[Tips for CEOs] Practice, Practice, Practice

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07

Steve Jobs - 2007 World Wide Developers Conference

Steve Jobs on a bad day is a better presenter than 99% of the stage show CEOs in the world.

Is it his theme setting, demonstrated enthusiasm, using an outline, and ability to make numbers meaningful as suggested by communications coach Carmine Gallo’s post “Deliver a Presentation like Steve Jobs?”


And men’s NBA shooting star extraordinaire Dirk Nowitzki – he of the pirouettes and one-footed shots and upset NBA championship by his Dallas Mavericks over the heavily favored Miami Heat. Natural talent?


And Lady Gaga; just good because she’s popular?


What’s the common thread? Practice. Practice. And more practice.

K. Anders Ericsson’s researchThe Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance – illustrates one thing about great performers like Jobs, Nowitzki, Lady Gaga et al. They’re good because they practice, and the results you see today is the result of proficiency gained from time in the role.

While my practice is split between coaching execs and working with startup and leadership teams, I’ve probably “facilitated” something like 5,000+ groups. When people ask how I know to how to handle challenging situations in a group it’s not that I’m smarter or brighter (though I think I’m smart and bright), it’s a function of working hard and having had lots of experience. That “6th sense” comes from working with groups from Albertville, Alabama to Albany, New York. It’s applied experience.

You can’t shortchange it. Anders estimates that proficiency with applied practice kicks in around 10,000 hour (hence Ericsson’s moniker as the “10,000 hour man).

If you’re starting up or running a firm you can hope you can get the requisite time in or short-cut things by hiring people who have that experience (and time) under their belts.

You just can’t shortcut the practice needed to be proficient. Better smarts, better strategy, better execution won’t compensate. Sometimes you just need the experience.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.


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