My son plays the clarinet. I don't know if you've seen one up close, but it's a beautiful instrument: a glossy black wooden tube, encrusted with silver stops and levers.
But it takes time to learn how to play. (It takes time to learn how to put it together!) Everything to do with this beautiful instrument takes time.
One thing I found particularly amazing, when my son started learning how to play the clarinet, was the instructions he was given on how to practise. And I thought I'd share them with you because - in terms of getting better as a manager or leader - they could also be useful guidelines for you.
The notes start like this:
1. “Establish a routine, " they suggest. “You can even practise before you go to school. "
How many of us regularly set aside time to become better managers? Not many I guess. So set a routine. Five minutes a day, an hour a week.
2. “Always practise soon after your lesson so that you can remember what you have to do and how the music goes. "
This is a really useful piece of advice for us as managers or leaders. Practise before you forget the lesson. Too often when we're trying new skills, new tactics, we just don't practise.
3. “Leave your instrument out at home where you can always see it. "
I love that suggestion. Leave your notes, your books, whatever it is you're trying to practise, out so that you can see it, so that you can be reminded to try new things. Too often we don't; we go back to the old ways of doing things.
4. “Practise the bits you can't play. "
I love this point, too. Practise the bits that you can't play, not the bits you can. Too many of us get trapped in the routines and rituals of success. The things that made us successful are the things we keep on doing.
You need to practise the elements of leadership that you can't do.
5. “Learn to do pieces of cake, " the notes say. By that they mean practise the small bits over and over and over again.
So too with your work. There are key elements of your work - hiring people, firing people, motivating people - that you need to be able to do almost without thinking about them. Practise them again and again and again, until you get them right.
6. “Learn how to practise slowly, " the notes suggest.
I think that's a fabulous piece of advice - practise slowly. Don't just rush it through, don't skim-read some notes on a new way of managing or leading. Practise slowly.
7. And the final point, “Remember that some practice is better than none. "
Please don't assume that you, as a manager, have finished learning. You need to understand that you have to practise leading. Leadership is possibly the most complex interpersonal human skill that there is. You'd better be sure you're good at it.
Practise. Develop your self. Develop your skills. Develop your style. And remember that some practice is better than none.
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