interaction (along with the date and place).
  • Describe your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Explain why you responded as you did.
  • Jot down the relevant immediate and mid-term consequences.
  • Think about what you learned by writing a question to yourself.
  • Note how you will apply what you learned to other professional and personal circumstances.
  • Draw an image that represents your experience.

Throughout the Group Coaching Process

Pose a question to yourself (such as one of the following) or respond to a facilitator’s or set member’s question.

1. My Value as a Set Member

  • What difference do I make to my co-workers/colleagues/team?
  • When did I laugh the hardest during our work together?
  • Whom do I admire and why?
  • What happened that surprised me?
  • What strength do I rely on too much?
  • What can I bring to and learn from my colleagues?
  • Have I maximized my team role (facilitation, decision-making, creativity, etc.)?
  • How can I boost my engagement and participation?
  • What is my level of courage and honesty?
  • How do I show support?

2. Progress on my Goals

  • What have I done that worked well, and why?
  • What didn’t work well, and why?
  • What are some signs that I’m making progress? Are there other ways to measure my improvement?
  • How do I feel when I try something new (venture out of my comfort zone)?
  • What am I resisting or avoiding? What causes my resistance? How should I deal with these factors?
  • How can I come up with more alternatives?
  • What am I avoiding?
  • What is my energy level regarding this goal?

3. Developing a Skill or Attribute

  • Get clear on the target (what would success ideally look like?)
  • Do I/why do I really want this change? What will be the immediate and extended benefits (to me, others, my organization)? What will be the potential costs? Is the effort worth it?
  • Have I already taken action to develop this capability? If so, how have I demonstrated this skill?
  • Who are the members of my set who display this competency?  Who doesn’t? What specific behaviors indicate their level of competence? How can I observe, adopt or avoid similar behaviors?

4. Learning from a Current Problem

  • What is happening? What is not happening?
  • How am I feeling, thinking, and acting?
  • What is particularly stressful or painful about this? What is at stake or seems threatening?
  • Have I responded (so far) in the way that I’d like to respond? If not, why not?
  • In what ways is this situation the same or different from similar circumstances? What patterns do I recognize?
  • How would I like to be supported? What resources can I enlist?
  • What can I learn from this situation?

5. Reviewing a Difficult Interaction

  • When did I feel most frustrated during the Group Coaching meeting (or journey)?
  • What happened?
  • What were my assumptions and expectations?
  • What did I hope would happen?
  • What were my team members’ expectations, thoughts, feelings and needs?
  • What did I learn?
  • What are my best options moving forward to positively influence the situation?
  • What does stress bring out in me? Why?
  • Am I getting better at giving constructive (difficult) feedback/input? How can I improve?

Tips and Cautions

  1. The most effective learning records include specific statements about experiences and insights (e.g. “I was frustrated when John ignored me, but I did not do anything about it.”) and how to apply these ideas to future circumstances (e.g. “I will sit near him next time and speak up first when I want to say something”).
  2. Reflect on and measure what matters to you, because what we pay attention to becomes integrated into our performance.
  3. Learning means acquiring the knowledge, skill, and mindset to act effectively in a wide variety of life’s circumstances—predictable and unpredictable. You know that learning has taken place when you understand or can do something you couldn’t do before.

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.  Albert Einstein