Welcome to The SHAPE of a Leader. I write this blog with the SHAPE leadership development program (for women pastors) I lead in mind, but it is for all who are interested in leadership, faith, and the intersection of the two.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, studies what factors are present that can predict success.  One of them is 10,000 hours of practice.  He studied successful people like Michael Jordan, The Beetles, orchestral masters, and more, and found that the one ingredient they all had in common was 10,000 of practice under their belt.  

Leadership development is no different in my mind.  Successful leaders practice - a lot. What does that look like? I think it looks like this: act, reflect and analyze, adjust, and act. At the end of important interactions, or at the end of every day or week, we reflect on what went well and not so well, and how we could have acted differently to get a better result.  We analyze why we behaved the way we did - what was behind that action?  What's my motive? Why didn't I step up? We role model or think through what the more successful behavior might look like, and we set it in our minds to try it that way the next time the situation comes up.  Even better, we go back to the situation and try again. That might look like opening up a conversation again with something like, "Yesterday when we were talking, I realize I was bringing some baggage to the conversation that wasn't appropriate. I'm wondering if we can talk about that again."  Or something similar.

Awareness is 75% of correction, in my opinion.  When we become aware of who we are and WHY, then we start catching our less than perfect behavior and begin to be able to change it in the moment.  

Awareness is also the hardest part of leadership development.  Who really wants to face their dark side, live in their mistakes AGAIN, and then practice doing it over?  

What do athletes do?  They watch films. They get feedback from their coach and teammates. They analyze their every move. Then they hit the court, rink, or field again and go for the do-over.

Dale Carnegie, in his book How To Win Friends and Influence People, talks about his father who, at the end of every week, closed his office door and for hours painstakingly analyzed every interaction he had that week - positive and negative - what went well? What didn't? How can I do it differently?  Then he decided how he was going to change his behavior for the coming week.  

My most engaged clients bring situations to the coaching table, offering them up for painstaking analysis and reflection, all so that they can do it better the next time.

The wonderful thing is, life is full of do-over opportunities - many more than 10,000 hours worth!

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