A few years ago, I was challenged to create a sales boot camp to significantly reduce the time it took to master the selling process in a retail furniture environment. Whereas it had previously taken 6-12 months to train a new sales person, our goal was to do it 90 days. After benchmarking the best sales people in multiple markets across the United States, and creating a radical “learn by doing” training process, we were able to reduce the time to 5 days. In the process, we learned a few critical lessons about mastering new skills in record time that I thought I would share.
After identifying the skills you want to master, the first order of business is to find recognized experts from whom you can learn. Your goal is to aggressively analyze the information presented by the experts and look for key behaviors you can exploit to learn the skill quickly. When learning from experts however, pay close attention to what you see, but what may not be said. There are always explicit aspects of what experts will share and tell you to practice, but more often than not the more important points come from the implicit behaviors they do that they do not explicitly practice, teach or even notice. It is these behaviors that are the most important to master. Next, create an inventory of these key characteristics and behaviors and analyze them to “see” the underlying pattern. Identifying the patterns of success will allow you to focus your activities and maximize the time you spend learning new behaviors.
Second, focus 110% of your energy on mastering the behaviors you identified. No amount of knowledge can replace getting your hands dirty and “putting in the reps.” Also, If you want to achieve your goals in record time remember the truth of Parkinson’s Law and impose strict deadlines on your activities. Setting an aggressive pace and creating some “self-imposed” stress will help spur motivation and increase the rate of your improvements.
Finally, there is great power in inviting others to share in your journey. Share your goals with everyone you know and be explicit with requests for help in identifying experts, sources of research, and materials that may help you identity the explicit and implicit behavioral patterns. In addition, openly invite others to share in your learning experience. Engaging others through participation creates a community of supporters who will generate creative ideas, share experiences and provide critical feedback.