April 23, 2018

When coaching, practice is perfect

My youngest son is a wonderful musician, already better than I will ever be. He was born with musical talent (he owes me for that), but he learned to be a musician, and he owes a great teacher and a determined mother for that.

Mrs T said he had to practice for 30 minutes a day and every night his mother made him practice for at least that (sometimes with a timer and often with a lot of resistance).

I had a different approach when I was drafted into supervision. I didn’t want to argue, so I would tell him that it was up to him: if he wanted to be good, he needed to learn how to practice.  So, when he asked if he had to play a piece again, I would ask if he thought he’d got it right yet. If not, he needed to do it again.  He came up with a compromise: if I can play the piece without a mistake three times in a row, I don’t have to play it again.

Each of these – 30 minutes minimum, self-assessment, 3 times without error – are practice routines.  The All Blacks don’t just practice, they have practice routines.  Their philosophy is to have the core skills drilled so that the players can then “express themselves” on the field.

Apply this to your business. Consider the “practices” involved in management and leadership.  Take coaching for example: would we get better if we set aside time every week to do a review after a session, or asked for feedback each time we undertook a coaching session?

Practice is how we develop, but it’s not the same as repetition.  Coaching the same way you’ve always coached, even if it’s very good, is not going to make you a better coach.  Likewise, for any management activity – planning, delegating, chairing, reviewing, deciding, communicating, problem-solving…

Lots of people have one year’s experience repeated many times.

It’s never too late to start practicing properly.

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