Jan 302013
 
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encouragementIf you are a mentor, coach, teacher, parent, or anyone who provides guidance to other people, it is critical that you understand the importance of encouragement.

Think of the good teachers, bosses and mentors you’ve had in your life.  What impact would their instruction have had on you without their accompanying encouragement?

You may say, well, I can think of good instructors I’ve had who didn’t give me kind words of encouragement along the way.  I’ll give you that – I’ve had such instructors too.  But think about it for a moment, did they not encourage you in their own way.  For example, even though they may have had a rough personality and may not have spent a lot of time lavishing praise on you, did they not encourage you by the mere fact that they were willing to invest time in helping you learn?  Whether you realized it at the time, or not, it’s likely that this dynamic existed.

What does it mean to “encourage” someone?

Encourage:

  1. to inspire (someone) with the courage or confidence (to do something)
  2. to stimulate (something or someone to do something) by approval or help; support

Source: encourage. Dictionary.com. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/encouragement (accessed: January 30, 2013)

In my experience and observation as a coach, boss, parent, teacher, and mentor, among other roles designed to help other people, I have come to realize that in most cases, the encouragement you provide, however you choose to “inspire” or “stimulate” someone,  has a much greater impact than the nuts-and-bolts instruction you give them.  This is especially true in kids, but it’s also true in adults.

I believe this to be true because most people do not have a high level of self-confidence.  Thus, if you do not do your part to encourage them, to show that you believe in them, at some point in the learning process, their lack of confidence takes over and they decide to quit and move on to something else.  Once they’ve quit, no matter how good your nuts-and-bolts instruction may be, they can no longer learn, because they’re off doing something else.

This is not to say that your instruction on the basics of your sport, business, or whatever subject matter it is you teach does not have to be excellent – it does.  Rather, it’s to say that if you can combine outstanding fundamentals with a healthy and ongoing dose of encouragement, you will find that the results you achieve will be much more impressive.

I’ve had this demonstrated to me in a number of ways, but it really hit home for me when I left soccer coaching for a few years when I was out of the country.  When I returned, I realized that some of the most promising players that I had coached previously had quit the sport and moved on to “greener pastures”.  I took a bit of time to analyze who had quit and who had stayed the course, and I realized that there was no way to differentiate the two groups based on talent level.  Instead, in the group who hung in there, I saw an excellent support infrastructure (family especially), and in the group who moved on, I saw not such an excellent support system and many times, coaches who didn’t really get the encouragement concept.  They were more about focusing on the negatives and overcoming weaknesses.  It’s a different style.  It’s not necessarily wrong.  But I didn’t see it yielding the same result as a more encouraging approach.  Again, if the student quits, it doesn’t matter how good you are at teaching the fundamentals and improving weaknesses.

Given that I tend to be a perfectionist and quick to point out flaws (in myself and others), since coming to this realization regarding encouragement, I’ve worked on taking as much negativity as possible out of teaching (parenting, coaching, etc.) and made a concerted effort to instead focus on positive reinforcement.  It has taken time, but my observation is that the results are significantly better than what I had achieved previously.  This is not to say that I don’t help the people I teach overcome weaknesses – that’s part of teaching – I just try to do it in a way that focuses on encouragement as much as possible.

As a positive by-product, I’ve also noticed that I’m a lot happier in these roles and those I’m teaching tend to be a lot happier as well.  That contributes to a better learning environment and only serves to further improve the results.  It’s a good deal all around.

Most of my students (and kids, and players, and business associates) would still say that I’m a tough coach, parent, etc., I think, but I think that would be because I have very high expectations for them and for myself.  The difference now is that I go about helping them meet those expectations in much more of an encouraging manner.  I won’t be changing that approach until I’m convinced there’s something more effective out there.

I look forward to your thoughts!  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

paul@companyfounder.com

www.companyfounder.com

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Aug 042011
 
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A Leader’s Dream.  Or Nightmare?

I recently had an experience where I was coaching someone and something happened that made a big impression on me.  It’s certainly not the first time something similar has happened, but this time it really affected me.  We were talking through how to prepare for a certain event and I told him, you will need a schedule in which you detail what you are going to do daily over the next four months.  He said to me, “Please make me the schedule and I will just follow it”.

