Can Mental Practice Enhance Your Leadership Effectiveness?
By Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC
In the world of sports it is common to hear that a professional actually does mental practice in addition to actual practice to enhance their performance. I was curious what some of the experts say about imagining yourself performing tasks like giving presentations or training, delivering a difficult message, conducting an interview or being interviewed or going on a sales call. I know when I deliver both my sales and presentation skills programs I always recommend that people mentally rehearse their presentations.
According to Dr. Scott Williams, Department of Management, Raj Soin College of Business ,Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio leaders can most definitely improve their leadership effectiveness and master their managerial behaviours.
Research has shown that when someone does both mental and actual practice they achieve better results than by just actual practice alone. This is not just in the world of sports. I know personally I have used visualization for many years prior to any program or what I thought might be a difficult situation. Often people who worry a lot about negative things happening to them don’t realize that they are actually contributing to the likelihood that what they don’t want to happen, will in fact happen. That is what they mentally rehearsed.
So how can you use this to enhance your leadership effectiveness?
By mentally rehearsing you experience more confidence as you will be more prepared. We have all heard the saying “practice makes perfect,” actually that is not 100% true because if you are practicing incorrectly you will not achieve mastery in whatever you are trying to improve on . With mental practice you are practicing perfectly and it can really increase your confidence even though it is imagined. The assumption here is that you would already have a certain level of experience or skills for whatever it is you are working to improve upon. Mental practice is effective as a supplemental way to develop your skills and does not replace normal avenues for learning new skills.
Mental practice can also help reduce stress. By taking the time to mentally rehearse you are giving yourself an edge that can support you to be at your very best. Think about the areas where you can start to use this in your everyday activities:
- When giving difficult feedback
- When you have to give a very important presentation
- When you are working in areas that you are a little less confident
- Day to day visualize yourself handling everything that comes your way with ease and confidence
- To improve your ability to listen and communicate
The techniques we have been taught to mentally practice for sports can also be applied in business and all areas of your life.
What area are you going to mentally practice to enhance your leadership skills?
A few Tips to effectively create mental practice:
- Find a place where you will be uninterrupted
- Close your eyes, take a couple deep breaths, relax and mentally go through the steps to perform perfectly what it is you want to practice
- Pay attention to as many details as possible
- Actually create the practice in your mind exactly how you want it to go, notice how you feel, what you see, hear or smell (include as many of your 5 senses as possible)
- See yourself successfully completed
- Do this several times (up to seven is said to be most effective)
- Open your eyes, smile and go about your day with new confidence