Practice for progress
Jill, payroll manager for a northwest heavy civil contracting company, told Session 4 of Turbo’s Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
“In February of this year, I received a phone call from my mom, Chris, asking me to participate in a talent show with her on March 29th at her community center in Crooked River Ranch, Oregon. My initial response to her request was, ‘No way, Mom! I haven’t touched a piano in ten years and you want me to perform in front of hundreds of people? I’m afraid and I just can’t do it.’ Of course, my mother didn’t agree with me and encouraged me to take on the challenge with her. After some deliberation, I agreed, and she mailed me the ten pages of classical music to practice over the next six weeks.
“At first I thought the challenge would be impossible, but I didn’t give up. I continued to practice and became more confident as each hour of practice passed. I arrived at her house the evening before the performance. We practiced for an additional two hours and weren’t able to ever make it to the end of the music without MANY mistakes.
“We arrived at the talent show and to my amazement there were over 200 people waiting to hear the 25 different acts. Our names were finally called and we stepped up to the piano and began to play our duet. We made it all the way to the end, for the first time, and received a standing ovation for our performance. To my amazement, we won first place in the talent show!
“The lesson I learned from this experience is that the more I practice to develop a skill, the more confidence and poise I gain. The action I call you to take is when you are asked to stretch beyond your comfort zone, say ‘yes;’ don’t be afraid to try something, whether you think you’re good at it or not. Then take the needed time to prepare and practice before you stand before your ‘audience.’ The benefit you will gain is competence and confidence, and the
unbeatable feeling of accomplishment that comes from new performance improvements – you’ll be a winner.”
My experience has shown me that when managers practice the crucial skills central to their leadership role, they develop ease in doing these parts of their job. Leadership requires the skills of conversational questions and empowering acknowledgement, and includes paying attention, giving approval, showing appreciation and providing praise. Empowering leaders are skillful at coaching, training, directing and correcting in ways that are understood and respectful. These skills don’t come naturally to any of us. We must learn how and convert knowledge and good intentions through practice to skill. As your confidence grows in these socalled “soft skills,” you move more naturally into your role as an empowering leader.
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