We’re all leaders. We have people that work with us, clients to service, family and friends to pay attention to and our own fulfillment to work toward. It sounds like a lot, and it is. But I’ve worked in the blue collar industries as a leader and a leadership coach for decades — not to age myself. In that time, I’ve learned that no one — no one — can become a better leader unless they want to do it themselves. If you want your business and team to grow, you first need to improve yourself. Fortunately, there’s a four-step process I’ve developed that goes a long way to self-coaching. 

No. 1: Catch yourself

The first step, in my opinion, is the hardest. It takes some self-awareness and clarity on yourself and your goals. First, you need to catch yourself when you’re doing the things that hold you back or don’t align with yourself and who you are. 

My friends, this is a tough step, but if you are aware of your purpose in your company and in your relationships, you’ll be able to do it — maybe not easily, but at least with more consistency. 

What am I talking about here? I’m talking about knowing the person you are and who you want to be. Then, as you go through your day or life, making sure to be aware of your words, actions and even thoughts. Watch for those things that don’t line up. 

Would you like to be a good motivator for your teammates? Catch yourself when you accidentally (or intentionally) bring them down or hamper their productivity. Would you like to be the kind of leader that helps their team rise to their own unique potential? Watch for times when you assign tasks without considering the strengths and weaknesses of everyone on your team.

No. 2: Write it down

Now you’ve caught yourself. You did or said something you know or suspect isn’t a part of who you are or who you want to be. Next, you need to write it down. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a big writer. I’m not. I don’t love writing, but I love coaching myself and improving. Some people call it journaling. I prefer to call it downloading your mind and emotions. Write down what happened, how it felt, what resulted, how it impacted yourself and others, why it doesn’t align with who you are and any other thing you want. We’re not looking for a novel or perfect grammar here. I know I don’t get it right with either of those all the time, my friends. This is a stream of consciousness about the event. Don’t think. Just write. 

I do this every morning. I write about the previous day’s events. It doesn’t have to be that for you, but when something goes off, pause and write it down within the next 24 hours if at all possible. 

No. 3: Review it

After catching yourself and writing the event down, it’s now time to review it. While you’re writing, I don’t want you to think or judge your feelings. Just get it down on paper. And yes, paper is best. I love technology, but there’s something about the physical act of writing that typing doesn’t do for me. 

Once you’ve downloaded your brain and feelings onto paper, you need to go over it. I will often do this with just myself, but I also review it with my own coach or important people in my life. Stop, read and reflect on what you wrote down. Dig a little deeper and spend some time just letting it sit. Think about how you could do better or what you may do differently next time. Take some time to think deeper about your goals in business and life, and how you can be better on track. This is the step where you learn from your mistakes, and you’ll never learn from them if you don’t take a good, hard look at them. 

No. 4: Release it

You caught yourself doing something out of line with your goals. You thought, “Oh man, that wasn’t right. This isn’t who I want to be.” Then, later that day or the next morning, you did a brain download and wrote everything down. After it was down, you went back and reviewed it, maybe on your own or with others; either is fine. Do what feels best for your own situation.

Next comes the hardest step: Let it go. 

Release it. After all this work you’ve done, the next step is to move on. We all make mistakes, and you’ve taken the time to learn from them. You have a path forward when something like this happens again. I’m all for catching yourself, reflecting and improving through self-coaching. But at some point, holding onto the mistakes and punishing yourself will backfire on you. 

One of two things will happen: You’ll either get so depressed with yourself that you’ll quit, or you’ll give up reflecting and improving and start ignoring the ways in which you want to improve. Both are terrible. But if you follow these steps: Catch yourself, write it down, review it and release it, you’ll take those mistakes and make something good from them. 

As I said when I started this discussion, the only one who can truly improve and coach you is yourself. If you don’t want to get better — if you don’t want your business to get better or reach your potential as a leader — you won’t, no matter how many coaching sessions, conferences you attend, articles you read or videos you watch. 

It’s about knowing yourself, what you want and the kind of person and leader you want to be. Then, you need to catch yourself when you’re out of alignment with that person and learn from the mistakes by writing them down, reviewing them and letting them go. Give it a shot, and you’ll notice that you are, in fact, your own best coach.