If you are like most leaders, you will continue to look for ways to become more effective in your work and career. These ways could include a variety of methods such as getting exposure to role models of desired performance or experts in particular fields, taking on stretch assignments to obtain experience in areas where you are lacking and making use of offerings such as executive coaching and leadership development programs. There is no doubt that such solutions can have a strong impact and should continue to be used to help you meet your objectives.

Nonetheless, there is an element that will ensure these solutions provide the biggest bang for the buck. In fact, this element alone has been found to be critical to the effectiveness of leaders in their day-to-day work. More specifically, it has been shown to help:

  • Enhance the development of emotional intelligence and other leadership competencies
  • Broaden perspectives to help understand complex circumstances
  • Identify new ideas that can be incorporated into future actions

This element is a self-audit. Basically, it entails leaders taking the time to consider:

  • What they have recently experienced in work situations
  • How they handled these situations
  • How to use the preceding insight to address future situations in the most productive way

Although the self-audit is relatively simple, people often fail to do it. Recent business studies provide some reasons for this failure. A survey of 1,200 leaders by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) discovered that eight out of ten leaders struggle to prioritize their tasks due to conflicting demands, and over two-thirds claim they do not have time to think. While the CMI results suggest that a lack of available time may be the culprit, a Salary.com survey of over 10,000 workers suggests that this is not necessarily the case. This latter study found that the average person wastes a little over two hours per day not including lunch and breaks on unproductive activities. The number one unproductive activity reported by this study was surfing the web (for reasons that were not related to work). Consequently, there appears to be two hours that could be used for a self-audit.

In order to gain the insight from a self-audit and reap the benefits discussed earlier, the critical thing that leaders need to do is make the self-audit a consistent part of their daily routine. This means scheduling time on their calendars for personal insight, protecting this time and then diligently doing the self-audit without letting anyone or anything distract them. The amount of time and location should be based on what works best for the particular leaders. It doesn’t even have to be a lot of time. For example, some leaders use their brief commute to reflect on the day, prioritize tasks and plan for upcoming events.

Incidentally, OrgLeader has found that once leaders have established this routine, they are often amazed at how much it helps them (e.g., some leaders realized they could delegate more tasks, used the wrong influence strategies with their bosses and found the best approach to motivate employees to perform up to potential). These leaders frequently commented that they wish they had developed this habit earlier in their careers. So, when are you going to do your self-audit?