“How many arrows in your quiver – How many true skills?” Professional Journey Step: step #1

“How many arrows in your quiver – How many true skills?” Professional Journey Step: step #1

Quiver of arrows - skills

This metaphor is a favourite of mine and I have used it many times in many situations to initiate a dialogue regarding skills level. It mostly results in the same initial mystified look from the receiver(s); perhaps you’re expressing a similar reaction right now. Inevitably however, the look changes as the understanding of the imagery becomes clear.

How many skills have you mastered that you can call on at any time, any place and in any situation with confidence and wield them successfully?

In our professional and personal lives we are surrounded and inundated with self-help and improvement information, advice and opportunity, likely more than anyone would ever require in becoming the master of our own universe. Yet in my career, while delivering and receiving training, developing and mentoring people and teams, I have noted only a small percentage of participants actually turn these countless opportunities into true usable skills. In fact one industry study – and it matches our own examination over 30+ years – places that at 5%! So 1 in 20 people participating in a development course or program will actually take that opportunity through to the final stage of establishing it as a skill!! Why? Our research and observation has identified four main reasons.

Four Reasons Training Doesn’t Become Skills

  1. In our observation most participants – all with the best intentions – make the same cardinal mistake; they don’t practice what they have learned. The act of participating alone seems to be accomplishment enough?! Any learning, regardless of its form or duration, is merely theory until it is deliberately practiced and practically utilised. We all participate in seminars, read books, engage in intellectual and philosophical conversations, gain credentials in one area or another – do these learning experiences make us experts? Unfortunately, NO, although a fundamental step, these only provide a heightened Awareness of the topic and associated skills. Everyone seems to understand the obvious, that reading a book or taking lessons to learn to dribble a basketball or play golf will enhance our understanding but only deliberate practice will make us skilful at these things, this doesn’t seem to have the same degree of appreciation when striving to develop skills in the professional and personal realm although inherently they’re exactly the same.
  2. Practicing is critical, deliberate focussed practice but to master a skill requires some degree of coaching in concert with that practice – otherwise you could be practicing the wrong thing and develop a bad habit or skill. Coaching and mentoring become the other side of the skill development approach.
  3. Organisational structure and / or culture not conducive and supportive of what you’ve learned. This is the hidden monster in the whole process! We see this all too often – someone participates in a learning and development program, has not only the intention but also the drive and determination to practice it into a skill. They get coaching and see huge benefit in implementing the skill for the betterment of their team, organisation, life… and they hit a brick wall! All their efforts are stymied by a culture or structure in their own organisation, the very environment they are trying to improve, which isn’t supportive of their efforts. This is precisely why the heads of any organisation we work with MUST also participate in our programs – they have to come along on the same journey, reach the same level of understanding, appreciation and value for the process because they must support the end results – otherwise we’ve all wasted our time!
  4. Complacency or self-servedness – this is a factor, hopefully not the most prevalent. There will be a portion of participants given an opportunity to develop, receive the investment of their organisation as sponsors that only go through the process to achieve the credential not the skill. They want to pad their resume rather than add another priceless skill to their repertoire – an arrow in their quiver – for life! Its a shame but it is a fact in a few cases.

So our advice for this Professional Journey Step:

In your journey to become a better Manager, Leader, or the best person you can be, may we humbly offer a thoughtful method which seems to be missed so often; practice, practice, and practice what you learn, get some coaching / mentoring to guide your journey, stay the course if you believe the skill is useful regardless of your environment and realise the true value of the ability to develop a skill – so much more than just a credential or addition to your CV. Do this and you will legitimately be able to add more arrows to your quiver!

We, MSB Max, have taken all of these ‘hurdles’ into consideration in our own development offerings. We have built in remedies so they don’t hinder your or your organisations’ received benefit and allow you to apply another skill to achieving your success.

Enjoy the journey.