A Brief Guide to Practice, Part 3

This is the final post in our series about practice. If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 and Part 2 before you read on.

Accelerate Your Results

So you’ve put practice into practice in your life. You’re using SPOT FIRE. You’re practicing daily, identifying what you want to improve, identifying the factors of improvement, and getting feedback from others and your own observations. But here are two bonus techniques to help turbo boost your practice:

1. Identify what top performers do Once you have an area you want to work on next, you need to identify what the top performers do. If you want to get better at running meetings, who do you know that runs meeting really well?

Find someone who is good at what you want to get good at and see if you can figure out what makes them better. Are their meetings better because they tell more stories? Because they finish on time? You can either get advice from them directly, observe them in action, or even make a guess at why they are good at what they do.

2. Work with a skilled teacher/coach If you want to make incredible progress, find a teacher/coach who has a track record of helping people where you’re at get better.

Remember to avoid bias like a fancy website; instead ask for testimonials of people in similar situations or people they’ve worked with you can speak to. The advantage of working with the right person is they should be able to help you direct your practice in a more effective way.

Make It a Game

And if all of this sounds like too much work, then I want to offer one final idea of how to bring deliberate practice into your life: make it a game.

This works especially well if you have a very specific and clear thing you want to work on, and a very simple way to measure it. For example, let’s say you want to practice connecting more with people on your team. You could turn it into a simple game where you move stones from one jar to another. You can make the game fun pretending it’s an epic quest if you want, or you can make it technical by keeping track of it on a scoreboard.

Either way, the keys to this being successful are:

1. Choose lead indicators as your score: If you focus on lag indicators (things that happen as a result of improvement) you won’t be getting the immediate feedback you need to improve. These lead indicators can be anything the precedes what you want to get better at. A popular one for coaches in the dollar amount of proposals made or the number of conversations.

2. Don’t just keep score: The score is a way to have fun, but it’s not going to make your practice. You have to also reflect on what’s working (or not). If you’re looking to connect more with you team, have a notes column for each day’s score and reflect on what went well and what could have gone better. If you’re a coach, next to each proposal amount note how you got to the proposal and what went well or didn’t during your pitch. Then take time each week to review your notes and pick out any patterns.

3. Make it public: If you want to challenge yourself, then make your scoreboard public or at least set up a time to review your scoreboard with a trusted friend or advisor. That way you’ll be held accountable to your score and to working to improve it.

Final Thoughts on Practice

All of this information about practice may seem a bit overwhelming, but don’t let the breadth of it hide its simplicity. The kind of learning offered in practice is really the only kind of learning that makes any difference.

When we were children we learned to talk by observing and imitating others. When we said a word we got lots of feedback, huge praise when we said words—and even better, other people would respond to us. Same with walking: we observed how others moves and did it ourselves. We got immediate feedback by falling or standing. Eventually we practiced enough until we were able to move and run on our own.

This is what real learning looks like. It’s not just about reading some books on leadership and hoping that will make you better. It’s not just about trying to go out and pitch people and hoping they say yes. Real learning comes from when we choose what we want and observe closely what the results were. Learning involving real feedback and real stakes.

It’s simple, challenging, and truly transformative.

That’s why I encourage you to start doing it. Not just at work, but in every area of your life. Decide what you want to be exceptional at and get to work. Find teachers and mentors to guide you. Step by step, moment by moment, you will get better. Over time, your practice will overcome any difference in talent you see around you. Practice is the path to make anything possible.