My first thought was, ok, this is perfect – I will just make the schedule – it will save me a lot of time if I don’t have to explain it and the result will likely be the same – a leader’s dream, right?  Given what I do for a living on the coaching side, which is work with entrepreneurs, senior executives and other high-achievers to help them achieve peak performance, I quickly had to step back and point out to myself that the easiest route is not always the best route.

Sure, by just setting up the schedule and letting him perform the activities like a mindless automaton, he probably could have performed quite well on this particular project.  However, where would he be on the next project?  Would I really have been doing my job as a coach and a leader?  Some would argue yes, that the simple, straightforward, mindless approach was fine, as long as the results of the project were good – the ends justify the means argument.

I came to a different conclusion.  Even though it cost me and the person I was coaching a bit of extra time, I decided it was worth it to walk that person through the rationale for each activity and the timing of each activity on the schedule.   How do you think this went?  You are correct – it was “like pulling teeth”.  The “mentee” already had his mind up that he did not want to know any of “the why”; he simply wanted to know exactly what he needed to do, then go do it.

This led me to a few specific conclusions about this individual and one general and more troubling thought.  First, I realized that unless this person changed their mindset, they were not likely to progress much further in that particular field of endeavor.  Second, I also concluded that without a change of approach, this person could not very easily become a leader – after all, how could they ever lead someone else if they themselves did not want to understand the “why” behind what needed to be done?  Finally, I concluded that while this approach of “tell me exactly what, how and when to do it” may work for some relatively simple tasks and situations, as soon as this “paint by the numbers” trainee ran into a more complex and dynamic scenario, they would likely have no idea what to do.  That is not very useful in the exceptionally dynamic world in which we live.

The more general and troubling thought I had based on this interaction is that this individual is not unique.  There is a massive group of people out there, probably a significant percentage of the Earth’s population, who would rather be told exactly what to do than to have to spend one second thinking for themselves.  That is a scary thought indeed!  You can call it human nature if you’d like.  You can call it laziness.  But whatever you call it, it’s hard to disagree that if we only have a small percentage of the population willing and capable of thinking and planning for themselves, we have a real problem!  We must also ask ourselves how we can change this.  On a macro level, it’s going to be a tremendous challenge, starting at the beginning of how we raise and educate our children.  On the micro level, we stand a better chance of making a positive change in the short term.

What if, in our businesses and any organization in which we participate or lead, we slowly, but surely push ourselves and those around us to cease being automatons and start thinking for themselves?  Do you think we’d develop more effective organizations that way?  Do you think we’d develop organizations that are more capable of adapting to our dynamic, rapidly changing macroeconomic and global political environment?  I would say that the answer to these questions is a resounding, “Yes”!  We must create more leaders, not more followers.  Through our leadership, we must strive not to tell our followers exactly what to do and be content when they obey our orders.  That will not get us nearly as far as creating followers who are capable of thinking for themselves and becoming the next generation of leaders.  If we don’t do this, then who will become the leaders of the next generation?  How will they know how to lead?  Will they even want to try to lead?

Given the time pressures we are all under, it would be easier to just make the schedules and task lists for our followers, but we need to resist that temptation.  Work with your team, your mentees, your followers, your children and anyone else you may influence to teach them how to think for themselves.  Reward them for thinking and for being creative.  Tell them that the end result matters.  Of course, it always matters.  But emphasize to them that it is much more important that they can figure out how to get to that end result individually and in collaboration with their team, than that they can do a specific set of well-defined tasks from rote memory.  Reward problem-solving initiative and creativity as much or more than you reward results on specific tasks.

Another related and very important topic, which is too much to cover in detail in this article, is the importance of willpower in overcoming any problem.  Regardless of how well you teach your team to solve problems, unless they have the willpower (perseverance, determination) to follow through until the job is done and the goal is reached, it will be all for nothing.  As a leader, you must help your team develop not just the knowledge and capabilities necessary to succeed in dynamic environments, you also must help them develop the confidence and perseverance necessary to follow through until the desired results have been attained.  That’s the topic for another discussion.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin

paul@CompanyFounder.com

www.CompanyFounder.com.

