« Mr. Persistent to Mr. President | Main | Jim and Barry in Harvard Business Review »

January 05, 2009


Wally Bock

I absolutely agree, Jim that "the best leaders are the best learners." And I believe that feedback is truly the breakfast of champions. But I also believe that we're beginning to take a good, but limited-purpose tool, deliberate practice and elevate it to the status of "magic stone of development."

Jim Kouzes

Wally, thanks for continuing to challenge our thinking about how we develop leaders. Your skepticism gets us to think more deeply about the subject. You're wise to be concerned when anyone might be suggesting that there is a magic stone—or potion or pill or process — that will turn us into champions. It sure is a lot more complicated than that. In this case my blog was a response to a specific request to offer a specific example of how we can apply the construct of deliberate practice in the workplace, and I hope I did that.

At the same time, I stand firm on the importance of daily deliberate practice. If any of us deliberately practice anything for two hours a day, every day of every year — whether it's a musical instrument, an athletic sport, a medical specialty, chess, or leadership — we are going to improve our performance. Those who make it to the pinnacle in their fields are always engaged in continuous learning.

Of course, you have to love leadership to dedicate that much energy to it, and that may just be the X factor in greatness. I remember very well Major General John Stanford's answer to a question I posed to him over 25 years ago. In an interview I asked, "How do you develop leaders for the future?" He responded, "Whenever anyone asks me that question, I tell them I have the secret to success in life. The secret to success is...stay in love."

Love 'em and lead 'em!

Ray Chang

Responding to Wally Bock's comment. In my experience, when it comes to anything in life that will increase our capacities for leadership or expertise in anything, we need to elevate it's importance in order for us to actually take the "good, limited purpose tool" and apply it. Otherwise, it becomes a technique that we once heard of and let pass us by. By emphasizing, or overemphasizing, I think that we develop a degree of appreciation for it that is almost necessary to the learning and adoption process.

But of the list, I still feel like something is missing. How about...

Get into a ready mode.

Before people go on stage or athletes hit the field, they have a pump up or a focus facilitating ritual that almost becomes a trigger for them to zone in. I think a lot of us don't prepare to hit the ground running and with such a difficult task as deliberate practice, we must stay engaged.

Before I am about to sit down to reflect here in Panama (a part of my own deliberate practice agenda in the Peace Corps), I either look up at the clouds or watch the rain fall for about 3 minutes. Then I pull out my pen and paper and start scribbling down my thoughts (my lap top is not a good place to take notes - too many distractions). It helps me focus and having a set of questions out to guide my reflection time has done wonders.

What do you think?

Greg Basham

The well known adage that perfect practice makes perfect is at the heart of learning to lead.

As a successful men's senior soccer coach I learned from a former pro another saying that we made part of our team's shared vision and that was: our off field performance mirrors on our on field play.

When I put this to work as corporate VP responsible for strategy and alternate business models we had to work cross-divisional and directly with the CEO and also the Chair of the board. We followed a simple but leadership building and learning process:

1. We'd get a draft proposal together and this team or the key people would meet with the CEO and/or Chair for input.
2. The presentation to the executive and then the board would be led by me (board rule) and the key issues addressed by the key person on that senior team. I'd then quarterback the questions and discussion and policy issues leaving the CEO free to listen to the discussion and then help get us to closure as time with a board is always a huge issue.
3. We'd debrief with the team and the CEO.

Although I am now doing a new job here in Hong Kong, everyone of those who were in those teams is doing well career-wise including several holding key exec posts in that same organization or elsewhere.

To me, it developed leaders and our briefing and de-briefing process worked to build a cohesive and co-ordinate approach across the major divisions. The old model would be a group developing a presentation for the VP to deliver personally and that model was ineffective and did not always lead to cross-divisional initiatives being brought in as it was silo-focused.

The comments to this entry are closed.