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Practice Practice Practice

Crossroads Quartet

Friday night, my wife and I went to a barbershop concert. No, it wasn’t a bunch of hair dressers having a hair cutting contest. Every year about this time, the local barbershop group, Carousel Chorus, sponsors a barbershop workshop for the surrounding high schools. Friday there were over 400 youth from seven different high schools participating. They brought in two guest directors, one to work with the young women and one to work with the men. All of the high schools featured a quartet. Then the women sang a number, followed by a couple of numbers by the men. All I have to say is that there are some amazingly talented youth in this area. Then we were all favored with a professional group, Crossroads Quartet.

During the performance, the thought occurred to me that there are some similarities between barbershop and leadership and excellence. Since I began writing this blog, it seems like I don’t think about much else. If I do, it always relates to a topic here somehow.

The youngest quartet was a group of sophomores, 14, maybe 15, years old. It takes a lot of courage for those young boys to get up in front of 1000 spectators. Leadership is a performance in a lot of ways. Leaders are constantly in the spot light, putting themselves out there to be critiqued and applauded or boo’d. It takes a lot of self-confidence and fortitude to “perform”. That bravery does to occur over night.

In fact, my son has been singing in a couple of the high school choirs for two years. He practices about two hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year. I think most leaders read a book, or attend a seminar, or listen to a lecture and expect to be the perfect leader. They expect it to just happen. Wrong! Leadership, like good barbershop, requires practice. You have to consciencously think about it, plan for it, and act on it. The books and seminars and lectures are great. I gleen a lot from them myself.

Last year I read a book titled How to Talk to Anyone. The author, Liel Lowndes, lists 92 methods for better communication. One of my favorites in #16, Never the Naked Job. When someone asks what you do, don’t just reply with a curt job title. Throw out some delicious fact about your job. One day, after recently reading this tidbit, I was in a business meeting with a soon-to-be supplier. We were going around the room introducing ourselves and I decided to put my new-found skill to work. When it was my turn, I confidently said, “My name is Todd Smith and I make peoples dreams come true.” It got everyone’s attention, including my co-workers. I explained to our guests that I am an IT Project Manager. I gather requirements from the project stakeholders and turn them into usable products. Everyone nodded knowingly. Some of my colleagues made some flattering comments. It brought the room to life.

I read an excellent tip in a book that I wanted to incorporate into my life. Just reading it was not enough. I had to apply it, use it. I’ve since come up with a couple other quips to help keep things interesting. After all, my co-workers would eventually tire of hearing the “dreams” line over and over. So sometimes I use “I’m the resident miracle worker” or “I’m the Lance Burton of Information Technology”.

Practice practice practice. What ever quality, attribute, talent, or skill you want to develop, you have to practice. Being excellent at something, whether it’s barbershop or conducting a meeting, it takes practice.

What experience have you had developing a talent and making it “excellent”?

Categories: Leadership
  1. 1 March 2012 at 1:14 pm

    thanks.very good blog and very good share.

  2. 13 February 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Fantastic composition. Sustain up the very good performance.

  3. Shaun Sessions
    6 February 2012 at 7:37 am

    So you are the Scottie of IT?

    I think something that I am working on that isn’t a talent, but I would love for it to become one is working on understand and improving one’s self. For example, I had a recent experience at work that was very troublesome and struck very personally at the core. I struggled with it and ended up striking out when I should have kept my cool. When the dust had settled from the gun fight at the OK Corral, I felt very strongly to find out how to improve myself. I asked some friends, co-workers, and directors how I what I did wrong and what could I do better if this happened again. I got some really good advice, based on the blunt feedback. I noticed that if I pressed those I spoke with to be very honest, it was hard to not defend myself and I think I even spoke a little defensively, but as I walked away from each one, I found myself with the same information presented to me. In other words, I found some areas that needed improving based on real honest criticism, facts, and things that I may not have known to improve on. In reflecting upon that over the past few weeks, I have discovered some areas that I want to become talents. Improving myself, Communicating better, and more charitable to all, even those that push my buttons! It hasn’t been easy to swallow my pride and improve and it is a challenge every day, but It can be done.


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