Powerful performance requires a combination of talent and hard work, the latter being the key. In this article, Paul Mitchell, Managing Director, The Human Enterprise, outlines the Seven Ps of Powerful Performance; practice, pointers, pain, personal, possible, pathways, and pressure, and sheds light on exactly what these entail.
The 1991 work of Dr Anders Ericsson, a psychologist from Florida State University who studied violinists at the renowned Music Academy Of West Berlin in Germany found the difference between average, good, and world class violinists was not talent, or teachers, or intelligence. It was the number of hours they spent practising.
And you only get better at leadership through practice.
Do more of what you are already doing. Make more decisions, make more calls, take more risks, ask for more projects where you'll grow. Rehearse your major presentations, practice giving feedback, delegating, and coaching. In other words, practice, practice, practice!
All the practice in the world won't help if you don't have a goal and constantly adjust your performance to meet that goal. It is important to encourage feedback from pointers, people outside yourself.
Pointers are people who will:
- "Point" out where you're on and off track.
- Give you "pointers" to adjust your behaviour.
So as a leader consider using a coach or a mentor, someone to give you honest feedback and point you in the right direction.
There will be pain. You know that. No pain, no gain!
Whether you believe in multiculturalism or not, I don't know. But what many immigrants have achieved in this country is outstanding. (Check out the latest BRW 200 Rich List)
Like the owners of a deli in the western suburbs of Sydney (they were fields then) who bought the shopping centre and then other centres in the Western Fields of Sydney and then the world. "Westfield" Shopping Centres!
Go back and track the hours these people put in, the pain they suffered. Look at their lifestyle now and it looks amazing, but we both know it wasn't always that way.
There will be sacrifices, there will be hardships. And from my experience if a family culture has a value around "hard work", that the joy of "earn a ship" is more important than the right of "ownership", then the sacrifice is worth it. If all of us put the hours in (with pointers), our productivity will go through the roof. It's not "un" employment that's the issue, it's "under" employment.
There's no way you'll push yourself to the next level, or keep up the pace unless it's personal. Deeply personal.
You have to get in touch with that part of you that wants success and wants it real bad.
Are you the voice of leadership in your business, your family, your community?
Do you have something you believe in to make it all worthwhile, or are you just going through the motions?
Determining a "higher" or "noble" purpose for a business is essential. Without it, what's the point?
No matter how much you practice, no matter how many purposeful pointers you get, no matter how personal it is, you won't keep at it, unless you think it's possible.
The work of Dr Carol Dweck here is fascinating. Her studies look at the difference in performance of someone with a "fixed" versus a "growth" mindset.
Don't just recognise performance - emphasise the effort exerted too as it signifies growth. Everyone has the capacity to grow, to learn, to get better. Place an equal emphasis on recognising effort.
"You did a good job"
"That was a lot of effort you put in"
"That was a good mark"
"You really thought that through"
"That's a great report"
"That showed great initiative"
You need a "growth" mindset.
What are the possibilities in your business yet to be untapped, the products, the markets, the channels? Who are the people you know who can grow, who you know have so much more to offer?
If you've followed Step 1, practice, you're on your way to developing pathways. After literally years of practice, neural pathways are carved deeply into the brain, and you act without needing to think about it. In other words it becomes unconscious competence.
Such pathways also exist in leadership. It's called experience. But remember it's not just years on the job. So many leaders have been leading for over 20 years, but in reality it's just one year, twenty times over, without a "growth mindset". In business you need to get into a rhythm - a routine, systemise the routine (neural) pathways to allow time to personalise (think through) the exceptions.
And finally what if you do all this and you just can't handle the....
Ever seen someone "choke"? In sport or in business? They've done it a thousand times, but they just appear like amateurs. You see it in golf, in tennis, and also in business. What happens? You move from the flow, the groove to over-thinking. You don't respond as your natural self, you begin to think too much. This is normally on the big game, the last round of golf, the big presentation, or the big decision.
To cope with this pressure you have to override your brain; you have to trick it with self-talk. You have to rewrite your own mental software, with comments such as:
"It's only a game"
"There's always next time"
"I've done so well just to get here"
And this personal reaction of pressure applies in business too. To counteract it, you need to expand your identity beyond your business role. So go easy on yourself. Put your business performance in perspective of your total life or the issues our world now faces, or you'll choke, and then your performance really will begin to suffer. Business is, after all, only a game with the purpose of the game to give you more life, not to suck the life out of you.
Paul Mitchell is a speaker and author on Transformational Leadership and Engagement. His business, the human enterprise, has as its mission: To help create the most meaningful workplaces on the planet.
Ph: 02 9905 5535 www.thehumanenterprise.com.au
His next newsletter "Everyone Leads" is on "Why Senior Executives Disengage and What To Be About It". Click here to subscribe.