By Jim Stovall
Mar 31, 2007 - 8:14:00 AM

We have heard it said a thousand times that "practice makes perfect.�" As well-meaning as whoever told you this might have been, they were wrong. Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes consistent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Mediocre practice makes mediocrity.

One of the things sadly lacking in today's professional business environment is training. What they call training is more often a partial transfer of information that rapidly forces the new person into overload.

I believe that the food service industry does a better job of training than most other sectors. How many times have you gone into a restaurant and you are approached by not one, but two waiters or waitresses? Then, they immediately inform you that one is training the other, or the new person is "mirroring" one of the experienced waitstaff. The management in the food service industry understands that nothing provides training like hands-on experience in real-life situations.

Some of the most successful coaches in sports understand this as well. They will try to do everything possible to simulate game conditions. They try to practice at the same time of day that the game will be played, and they often pipe in recorded crowd noise at the level that can be expected during the real game. They understand that it's quite different to carry out a play well on a quiet, familiar court or playing field. It's quite another thing to perform well under loud, confused, and unfamiliar conditions. Nothing takes the place of real-world experience.

If you are learning a new skill or profession, try to find these realistic conditions and turn them into learning experiences. If you are in charge of training others, create these simulations in ways that people can learn their new skills without risking poor performance. Back to our friends in the food service industry. It's one thing to have a brand new waiter or waitress serving a valuable customer with an experienced waitstaff by their side to observe and step in if necessary. It's quite another thing to risk a valued customer with someone who has had nothing but an employee's manual to read and learn from.

As you go through your day today, find safe, realistic experiences to learn from and to teach those around you how to perform at the highest possible level.

Today's the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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