Since childhood, most of us have been told about the importance of practice and how if we ever wanted to get good at something we needed to practice it. Maybe it was a musical instrument like the trumpet, piano or keyboard, of the guitar.
Maybe we wanted to lift weights, hit a baseball well, run fast enough to win races, or sing so that we could be in the choir or perform as a soloist. Perhaps we had our sights set on making an Olympic team in some sport or playing professionally.
Clearly, that would require practice – especially if the skills or the insight into winning the game didn’t come naturally.
Regardless of what it was that we wanted to do, we were encouraged to practice by our parents, coaches, teachers, and others in authority. Now that we’re grown, we can still have coaches and mentors to learn how to serve our clients, but we really have to apply ourselves because there are so many distractions and so many excuses we can offer – “if only I had started sooner,” “there’s too much competition,” “it’s too late (I’m too old) to learn how to do this now,” “this is for the younger generation,” “technology is passing (has passed) me by” …
But, let’s look at the idea of practicing and the way we often do it – whether it’s playing golf or tennis, getting ready for a marathon, or working with objections. We put in the time on the court, course, studio, or wherever it is we are performing, but just doing something over and over or for a long time doesn’t necessarily make us good at it. In fact, hitting a golf ball or tennis ball incorrectly over and over for hours and hours will only make eventually doing it right that much harder. We will have gotten experienced at doing it wrong.
Two things typify practice that aren’t true in real life. First, we may only put out a portion of our effort because it’s only practice and doesn’t really count. Second, it’s nearly impossible to replicate the speed, intensity, emotion, and seriousness of an actual event in practice.
Try as we might to mentally or emotionally get charged up or psyched up, as we say, an element of the live competition is missing in practice settings. If we miss an assignment, play a part with a wrong or flat note, confuse a word or two, get something twisted around, it’s just practice and we forgive ourselves. The public, the other team, or our customers may not be so yielding in an actual event.
Only a real situation will create the proper amount of seriousness and pressure on us to make us perform at our best – and we will never know how good we are until pressed into it in a real situation. No amount of imagining can create the right environment for a real encounter.
However, without the practice or role-play, we won’t have a clue as to what we might face when it counts. It’s how we prepare for actual situations. However, just putting in the time rehearsing words, phrases, or techniques that may not be as sharp as they need to be will just give us more experience as performing less than what is necessary rather than honing our skills to be the best.
Let’s welcome the practice so we can be ready when we are face-to-face with a customer. Let’s just not be so quick to excuse a poor practice or to dismiss it because it doesn’t really count.