Aug 212012

Imagine a football team that only tries to improve itself by playing competitive games. This team never practices, the coaches and players never discuss what strategy and tactics will be employed on game day, and no one even thinks about how it will match up against the next opponent. The quarterback doesn’t practice throwing routes with his receivers, the linemen don’t work together, and the running backs sit around playing Xbox 360 until its time to get their jerseys on.

Will this team succeed?

Of course not.

Football is a complex game that requires teamwork, forethought, and lots of practice. A single play is often practiced dozens, even hundreds of times until the coaches are sure it will be executed as designed, each player knowing his job and doing his job to the best of his ability. As a backdrop, each player will have spent countless hours in the gym and on the track, continually building up his strength and endurance so that he can still execute the plays deep into the fourth quarter or overtime. Practice and conditioning are paramount to winning championships.

Meet Jim Davis.

Mr. Davis is a hard working sales executive for Ashfordshire Corporation. At least once per month and often several times each month, Jim is faced with selling a prospect on Ashfordshire’s technology and solution. If he succeeds, millions of dollars will change hands, jobs will be secured, Jim will enjoy a great commission bonus, and Ashfordshire will score another marketshare first down versus its closest competitor, Devlin MacGregor Inc.

Does Jim practice? Does Jim improve his conditioning? Does he work on his technique? Or does he fall back on the “I have eleven years of experience” excuse and only plays the game during the heat of competition?

We know the answer. 99% of business competition is game time only, no practice, no conditioning, no preparation, no planning. But the game of life is just as complex and demanding as football!

How much farther would Jim get in his 30+ year career if he worked weekly on improving his speaking abilities? How much more would he earn in commissions if he learned better and better sales techniques? What if he spent hours researching his prospects before each presentation? What if he always took the time to conduct on-site surveys, to ask great questions, to discuss solutions with his pre-sales engineers, to develop a personal playbook that really works for each type of prospect? What if Jim practiced his presentations and planned for the unexpected?

Most people agree that Jim’s career attainment would be greatly enhanced if he did practice and perfect, before playing out the game in front of his live customer prospects.

So, here’s my question to you: What have you done to become better — this week, this month, this year — in your job / career skills? Do you practice before game time? When is the last time you practiced better communication skills? Toastmasters is everywhere, it only takes a couple of hours a week. Nearly every job requires or is enhanced by excellent communication abilities. When is the last time you worked on improving your writing abilities? Texting your teenager does not count, LOL!

Decide to become extraordinary and to be all you can be. Take the first step. Set a goal to become a better speaker or learn a second language. Read, learn, practice and you will become better. Don’t be the player that only plays in the game without practice and conditioning. If you do, you will leave too much unrealized successes on the table.

I.M. Optimism Man


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