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Jun 222011
 
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How To Set Goals So You Will Achieve Them

Assuming you agree that setting goals is a worthwhile step, it is key to understand how to set them in a way that will increase the likelihood that you achieve them. The best and simplest model I have seen and used for setting goals effectively is the S.M.A.R.T. approach, which encourages you to set goals with the following characteristics:

[S]pecific: The goals you set for yourself should be as specific as possible. So, for example, you wouldn’t say “I want to have a profitable business”. Instead, you’d say I want to have a business that generates $2 million in sales and 25% EBITDA by year-end 2013. If you are setting a goal for yourself in the area of marathoning, you wouldn’t say “I want to run a fast marathon”. Rather, you would say, “I want to run a 3:10 marathon, with a 1:30 half split, by November 2012”.

[M]easurable: The goals you set should be measurable. That is, they should have a numeric or quantitative element that is measurable, rather than just be qualitative. If you cannot come up with a numeric element, you should at least come up with something that a third-party, objective observer could look at and relatively easily say whether you have or have not achieved that goal. For example, in business, it may be hard to specifically measure “empathy,” a desirable characteristic particularly for sales people, however if you’re working with a coach or mentor, they may be able to observe whether your demonstration of empathy toward prospective and current clients has improved over time. In sports, it may be hard to measure “awareness” of overall scenarios during a game; however, you may be able to come up with a proxy statistic that gives you a sense of the improvement in your awareness. Such a statistic in hockey or basketball, for example, may be assists. Where possible though, you will want to make as many of your goals as possible directly measurable. Examples in sports would be x number of assists, goals, wins, runs, etc. Examples in business would be sales, new accounts opened, net income percentage, etc. Chances are that in your endeavor, whatever it may be, you have a good sense of the metrics that you should be measuring and striving for.

[A]ttainable: It is important that the goals that you set for yourself are “attainable” or that you at least believe strongly that you can attain them and can put a plan in place to do so. If you are simply throwing down huge, unreasonable goals with unreasonable timeframes, you are setting yourself up for failure. I’m a huge fan of “stretch” goals and I strongly believe that you should challenge yourself as much as possible. That said, it is important that you set incremental goals along the way, so that you can see a clear path to your ultimate objective(s) and so that you can experience some successes along the way. If you structure your goals in such a way that you cannot experience success until the very end, you run a great risk that you will lose interest and/or belief in the process. So, in sum, challenge yourself with your goals, as that is the only way to achieve greatness, however, you should do so in such a way that you are able to experience incremental successes along the way.

[R]elevant: Often times I’ve seen the “R” of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym for goal setting used to represent “realistic,” but as far as I’m concerned, that is too similar to “attainable”. For this reason, I prefer to use “R” to represent “relevant”. Given that if you are focused on becoming great at your endeavor, you are undoubtedly a very busy person, it’s important that your goal setting be not just effective, but also efficient. It does not make sense to pursue goals that are not relevant to obtaining your ultimate objective of greatness. This idea relates closely to the concept I covered elsewhere of “taking out the trash,” or doing those things that you may not necessarily love doing, but you know need to be done. For example, in the context of goal-setting, it does not make sense to note goals for concepts or activities you have already mastered, even though it may feel good and be squarely in your comfort zone to do so. Rather, you should focus your efforts and your goal-setting on mastering those things you need to work on to accelerate your journey toward greatness in your chosen endeavor(s). There are exceptions, of course. For example, in tennis, if getting your first serve in is absolutely critical to success, there’s no harming in noting a first service percentage goal, even if you are already a great server. The point is, don’t do so to the detriment or exclusion of, for example, setting lateral and forward quickness goals, even if those may be areas that you don’t enjoy quite as much.

