Wednesday, 24 February 2016 12:05

Why Winners Win (Deliberate Practice)

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There are two traits that I most commonly witness amongst the most successful collision business leaders I work with. First they tend to work with a coach or mentor and secondly they engage in what is called deliberate practice.

I was first introduced to the concept of deliberate practice not on the shop floor as you might expect, but instead on the tennis court.

When I began playing tennis regularly just a few years ago I was completely hooked and would play and practice a lot, but felt my progress was slower than I would have liked. I was introduced to a coach that was unlike many of the other tennis professionals I had previously met. I thought this guy hated me! There were times I hated him, but in just a few months got me out of my rut and soon I was beating players that had been playing tennis for twenty years or more! What was it that made me improve to the point that I was beating far more experienced players? It was the not the amount of practice that mattered, it was how I practiced that mattered!

This may come as good news to many of you that scientific research has proven that your natural born talent has much less to do with your success in life than many think. The real secret to success at any endeavor whether sport, business, music, or whatever lies in a person’s dedication to practicing the specific skills they have not yet mastered in a deliberate manner. This was great news to me as a tennis player, because trust me, I have very little natural athletic talent! The bad news is that deliberate practice can be tough! I’ll come back to that in a minute.

I am sure many of my readers can relate to what I am about to say. In past years I have been amazed how I would hire a person to work in my shop that says they have been in the business for twenty years or more and they have absolutely no more skill than the guy working next to them that has only been working in the trade for five years! What is up with that? For the most part, it is because in many trades it takes about 5 years to become proficient at your job, and then people take their foot off the gas and coast. It is like learning to drive. A person first goes through a cognitive phase where they have to think about everything before they do it.

“Okay now I have to press the gas pedal, and then turn on my turn signal etc.”

You have to think about everything until it becomes a habit. Then a few years later you learn enough skills that you can drive the car all over town and without thinking about anything. The problem then is that people become complacent and quit learning new advanced driving skills. This same driver that has now become comfortably proficient at driving is still a very long ways away from the skills that would be required to professionally drive a race car.

So back to the bad news. While my more experienced tennis opponents were still practicing the old skills they had already mastered because it’s fun, I was over on the next court over looking like an idiot and not having much fun trying to learn new skills that I was horrible at!

But like the great Zig Ziglar famously said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well.”

Well I was quickly becoming the master of sucking at tennis! At least that is how it felt. For anyone to become truly great at anything, I am convinced that we have to learn to be okay at sucking at the things we have yet to master. The lessons I have learned from the tennis coach has translated into my business and my life in many enriching ways and it will yours too if you are willing to challenge yourself.

The journey to truly superior performance is neither for the faint of heart nor for the impatient. The development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment. There are no shortcuts. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book titled, Outliers, he indicates that it takes as much as 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be considered an expert in a particular field.

So how does one engage in deliberate practice and how does it translate to the automotive repair business? It is easier to know how to engage in deliberate practice when we are talking about sports and music, but it is a little bit different when advancing your business skills.

I believe a great deal of the skills that I am considered an expert in was simply due to my own curiosity and drive to be the best. For example many of my clients consider me an expert in the use of CCC One’s estimating and management software.

What many of my clients don’t know is that I have spent many late nights discovering how to adapt this and other management systems to many different shop environments. I have made every mistake there is to make, tested various methods to perform many tasks in CCC One and I believe I still have more to learn! While some shop managers perform their daily duties and tasks exactly the same way every day, I perform every task with the intention of trying to do it better than the last time. Even if I am just doing the dishes!

When it comes to some skills, deliberate practice is simply performing the duties you already have, but changing your mental approach to always want to perform it better. I have often said that the curious will rule the world, perhaps this is why.

Here are a few business related skills that coaching combined with deliberate practice can greatly improve your chances of becoming the best in your field, or at least in your shop:

  • Holding crucial conversations and holding people accountable
  • How to sell a repair job to a stubborn client
  • How to sell an idea to a stubborn boss
  • How to speak with charisma in front of your staff or in front of crowd
  • Getting your people to buy into change initiatives
  • Analyzing financial statements and running a business by the numbers
  • Continuous improvement and the skills necessary to make people want to help you improve
  • How to get rich!

By developing new skills and working on those things that are sometimes uncomfortable, you can actually change your mental mapping for how you approach things in life. You could quickly find a new lease on life and begin to live a more fulfilling life or at least you may find yourself in a similar situation as me with my tennis game. Beating a lot of opponents, but still feeling like I suck! Perhaps I should change my mental approach and look at it in a more positive light?