You’ve heard me say it before and I’ve said it numerous times to my kids and my team: Practice is important. Leadership is a lifelong learning exercise, requiring practicing and perfecting. We will make mistakes – the important thing is that we learn from them. That’s the crux of deep practice.
I came across the concept of deep practice while reading Daniel Coyle’s books, The Culture Code and The Talent Code. Deep practice is when you stretch yourself to the edge of your ability, make mistakes, and then fix them. And that has so many applications to improving on our strengths.
Practice makes perfect
At SEI, we encourage our employees to complete the CliftonStrengths assessment, which helps us understand our best talents and the talents of those we work with. This assessment also helps us see and use our talents to collaborate and accomplish great things. My top 5 strengths are: Strategic, Achiever, Focus, Relator and Learner.
I’m a big supporter of finding and using our strengths, to say the least. In fact, I run an executive coaching program at Villanova on this topic. And the teacher is also a student – over the last 12 months, I’ve been working with my own strengths coach.
Professional coaching is like hiring a personal fitness trainer – it is not a sign of weakness; it’s getting help in learning how to get the best from yourself. It’s a positive career development effort and tool to help you tap into your strengths. I’m happy to report that I’m learning and practicing a lot – and I’m loving it! (Are you surprised?)
Awareness is key
Of course, the first thing with coaching and looking at your strengths is awareness – to know your strengths, understand them and be able to use them effectively. During my coaching exercises, I’m aware and focused on how I show up, what gives me energy and what drains my energy. Next, I practice – at home and at work. Currently, I’m working on patience and listening.
From my coaching, I see that I’m good at noticing patterns because that’s my Strategic strength. But coupled with Achiever, I want to move to action quickly and then I get frustrated if others don’t want to move right along with me. I think they’re unmotivated or disinterested, but in fact, they may need more time to see the pattern and process the ideas. Therefore, my energy and excitement for action may be overwhelming and damaging the effort. Again, this is my issue, not theirs. Yet in my practicing, I’m building my skills and using them more effectively. Plus, I’m gaining more emotional control and energy.
Now the Learner in me wants more, so of course I’m doing additional reading outside of coaching. I found another article from a 2005 HBR issue, How to Play to Your Strengths that I think you’ll find interesting.
The article talks about the concept of reflected best self (RBS). RBS is a process (4 specific steps to be exact) designed to develop a sense of your personal best in order to reach your future potential. I’m going to try it out. Heads up to my friends and family: Expect an email from me, asking for some feedback and stories.
I hope you will all explore your strengths and talents this year, too. Enjoy the process and be sure to share your experience with us.