HOW TO PRACTICE
In order to become a “complete leader”, you must practice!
Studies show that leadership success is 30% genetic and 70% learned.
Leadership is a set of skills. It’s not an innate talent; and your competence as a leader will evolve in four stages.
- The first stage is “unconscious competence”, meaning you don’t know, what you “don’t know”.
- The second stage is “conscious competence”, meaning you now know what you “don’t know”.
- The third stage is “conscious competence”, which means that you’re beginning to learn.
- And the fourth and final stage is “unconscious competence”, meaning you’ve mastered the skill. You don’t have to think about what you’re doing. It comes naturally.
Effective practice means that you’re progressing through these stages of competence, as efficiently as possible.
Effective practice happens outside your comfort zone, and while you’re doing your job. Classroom training is nowhere near as effective as on-the-job training. The best way to learn is by doing. And it's going to take some trial-and-error.
So how do you practice?
It takes clear focus, timely feedback, and specific practice goals.
You want to focus on the things that “don’t” come naturally; things that are outside your comfort zone.
Don't practice too many things at once, and keep your focus narrow.
Then find a role model, someone you can watch doing the things that you want to be able to do, and learn from their experience.
A good role model helps you create a mental picture of what “good” looks like, and a good coach can do the same thing. (But you're not always going to have access to an experienced coach.)
Then you need a practice partner, someone that can give you timely feedback. It can be a boss, co-worker or an employee. But here's the key, they've got to know what you're working on and be willing to give you honest and timely feedback.
Then set your practice goals. Practice goals aren't targets for improvement. They're targets you've set for practice. Like, “When are you going to practice”? “How often”? And “what feedback are you looking for”?
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called "Outliers". In it, he claimed that you needed 10,000 hours of intensive practice to master anything. But here's the good news, that's all been disproven. There's no science that backs up his claim.
Here's what the science “does say”: purposeful and deliberate practice; the very intentional process of practicing with clear focus, timely feedback, and practice goals, does work. That on-the-job practice, through trial-and-error, does work; and that constant effort applied outside your comfort zone, does work!
So develop your practice plan and get started.
It won't take 10,000 hours, but it will take a consistent, long-term commitment.
And remember this, it's not “what you know”, it's “what you can do” that will define you as a leader.
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