Practice makes perfect
As a leader, I take lessons and opportunities to improve wherever I can find them.  I expected, when I became a mother, that much of my time would be spent teaching my son all sorts of things in his journey to adulthood.  I did not realize, however, just how much I would learn from him.

My five year old is a great athlete.  Anything physical that he tries, he masters.  He’s a great swimmer and cyclist and tackles a double black diamond ski run with no fear.

Academically, he approaches his work the same way he approaches sports.  He struggles at the beginning of a new concept, and then he gets his head (or body) around what needs to happen and quickly masters it.

When it comes to the social stuff, however, he tends to struggle.  He doesn’t always realize that the rough housing he and the boys do together does not go over very well with the girls.  That his dimples, while cute, don’t get him very far with his teacher when he’s failing to listen.

At each age, there’s some sort of struggle that kids go through.  At five, it seems to be a daily struggle, but I can’t complain.  He’s a great kid, and I am lucky indeed if my only challenge is that the social stuff does not come to him as easily as sports and academics.

Last week, we talked about how he interacts with friends and how frustrated he is that it’s not coming to him very easily.

  • Did you know how to go down a black diamond hill the first time you put on skis?
  • No.
  • What did it take?
  • Practice.
  • Did you know how flip underwater the first time you went swimming?
  • No.
  • What did it take?
  • Practice.
  • Did you know how to read the first time you opened a book?
  • No.
  • What did it take?
  • Practice.
  • So, what do you think it will take for you to learn the right way to talk to and treat your friends?
  • Practice.

Every morning, we talk on the way to school about what it takes to master something.  He remembers that it takes practice and commits to treating his friends well and listening to his teachers.  Each afternoon, he comes home with better feedback about how his day went.

As leaders, current or aspiring, we may not consistently demonstrate all the behaviors we’d like to see in ourselves.  We might get easily frustrated or forget that the best way to engage people is to ask more questions.

Maybe it’s as simple as practice.  How else can we master a skill, but to put it into practice each day until it becomes routine?  It’s not enough to be learning leaders, we have to be practicing leaders as well.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I take my lessons wherever I can get them. This one I am proud to say I take from my son.  I may never be a double black diamond skier – no matter how much time I spend strapping those pesky boards to my feet – but I CAN be a better leader.  Every day.  It just takes practice.

 

I challenge each of us to think of one thing we want to improve.  At the beginning of the day, commit to what we want to achieve.  At the end of the day, measure how we did against that goal.  It could be anything we want to be better at:

  • Recognizing another by saying “thank you.”
  • Spending more time listening in a conversation than talking.
  • Walking over and talking to someone, or picking up the phone and calling, rather than sending an email on a topic that could easily be misconstrued.
  • Delegate work that we would normally do ourselves that provides a stretch opportunity for someone else.

 

I have my opportunity.  Do you?

 

I’d love to hear what you’re working on each day to improve.  What techniques do you use?  If you are using practice, practice, practice, what advice would you share?  Let’s keep the conversation going.

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