It’s All About Focus
I was thinking the other night about something a long time mentor shared with me a while back.
On a long hike, he stressed the importance of improving only one skill at a time when working with people. I was surprised by his advice, having expected a larger lesson about dedication or resilience, but that was what he chose to share.
I’ve worked in a lot of different roles since then, and I think I understand the advice more than I did back then.
The Importance of Latency
People take months to embody a change, and often their behavior swings wildly as they experiment with new tools. When more than one dimension is in flux it is nearly impossible to determine if the trajectory is improving or declining.
If we split our practice between two areas, even if we bring the same level of focus to both, the effectiveness of our practice is significantly impacted.
We never stop learning
I’m constantly encountering challenges and opportunities that require me to expand my areas of knowledge and experience – and I’m guessing you do too.
And that’s great – but I usually find myself trying to grapple with a dozen different things at once, and as a result I usually take far longer to accomplish any of them than if I took them one at a time.
Improvement of any sort requires two things:
Learning a musical instrument is a perfect example. The simple truth is, sitting down for one hour of practice every four days is not nearly as effective as fifteen minutes of focused practice every day. Sure, the hours add up the same, but habits of practice imprint on our brains in a way that occasional bursts just don’t accomplish.
Encouraging our teammates
There are always going to be skills we’re trying to improve with our staff, but trying to work on them all at once is a futile endeavor. Instead, direct your focus. Choose one skill every quarter, and by the end of that time you will be able to look back and see clear improvement. Not only does it show results faster, but it’s great for keeping people focused and motivated in the next quarter.
There was a shift in my leadership once I recognized how hard it is to work on more than one skill at a time. Criticizing multiple skills at once is demoralizing and reduces the chance my staff feels motivated to improve. Instead, I try to focus my feedback and encourage my staff to follow my lead with the staff they lead.
Challenging people while respecting their limits reminds them that you are focused on them, not the bottom line of my company.
I encourage you to try this method out, both with your employees and in your own life!