Most of us could agree that to build or perfect a skill requires practice. A musician must spend hours practicing scales and other rudiments to reach peak performance. The big question is, do we dedicate a similar routine to the development and improvement to our management and leadership skills?
Irrespective of your answer to this question, the situation with management and leadership skills is probably more frenetic. One day we are fighting one issue and the next day a different one with a different group, supplier, customer or client. The basic problem is the way most managerial or leadership work occurs or is organized. There are few opportunities to practice critical skills because many of them are used infrequently. A skill used today may not be used again for weeks or even months.
So, let’s examine how we may be able to develop opportunities to practice management and leadership skills. For example, in sales there is frequent customer contact, and each individual visit is a perfect vehicle for skill practice. Various scenarios can be discussed and rehearsed in advance and a follow-up session scheduled to review and provide feedback.
Ideally, the coach and salesperson will discuss in advance what skill the salesperson is trying to improve, and even do a bit of rehearsing before the visit. Then the coach can provide feedback on what went well and what to work on next time. It is important that the new skills are practiced and reinforced. They can even supplement the training with role-playing as well. Feedback and repetition are key. That’s what makes it practice.
On the other hand, leadership and management is more difficult because the scope of decisions or methods may affect individuals or groups in an unexpected manner. However, there are a few relatively safe way to practice management and leadership skills.
Here are three (3) suggestions:
Consider a team approach, in situations where confidentially will not be breached, in developing solutions to team problems. Personally, I would share my plan with my team to ensure that they understand that the idea is to develop more effective approaches to problem resolution and decision-making. The idea of teaming with partners to creative strategies for improving performance should add a stimulating dimension to the process.
Where appropriate, incorporate some “practice-like” methods in the normal course of doing your job and determine if that experimental step should be added to your repertoire of techniques. The test is whether or not the technique helped you to achieve a positive result.
To benefit most from your testing process, consider focusing on issues and situations from the simplest experiments so that they can be tested quickly, provide immediate results or data, and that can be easily repeated. Now you can use that technique to obtain exponential results.
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