Practice Makes Almost Perfect

Published: Jan 17 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

Practice pays off.

Rory McIlroy's ride to immortality publicly entered a new phase this week with the official announcement of his sponsorship deal with Nike, reportedly worth over £20 million, whose equipment and apparel he will exhibit beside Tiger Woods, Nike's first golfing icon.

To get as good as he clearly is McIlroy's commitment to the game began as a toddler. He was supported by his father and mother who took on a third job as a cleaner to enable her son to get the training as a junior which has now fabulously paid off. Applied practice has made perfect, or at least close to it.

Practicing anything skill based, like golf, without training is naïve. The fact that so many commercial managers are practicing the skill of negotiation without training is alarming, and potentially costly.

Here are three reasons why.

Practicing without training ingrains bad habits. My children learned to ski at early ages. I had no formal lessons till I was 48. They learned the fundamentals early and well. I did not. They didn't pick up any bad habits. I did. Instructors pushed them to move to more difficult slopes while maintaining good form. I took my bad form from slope to slope. As you would suppose, they are much better skiers than I am. While they were taught correctly, I learned my skills willy-nilly. Worse, I practiced my questionable skills over and over, ingraining them deeply.

Practice makes perfect only if done correctly. Practicing for hours doesn't automatically create skills. Say, for example, that, as a golfer, you go to the driving range and practice by hitting hundreds of balls. You may leave feeling you've done something to help you improve, but possibly you will only have practiced whatever swing you came with - good or bad. How about when you go to the range you take a more deliberate approach. You draw a circle 20 feet in diameter, move back a bit, and proceed to hit balls until 80% land in the circle. Then you move farther back, take a different club, and do the same thing. That is deliberate, focused, and productive practice. Perfect practice makes perfect performance.

Practice with an expert who can inform best procedure. All your staff are of course, negotiating from the first day on the job. And from that day habits are being formed. Attitudes are being created. Management practices begin to coalesce. Would it not be in the organisation's and the individuals' best interests to begin that process the moment they're selected for a position? Who in your company can provide that best practice?

Put the building blocks in play early, and they can certainly pay in the long run.

Alan Smith


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