Mastery – One of keys to success! Part 3 of 3

Mastery is “available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it-regardless of age, sex, or previous experience.”   These are the words of George Leonard in a book he wrote called Mastery.  This is not a new book.  My copy was printed in 1992 and looks/feels like it has been on the journey that the author describes.

This predates the 10,000 hour discussion I presented (see past blog), but reminds us that committing to Mastery is really about getting on a path and staying there for a lifetime.  For achieving Mastery is not about the destination, but the journey to get there.  The author provides many vivid images of the journey, from sports analogies around tennis to illustrations using the martial art of aikido.  If you are interested in a rich exploration of the topic, read the book.  But let me share a couple of parts that stuck with me.

A significant point was around our view of practice.  Practice if often viewed as a verb, but as it relates to Mastery it is best viewed as a noun.  The author points out the Chinese word tao and the Japanese word do – both of which mean road or path.  So achieving Mastery is about practice (remember 10,000 hours).  Practice is a journey on which you embark.

Leonard also shares his five keys to Mastery, which are:

  • Instruction
  • Practice
  • Surrender
  • Intentionality
  • The Edge

So what can you do as a leader to increase Mastery?

First, your performance management system has to promote Mastery conversations.  These questions need to be addressed:

  • What Mastery is needed in a role? (defined and measured at some level yearly)
  • What Mastery is the individual interested in attaining? (their own career goals – integrated into what the organization needs)
  • How is the Mastery journey going?  (for you and for us)

Secondly, the ownership of the journey has to be made very clear.  It is up to the individual.  A leader/organization owns providing a target and the support and resources.  Ultimately, the decision to go on and stay on the journey is owned by the individual.  Do you agree with this?  Think of it this way, most leaders will not be around a person for five years, and keeping track of 5 or 10 or 30 different people is not realistic for any leader.  So if the individual owns the plan, the commitment of  the leader become to create the time to review it, provide feedback on their progress, and assist in removing barriers that might be encountered along the way. (ex. time, resources, skills)

So how does your organization promote the journey to Mastery?  How well are you leading this journey?

Life Lessons from . . . Bob Newhart?

I had the opportunity to see Bob Newhart speak as part of a series I have annual tickets for at the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan.  I had two reasons for going:

  1. My friend Bob was interested in using my extra ticket – so I had some good company for the drive.
  2. Bob is funny.  Specifically Bob Newhart is funny.  My friend Bob is funny – he is just not Bob Newhart funny.

Learning is often about going into a situation with an open mind and just listening for something that makes you go Hmmmm.  Here is what I carried with me after my evening with Bob Newhart.

  • On retirement –  “I am 81 years old and people often ask me when I will retire.  I make people laugh, and I have a hard time walking away from that and saying that I will not do that anymore.  People need laughter, and that is what I do.”
  • On working at a difficult job – He hosted The Tonight Show 87 times so Johnny Carson could have a break.  “It was a really hard job, and one time when I did it for three straight weeks I was exhausted.  Johnny once said that if he put the same effort into his first marriage as he did his job he would still be married.”
  • Just a random funny comment that made me laugh – “So I was driving down to the racetrack in San Diego with my wife and Tim Conway and his wife . . . . . . ” .  My only thought was that it has to be funny sitting in a car with Tim Conway.  My friend Bob and I giggled at this comment because we shared the same vision of ‘just hanging out with Tim Conway’.

There is learning all around us – and situations that plant seeds that make us think about things.  Just spending 90 minutes with Bob Newhart left me thinking about some significant things.  Here are questions that were rolling around in my head:

  • Careers – What part of what I do would I never want to stop doing because the world needs it?  my note:  What would a workforce look like if everyone understood this about themselves, shared it, and pursued it?
  • Balance – Is any job worth more effort than a marriage?  What is the cost of being wrong?   my note:  I once checked the divorce rate of CEO’s and it was lower than the national average.  I am still processing this – but I was surprised.
  • Friendship – What is your definition? my note:  How about “Someone who will go with you to see Bob Newhart and also thinks Tim Conway is funny.”

It was a good night.