Ideas to Improve Your Performance
- A key factor in achieving a stretch goal for leaders, is getting better results out of your team. That's why great coaches in sports, the arts, and just about anything else make such a significant difference. Consider what you are doing to improve your team.
- Remember there is a big difference between helping someone on your team to improve their ability--and deliver more value, and reviewing or reporting their performance. Both have their place, but don't neglect the former for the latter or you'll be missing one of your best opportunities to drive results.
A few months ago I had an interesting conversation with Dr. Anders Ericsson, widely recognized as a leading researcher on achieving expert level performance. His research, cited in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, popularized his now ubiquitous 10,000-hour rule. As Gladwell explains in his book, a main commonality among those achieving peak levels of performance in a study of musicians was that they had invested approximately 10,000 hours in their craft.
Ericsson never used that term, nor did he ever suggest it is the benchmark. The 10,000-hour rule is a provocative generalization. As Ericsson said to me in one of our conversations, "it is much sexier than the very large amount of deliberate practice rule". In Malcolm Gladwell's defense, I don't think he ever said it was the only factor.
Good news here. In plenty of cases, less than 10,000 hours were logged on the path to peak performance. He shared that in many cases the top performers had outdistanced their peers while spending far less time than that. What does seem to matter above all is the notion of deliberate practice. Working on specific skills purposefully in an effort to get better.
For that to happen, it is most important that the conditions of deliberate practice obtain. There are a number of them, but here are some priorities get you thinking.
- Demonstration of correct approach/skill/behavior.
- Observation/review performance by an expert (teacher, coach, boss, mentor).
- Feedback from an expert on what to continue and what to do differently.
- Make adjustments and continue practice.
As a leader your best chance to achieve great results is by improving the performance of those who work for you. It doesn't need to take a lot of time either. I've consistently seen effective performance improvement occur with those four conditions in a five to ten minute conversation.
A slice of life balance
- In one of my favorite philosophical works, On The Shortness of Life, Seneca (or more formally, Lucius Annaeus Seneca) wrote, "It's not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it." It is around two thousand years old, but he could have written it yesterday. I hear (and have been guilty of ) the "humble brag" about being so busy. But you don't have to be into Stoic philosophy to take in that idea and figure out where some of your waste-however you define that, may be.