Real Leaders

How Practice and Visualization Creates Success

I grew up in Florida, and as a pre-teen, I took piano lessons, but I secretly loved playing my sister’s guitar.

I would sneak and sit in her closet in her room and grab her red guitar with the white tuning
knobs and play. She did not know I wanted to play it, so I had to sneak and play it. Finally, one day, she found me, and she realized she was never going to play that little red guitar, so she let me have it … in more ways than one. Since that time, I have not had to sneak her guitar, and I fell in love with learning to play. Music has taught me many things; the discipline of practice, playing fairly with friends, listening, connecting with others, and having fun.

I joined a band with some friends, and one of them was a fantastic guitar player; and I then realized that to stay in the group, I had to learn to play the bass guitar and up my game; I had to learn to practice in a whole new way. When playing the guitar, I played chords and rhythms, and practice was more casual. Taking up the bass forced me to realize the structure of the song and the foundation, and it dawned on me that I had to find a new approach to practicing the bass. And, this experience has laid the foundation for what music has taught me my entire life.

What is Deliberate Practice?

According to the American Psychological Association, “Deliberate practice occurs when an individual intentionally repeats an activity to improve performance. The Deliberate Practice framework claims that such behavior is necessary to achieve high levels of expert performance.”

Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, in his book The Mind and The Brain, references a study: “Robert Desimone of the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the country’s leading researchers into the physiology of attention, explains it this way: Attention seems to work by biasing the brain circuit for the important stimuli.” With deliberate practice, our brains naturally suppress distractions and improve focus. How can you use the principles of deliberate practice to improve your leadership or management skills?

According to the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, in an article titled “Deliberate Practice and Acquisition of Expert Performance: A General Overview,” by K. Anders Ericsson, Ph.D., states, “In direct contrast, aspiring experts continue to improve their performance as a function of more experience because it is coupled with Deliberate Practice.” To grow into a professional bassist, I embraced the principle of deliberate practice in every part of my personal and professional life.

Nurturing a Passion for Practicing

As a professional bassist and a certified business consultant, I discovered that most artists and business experts spend 95% of their time practicing, and maybe five percent of their time on stage, performing. If you received all of your joy from being on stage performing, then you would be unhappy 95% of the time, waiting to get on stage. And what happens if the performance doesn’t go well? You’ll miss the joy of becoming the person you desire to be. I realized I needed to nurture my desire to want to practice and enjoy it.

So, I discovered the power of visualizing myself mastering core skills. To become a world-class performer, most experts spend time imagining themselves delivering a world-class routine, whether giving a speech, writing a novel, developing code, or performing music on stage. Visualize yourself growing and mastering your skills works, and virtuoso musicians and world-class athletes visualize. They do it because it works.

Finally, I had to take 100% responsibility for my growth and develop a love for lifelong learning and practicing. Remember, you’ll spend 95% of your time preparing for the performance, so learn to enjoy the process.

Helping Your Team Be Successful

As a leader, your example will influence your team much more than your words ever will. What’s needed today is for leaders to lead by example and be the conductor of their organization and treat the team as an artist. A good conductor trusts that the musicians under his baton are there because they love what they do, and they have worked hard to learn their craft. It’s the conductor’s job to cast the vision for the performance and coach them on working together to create beautiful music.

To learn more about creating High-Performing teams, check out Workplace Jazz, published by Business Expert Press.

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