Robot or Athlete?

Many CEO soft skills require practice, just like dancing

Which one is the professional?

You lead a business and, in that role, you employ many natural skills.  However, the job probably requires some skills that don’t come so naturally to you, but which you can hone through practice.  But what does this have to do with the photo displayed here?

A friend recently competed in a Dancing with the Stars at Sea event while he and his wife were on a cruise vacation.  He was an unlikely contestant, selected to compete when he was one of a small number of men who attended a dance lesson on the ship. It seems they were desperate to get a man or two into a competition that is dominated by women. He was awarded second place on the evening of the competition, largely because he was a clear underdog who garnered sympathy from the audience based on his age (same vintage as many in the audience) and with his more or less correct but robotic repetition of the new steps he had learned in less than an hour of instruction.  In fact, one of the three judges referred to his performance specifically as “robotic”.

Reflecting on the competition, my friend’s experience reminded me of the path to competency in many new initiatives. If you play golf, you know how robotic (and usually ineffective) your swing can be when you are first learning or modifying that swing.  It takes lots of practice in order for the mechanics of the swing to become an unconscious part of the process.  Only then does your game become proficient.  Same way with dancing, or playing the violin, or presenting an inspirational speech.  Once the mechanics have become an unconscious part of the process, your performance can become truly effective.

As CEO, you may take it for granted that leading an effective staff meeting or skillfully interviewing a candidate for a key position is simple.  It’s not.  If you wing it, your audience knows it.  If you robotically follow a script, your audience is distracted (and often unengaged) due to your robotic performance.  You have to practice enough so that the mechanics of the process become unconscious.  Only then can you devote your energy and attention to listening intensely.  And your listening skills will, in the end, enable you to lead a great staff meeting or select the best candidate for that key position.

The moral?  Lose your ego regarding some of those “easy” CEO tasks and practice!

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