Improve Your Game

Practice creates corporate athletes. Will you put in the work?

"Achieving true expertise in any skill is simply a matter of practicing, albeit in the correct way, for at least 10 000 hours." - Malcolm Gladwell

Do you ever wonder what makes a professional athlete a master of their craft? Natural talent plays a role but only goes so far. Practice is key.

Several years ago, I took golf lessons to improve my swing.

My golf coach asked me to show him my swing to kick off my second lesson. 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 attended 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 influence to win sales and grow the bottom line.  It’s not enough to want influence. We must be willing to do something different than the average communicator to get better. You have to move the needle. This requires your words and body language to be consistent so that when people see and hear you, they see you as believable and relatable. Three ways deliberate practice can ensure you achieve influence, improve your game and win every interaction:

What you write, you invite.

Choose one thing to focus on improving daily, then write it down. For example, if you want to practice eliminating “uh’s and um’s” when speaking, write it down and post it on a post-it by your phone or next to your laptop camera. The visual reminder will help you focus your efforts and ensure you practice in each interaction.

You won’t know unless you ask.

It’s hard to spot our own mistakes, and it often requires someone to tell 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 must focus on this week. Practice until it becomes a permanent part of your interactions.

Yes, you do have time.

You will never improve 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 your communication. Like every successful athlete, every influential communicator makes a deliberate decision to improve. Influential skills can be learned and practiced until they become the winning part of your daily game

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