Ever wonder what separates Tiger Woods from the average golfer? Or Jimi Hendrix from the guy in your neighbor’s garage band? Behold, the power of deliberate practice.
The basic idea is that star performers in music, sports or other fields are not born great; they rarely have some innate mental or physical advantage that average performers do not. Their achievements are actually the result of hours upon hours of very targeted effort. Skills are broken down into discrete blocks and those blocks are practiced regularly and with increasing intensity. The performer seeks feedback and results are diligently recorded, tracked and analyzed for improvement.
So how do we use this idea to improve our performance as managers?
First, we can identify a single competency and focus on improving in that area until we achieve mastery. Unlike perfecting a golf swing or a guitar riff, management may seem too complex to lend itself to task repetition. But there are core skills, such as presenting information or facilitating a meeting, that can be honed until they become second nature.
In addition, we can be careful observers of ourselves and others. As we encounter management challenges, we can reflect on them in an analytical way. “How did that interaction go? What did I do well? What could I have handled differently?” We can record these observations and use them to gauge our progress over time.
Similarly, we can observe others. Is there a peer or superior who is strong in a key management area? Watch and record what makes them successful. Reflect on it, analyze it, and try to bring those skills to your own work. Perhaps that person can be enlisted as a personal mentor or coach.
Finally, we can utilize “what-if” scenarios to analyze how we would handle challenging management situations. Business schools often use case studies to help students solve real-world problems. Using this approach in our management practice allows us to hone best-practices and refine our management philosophy.
This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.