Professional musicians know something about performance under pressure that most leaders don’t. On stage or in the studio, artists must consistently perform with great skill and precision in order to succeed. How they prepare is instructive.
I’m not talking only about famous musicians. There are far more artists who earn their primary income with their craft than those who become household names.
Think of instrumentalists in a symphony orchestra or those playing on the soundtracks in your favorite movies. Most do not have their own albums or headline concerts. Yet the demands on them are essentially the same as for virtuosos, pop stars and festival headliners.
They must perform at a high level and do so consistently—day after day, night after night. They play well when the ‘recording’ light is on because wrong notes mean delays in production and longer hours for crews; or when in concert and a botched part results in disappointing a live audience, bad reviews, etc.
High Performance Entrepreneurship
If you’re working hard to advance in your career or grow your business, take note of the musician. Without understanding your own ability to perform at your highest level, you may be hindering your own progress. You may also be delaying the success of your teams.
You might think that you are the local expert in your field of business. Maybe you are. You may believe your company has a breakthrough product that could revolutionize your industry. Maybe it does. But that won’t happen if you don’t perform consistently well in various situations—especially when dealing with investors, customers, and the media.
We’re not talking about perfection—there’s always room for improvement—but rather excellence as a pattern.
Beyond Facebook and Twitter
Further, entrepreneurs today need additional skills—especially soft skills—like public speaking, socializing, entertaining and writing, among others. It’s no longer acceptable to be so specialized that you can’t interact in meaningful ways with real live people.
Social media is only one part of your communication platform. How do you do better in your core competencies and also improve soft skills for you and your team?
The answer is not to simply hire more people to make up for your shortcomings. A conductor can’t cover up loud, squeaky strings playing by adding a violin prodigy to the mix. Underperforming players will improve or be replaced.
Your weaknesses are still yours and they will surface at times. But if you own them and improve upon them, you will be more like the musician, dissatisfied with mediocrity, striving for excellence. It also shows to others, especially those you lead, that you’re a perpetual learner, never boasting that you’ve figured everything out.
The Method to the Musician’s Excellence
Musicians use neither magic nor rocket science to improve their skills. Generally speaking they have natural abilities combined with years of training. After this they continue to improve primarily in two ways. They practice regularly and they perform as often as possible. Some may argue that these are really one and the same practically speaking, but each is illustrative in its own right for entrepreneurs.
1. Practice Often
In the first case, musicians understand that “practice makes perfect.” Nobody wants a pianist to guess at a song they’ve never played and hope it sounds good. We all know that the one who mesmerizes audiences is the one who has played something a thousand times over until there is no one better at it.
There’s a saying among musicians that “amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they no longer get it wrong.” While the origin of the saying is debated, its validity is self-evident.
2. Perform Often
In the second case, musicians know that performance—doing what was learned in the safe confines of a home or practice space—adds a fear factor and risk level due to live pressures, increasing difficulty.
The more musicians perform live, the more those added factors are mitigated and the easier it is to perform under pressure.
How It All Applies
Think of any area of weakness in your sphere of business. Do you struggle to present your products well or to give product demonstrations? Practice much and present often.
Do you speak well but you don’t make new connections very often? Either put yourself in situations where you can network with others (e.g. local chambers of commerce or business associations), or make your own business gatherings and invite friends and clients. Do anything to improve and do so regularly.
Do a personal strengths and weaknesses analysis of your self (be honest!) and commit to to apply the ideas of Practice and Perform to every area of your career.
Featured image: © Wikoski for Getty/iStock