If you follow my weekly blog, pour a cuppa, this one is a special edition and longer than usual.
If this is the first time you have received it, they are usually a lot shorter than this.
It’s an end of another financial year and hopefully much to celebrate along with acknowledging there is more we want to do.
It is this time of year when we often reflect on past goals and aspirations that we had set (usually finance related) and then gear up for the new budget goals we have set for the next period.
We hear ourselves and others often asking; How can we get better?
If we were to ask that question in the context of our team performance, I find these two questions helpful in determining where we can be better;

  1. Have I got the right team focusing in the right areas to reach these goals?
  2. Does the team have the grit to persist and stay motivated to reach these goals?

If you answered ‘no’ to question 1, then there is some work to be done around team performance and team capabilities. At another time we might talk about this.
If you answered ‘yes’ to question 1 and ‘no’ to question 2 then I’m super curious.
Science has proven that motivation, focus and grit require deliberate practice, and when life gets in the way it can be difficult to achieve this.
When psychologists talk about deliberate practice, they refer to practicing in a way that pushes your skill set as much as possible.
We can’t afford to stop learning and particularly if we wish to remain competitive and have a desire to be great.
My daily work is helping people develop non-tangible skills that are leading them to be better at what they do. The one thing they all have in common is a desire to be better. The difference I see in my clients is the level of commitment and perseverance they have to practice daily, deliberately the new skills they learn.
Everything is teachable. It’s the commitment and practice that gets you there.
Developing new skills or habits often feels ‘unnatural’, but the truth is that it feels ‘unfamiliar’. Usually, most new skills or habits feel unfamiliar; however, over time when practiced they become normalised.
Through the process of repetition, anyone can form a new habit. Habits are defined as behaviours that we do automatically because we’ve done it so often in the past. So we must learn to repeat the new behaviours for around 66 days, (as UCL researchers found) until it becomes automatic. Perhaps we have old habits in our service approach we wish to replace with a new ones. To transform ourselves or team members into devoted employees inspiring customers, it is critical we burn away any negative or unwanted habits to make room for the new.
It’s like a hot air balloon: in order for it to float upward, one must first toss the sandbags overboard.
I am personally experiencing this myself. I needed to rewire some habits around my writing practice. I have told myself for years that my best work is done in the morning and, therefore, I can only write in the morning. As my work load has increased and my life has become much fuller, I struggled to find time to write. I knew I needed to change things up and burn away some old habits and make room for some new.
There was no lack of will or motivation, in fact, it was more about reorganising my days, getting clear on my writing environment and thinking about how I would hold myself accountable—these things made the difference.
I changed my yoga regime from morning to night. This energised me and gave me clarity of thought in the evening. I held myself accountable and made public Facebook posts with clients and friends, letting them know I was on a writing quest. This brought the writing practice to the centre of many conversations and encouraged me to continue to prove to myself and others that I could achieve my goal. I set up an environment at home where I could retreat and write. On the days when I knew this was not possible I would not plan to write simply because it would frustrate me. There were no excuses left and as a result I am currently deep into writing a book and am experiencing a sense of ease to write at night.
The point to my story is that if you want to learn new skills, it really is about exercising self-discipline.
The first tip is to design your environment for success. This means that when a particular cue is encountered, the behaviour is performed automatically, without even thinking about it.
When I wanted to start writing at night I would turn on a certain style of music and boil the kettle, all preparatory rituals making it easy to begin my new habit.
This can relate not just to behaviours, but to your thinking and emotions too. Certain cues that I have seen work really well in teams serving customers are:

  • daily huddles or briefings
  • posters and visual collateral
  • uniforms or visual identity to get you into ‘character, ready to serve’
  • a daily shout out of recognising someone that stirs up an emotion of others wanting to be acknowledged, feel valued and great

The second tip is to hold yourself accountable and have someone, either your boss or a colleague, expect something from you. Just like my 66-day challenge I placed on Facebook, I had friends, clients, colleagues and even strangers expecting me to show up every day and post something. Even if I had nothing positive to say.
The third tip is to set yourself a goal of when you will practice your new habits or skills or how many times you will practice it per day/week. If your goals are vague, the results will be vague. Perhaps you are hoping for an actual physical reaction or feedback from a customer or colleague who has noticed you practising your skills, as a sign for getting traction and results.  
There is plenty of science that supports the key to skill mastery is ‘deliberate practice’. Angela Duckworth author of Grit studied the motivation and skill of people. She looked at people who were labelled as ‘gifted’ or a ‘natural’ and all her evidence led to this statement: ‘… as much as talent counts, effort counts twice’.
Get specific and put a system in place to record your attempts.
My wish for you and your teams in the next financial year is the belief and commitment to focus on the non-tangible skills that you once thought could not be taught.
Lets face it; do we ever really master something?
Malcolm Gladwell coined the 10,000 hour rue. The theory is that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice are needed to become world –class in your field.
So how can we get better? The simple answer to this question is; keep practicing.
Follow my challenge on my facebook page as I work towards automaticity of a new habit.
Email me at [email protected] for a brochure on developing social skills to 10X your customer loyalty.
Jaquie Scammell
‘Why serve when you can inspire’