Do you or your leaders revisit the basics of your professional skills?

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

Pro Athletes revisit the basics at the beginning of every season. They practiced the basics until they were second nature again. That's the foundation they started every season. That's how the Coach's built and maintained winning teams.

How do we learn and stay current on our skills? Especially Leadership skills, but skills necessary for any profession? During and after any formal education.

You wouldn’t believe the number of people who spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a seminar and workshops that lasts days or weeks and say their life has not changed. When you asked them what they changed in their day-to-day life that they learned in the seminar they usually say nothing! If we think about it we know nothing worthwhile happens without study and work.

You are a product of your choices, not your circumstances!

We are successful as humans because we thrive in community with others and we learn from each other. Learning from others, knowledge followed by personal trial and error seems to work best in my experience to form skills.

When we learn to walk, we use trial and error repeatedly until we build up enough muscle strength to try to walk and we fall, get bruised up a few times. With the encouragement of those around us that love us we keep trying with the full concentration of our whole brain. When we master walking then our body automates it with body memory. The same thing with learning to ride a bike and drive a car. We are not comfortable riding the bike or driving at first so we use our complete brain to focus on learning the process, hopefully with only a few accidents but we keep trying until we master the task, and then our body automates it so we can do it with ease. Once we automate a task our body memory and emotions take over and that’s when things can go wrong.

Have you ever driven somewhere and don't remember any of the scenery or stores you passed? You were in your head. You were on autopilot!

Our autopilot (body memory and emotions) main job is to protect us from danger and automate the majority of our day, so we don’t fry our brain. It creates memories we should be aware of when we see facial expressions, body language, hear words, smells and images from the past. It uses those memories so it can react if it perceives danger ahead. It pulls from every part of your day including TV and the internet. Have you ever heard a song and it triggered vivid memories immediately?

Significant stress puts us into' fight or flight ' and can seriously disrupt our autopilot. Under significant stress your primitive brain is in complete charge, your frontal cortex is not used because it is too slow to make decisions and takes a lot of concentration while our primitive brain is very quick to make choices and uses little energy in comparison.

Professional Football players start every season reinforcing and practicing the very basics of football. Football players and their coaches know they have all summer to rest but the brain is processing so much data every day from every possible source. So, the coaches check the players basic programing (body memory) to make sure it is still correct at the beginning of every season. Once the coaches are confident that they basics are solid they build from there.

Unfortunately, most of us do not revisit the basics of our skills periodically to make sure no bad habits have infiltrated our programming (body memory). Unfortunately, we wait till after we have an accident, lose a relationship, lose an account, lose an employee, or lose a job.

Then we start questioning what could have gone wrong.

Remember, unless you engage your frontal cortex, make a concerted effort to revisit your basic program (body memory) you’re in autopilot mode, so your frontal cortex is not fact checking any of this, your auto pilot program is in charge.

Imagine what the last several months have done to our autopilot, body memory. Stress levels get elevated, our frontal cortex does not work under extreme stress and our body memory and emotions send our training and programing off the track by reacting from all kinds of memories. Have you ever seen someone get upset and say something that made no sense? That's body memory and your primitive (flight or flight) brain.

Some people attend Mastermind groups, seminars, workshops, classes or round table discussions to make sure their body memory is still correct. In the seminar or workshop you will hear basic and advanced skills. You must implement what you learn! The trial and error part is crucial to making what you learned work for you. The nice thing about Mastermind Groups is the group keeps you in check.

Let me share a couple of examples:

When I would go to school to learn a new piece of equipment and how it should be used in the ICU, OR or ER I was always uncomfortable with my skill level upon completion of the class. I had a few doctors that I had a lot of respect for and good relationships with and they always wanted to see what I was learning, so I would call them and set up a meeting. They would listen to what I learned and explain how they understood what I learned. Many times, we would go into an appropriate procedure, and they would use the equipment or technique while I observed. Afterwards they would tell me what they thought and then I felt much more comfortable talking with other Doctors and Nurses about what I had learned. Some, if not most of us learn best from knowledge followed by experience of trial, adjustment and then mastery. Thank God I spent a great deal of time in school making sure my skills were honed. Revisiting the basics, fine tuning them in the field and then mastering new skills.

When I was a medical rep for cardiology and pulmonology equipment, I was known to be good as a sales rep and a clinical trainer. I asked my manager why he didn’t ride with me more often and he said he had reps that needed his guidance more than I did. Then one day we were talking to a cardiologist about her equipment and afterwards the manager reminded me of something I said and asked me if that was right. I was shocked because I made a misstatement! That misstatement had slipped into my programing, body memory/ autopilot. I thought about it for a minute and said to him “that might be the reason I needed you to ride with me occasionally so you can make sure any misstatements do not work their way into my discussions.

I facilitated 6 mastermind groups, 8 to 12 members per group, no competitors and all similar size companies. Of course we worked through storming, norming and conforming before trust was earned. Once past that phase the teams learned each others business and each other. They started brainstorming with each other and holding each other accountable. They had each others back and worked for each others success. They looked forward to our monthly meetings.

Because we learned that our mind is good at making things up from stories, TV or movies and putting it into our memory, we must continue to be a student.

Very successful sports professionals have coaches for every part of their game. After mastering a new technique, they ask their coaches to check their game from time to time just to make sure they don’t drift into bad habits while in the zone or autopilot. The Pro’s all understand their mind and body needs to be kept in check to continually move forward in their game.

Another suggestion: After each workshop schedule at least one follow-up video call for a couple of weeks later. Limit the number of participants to 6 to 10 if possible. The participants assignment was to use what they learned and report back how it went on the video call, good or bad. Make sure participants know this is learning, not discipline. You have to identify who the 'thought leaders' were because they were much more likely to try what they learned. We always called on the thought leaders first and after a few good examples we would call on the followers who were likely not to have tried the new skill. Then we scheduled a second call for a couple of weeks later. The followers had just heard how well the thought leaders did, so the followers are going to try what they learned before the next call. Adoption was always high using this format.

Athletic Coaches put their teams thru the basic skills at the beginning of each season to maximize their performance in the next season before adding additional skills. So, when is the last time you went back to the basics of your profession or take your team back to the basics of their profession? How does your team take what they learn, fine tune it through trial and error and then make it part of their automated day. How do they do self checks or check each other for adoption?

It should be part of your culture!

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