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I was on the golf course practising, and it got me thinking about the difference between sports coaching and business coaching.  After all practise makes perfect, doesn’t it?

Sports coaching

As a golfer, I have worked with a golf coach many times seeking to improve my skills, mental attitude and course management.  I know I could do better – this is evidenced by my handicap (currently 16) and my ability to play to that handicap.  So I book sessions with a coach to correct things, when I feel I’m not playing as well as I should, or to enhance my skills when I feel ready to improve my game.

I practise every week, focusing on different skills each time.  Before a competition, I always put in some practise to refine my skills in advance of needing them for real.  I’m like most golfers; I take my pleasure in the game seriously and want to play my best, so I put in the practise.

Golf is just my example, all sportspeople practise their skills before they need them for real.  Not just sportspeople, all performing artists practise too, working with coaches to improve their skills.  The focus is on practise makes perfect, and they want perfection in their performances.

Business coaching

So why is it that the in the performance of business, most people do not seek the support of a coach to help them improve their game?  And for those who do work with a coach, most do not practise what they are learning before they need it for real?  Those same people will practise at their sport or hobby, why the difference?

Is it because the sport or hobby gives them pleasure?  Even in the hard work of practising in order to become skilled, they feel good.  Have you ever thought that you could enjoy your performance at work if you practised the skills you need?  So that when you need them for real, you feel confident and able.  With that ability, you will handle the situation well and get a good result, which will receive praise from others – giving you even more pleasure.

So how could you practise to perfect your work performance?

Technical skills:

These may be skills you do practise, but if not, take the time to learn the skill before you need it.  Schedule some time for learning the skill and include time to practise.  For example, you may need to make presentations that have the right impact; you could schedule time to learn and practise the functions of PowerPoint, so that when you want to make a particular point in your next presentation you know how best to do this and don’t waste hours trying to get the right effect in your slide, when you should be rehearsing the talk.

Personal skills:

Are you working on improving your time management, for example?  How about identifying one skill each day that you will work on?  Let’s say it is to be on time: you will pay attention to how you estimate the time it will take to get to work, to the meeting, etc. and make sure you do what is needed to be on time. Because you are practising, you will review each incident, learning from your experience and note what works and what doesn’t.  At the end of the day you now have the knowledge and the skill to be on time.  You will have experienced the rewards of being on time and, on those occasions which didn’t work, the disappointments of being late.  As you practise you build a habit that works for you and this becomes your new level of performance.

Interpersonal skills:

  • Practise outside work

You have less control in this area as by definition at least one other person is involved.  However you can still practise.  How about practising outside the work environment?  You could practise a skill with friends or family.  You may want to tell them that you want to practise a particular skill and to get their feedback on how you are doing.  Most friends and family will want to support you and will be willing to help.

  • Practise at work

You could take the same approach in the workplace – tell colleagues what you are doing and ask for their feedback.  For example, you may want to use a coaching style more often with your team members, so you might tell them that you are practising the skill of listening that day and they should expect that you will ask a question and then listen carefully to their response, rather than tell them what to do.

As this is practise, take the time to ask for feedback and to review the experience, so you learn what works and can build your skills and confidence.  Otherwise you run the risk that practise makes perfect the wrong habits!

  • Practise beforehand

When you have an important meeting, presentation or negotiation coming up, practise how it could go beforehand.  If you can, work with a colleague to rehearse different scenarios and how you could address them.  If you don’t have someone to work with, then you will need to use your own imagination.  Think through your goal for the meeting and what you think could be the other party’s goal.  Then plan out what you could say or do and how the other party might respond.  Ideally practise your phrases out loud as this will help you appreciate how you sound to the other party. Tweak the language and style till you feel confident that you are as prepared as you can be for this important meeting.  When you do the meeting for real, your brain will know what to do as you have practised it, so you will be able to focus on connecting with the other party and managing the conversation to achieve your goal.

Practise the right skills

Trophy winnerAs someone once said, “Practise makes perfect, but you don’t want to perfect the wrong thing.” With practise you too could win recognition and reward for your skills, as I occasionally win golf competitions.

If you know the right skills, go ahead and practise and make sure you get feedback to check that you’re right.  If you don’t know, you need to book those sessions with a coach, who will help you understand the fundamentals of what works best and to work out how you will do it in a way that suits you.  Just like any performance, sports, arts or business, there is no “one best way” and it’s important to find the way that works for you.

Take a look at the top professional golfers.  Each has developed their own swing, but all have in common that they are striking the ball in the sweet spot of the club and accelerating through to ensure the ball flies on target.  It is the same for your performance, there is a sweet spot, but how you hit it will be down to your own particular style.

Pick a skill and practise it in order to get perfect at it.  If you want to improve your skills as a manager or leader and don’t know how, contact your coach or Amanda for a free consultation.

About the author:  Amanda Bouch helps people step up in their career.  Career transitions are tough challenges as you have to stop doing things that earned you your promotion and start doing the things that are expected at the new level.  Amanda’s coaching programme helps you to make that transition successfully and rapidly.

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