Proficiency vs Mastery: What it Takes to Uplevel Your Skills
January is the month of resets! From resetting company goals and strategies to resetting personal development, it’s the refresh and “clean slate” feeling that rejuvenates all of us and makes anything feel possible.
And if you’re a people leader, chances are your development goals include something about influence, personal presence and the ability to galvanize your team. If it isn’t your priority, it should be because the expectations of employees have shifted in the last two years and the ask of people leaders is being redefined as well.
At the core of those expectations will be influence and impact. And when you evaluate the impact of a people leader, the data points become employees’ feedback, experiences and reactions to a leader’s communication skills.
This month puts it all to the test. At the same time that development goals are being discussed, communication skills are being tested. January is an important month for people leaders. Through internal meetings and strategy presentations, leaders set the tone, direction and enthusiasm for the year ahead and they define the ask of their employees for the months ahead.
The reality check for every people leader is: Are you a proficient communicator or a master communicator? There’s a significant difference.
Surprisingly, proficiency is where more than 85% of people leaders are considered to be. And they fall into two groups with that benchmark.
Some have accepted that benchmark for themselves and consider proficient to be “good enough.” They look around at peers and other leaders in a company, and they measure their skills against the skills of others. And they believe they’re good enough. Others haven’t accepted the benchmark, but they don’t know what to do about it. They developed foundational skills through repetition. And while they’re earnest in wanting to improve their skills, they don’t know how to get beyond proficient.
Knowing that the expectations on a leader’s skills will continue to shift toward a more compelling communicator and impactful influencer, we’re helping leaders set new goals and move their skills from proficiency to mastery.
So, how do you make the shift? We help communicators focus on Awareness, Intention and Effort.
Communication isn’t the first skill you’ve tried to master. We’ve all taken up a hobby or a sport in an effort to become really good at it. And I’ll admit, there are far more things I’ve become proficient at than I’ve mastered. Here’s why:
I started with some instruction to build skills, and then I expected to get better at it through practice. And I did make great strides initially, but I lost interest or focus on the skill before I really mastered it. Communication follows the same path. Maybe you took a course or got a solid foundation in skills and techniques early in your career. And you became proficient through repetition as you had opportunities or responsibilities to communicate more and more.
But repetition doesn’t get someone to mastery. It levels out at proficiency because feedback doesn’t continue, or the skills don’t evolve with the growth of a leader. Mastery takes the right tools and the right kind of practice to evolve and improve skills.
Here’s how we do it:
AWARENESS is feedback, assessment and input. As a leader, your effectiveness isn’t based on your assessment, it’s based on everyone else’s. And it helps to understand how your brand is perceived and how people hear what you say. We start with an initial assessment, but we also help leaders put feedback loops in place to ensure that all communication is measured for impact. This allows a leader to clarity, reinforce, and revise communication to keep sound bites active across a year. Less than 15% of leaders have a broader plan and a longer lifeline for big ideas and core messages that influence employee behaviors.
SW&A can measure current effectiveness and build a custom communication plan for a leader.
INTENTION trumps technique. Few leaders really understand intention behind techniques. They can explain what they do to develop and deliver content, but the intent behind those tools isn’t very clear. It’s what sets us apart as coaches, and it’s how we guide someone toward mastery. We’re helping someone define their presence and display it consistently in every setting. It’s understanding the use of the body and voice well enough that intention becomes habit, and a leader begins to shift their focus off of what’s happening for them and onto what’s happening for listeners.
SW&A understands intention and can translate it for any communication style. We see a difference in communicators who begin to ask less about tips and more about responses. And that’s when good enough shifts to great results.
EFFORT is about practice and knowing how to practice in a way that helps a leader align style and content for impact. Every leader is different bringing different strengths and challenges to their communication toolkit. So, practice has to be tailored to help each leader know how to work through their inconsistencies. We help a leader get to practice with intention, not just repetition. And that’s key to how well skills advance.
SW&A coaches a communicator on how to bring style and content together in a custom practice tool to leverage before events.
While communication is a universal skill, it’s an evolving toolkit that takes more than just repetition to improve. And with the shift in leader expectations, there has never been a better time to assess your skills and shift your goals toward mastery.
We’ve been coaching communicators toward mastery for more than 35 years. Maybe this will be the year we help you attain it as well.
Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!