As a business coach, I talk to thousands of leaders every year. Great business owners who have built and scaled businesses to serve their industry and their customers. Yet almost everyone I talk to wishes that they could be a better leader in some aspect. Whether that means being able to coach and support their team members, hire more efficiently, work with outside vendors to get the best results possible, or something else, there is always something that they wish they could get better at.
So today I want to share with you the concept of "deliberate practice," and how I and other business owners use it to get better at leading our teams.
Choose the Skill You Want to Improve On
The first step to deliberate practice is to decide exactly what you want to work on as a leader. And you want to be really clear and concise on exactly what you want to improve on over the next month or quarter. My executive team will sit down once a quarter and each of them come up with one thing that they would like to improve on over the next few months. My marketing director, for example, wanted to get better at working with outside vendors, and identifying when there are communication lags or gaps that could affect performance. So she decided to sit down once a week and rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how communication is going with each of our outside vendors, along with any observations or problems that she has observed over the past seven days. For you, it could be something different. The key is to be specific.
The next step to deliberate practice is to be mindful of your actions or observations surrounding the item in question. In the above example, my marketing director dedicates 10 minutes a week to reviewing her communication channels. This usually goes hand in hand with our big rock reports that we do every week. During that time, she may realize that she didn't hear from a particular vendor at all that week, and she will take a moment to reach out to open the line of communication. Or she may realize that a vendor is doing an amazing job of keeping her in the loop and updating her as needed. If she didn't take the 10 minutes to think about each vendor and their communication channels, such information would most likely have gone unnoticed until a vendor went MIA or a deadline was missed.
The last step to deliberate practice has to do with consistency. The more you go through the motions, the more you work on a particular skill set, the better and more proficient you will get at something. If you spend time every day or every week paying attention to something with your team, eventually it will become a habit and you will no longer need to schedule time to review. Over time, our marketing director will identify gaps in communication faster and catch them quicker because she has made it a deliberate practice over the past quarter or two.
Leaders are not born, they are made. Through deliberate practice, you too can improve the way that you work with your team and become a better leader. All it takes is a little bit of time, mindfulness, and consistency.