My Interview on Hispanic MPR

Hispanic MPR has posted an interview they did with me about my book, Practice Greatness.

This is my second interview about the book, and I am pleased by how well it went. Although I stumbled a bit early on, after about five minutes, I picked up my stride. We dug into some meaty questions, and I think he interviewer, Elena del Valle, did a really nice job.

To listen online or download the iTunes podcast, go to this web page

And please tell me what you think!

Trust Your Gut. Eat the Other Brownie

Sometimes it pays to trust your gut.

For example, many years ago I was at a Halloween party with friends, enjoying myself, when I came across two plates of brownies. One plate was labeled, “If you have nothing to do tomorrow.” The other said, “If you have something to do tomorrow.” In a festive spirit, I reached for a brownie on the first plate. It tasted good—rich and chewy, just the way I liked it.

Brownies

It was a small brownie, so I instinctively reached for another. And another. And another. After all, I thought, how much rum could they put in a little brownie?

After consuming five or six pieces, I stopped for a moment. “Why,” I said out loud, “are these pieces so darn small? It doesn’t make any sense.”

A guy next to me heard the question. “You’ll find out soon enough,” he said with a grin.

On-the-Job Experience Plus Deliberate Practice

It’s rare for major business journals to talk about experience-based leadership development. So I was pleasantly surprised to see an interview with Cynthia McCauley of the Center for Creative Leadership in Strategy + Business. McCauley describes why on-the-job experience, rather than formal training, is important to developing leadership:

Leaders who step into new situations face challenges that call for untested abilities. They continue to develop their capacities and successfully take on higher levels of leadership responsibility. That’s consistent with what we know about adult learning and development, too: People learn how to do things when they’re put in situations where they have to do them and practice doing them.

This may sound obvious, but few organizations build leadership development around on-the-job experience. Instead, they offer formal training and possibly mentoring or coaching. Therefore, there is a great opportunity to improve leadership quality by matching leaders who are good at learning with experiences that teach them what they need to learn.

The secret link between leading and parenting

Leading and parenting require dramatically different skills, styles, and approaches. That’s why I cringe when, after I’ve shown a leader how to hold an effective conversation with his peers, he says, “I could really use this with my kids.”

Yikes!

It would be one thing if the kids were 25 or 30 years old, but typically little Susie is 7 and Brett is a junior in high school. These kids are at different development stages from Tom who runs the district sales team and Jennifer who heads up finance. What you say to Tom or Jennifer won’t work with Susie and Brett. In fact, what works with Susie won’t work with Brett.

When it comes to conversational skills—how we talk with one another—it’s helpful to speak to adults as adults and to kids based on their developmental stages and the nourishments they need at that stage.

More deliberate practice for managers, not less

Professor Phil Rosenzweig of IMD thinks that deliberate practice—using feedback and correction to improve skills—can can help executives perform better. I couldn’t agree more.

However, he cautions against applying the laws of deliberate practice too widely. “We do ourselves a disservice,” he writes at strategy-business.com, “by implying that we can practice our way to success in all circumstances.”

I beg to differ.

The reality I see in organizations today is not too much deliberate practice, but too little. How many managers do you know who spend excessive amounts of time practicing new skills, asking others for feedback, and reflecting on how to improve? How many are applying the laws of deliberate practice to situations that don’t call for them and therefore producing negative business results?

These problems don’t exist in any of the organizations where I’ve spent time over the past twenty years. In these organizations, managers spend 99 percent of their time in performance mode. Intentionally practicing managerial skills, reflecting, and getting feedback  are, at best, afterthoughts.