[T]ime-sensitive: Make sure that ALL the goals you set have a deadline or target date associated with them. This is of critical importance. A deadline usually forces us to become more focused. It ignites our competitive spirit and usually makes us achieve more, more quickly. Without a deadline or target date, a goal is more like a wish and it is far less likely to be accomplished. On the subject of time, it is also important to bear in mind that you should set short-, medium- and long-term goals for yourself. There are a couple of major reasons for this. First, as mentioned above, if you have some short- and medium-term incremental goals, this is more likely to permit you to enjoy some successes along the way to your ultimate goals. This should help with your self-confidence. Second, having incremental goals along the way is more likely to allow you to “course correct” on the path to achieving your ultimate goal(s). If you simply have one long-term goal out on the horizon, it makes it a lot more difficult to know if you are on the right track and make sensible adjustments if you are not.

It is important to set goals for yourself in all areas of your life. In particular, it is important to do so in the area(s) where you are trying to achieve “greatness”. It allows you to enjoy incremental victories en route and it also makes it easier to determine whether you’re on the right path and make course corrections as necessary. Make sure that as you develop your goals, you do so in a S.M.A.R.T. way.

I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions.

Paul Morin
paul@CompanyFounder.com
www.CompanyFounder.com.

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Jun 202011
 
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Where Does Greatness Come From?

Let’s focus in on human greatness here, as there are a lot of types of greatness in the world. So, where does human greatness come from? No one knows exactly, but I will give you some ideas of the steps to get there, based on my in-depth study of over 250 of the all-time great historical figures in a variety of fields, as well as my interviews and conversations with a large sample of contemporary greats, in fields ranging from entrepreneurship, to the military, to science, sports and many others.

The first and most important lesson is that generally speaking, people are not “born great,” simply knowing from the very start that they are gifted in a certain area and that they will become one of the “greats” in that area. As previously discussed, as much as there’s a great deal of folklore and exaggerated stories out there to that effect, most human beings do not become great at something from one minute to the next, without a huge, concerted and inspired effort. The common wisdom now is that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to move from beginner to expert in a particular endeavor. That does not necessarily make you “great” of course, but usually, if done correctly, it will at least get you to “expert” status. You will know more and be better at your chosen endeavor than the vast majority of the remainder of the human population.

So if it’s relatively clear what it typically takes to become an expert in a field, is it also clear what it takes to achieve “greatness” in a particular endeavor or field? Unfortunately, not really. In my experience as an advisor and coach and in my research, I have found a wide variety of paths to greatness. That’s good news and bad news, as the saying goes. It’s good news, since even if you are not or have not been on a particular path, it doesn’t, de facto, mean that you cannot become great in your chosen field or endeavor. It’s bad news because it doesn’t give us one well-defined path to zoom in on in an effort to achieve greatness. That being said, in my experience and my research, I have found some common threads of the path to greatness. I will lay out those commonalities in the form of a ten-step process to become great at anything. There are no guarantees, of course, as most of the hard work rests on your shoulders, but by using this approach, in my opinion, you will maximize the probability that you can become “one of the greats” in your endeavor.

The first step is to identify the area of greatness that you are pursuing. You should be as specific as you can, given that the more nebulous you leave it, the more difficult you will find it to make focused efforts toward achieving your goal in the steps that follow.

The second step is to uncover the key requirements to become great in your chosen endeavor. The four main approaches you will pursue in uncovering these requirements will be the following:

a. Go directly to the “horse’s mouth”. That is, you should contact one or several people who have already done what you’re trying to do – become great in your field – and ask them how they did it. Try to get as many specifics as possible.

b. Talk to one or several coaches in that domain. These could also be referred to as subject matter experts (SMEs) or maybe even SMEs with a bit extra, as they have chosen to be coaches and thus are likely oriented toward understanding how to maximize performance in your particular endeavor.

c. Read books by experts in the field. Reading appeals to some folks and does not appeal to others. There are also many books on tape now, which you can listen to when you are driving or exercising. If you are more oriented toward learning from video, you should also be able to find plenty of resources in that medium.

d. Watch true professionals in action. If what you’re trying to become great at is a sport, watch as many events as you can, but don’t just watch as a fan or casual observer; watch as a student of the game. Likewise, if your focus is in business or another area, become a curious student of all that happens in your field.

