Are you trying to improve your communication and leadership skills, but finding it all too hard?
That’s ok – it’s completely normal! In this episode, you’ll discover how to manage the challenges of learning a new skill.
My goal is to help make the learning process less overwhelming, smoother and less stressful for you.
I’m also going to share what I’ve been experiencing in my journey of learning how to DJ. It’s a skill I’m learning completely from scratch, and I’m going through the same ups and downs you might be experiencing in your communication and leadership journey!
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6 ways to learn communication and leadership skills:
1. You need a project to work on
I recently attended a fabulous workshop by my good friend Shannyn Merlo, who is a wonderful business coach at Inspired Outcomes consulting.
The workshop was about how to create a deeper sense of meaning in your life, and she shared 3 key things required to create meaning. They really resonated with me – and I also see these three things as being critical to learning a new skill.
Firstly, you need to set yourself a goal, or a project to work on. In your case, the project might be to deliver a presentation to 100 people at work, or to build your skill of speaking impromptu.
For myself, my project is to build the skill of DJing to the point where I can play a set at a friend’s house party without freaking out!
2. You need a community who loves you
The second thing Shannyn shared is to have a strong community around you. This is key – my DJ friends are super supportive and one friend even suggested that we catch up once a week to show each other what we’ve learned and to practice with each other. Having this support makes learning the skill less intimidating.
For you – think about who you can surround yourself with as you work on your communication and leadership skills:
- Is it a supportive colleague?
- A Toastmasters club
- Maybe you work with a coach?
3. You need a “redemptive perspective on your suffering”
I love this as it’s all about mindset. It means having a good attitude towards challenges. When you learn a new skill, or take your skill to the next level, You. Will. Suffer. It’s meant to be hard. If it was easy, you would already be doing it, right?
Any time you learn a new skill, it is most likely that you will be terrible at it. The sooner you accept this, the less frustration and stress you will feel. Beating yourself up with thoughts like “But why can’t I already do it? I should already be good at this!” doesn’t help.
One of my coaching clients is going through this – she’s very well respected in her company and knowledgeable, but she really struggles to present to senior people and large groups.
In a recent coaching session, I was teaching her how to structure a short presentation, and she was practicing with me. Every time she stumbled, she would say “Ugh, I’m so terrible at this!” She got frustrated that she couldn’t remember what she wanted to say, or speak smoothly.
Now, I explained to her, as this is a brand new skill she is learning – of course it’s going to be difficult at the start. Through our coaching, she’s learning to lean into the difficulty of the skill and be kinder to herself.
4. Start with the basics
When I was starting to DJ, the first thing I did was go online and search for video tutorials.
Initially, many of the tutorials went something like: “Once you’ve loaded your tracks, set the tempo to align, then create a loop…”
And I’m like “Wait, what? How do I load a track?? All I know is to turn the damn controller on!”
I had to find a tutorial that was literally like: “Once your controller is on, the first step is to upload your tracks. Here is how you do that….”
I’m talking Step ZERO.
Then, all I practiced for ages was loading tracks and playing them. Load, play, stop. Load, play, stop. Once I had that basic skill figured out, I could then load, play one track, then crossfade to another track.
So, if you’re learning to speak up, present or lead, think about what is the simplest, first step you can take? That first step is going to vary widely for each of you – it depends on where you’re currently at. For example:
- If you usually sit at the back of the room, sit at the front of the room instead, so you’re more visible
- If you don’t ever speak in meetings, ask a question in a meeting, or be the first to ask a question
- If you normally have your video off, turn your camera on in all video calls – next step is to sit upright and make eye contact with the camera.
- If you never go to in-person work events, simply show up.
5. Consistency is key
“80 percent of success in life is just showing up.” – Woody Allen
You don’t go to the gym once, and quit because you don’t get instant abs. It requires consistent, solid effort. I remember when I first started doing Crossfit, it took me at least a year of training 3 times a week, every week, until I could do a strict pull up.
New York Times bestselling author John C Maxwell said:
“Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing. That’s the Law of Consistency. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. It doesn’t matter how many opportunities you receive. If you want to grow, consistency is key.”
Practicing and giving one presentation is not going to drastically improve your presentation skills. With all my clients, I encourage them to take daily, consistent action to build their skills a little bit each time.
For one client, it might be to focus on sitting tall and making eye contact in not just the important meetings, but ALL conversations. With another, it’s using a strong opening sentence for every meeting, not just the big ones. For someone else, it’s taking a grounding breath and writing down an objective for every single phone call.
And the changes may seem so incremental and barely noticeable, until one day you realise you’re living this new skill without even thinking about it. You’re naturally sitting up straight, you’re naturally opening each meeting with a bang.
6. Trust in the process
My DJ friend Phil gave me some good advice, he said: some days you’ll feel like you’re not getting anywhere, and other times you’ll feel like you’ve gone backwards. And that’s ok.”
Watching my 2 year old daughter Breya grow has been the ultimate lesson in learning to trust the process. If you have kids you’ll know of the term “regression”, which is often talked about during a baby’s development. For example, they might sleep well for a few months, then just when you think you get your nights back, they go through a ‘sleep regression’ and forget how to put themselves to sleep again.
As parents, it’s easy to say “Oh no, what’s happening!” but we’re taught that it’s all part of the learning process. Sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back. The important thing is to trust in the process, accept this is part of it, and resist the temptation to give up.
So there you have it – 6 ways to improve the way you learn communication and leadership skills.
If you are looking for personalised support in you or your team’s development, click here to reach out. I’d be more than happy to explore what a coaching program or series of workshops could look like for you or your team.
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