If you're like most professionals trying to get ahead either by starting your own company or working your way up, you already know that the real trick isn't actually 'getting' anywhere -- it's consistently staying ahead.

For most of us, staying ahead includes learning new skills. Seems straightforward enough, yet learning something new is now table stakes. Online learning platforms like Lynda.com, General Assembly and countless others make learning new skills a click away. Staying ahead requires something more sophisticated; it requires mastery. How do you attain mastery of a skill or subject matter? Coaching.

If you've already hired a personal coach or your organization provides them, good for you; take advantage as much as you can. If you don't have the resources for a professional coach, it's time to get resourceful and consider self-coaching.

Here are 3 simple steps to begin self coaching today:

Step 1. Record yourself DOING something.

Why? Because you forgot already - seriously. The "forgetting curve" proves that we lose 75% of information received after only 6 days if we make no attempt to retain it. Reality check: by the end of the week, that learning course you completed online is mostly forgotten.

We retain approximately 10% of what we see; 30%- 40% of what we see and hear; and 90% of what we see, hear, and do - so commit to the doing part and record it so you can move on to step 2.

Step 2. Get honest feedback.

Getting honest feedback is a critical step in self coaching. Feedback includes someone experienced (a manager or subject matter expert) reviewing your performance and offering constructive criticism on what could or should be different. Applied here, you're asking an expert to get judgy on the performance you recorded in step 1.

It's important to understand that feedback and coaching are not the same thing. Feedback is a commentary on a past performance while coaching a prescription for how to improve a future performance. You can learn more about that distinction here. Therefore, the opportunity to leverage feedback in your self coaching effort lies in using the feedback to identify where you need to improve the performance. Which leads us into step 3 - how to improve.

Step 3. Practice in front of yourself - over and over and over.

Improvement of any kind requires practice. Applying the feedback from step 2, identify where you need to strengthen your performance, find a master that demonstrates how it should be done, and then practice doing it that way - many times.

Why so many times? Someone who is considered a master at something has evolved their performance into something that resembles instinct. Regardless of the situation - they'll nail the performance. The only way to get there is practice.

Notice that step 3 says practice in front of yourself. Practicing in front of a prospect or customer could be a really expensive (or embarrassing) way to improve your skills. Picture a sales rep delivering a new pitch for the very first time to their biggest prospect of the year. Considering sales managers believe 65% of sales people cannot articulate their solution's value proposition this is a bad plan, because - no 'do-overs.'

Whether you're in a customer facing role or leading an internal team, take the time to practice the performances required for your job. Do it in the mirror if you have to, but a better way is to record it, and then rinse and repeat with all three steps. As Mark Morgan Ford eloquently puts it in Early to Rise, "The more you practice the right moves, the deeper the memory path (muscle memory). The trick is to make the correct paths as deep as possible and the incorrect paths shallow or nonexistent."

From here on out, staying ahead will continue requiring more from you. As learning gets increasingly friction free (and free), demonstrating mastery will become a huge advantage.

Published on: Nov 28, 2016
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