The third step is to take stock of your natural abilities. Take a look at your physical and mental attributes. Don’t judge yourself or determine whether these attributes are good or bad at this point, just take stock. Are you exceptionally tall? Are you great with numbers? Etc.

The fourth step is to look at your strengths and weaknesses relative to what you’ve determined that it takes to be great in your chosen endeavor. You’ll want to go into great depth here, as understanding where your weaknesses are, for example, will allow you to structure your practice in a way that helps you to optimize your use of time and accelerate your road to greatness.

The fifth step is to focus in on your “why”? That is, why do you want to become great at this endeavor? What is it that’s driving you? Is it a “strong why”? In other words, do you think it is sufficiently strong to drive you to put in and maintain the extraordinary effort and concentration level that will be required to become great?

The sixth step is to set goals for yourself. You will want to set short-, medium- and long-term goals that take into account the requirements to become great, as well as the specific areas you’ve determined where you need to make improvements. Monitor progress toward your goals and make sure that you set a timeline for completion of each goal.

The seventh step is to constantly reinforce your belief that you can attain the goals that you’ve set for yourself to become great in your endeavor. This belief will be reinforced regularly if you have set your goals in a way that they are achievable on an incremental basis. Allow yourself to achieve small victories along the way, as this will nurture your belief. As with the later step of maintaining calm, you will also want to use positive self-talk and visualizations in this step.

The eighth step is to develop a detailed preparation schedule that is oriented toward reaching your goals and achieving greatness. Regardless of what your endeavor is, you may want to work with a coach or other qualified third party to ensure that your preparation schedule makes sense in terms of getting you to where you want to be without burning you out in the meantime.

The ninth step is to make sure that you have in place a calming mantra and approach for when you get into stressful situations on the road to achieving your goals. If you are trying to become great at anything, no matter what the field, it is inevitable that you will encounter some, maybe even a huge amount of stress along the way. You need an approach to deal with fear and stress and keep progressing toward greatness. That approach will likely involve extensive use of positive self-talk and visualization.

The tenth step is to constantly work on and nourish your will to succeed and concentrate. In fact, based on my experience and research, this may be the most important step and factor in your success. There are very few exceptions among the historical and contemporary greats that did not have to exercise enormous power of will and concentration, usually on many, many occasions. Becoming an expert is challenging enough. Becoming great is another whole level and it almost always requires many instances of calling on massive willpower to overcome the inevitable obstacles that lie in the path to greatness.

We’ll go into each of these steps in much more detail, but this summary gives you an idea of the path you need to follow to move from beginner to expert, and then, if your “why,” your belief and your willpower are strong enough, on to greatness.

I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions.

Paul Morin
paul@CompanyFounder.com
www.CompanyFounder.com.

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Jun 152011
 
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How To Determine Your (Relevant) Weaknesses

In order to determine your weaknesses, presumably so you can address them and improve in those areas, you must first put a frame around the question: “what are my weaknesses.” This means that in order to identify and address your weaknesses, you must first determine which weaknesses are relevant. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? For example, if you’re trying to become a great entrepreneur, it wouldn’t be particularly relevant that you can’t sing very well, unless of course, your business is a singing telegram service with you as the solo performer. Likewise, if you’re trying to become a great marathon runner, it wouldn’t be particularly relevant that you don’t excel at the 100 yard dash.

First, of course, you must decide what it is you are trying to be great at. Be as specific as you can. For example, just saying “running” is not sufficiently specific. It should be more along the lines of: running the 100 yard dash, the mile, marathons, etc – you get the idea. Likewise, it wouldn’t be sufficient to say, “I want to be great at business.” It should be more specific, such as, “I want to be a great startup entrepreneur,” or “I want to be a great CEO of a medium-sized company,” or “I want to become great at identifying undervalued companies, buying them, and then selling them at a large profit.” What is it that you are trying to be great at? Write it down as specifically as you can.

In order to further frame the question, let’s go back to an earlier concept about how to determine what it takes to be great at something. There we discussed that there are four principal ways to find out what it takes to be great at something (below is a summary of each of the four ways; for the full article go here):

The first, quickest and most direct method of obtaining the requirements for becoming great at something, is to go directly to the “horse’s mouth”. That is, you should contact one or several people who have already done what you’re trying to do and ask them how they did it. Try to get as many specifics as possible.

