Cure Poor Performance

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Category: Development
Published: 23rd November 2015

Raising the Bar – A Leaders Guide Book

The biggest enemy of talent is not genes, or opportunity, or luck. It’s poor practice. Poor practice wastes time, creates bad habits and worst of all, gives us the deceptive feeling we’ve accomplished something when, in fact, we haven’t.

The trouble is that poor practice is hard to identify. Perhaps in the future, some genius will invent a Practice-O-Meter that flashes red lights at us and sounds a horn when it detects ineffective, time-wasting practice. Until then, however, we have to make do with simpler methods.

So here, based on interviews with leaders and a sampling of scientific studies, are some of the warning signs that tell you when your practice is shallow – along with a few suggested cures.

Symptom – Robotic sameness of performance. If you are doing the same thing over and over with no variation, you are not practising deeply.

Cure – Make it tougher. Change one or more factors to stretch yourself. For example, if you’re practising a presentation, set ever-shorter time limits to deliver it in. Constantly switch it so that you’re always making and fixing mistakes.

Symptom – The lack of  “damn it” moments. Learning something new is like walking into a darkened room and figuring out where the furniture is located – when you make a mistake, you should feel it. Effective practice contains lots of “damn it” moments. Making mistakes should carry an emotional burn that helps you do better next time.

Cure – Keep score. Turn in into a game, so that each mistake carries a larger consequence.

Symptom – Failing too much. The “sweet spot” of practice is when you make mistakes 20-40 per cent of the time.

Cure – Make it easier. eliminate some variables; simplify the task so that you are chunking one thing at a time, until you get back to your sweet spot.

Symptom – Total boredom

Cure – Quit and do something else. Come back when you’re fresh.

Overall, aim for quality over quantity. It’s far better to achieve 10 minutes of deep practice – which is really tough to do – than practice shallowly for an hour.

This blog post is adapted from the Raise the Bar book – ‘A Leader’s Guide to Engagement‘ by Professor Damian Hughes. The book contains twenty-five great lessons from the most engaging leaders. To order your copy now, please click here.

For more information on our Performance & Engagement programmes or to enquire about booking Professor Damain Hughes to motivate your teams at your upcoming conference, event or team day please contact us on 0207 137 7353 or alternatively email