THE Silver Bullet for Skill Mastery

Do you ever wish for that magic pill, like in Limitless, which offers you amazing mental prowess? Ka-boom! You are instantly brilliant in anything you do.

It’s human nature to look for the quick fix. However, Malcolm Gladwell offers the notion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something, in his book, Outliers. Even if attaining expert status is not your goal, to achieve a solid level of competence at something requires some level of practice or repetitive experience in that specific area.

It is simply not enough to read a book or attend a training session. While people may intellectually understand the topic, putting that knowledge into action requires applying that knowledge in real life.

Application = PRACTICE

I spent this past week with a client group helping them develop facilitation skills. Of course we presented and discussed the skills needed to be an effective facilitator, but only when we allowed them time to practice did it come to life. Those participants will never become great facilitators unless they spend time practicing those facilitation skills.

I noticed a difference in how the participants approached this practice time and how that approach affected their results. Here are a few observations to make the most of practicing a new skill/behavior:

  1. Leave the ego at the door – Just because a person has experience in delivering a message in front of a group, doesn’t equate to being a good facilitator. Those who took the opportunity seriously and were open to feedback and coaching made the most improvement. Being in the right mindset to learn is to expect some mistakes and use that experience to improve the next time. We stop learning if we think we know everything already, so let go of the ego and tap into what others know.
  2. Focus on a few things at a time – When building new behaviors, it can overwhelm our systems if we try to take on too much at one time. I suggest that leaders focus on one or two areas at a time. Refine those and then move on to the next set of skills.
  3. Look for opportunities to practice – Like any other muscle, if there is not consistent exercise, atrophy begins. Build time into your daily schedule – whether at work or home – to find ways to put that new behavior/skill into practice.
  4. Seek out a partner – Whether it’s an accountability partner or coach, find someone with whom you can practice. It’s a great way to get feedback in a safe environment and hold you accountable. Should the old habits start to resurface, you will have a trusted advisor to nudge you back in the right direction.

It’s no surprise this “silver bullet” takes time and concerted effort. Developing yourself requires new experiences. The newness only wears off after repeating those experiences.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Will Durant

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect by email at