Tuesday, December 20, 2011

10,000 Hours of Practice

The concept of needing 10,000 hours of practice to master a field, as discussed in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, rings true for me. H. James Wilson recently posted an article on the Harvard Business Review blog on the topic. He says you can get your 10,000 hours in a year and 51 days (416 days), but that assumes 24 hours of practice/day – totally unrealistic.

As a practical matter, if you are practicing 2000 hours/year, it will take five years to master anything. You might master it a little faster if you are working full-time at a high pace in your new field, but for most of us, 2000 of new work in a year is about all we can handle. Much of what we do is administrative work that isn’t new. Five years is a good target to shoot for to feel like an expert.

I’ve worked in several fields over my career, and each one has taken me about five years in which to feel comfortable giving seat of the pants advice. Of course, in specialized areas of the field, it has taken longer. And in some areas, I will never feel like at expert.

What have you taken on recently? How far along are you toward your 10,000 and mastery?

And perhaps more importantly, what are you doing to foster mastery in your staff?

Find Outliers on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Self-Awareness & Leadership

Self-awareness is important for leaders.

A good book I’ve used to improve my self-awareness over the last several years is Standing at the Crossroads: Next Steps for High-Achieving Women, by Marian N. Ruderman and Patricia J. Ohlott.  Although this book focuses on a survey of high-performing women and what made them successful, I think its themes apply to everyone. 

Ruderman and Ohlott advocate five steps that high-achieving women undertake to be successful:

1.       They act authentically

2.       They make connections

3.       They control their own destiny

4.       They achieve wholeness

5.       They gain self-clarity

These steps are all intertwined, and all require awareness of what is critically important to each of us as an individual. Only when I know what is important to me can I decide how much of my energy to devote to the workplace and where I want our careers to go.Only then can I go about achieving what I want to achieve.

Self-awareness isn't only important for leaders -- it's important for all of us who work in or with organizations. That's all of us.

Find Standing at the Crossroads at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ballad of the MAMA Curmudgeon

I recently read “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom,” by Amy Chua. It’s been reviewed in many publications, so I won’t write another review. I simply want to share the perspective of another working mother. (I’m a MAMA curmudgeon, remember?)

What impressed me the most was the amount of time Ms. Chua devoted to being a mother– the daily supervision of lengthy piano and violin practices, the hours of travel to specialized teachers. Who can do that and remain sane? My job was as demanding as Ms. Chua’s, though it must have been less flexible, because I couldn’t have left work several times a day to go transport kids to yet another music lesson.

When my children were growing up, I placed limits on them – one team at a time, one instrument at a time. If they wanted AAU, for example, they couldn’t play for their school. Somehow they thrived anyhow. They aren’t prodigies at anything, but they got into good colleges and are now independent adults making their own way in the world.

I made mistakes as a parent – indeed, some of my biggest regrets come from how I handled my kids. But I’m satisfied I did my part to raise them into productive human beings.

And I somehow kept my sanity.