The second method of finding the key requirements is to talk to one or several coaches in that domain. These could also be referred to as subject matter experts (SMEs) or maybe even SMEs with a bit extra, as they have chosen to be coaches and thus are likely oriented toward understanding how to maximize performance in your particular endeavor.

The third manner of uncovering the key requirements for greatness in your endeavor is to read books by experts in the field. Reading appeals to some folks and does not appeal to others. There are also many books on tape now, which you can listen to when you are driving or exercising. You can also find many instructional videos if you happen to be someone who learns better by watching video.

The fourth way to discern the key requirements for achieving greatness in your field is to watch true professionals in action. If what you’re trying to become great at is a sport, watch as many events as you can, but don’t just watch as a fan or casual observer; watch as a student of the game. Use the stop action (pause) on your DVR. In many endeavors, you can also often watch “professionals” in action by just asking permission.

These approaches to determining how to be great at something are not mutually exclusive. You can and should use of mix of these approaches to accelerate and optimize your learning.

Once you have a good idea of what it takes to become great at your chosen endeavor, you are now ready to compare your personal abilities against the “requirements.” Often times, it’s a good idea to take a look at this on your own, but then to follow up with a coach or some other qualified third party, as it can be difficult to be objective in looking at your own abilities. That said, if you don’t have access to such a third person, a self-assessment is far better than doing nothing at all and just fumbling along blindly.

How you do this assessment of your weaknesses may vary, but one simple way to do it is to make a basic matrix that includes the key requirements, the relative importance of each requirement, then your and another person’s ratings of your abilities. The following is a simple (and incomplete) example of such a matrix for someone looking to become a great clay-court singles tennis player. The ratings are on a scale of 1-10, with ten being most important and the highest attainable level for the self- and coach assessment.

requirements/weaknesses assessment - tennis

We won’t go through this assessment in excruciating detail, but let’s focus in on a couple of key points. First, bear in mind that this is a simple and incomplete example of an assessment. While something like this sample will get you much of what you need to assess your strengths and weaknesses, if you truly want to become great at something, whatever it may be, you’ll want to take this assessment to as granular a level as possible, so that you can really home in on the key areas you need to work on. Second, it’s key to focus in on those areas that have high importance, on which you and/or your coach also rated you with a low score. It is by prioritizing this way that you will optimize your efforts and get the most from the time you invest. It should also accelerate your improvement, which will in turn give you additional confidence and likely better performance in all areas. Third, based on this example, you can see the importance of getting the input of a coach or another qualified third party, as the tendency in most cases is to rate yourself more generously than a third party may. Also, it is likely that, if selected well, that third party or coach will have a much broader frame of reference in the selected endeavor than you do and will thus be able to give you a more objective and complete assessment. Finally for now, note that although this example assessment pertains to a sport, it is equally applicable in almost any endeavor at which you are trying to become “great.”

You may recall from a previous article that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” has been identified as the benchmark for what it takes to become an expert in anything. Deliberate practice refers to a form of practice that involves not just simply showing up, but rather very deliberately setting objectives, performing practice, and getting feedback on the results. Implicitly such practice involves zeroing in on weaknesses and attempting to address and correct them on an ongoing basis. In other words, to use golf as an example, just going to the driving range and hitting a bucket of balls is not sufficient. Rather, you should go to the driving range with a specific objective or set of objectives in mind, attempt to accomplish them, and note where your results vary from those intended. You should then determine what errors or weaknesses caused the variance, and then work on correcting those issues. It is in this way that you are most likely to see continuous improvement and progress toward your objective of becoming great. As noted above, this approach applies equally to sports and non-sports endeavors.

I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions.

Paul Morin
paul@CompanyFounder.com
www.CompanyFounder.com .

