Thursday 17 December 2015

Why Practice in Leadership makes Perfect

If you watch any sports training session, you will see a lot of repetition. The players or athletes involved will be practising basic manoeuvres, over and over. Winning rests on absolute mastery of the basics, honing skills until they become second nature.
Building expertise in anything takes thousands of hours and it is only by practising continuously and learning from the experience that we achieve the level of skill we want and need.

There are many reasons you might want to learn and develop a skill, but for those who have been in business for some years, you’ll know that the fast-pace of change means that the ability to learn new skills is key to continued growth and success. The challenge is that continuous improvement requires us to stretch ourselves, and as I know from personal and professional experience, that isn’t always comfortable.

So whether you are seeking to acquire a new skill yourself or looking to develop others within your team, here’s what you need to ask yourself:

1. Are you ready?
In two ways – firstly do you have the basic competency to attain the skill? Secondly, how much time and energy are you able and willing to give to learning and developing the skill? It is a common misconception to think that if you have to work hard at learning a new skill it means there is a lack of ability. This is a limiting belief – being ready and committed to working hard is a choice. As Apple founder, Steve Jobs said, “I’m convinced about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

2. Is it needed and what’s the return?
Gaining a new skill is an investment and you need to know what the return for learning it will be. Simply improving an existing skill can make a big difference to an individual, team or organisation’s performance, provided it’s the right skill for the business.

3. What help can you get?
Help and support from other will keep you motivated to continue learning and practicing. Just like the football coach who maintains the discipline of practice drills to build competency as well and introduces new techniques to learn, a qualified business coach, trainer or mentor will encourage and support you. Recruit colleagues, friends and anyone who’ll let you practice your skills – people you trust to say the things you need to hear, to give you honest and constructive feedback in a way that keeps you accountable and helps you to cement the change.

4. Do you need to pace yourself?
Be realistic about how much you can take on. In the same way that so many people join a gym with the best intentions of going several times a week but gradually, over time, lose motivation, so learning a new skill can fall by the wayside unless you see specific results along the way. Be selective, choose the key skills that are going to make the biggest difference in the shortest space of time. Once you start seeing and experiencing the positive difference they make, you’ll be inspired to keep going.

5. How do you know when you’re ready to put in practice what you’ve learned?
The only way to know the answer to this question is to do it. The only way to become a great presenter is to present. The only way to become the runner who has just finished a marathon is to go running. You might dread the presenting or the running, but it’s the doing that takes you down the road to becoming.

If you need help to see where the leadership and management skills gaps are in your business, or want to hear more about how we can help you embed and use new skills with confidence, or would like to get a handle on how skills training could help your organisation, then get in touch. If perfection is the goal then practice is what you need and we’d love to help.