As Eliza Doolittle famously stated in the classic musical, My Fair Lady, "the difference between a flower girl and a lady is not how she behaves, but how she is treated." And her mentor, Henry Higgins (inspired by Pygmalion), chose to treat her as a lady; i.e., he EXPECTED that she could change her behavior and provided her with a preferred future. His expectations, coupled with skill training, allowed Eliza to realize her conversion from a cockney flower girl to speaking, and behaving, like a London aristocrat.
This powerful concept, that the expectations of self and powerful others CAN influence outcomes, coupled with imagining, and rehearsing, a very specific positive preferred future, has been proven to improve skillsets. The famous and replicated research of control and experimental groups learning to shoot basketball free throws has demonstrated that the groups that coupled imagining successful free throw shooting with actual practice showed the most improvement. I first encountered this concept some years ago in a presentation skills course where we not only practiced public speaking, but also were trained in imagery to create a vivid preferred future of an exceptional presentation to allow mental rehearsal.
As part of developmental planning after a competency diagnosis, OSI has included an introduction to mental skillset (competency) rehearsal as part of a best practice development plan. Participants are introduced to rehearsal through imagery (i.e., set aside alone time to imagine successful performance, employ all your senses - visual, auditory, sensory, and olfactory - in the rehearsal, be specific and concreate, anchor the rehearsal with an object, create an ideal narrative, etc.). As part of this process participants are asked to write a narrative of their preferred future in the competency they've chosen to develop.
To help jump start this process, we've provided possible starter narratives in each of the most frequently targeted Polaris
® competencies. For example, for Presentation Skills, we help participants get started with the following positive narrative:
Part of my preferred future as a professional is to be seen as an exceptional public speaker. I imagine myself effectively delivering formal presentations with the appropriate visual and verbal variety of expression. I will be well prepared (e.g., know the audience, research my topic, provide appropriate facts/quotes/references, develop materials, and practice my presentation) and organize the presentation effectively. My talks will be well structured with distinct openings, clear overviews, well-developed points, concise summaries, and strong close. I will employ all the good techniques associated with delivering exceptional presentations (e.g., appropriate eye contact; reinforcing gestures; adequate volume, pace, and vocabulary; generally avoiding "ums" and "ahs"; refer minimally to notes, resist reading). I will creatively use visuals or multi-media to enhance my speech. I will use stories, facts, and quotes to better engage my audience.
OSI has developed these "starter narratives" for over 30 Polaris
® competencies, and offer them as part of our developmental planning process, and now as part of the Polaris
® Development Guide license.
Of course positive expectations and imagination alone aren't enough for dramatic skill improvement. We first recommend a personal reflection on "why" this skillset is important in the context of your role; i.e., a mindset exploration that might require a shift in values or expectations. And then the practice, practice, practice that provides most of the 10,000 hours needed to be a guru in a specific skillset.