Practice Makes Perfect, or at Least Expert

The premise of Tony Schwartz’s article is that any talent, skill or ability can be developed like a muscle, that is by working it out, by pushing past the comfort zone, breaking it and then resting. It reminds me very much like Steven Covey’s 7th habit, Sharpen the Saw.

Schwartz refers to Aristotle’s “We are what we repeatedly do” explaining that repetition and practice is the key to real performance improvement as well as overall benefits for focussing, being creative, empathic and less stressed.

If you want to be really good at something, it’s going to involve relentlessly pushing past your comfort zone, along with frustration, struggle, setbacks and failures. That’s true as long as you want to continue to improve, or even maintain a high level of excellence. The reward is that being really good at something you’ve earned through your own hard work can be immensely satisfying.

Here, then, are the six keys to achieving excellence we’ve found are most effective for our clients:

  1. Pursue what you love.
  2. Do the hardest work first.
  3. Practice intensely.
  4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses.
  5. Take regular renewal breaks.
  6. Ritualize practice.

He details these keys in his post, giving tips on how one might start on this path of self-improvement.

Reference:

Defining Moments are Born from Uncertainty

This is a great piece by Tsun-yan Hsieh is Director Emeritus at McKinsey & Company about how to let yourself be vulnerable and embrace uncertainty to acheive breakthroughs.

Are You Prepared for Your Next Defining Moment?

These critical moments are often characterized as “moments of truth,” but in real-time, they’re usually a moment of uncertainty, not clarity. So how do we make the most of the defining moments coming at us in the near future?

The advice above is somewhat geared to eliminate uncertainty. But uncertainty actually can help you achieve breakthrough results in your upcoming important meetings. To be sure, uncertainties drive all of us crazy. They paralyze most of us because our plans often become invalid; we feel exposed and vulnerable as we lose control and fear for the worst. This is the same whether we are talking about a situation broadly or a meeting specifically. Uncertain moments become frozen moments.

The guidelines are simple: embrace the uncertainty, make a conscious choice to act on it through mental preparation, and, most importantly, stand by your principles when you make your choice.

Reference:

Very Close to my Heart: Creating a Bully-free Workplace

For those who know me well, they know the issue of bullies in the workplace is an issue very close to my heart. It is amazing how much bullies can suck the motivation out of a team and how this can have a direct impact on performance. You can hire the most competent people on the planet, but if you subject them to bullies, you will ruin them.

A startling 37% of American workers — roughly 54 million people — have been bullied at work according to a 2007 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute. The consequences of such bullying spreading to the targets’ families, coworkers, and organizations. Costs include reduced creativity, low morale, and increased turnover — all factors that weigh heavily on the bottom line.

Among targets of bullying, 40% never told their employers and, of those who did, 62% reported that they were ignored. This suggests there’s a significant opportunity to increase profits and beat the competition by eliminating the prevalence of workplace bullying in your organization. But how?

The first step is to identify the root of the problem.

Reference:

Improve Your Speeches

I could have used these three steps to better speeches a few days ago. I’m always looking for techniques to be a better public speaker.

First, step out from behind the podium and choreograph your relationship to the audience.

Second, listen to your audience.

Finally, focus on your emotional intentions for approximately three minutes before important meetings and speeches.

Practice these three shortcuts to effective leadership communications and watch the bar go up — way up — on your performances.

Reference:

The New Paradigm of Advantage

Great take by Umair Haque on the necessary paradigm shift that companies must in order to be agents of change rather than simply agents of opportunity. Author Umair Haque writes that the 21st century demands from firms of all stripes: a paradigm shift in the nature of advantage.

Here’s something you might not know. There’s enough food in the world to feed pretty much everyone. So why are more than 1 billion people — nearly 20% of the world’s population — either starving or malnourished? And why, over the last two decades, has global hunger steeply risen?

The answer has everything to do with the past — and future — of advantage.

The past of advantage was extractive and protective. The future of advantage, on the other hand, is allocative and creative.

Allocative advantage asks: are we able to match people with what makes them durably, tangibly better off — and can we do it 10x or 100x better than our rivals?

Creative advantage asks: is our strategic imagination 10x or 100x richer, faster, and deeper than our rivals?

Extractive advantage asks: how can we transfer value from stakeholders to us, 10x or 100x better than our rivals?

Protective advantage asks: are buyers and suppliers locked in to dealing with us, 10x or 100x more tightly than to rivals?

He even makes a Prezi about it.

Reference:

McDermott and Archibald Publish a New Study on Health and Impact of Communities of Practice

From 2 of the leading researchers and writers on Communities of Practice comes this new study that studies the health and impact of online communities.

I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on this research! Until then, here are a few blurbs from their article:

Though in-house networks of experts—or “communities of practice”—were once entirely unofficial, today they are increasingly integrated into companies’ formal management structures.

Today they’re an actively managed part of the organization, with specific goals, explicit accountability, and clear executive oversight. To get experts to dedicate time to them, companies have to make sure that communities contribute meaningfully to the organization and operate efficiently.

We’ve observed this shift in our consulting work and in our research.

To examine the health and impact of communities, we did a quantitative study of 52 communities in 10 industries, and a qualitative assessment of more than 140 communities in a dozen organizations, consisting of interviews with support staff, leaders, community members, and senior management.

Reference:

Better Leaders Ask Better Questions

Nothing gets to the heart of things like discussions and nothing stimulates discussions like a great question!

Leaders who excel at asking good questions have honed an ability to cut to the heart of the manner in a way that disarms the person being interviewed and opens the door for genuine conversation.

  • Be curious.
  • Be open-ended.
  • Be engaged.
  • Dig deeper.

Reference: