As I watch my daughter play in her first high school lacrosse season I am reminded of the value of practice.
Our girls have won 9 straight state championships and we hope and intend this year will be their 10th. Their success certainly did not happen by accident. There is nothing magical, at least that I know of, in the water in our small town. Over the last 9 years players have come and gone so winning has never depended on a few stellar athletes.
It has taken years of focused dedication by the coaches and the community that has been built to support this exceptional program. While there are many things I can point to that have made this program so successful over time, the one I will focus on here is practice. These girls practice 6 days a week. They repeat drills, habits and plays over and over, and in every game that investment pays off.
While it is easy to imagine and observe what practice looks like when you play or coach a sport, practice isn’t something we seem to do much of once we begin our careers.
Sure you may engage in practice during a training program or when you are preparing for an important presentation. Nonetheless, when you are on the job you are expected to be in the game rather than on the practice field.
Learning and growing on the job for many tends to be based on doing our jobs and continuing to stretch ourselves to take on new things that cause us to learn. When you are expected to consistently produce results, practice may seem like a luxury.
Training tends to be on the job and practicing isn’t something frequently considered. Besides, what is there to practice anyway?
The simple answer is to focus on establishing practices rather than on practicing.
[Tweet “Instead of practicing for a game, #leaders establish #practices for cultivating high #performance.”]
Rather than preparing for an event as in “a game,” leaders focus on putting the practices in place to raise their game, and the game of their team, over time.
Here is a simple example. Last year I was working with a client who was struggling with keeping commitments. He has severe ADD and has struggled with consistency his whole life. Despite his challenges he has managed to run a profitable business. Although he knew he could be doing much better.
To address his challenge with keeping commitments, we created a practice. For 21 straight days he was to call me at exactly 5pm. If he missed. he had to go back to day one. This one simple practice had a profound impact on his ability to keep his commitments because it provided the opportunity for him to observe how he operated. Over time, he could begin to discern what got in the way of keeping his commitments and begin to make changes to his habits.
Months later we spoke and he shared that the alarm on his phone is still set and goes off each day at 4:59pm. It is this practice that keeps him present to what he needs to do, to maintain consistency in keeping his commitments.
The best thing about practices is that they can have a very high ROI – small investments of time can pay huge dividends in performance.
What simple practice could you create to improve your performance?
photo credit: DSC_5228