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May 062011
 
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There Is No Instant Success

Deliberate Practice Is The Only Way To Become Great

Occasionally, we hear of a competitor, an athlete, or a person in a particular field of endeavor who “came out of nowhere” and appeared on the scene as a major contender. This “instant success” is hardly ever the case. Upon further investigation, almost invariably, this person has had years of preparation and training, and not just random practice here and there. In order to reach expert level in most anything, according to prominent researchers on the subject (for example, see many of the works of K. A. Ericsson), it takes around 10,000 hours (or 10 years) of deliberate practice. This is a form of practice where you don’t just go out and hit a bucket of balls (for example) each day; rather, you hit that bucket of balls (or 20 of them) with a particular iron, with a particular objective in mind, bearing in mind and noting any issues you had. You then focus in on improving your swing and your approach in your areas of weakness. This is a “continuous feedback” loop that will keep you improving. You don’t just go out and “hit your favorite iron” over and over again and hope for improvement.

I am lucky to have an advisory and coaching practice that spans strategic planning, startup and entrepreneurial development, and peak performance coaching. It is a truly fascinating area, as it deals with human potential and performance, individually and in teams and larger organizations. In my experience and observation, the “10,000 hour rule” really does hold true. While it may not be a hard and fast rule at 10,000 hours, it’s a good approximation of the time anyone will need to invest if they want to reach “master” or “expert” level in their chosen endeavor. Most remarkably, this benchmark is not widely known or talked about, and further, even among those that are aware of it, they don’t often stop to consider the implications. The main implication, from my perspective, is that most people will never reach the expert level at anything. Why? Because even if they do end up doing something consistently for ten years, and most will not, they will not have done it in a “deliberate” way. Rather than have 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, they will have had 10,000 one-hour, relatively random, relatively unconnected experiences.

This reality holds true regardless of the field of endeavor we look at. If you are a golfer, or you understand golf to some extent, think for a moment about how the vast majority of people shoot almost the same score (let’s say within 5 strokes), for 30 years or more! How is this possible? Is it because they are simply incapable of doing better? In most cases, OF COURSE NOT! It happens this way because most of them are not practicing “deliberately”. The easiest way to do so would be to work with a coach who understands the concept of deliberate practice. But it’s also very possible, though perhaps a bit more difficult, to practice deliberately on your own. Do most people do so? No they do not. Instead, they essentially go out and play the same round of golf over and over again. Now that may be OK, depending what their objectives are. For example, if their score really doesn’t matter much to them and they just want to be out there to get some exercise and enjoy themselves, so be it. That is a perfectly valid pursuit. If, however, they are truly trying to become “masters” or “experts” with this approach, they are deceiving themselves. It will never happen.

So does this reality only apply to sports? Not at all. It applies to any endeavor, physical or mental, at which you are trying to become an expert. Think about it in terms of your small business or your job. Do you “practice deliberately”? Do you analyze your weaknesses and constantly strive to improve in these areas, day in and day out? Or do you just stick to the things you like to do and feel comfortable with and metaphorically, like the golfer above, continue to play the same round and shoot the same score, day after day, quarter after quarter, year in and year out? Take a close look. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you are willing to do what it takes to become a “master” or “expert” in your sport, business, field, or other area of endeavor. If not, consider doing something else, as dabbling will not get you anywhere you are likely to want to go.

I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions.

Paul Morin
paul@companyfounder.com
www.companyfounder.com.

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Startup Coaching

 Posted by at 8:07 pm  Coaching, Startup  Comments Off on Startup Coaching
Mar 262011
 
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One of the most common concerns we get from startup entrepreneurs is that they can’t seem to get their venture started, “get it off the ground”. For this reason, we provide small group and individual coaching program. The coaching focuses in on the needs of the participants in each group, with the following typically being areas of great attention:

– Understand profitability and break-even
– Establish upside goals and potential
– Screen and sort ideas/opportunities
– Understand psychology of marketing
– Develop products/services that sell
– Select and implement marketing strategies
– Deploy effective marketing tactics
– Develop a formal business plan
– Understand and achieve operating excellence
– Replace yourself and seek a liquidity event

If you want to get your venture off the ground quickly and correctly, contact us at coaching@companyfounder.com for more information. All coaching is provided by coaches with extensive early stage company experience and knowledge. Where possible, all coaching programs include direct interaction with Paul Morin, the founder of CompanyFounder.com..

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