Develop yourself and your project team by stretching – your skill set.
To appease my aching back, I’m starting each morning with a few basic yoga poses. As I was going through my sun salutation the other day I marveled at how much farther my body could bend after each repetition. It is unquestionable; as you repeat the postures you become stronger and more flexible.
A few days ago Scott and I were in the midst of a lessons learned recap. Despite a ton of progress he was lamenting some miscommunication we worked through earlier that day.
“How can it be months later and we are still misinterpreting each other,” he sighed.
He was expressing a very common frustration. Whenever team members – or the entire team – are adopting new skills or building capabilities it takes time to get to a level of proficiency. Identifying the need for a certain skill is a start. Learning it is the next step. Getting good at it, may be an ongoing endeavor.
“It’s a skill. We have to keep practicing. Over time we will get better and it will become just like second nature.”
Secretly I felt his frustration too. I know how to communicate, so why do we still run into this issue from time to time? Then I remembered my yoga.
Practice every day. Each repetition is necessary to see improvement in the next. Be conscious and mindful of how it helps in a broader sense. Move the muscles many ways to develop stability. Show patience and persistence.
Without too much effort I could easily translate each yogic principle to a rule of thumb for building a new skill. As we continue to stretch our abilities and build expertise, Scott and I can work out the kinks in our communication skills by remembering these:
- Put that skill to use. It is not enough to go to class or read a book; you have to be able to apply what you learned to what you actually do. Plan how to utilize your new skill in daily activities. For example, after your class on communication go back to your desk and review your last 15 emails to see what you could do differently.
- To build capability and strength in that skill you have to work at. It is not enough to do it once and call it a day. Use what you know, share it with others; make a point of doing things that require this skill. The more you flex that new skill the better you get at it and the faster you build up your expertise. Don’t leave it at a few emails; think about how you communicate in meetings, during group activities or informally with peers.
- Understand how that new skill contributes to the goals. I’m all for continuous learning, but to really hone a skill – and reap the greatest reward from it – you have to know specifically why it’s relevant to you and what you are doing. For example, how you convey ideas can influence stakeholders, possibly mitigating resistance or helping achieve agreement sooner, which can keep your project running on plan.
- Learn how to adapt that skill. I have yet to encounter a project that does not involve change and all the challenges it presents. That means you may need to apply your new ability in ways that support the evolution of your project. You learned how to flex your own communication style, now you may need to use it to recognize when others need help conveying their ideas in different ways.
- Know that no matter what you do, not every attempt to use that skill is going to be perfect. That is ok; allow time to build up the capability. The missteps show you what not to do next time. Just keep working with it. So your first try at facilitating a meeting using your new communication skills goes awry. You learned that you can engage others by asking for their perspective even when they don’t offer it. That is a good step forward and the rest will come with practice.
Deciding to build your skill set, or the skill set of your team, is always a worthwhile challenge. However, it’s planning for how to implement that skill that makes it a progressive step that can help to raise the efficiency and effectiveness of your project.
How are you provoking yourself and your team to stretch their skill set?
Stretch your skills to keep moving forward on your goals. Maple gives you Self Study tools to help you internalize what you learn at www.MeetMaple.com.