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6 strategies to improve your skills from Anders Ericsson

 In Author, Learning from Luminaries

Skills are specific. You only get great at the skill you practice. Chess champions become good at chess from practising chess, not by practising tennis or practising public speaking.

Multicolored silhouette of a brain

The above statement is my paraphrase of a key message – from eminent, peak performance psychologist K. Anders Ericsson – on what drives individual improvement (that was shared in David Schenk’s book The Genius in all of us).

The statements ‘Skills are specific’ and You only get great at the skills you practice’ may seem obvious. Yet some people confuse activity with practice. For example, you get better at a task by doing it rather than reading about it or taking a course where someone tells you how to do it.

In a prior career as a speech pathologist, I had worked with people who stuttered. These people only reduced their amount of stuttering if they talked out loud, followed by my feedback on their level of fluency.

Writing spoken words didn’t help them improve. Listening to fluent speakers didn’t help them improve.  Talking to themselves inside their head didn’t help them improve.

Ericsson’s other themes for driving individual improvement include:

Practice changes your body. That is, physical change occur in heart, and other organs in those who have shown profound increases in skill level

The brain drives the brawn. The changes in the brain are the most profound (versus changes in the body) for skill level increases – even among athletes.

Practice style is crucial. Its takes a special kind of practice to get better (not ordinary practice).

For example, to help my executive clients listen and speak under pressure I video record them while I drill them in the types of challenging, changing, interactions and presentations that they face in their work. Then, while watching the video footage with the client, I analyse and give them feedback on their word usage, message structure, voice, face and body language.

Objective feedback (through observing video footage, audio recording or through other person feedback) is more powerful than subjective feedback.

– Short-term intensity can not replace long term commitment. Physiologically, it’s impossible to become great overnight.

You CALL to action/HOW to apply for this post: Assuming you want to be a better communicator and better speaker, on a daily practice, intentionally practise speaking well, and get feedback on that practice.


Check out this post about renown architect Renzo Piano’s working technique

Below is a photo of me with luminary emcee Scott Williams (in yellow) with delegates at a recent client event.

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