In general, practice is a leading indicator.
If you want something to change for the better you can practice.
But you’ll often reach a point of frustration where you think you should have accomplished more at the point where you are, but often the change will take more time than you realize.
That’s not rocket science, but it is frustrating and difficult to handle. Practice is hard work. It’s the reason why many people give up before they are able to reach a certain level of success.
That’s true in many areas of life.
Putting In The Time
I’m a fan of golf and it’s common for golfers to require lots of practice when they’re working on a change in their game. They might want to become better with chipping and sand shots. So they practice that area of their game and in time they see the results in tournaments.
The trouble is that you can put in the time. You can see some improvement in practice, but the results can be slower in tournament play or even just playing on the course. You can hit 100 good chips in practice then go out on the course and hit the first chip poorly.
Practice is a leading indicator of success to come. The success doesn’t come until later. The challenge is obviously being able to stick with the practice and believe that if you keep putting in the time and the work that things will improve where it matters most.
The other danger with practice being a leading indicator is that you can put in the time and stay committed through the phase when results seem slow to come and then they do come and you can become complacent. The reason this happens is that you’ve already put in the time and you’re seeing the results. You can let up with the practice and continue having success.
As a result, you start thinking that you’re fixed and that you’re good to go. Why mess with a good thing?
But your lack of practice then becomes the new leading indicator. All of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere you will start seeing poor results. You can get by on past practice and effort for a while, but eventually it will catch up with you.
Again, this is common in golf and it’s frustrating. Even the best golfers will put in the time, see the results and then they’ll back off. It’s natural for all of us. They continue having success and then they lose their games. They start developing bad habits and eventually the wheels come off and they have to start the entire process all over again.
Consistent Commitment No Matter The Result
In golf, the best realize that they will see highs and lows with their game. The thing the best are able to do is to figure out how to make their lows to be about where average is for the other players. A solid golfer may shoot mostly around 72, for example. They can shoot 62, but they can also shoot 82 depending on how they’re practicing. The best players can shoot 62. They mostly shoot 72 and their worst scores are about 74.
The reason for the difference is that the best players figure out a practice routine that they can do all the time no matter how they’re playing. They may make tweaks here and there, but for the most part they stick with it. It’s harder to practice when you’re doing well, but the best know that practice is a leading indicator to success.
In Business & In Life
How does this relate to business?
It relates in many ways.
In sales, for example, you might have a set number of calls that you make each week. You might put in the time and not see results for a while. It may seem like it’s taking longer than it should. Then you see some success. You think you’ve got it figured out and you relax on the number of calls. Then things fall off and you have to get back on the horse.
The best salespeople are able to find the right balance of practice and process so they can keep up the same effort in hard times and successful times and this smooths things out so it’s more predictable.
In management, it’s important to provide feedback and keep a finger on the pulse of the team. The best managers are able to be consistent with their feedback. They give the same amount of constructive and positive feedback in good times and in bad. Employees appreciate and look for this consistency.
The overarching lesson here is that it’s important to commit to what you’re doing. It might take a bit longer for the results to show, but they will come around. And when they do it’s critical to stick with it because you can let up and succeed for a while, but the bottom will usually fall out and you can be left wondering why.
A more consistent approach will smooth things out and lead to more consistent results.