Practice Creates Corporate Athletes
Do you ever wonder what makes a professional athlete a master of their craft? Natural talent plays a role but only goes so far. Several years ago I took golf lessons to help improve my swing.
To kick off my second lesson, my golf coach asked me to show him my swing. After I swung the club several times, without hesitation he said, “You’re never going to be good at golf.” When I asked him, “what do you mean?” He responded, “you’re never going to be good because you aren’t practicing what you’ve learned.” My coach was right. I showed up to lessons ready to learn but didn’t commit to the practice. The average professional athlete practices their skills between 20 to 30 hours per week. Practice creates the muscle memory needed to consistently execute.
Corporate professionals are just like athletes. We want to have the influence to win sales and grow the bottom line. It’s not enough to want influence. To get better, we must be willing to do something different than the average communicator. You have to move the needle. This requires your words and body language to be consistent so when people see and hear you, they see you as believable and relatable. Three ways a deliberate practice can ensure you achieve influence, improve your game and win every interaction:
- What you write, you invite in your life.
Choose one thing to focus on improving each day, then write it down. If you want to practice eliminating “uh’s and um’s” when speaking, write it down and post it by your phone or next to your laptop camera. The visual reminder will help focus your efforts, ensuring your practice in each interaction.
- You won’t know unless you ask.
It’s hard to spot our own mistakes, and often requires someone telling us. It isn’t always easy to hear where we need improvement, but an honest reflection from a trusted source can push us to improve. Having influence requires understanding how others perceive us, not just what we believe to be true. Without asking, we won’t know. Ask someone you trust to provide feedback on one thing you need to focus on this week. Practice until it becomes a permanent part of your interactions.
- Yes, you do have time.
You will never get better without practice, but it requires being conscious of what you can practice during every interaction. You don’t need to set aside an hour every day. Every meeting and virtual call gives you a chance to practice your skills. You must deliberately practice, treating every interaction as an opportunity to get better. It won’t feel natural in the beginning. The pain has to be great enough for you to want to make a change. If you practice quitting, you’ll be great at quitting. If you practice improving your skills, they will become a permanent part of how you communicate. Every influential communicator, like every successful athlete, makes a deliberate decision to become better. Influential skills can be learned and practiced until they become the winning part of your daily game.