[This post is part of a series on Coaching Highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
No matter what you want to improve about yourself, no matter how important the insight of feedback, and no matter how much you can learn from books, ultimately you have to practice to improve meaningfully.
Find an exercise
I think one of the greatest values a coach can add, especially in a short session, is to give someone who has identified an area to improve and indicated wanting to improve an exercise to have them experience improving in their desired area.
A coach who decides on just the right exercise and leads you through the process well can save you enormous resources in transforming yourself — potentially years of spinning your wheels. If you can’t find a coach, the web has plenty of exercises you could work from.
It helps before giving an exercise to understand the client‘s or student’s situation and help give context — of the value of leadership, of how challenging but rewarding the process can be, of how many have done it before, etc — and to help interpret the report, but it’s hard to beat helping them expand their horizons through personal experience and feel reward doing so.
I can’t list all exercises I’ve given. Many of them I’ve written in my list of social skills exercises, but even they get customized for each client and each student. Another big one is feedforward.
With each student, I do my best to find an exercise they’ll like and that helps. If you’re trying to develop yourself and know in what area, you aren’t the first. The web has plenty of relevant exercises as well as stories of people who progressed past where you are from which you can learn.
So the advice here in brief:
- If you’re working on your own, look for exercises to experience the skills you want to learn, then to develop them
- If you have a coach, have them give you exercises
- If you’re a coach, give your clients exercises
- Don’t skip exercises in favor of just reading books
You can’t learn leadership from books alone. You have to do the drills and build the experience.