More Practice (Not Talent) May Just be the Secret to Your Team's Success

The science is in: with consistent and deliberate efforts, the proper guidance and specific feedback, anyone can develop the skills to master almost any task they set their sights on. In fact, the research eludes to the idea that, without deliberate practice, a vastly talented individual cannot outperform a highly trained, yet moderately talented competitor.

So regardless of what your team - or you - are struggling with, more talent is not what you need. At least, not necessarily. After a decade of studying ‘expert performance,’ Dr. K Anders Ericcson concluded in a recent article that “deliberate practice” is the secret to outstanding, quantifiable results in any field.

So, what is it?

In short, it requires applying a scientific approach to training and improvement that can take anyone from ‘Good’ or ‘OK’ to ‘Great’ in a specific period of time.

“It’s based on the same neuroscience that found that - in order for your body to improve physically as a runner - you need not just to train, but to train outside your comfort zone at a high target rate," said Dr. Anders Ericcson.

In order to train at this level then, there are four fundamental things your team needs to obtain significant results:

1. A Mentor or Coach

We've touted the benefits of a professional mentor numerous times, and for good reason: Deliberate practice requires a mentor or a teacher who has had experience reaching high levels of performance in the specific area you want to improve.

When translating this to your team members, look for a peer, manager (this may be you) or outside resource that can effectively articulate a process to follow in a way that provides constructive input. Set the stage for this relationship by pinpointing similar qualities and achievements and articulating the goals that everyone is there to achieve. That way, the person can use that information on their own to propel themselves forward.

2. A Significant Time Commitment

Practice makes perfect - and learning a new professional skill or process is no exception to the rule. Encourage your team to keep reiterating and recreating, acknowledging that not every try will be a slam dunk.

But - if you are really trying to advance a skillset - be ready to also devote ample time toward that skill. From one hour a day to three times a week - whatever pushes your team past their comfort zones will move your efforts from autopilot mode into something much greater.

3. Consistent Feedback

Without feedback from a leader, mentor or peers, there is nothing to target and quantify. This can quickly lead to progress becoming vague and subjective - and the initiative being abandoned.

In this video, Dr. Anders explains how a chess or volleyball player grows significantly by learning potential opponent moves from a teacher. The same can be applied to marketers and customer behavior.

4. Target Goals

Rather than looking at the big picture, deliberate practice requires drilling down on the small steps that lead to bigger wins.

This means that if someone is trying to master Google Analytics, don’t give them all the reporting tools at once. Instead, focus on mastering one aspect at a time and build upon that knowledge with new information when you feel like they understand the process well enough to teach it to someone else.

The marketing landscape is constantly changing at impossibly rapid speeds that it’s easy to feel short of hands or talent. Fortunately, natural talent is only one small part of the success equation.

Here are some ways to push your team to do better, leading them through campaigns that approach new marketing venues as deliberate practice experiments:

  • Encourage risk taking that gets people outside their comfort zones.
  • Determine your pain points and have your team commit a specific amount of time each week on brainstorming how to tackle them.
  • Allow for brainstorm sessions that promote quick-fire ideas.
  • Ask your team if there is a tool or technology that would help them do their job more effectively, and give them the time to master it.
  • Leverage psychological safety and allow your marketing team to make mistakes, this will give you areas to build on later.
  • Apply deliberate practice to building your high-performance team: Hire for attitude, passion and a commitment to excellence and train for marketing success.

It's testing, learning, adjusting and putting that  into practice. Because at the end of the day, that's all marketing really is.