Development: Fun vs Easy, and 3 Tips For Leaders To Make It More Fun

A friend shared a great analogy with me last week comparing professional development and golf.  He had a friend that was a teaching pro in golf, and received lots of requests to ‘help my game get better’.  Ultimately he told everyone the same thing – if you want to get better you need to practice lots more, and play fewer full rounds of golf.  Person after person came for lessons, and only actually practiced when they were paying the pro for lessons.  Their games never really got better.

In the space between mediocre and great is work.   But not just work, purposeful work targeted at getting better in an area that you are interested in and passionate about.  There is nothing EASY about the path to mastery, and yet there are moves to make the work more fun.

If you lead others, here are three tips for making the work you ask from your people more fun:

  1. Leader – you first:  If people see you taking on projects where you name the intent (challenge/growth) and keep a positive attitude when it gets hard, they will have a role model.  Your attitude towards your own development will permeate your team.
  2. Ask first for participation:  Two easy questions for people:  What do you want to do more of in your role?  What do you want to do less of? – help people identify areas they want to focus and work to match that with improvements you want made.   They get more practice in an area of interest, and you make it a range session.
  3. View failure as learning:  Part of practice is hitting a bad shot.  Make a habit out of doing two things when that happens:  First, pour your energy into either helping them fix it or thanking them for reacting so quickly to fix it.  Make it a point to circle back and simply ask the questions:  What did you learn from that incident?  What steps can we take to ensure that does not happen again?

The one thing I did not hear from the pro is the option of using a slow day on the course to hit multiple balls, retake shots, or take some extra time to think through shots.  I often see the summer as a time to bring in some interns, spread the work around ,and give people time to focus on improving their games.

Practice is what you make of it, you won’t reach MASTERY without it, it will never be the classic definition of EASY, and many times you will have to work to make it Fun.

When I see MASTERY at work in a controller, a project manager, a speaker, or a COO I marvel at how easy they make it look – and I also seek out the story behind their MASTERY.   Funny connection – their story never sounds easy, but it often sounds fun.