PRACTICE OR PERFECTION?
There have been many theories on the concept of how much practice one needs to make perfect. Various theories have been tested on many levels. Now, over and over again, leaders of organizations, businesses and even in the home are expected not only to stand for something, but also be a master at something, and that takes practice. Whilst there’s nothing like perfection, there are always opportunities for growth. So, how does a leader who is willing to grow take the steps to master a craft?
Highly successful people are high performers; people who consistently perform certain tasks over a long period of time. Their routines are actions that they have learned and disciplined themselves to continually perform. Duke University conducted a research in 2006 and found that 40% of our daily actions are habits, not consciously thought out decisions. Let’s take a brief look at a number of researched theories that touch on practice and making a habit of it.
The first one would be the 21-day habit theory. It is believed that, on the average, a minimum of 21 days is an ideal time frame for a person to form a habit by consistently practising this action. However, this theory preached by Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, has received several criticisms as being partly inaccurate. For instance, another research was conducted by Phillipa Lally of the University College London in order to disprove the former theory. The study examined 96 individuals within a 12-week time span, and concluded that on the average, it takes 66 days to form a new habit.
The popular and controversial concept called the 10,000 hours rule was invented by Malcom Gladwell. He stipulates that, 10,000 hours of practice is needed to become an expert in any field. The original idea can be traced back to a gentleman called Anders Ericsson, a professor who had evaluated the practice habits of violin in children, adolescents and adults. He mentions that by the time these persons were age 20, they had become elite performers with an average of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. The less skillful players had done only about 4,000 hours of practice. It is noteworthy that this number may vary based on whether the talent is innate or one being nurtured based on just interest. The figure may also vary based on the particular field of interest. These and many more reasons are why the 10,000-hour rule is questionable.
The abstraction of participatory teaching is a well-researched notion by the National Training Laboratories. It explains that whether one is already competent or a beginner, once you’re looking to grow and improve in a particular skill, discussing with others, practising and teaching others have a minimum retention rate of 50%. This viewpoint does not only ensure you take the responsibility of knowing the skill. It also propels you to understand it well enough to be able to teach others.
It is very clear that growth begins with a decision but it is only sustainable through consistent action. We are required to put purposive effort into our growth. As I mentioned earlier, it is not about perfection at all. It is about finding purpose and taking daily steps to make progress. So how can we as leaders of various fields master our craft?
Direction – The first step as leaders is to drop our egos! To carve a path and get direction, we must seek clarity and get help. We must identify what we believe we are best at, and ask our subordinates and advisors where we need to grow. Performance appraisals should not only focus on subordinates. Yes, even you the leader must be under the microscope of evaluation. Remember, it is not an attack on your leadership if you decide to seek help and direction. It only shows that you are willing to grow.
Deliberation- This is where we set out a plan and “intentionally” focus on making it possible. To be deliberate means you must be intentional. You need to communicate your intention with the people you work with. This makes everyone responsible for each other. This way, you will be constantly reminded to be consistent in doing what you have planned.
Distinction- Sometimes we wait too late to determine our distinction. We must know that when we are known as an expert or a master at something the next question always is, “What makes you unique from another?” Our practice period is where we create or develop this uniqueness and make it part of the story. Identify that gold and run it through the mill several times to make sure you come out well polished. You can begin by listing all the things you believe you are good at. Ask people who know you very well, i.e. people you are in daily contact with or people who experience your various crafts, which one they believe you excel at. Take the final step of asking yourself once again which you enjoy and excel at.
Deployment- Practice will never shift without consistency. It is during the practice stage that you plan how, who and where you are going to deploy your craft. Which resources will you need, who will you need and where will you be practising? It is okay to augment the process with external help and teaching resources. You can take courses, get a personal help coach or discuss with trusted colleagues and friends how to make the most of your craft. Conduct some research on what it takes to be better at what you do. That will include finding out who can help you, how they can help you and where this can be done. Maintain your focus while you grow in the direction you intend to go.
Many leaders are continually blamed for not being open to change and flexibility. The power of practice lies in our ability to unlearn, learn and master. The power of practice will result in our remarkable transformation. The commitment to evolve is where growth happens. Dear leader, it is time to practice!
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordi across all social media platforms.