How many times when you were growing up did you hear, “Practice makes perfect”? For me, it was a lot. When I entered the training industry, I was introduced to an updated perspective on this sentiment with Vince Lombardi’s quote, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
But today, it’s Les Brown’s take on the topic that resonates: “Everything we do is practice for something greater than where we currently are. Practice only makes for improvement.”
Much of my learning and development (L&D) career has focused on the “intake” dimension of learning – the workshops, eLearning modules, videos and other vehicles that dispensed the how-tos associated with a given skill. Yet, even in the days when instructor-led options were the default, no course was complete without a trio skills practice (i.e., role-play).
While practice has reached new heights with sophisticated systems, simulations and virtual or augmented reality in some environments, many training professionals struggle to find ways to create meaningful rehearsal when learning occurs virtually or via on-demand platforms.
But Les Brown’s outlook extends far beyond formal learning initiatives. Every moment presents an opportunity to practice for “something greater” and work toward improvement. This perspective offers liberation because everything we do is just practice. It also highlights the importance of being deliberate in that practice.
Imagine what could be possible if we brought conscious attention to ordinary occurrences. If we treated our day-to-day activities as a lab for learning. If we embraced life’s ups and downs as “practice for something greater.” Employees could grow in any role independent of promotions or pathways. Greater mindfulness and skillfulness would permeate organizational cultures. People – and businesses – would thrive.
Learning professionals and functional leaders can help others leverage the power of practice into their professional development. Consider these simple yet powerful strategies.
Life is constant practice. The question is: Are we practicing what serves us well and will allow us to improve? When the answer is “no,” the reason is generally a lack of awareness. So, draw attention to what and how others are practicing. Help them recognize patterns and habits that are helpful and not. Encourage them to set an intention for what and how they want to practice in their daily activities and how it will lead to improvement.
According to research conducted by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman, it’s easier to take a strength to the next level than it is to improve a weakness. So, help others establish success and momentum by identifying current strengths to amplify through practice. Giving greater attention to what one does well can enhance the skill and find new, different opportunities to use it as well.
Life moves pretty fast for most of us. And if you don’t pay attention, a lot of insights and learning can pass you by. So, facilitate conversations that help others pause and connect the dots between their practice and the outcomes. Debrief experiences in a way that allows people to recognize how their efforts might be moving them in the direction of improvement.
Promote Practice Partners
Sometimes the practice of skills, behaviors and intentions can become more effective when supported by rehearsal. Improvement can be a team sport, so volunteer – or encourage them to find peers – to role-play and offer them meaningful feedback. Let them work through the kinks in a safe environment so that their real-time practice might be even more productive.
Life is constant practice. Recognizing this and taking full advantage of the moment-by-moment opportunities to improve and prepare for “something greater” is a powerful (and cost-effective) learning strategy that we all might want to start practicing.