By Michael Holland

Many leaders are challenged with having coaching conversations with their employees.

  • Coaching is a process of letting people know that what they do matters to you.
  • Coaching provides direction and timely feedback.
  • Coaching inspires, encourages, and challenges employees.

Coaching should be continual.  It’s small things that the leader sees and says to employees to help guide them forward.

A major challenge for leaders comes from not having material to use for giving the continual feedback.

To get the material, leaders need to create a single habit of employee journaling.

For each employee, write something each week in a journal about something they are doing that is good or bad or difficult or inspiring.  We’re not looking for multiple paragraph entries but rather a sentence or two about a particular behavior.

Leaders who journal quickly realize that they are seeing their employees in a whole new light.  And they are realizing that how they see themselves as leaders starts to change.

Here are some ways this single habit of journaling about your employees will enable you to be tremendously better at people leadership.

Material for Coaching Moments

Capturing your thoughts will provide you with easy to access coaching material.

Great leaders are consistently coaching their employees as compared to not-so-great leaders who are having that once a year conversation because HR told them they had to.


You capture your raw thoughts about employee performance and behavior.

It is so recent, you end up capturing the emotions about the behavior – good and bad – which help to paint a more vibrant picture of the impacts.

The Story

You have a nice list of notes that help tell a story about an employee over time.  The story can help you to notice patterns or trend lines for the employee which can be used for coaching moments with employees.

Capture the Positive Behaviors

Leaders know to start keeping a list of behaviors that are leading up to a performance improvement discussion.  The legal list that HR always wants to see when you “suddenly” have a performance problem.

But there is a huge opportunity lost in not capturing the small positive behaviors.

Leaders miss opportunities to communicate the positive feedback once every 7 days that engaged employees crave.  Yes, that’s once every 7 days.

Help Yourself to be More Productive

Since you’re already journaling, why not add yourself to the list and write a thing or two regarding your behaviors and performance over the last week.

Reflection is one of the most underutilized tools of leaders.

Where to Keep a Journal

Paper and old school manila folders work.  So does a Word document or spreadsheet.  Or a Moleskin perhaps.  There are apps available for journaling that could be used to employee journaling.

For me, I use Evernote – my digital brain – to help make is easier to keep employee journals.  I have a note set up for each employee and that note is on my Shortcuts menu for easy access.  Each note has a table in which I insert a row at the top for my entry.

I put in the date in the first column and the start typing in the second.  A couple of minutes and I’m done.

Sometimes I do all the employees in one shot, other times I spread them out through the week.  The key goal is writing something each week no matter how small of an insight.

How’s my performance with weekly employee  journaling?  Well, surely not perfect.  But I like my trend line.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Try journaling for a season.  For the next 8 weeks, write a journal entry each week for each employee.  Reflect on what you’ve seen and learned over the 8 weeks.
  • Talk with two or three of your peers about their habits with keeping employee journals.  Together take on the “journaling for a season” challenge.
  • Would you like your boss writing a weekly journal entry about you?  Why and why not?