This week I was working in my shop, and I made a mistake that I new how to avoid. How is that possible? Both the answer to that question is in this episode and how the lesson connects to leadership communication is in this episode.
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Hi. This is Guy Harris. Welcome to Talk Like a Leader. The title of this week's episode is Oh No, I Made a Mistake I Knew How to Avoid. How the origin of this story starts in my workshop, I have a two car garage on my house, and I've effectively converted that two car garage to a woodworking shop.
And I've been doing woodworking, home improvement DIY projects for about 40 years now. So I do have some experience in this area, and there are lots of things I still have to learn. One of the things I'm trying to learn is really finer woodworking skills. I've done lots of work with wood and concrete and steel and plastic and wiring and a whole bunch of other materials and types of projects.
What I'm really working on at this stage of my life is developing my ability to do finer and more precise woodworking. And even though I've built some furniture and done some things I wouldn't say that any of it rises to the standard of fine furniture. It's functional. It looked good when I was done, and it could be better so I've spent quite a bit of time in the last year or so watching different YouTube videos, subscribing to Instagram channels or reading books, looking in magazines, trying to pick up tips and finer points for how to do things more accurately, more precisely, better looking, and basically trying to refine my game.
And in that process, I've acquired some better tools because better tools allow me to do better. Were the challenges just having the tool? Does it make better work until you know how to use the tool? So it's sort of a combined effort, getting some better tools, trying to get some more information. And then all of that has to collide with converting what I know and what the tools capable of into my ability to make that tool do the thing it needs to do.
Well, I'm working on a project right now to build a better, more stable, more functional workbench that I can use for creating other projects. So the workbench actually will become a tool in my shop, and I challenged myself to try to build this thing with no metal fasteners I'm trying to use more furniture type joinery techniques and finishing techniques rather than construction type joinery techniques.
And one of the things I was doing recently, I just this week actually was cleaning up a piece of wood after it had been joined with another piece of wood and the tool of choice for this particular process was a hand plain. While I've invested in a really good hand plane and some good sharpening equipment and I've got the plane tuned up ready to go, I've never actually used the plane a lot prior to this.
I've used planes in like a construction setting, like I said, for cleaning up a door that drags on the floor or something like that. That's more rough planing rather than fine planing. So I'm planting the wood and I notice that I'm having a hard time clamping the wood. It's it's not going exactly as I planned. And so I reacted to what I saw in the moment and changed the direction that I was planning the wood.
And in that change of direction, I went from planning with the grain to planing against the grain. And if you're a woodworker, you know that that's not a good thing. If you're not a woodworker, I'll tell you what happens soon as you run that blade against the grain of the wood, you run the risk of creating a situation known as tear out where the wood doesn't play nice and smoothly.
But it has a little dividend and it kind of chatters a bit as it goes across the surface of the wood. It removes wood. It's just not pretty and smooth when you're done now, the thing is, I know that you're not supposed to play in against the grain. If you ask me, should you playing against the grain or what's the best way to plane wood, I'd probably say, no, you shouldn't play against the grain and you really need the plane, if possible, to follow the direction of the grain to get best results.
So ideas, I know how to do the thing I want to do. I understand the concept. I understand the operating principle, the challenges. I haven't done the thing enough so that my instinctive and automatic response causes me to do it the right way. Even though I had the knowledge of how to do what I was doing better. I don't have the practice or the experience to make it second nature yet in the heat of the moment, when confronted with the situation, even though I knew what I needed to do, it wasn't the first thing that popped in my mind.
I just went with my reaction, and it created terror. The good news is I recognized that as soon as it happened because I know that it's not OK. As soon as I had bad results, I knew exactly why I had bad results and I was able to fix it and correct the situation. So first of all, what's the learning point?
The learning point is this knowing something is the beginning of mastery. Practicing something is required for mastery. So I first have to learn a concept and then I have to practice a concept before it becomes ingrained in how I do things. What's that got to do with leadership communication? And that's effectively the same thing. You can know a communication principle and in the heat of the moment when emotions are high, fail to use it.
You can misread the situation and not apply a technique or a principle that you understand intellectually. You haven't practiced it enough to make it second nature. You might even be able to look at the situation like I did with plane in the wood. You might be able to look at the situation or assess the situation after you've messed up and know instantly what you did wrong.
You just haven't practiced the skill enough to master it so that you instinctively and automatically use the technique or principle that applies best in the situation. So my encouragement to you is, first of all, work on learning lots of communication principles and lots of communication techniques. Build your toolbox, build your knowledge base, and then practice those skills. Commit yourself to learning how to assess the situation before it happens rather than troubleshoot it after it happens.
Here's what I think is likely to happen for you. It's what has happened for me as I've practiced communication skills. The more I practice them, the better I get, the better I get, the less I mess up. I don't get it right all the time. I do get it right more of the time. And I think the same thing will happen for you.
The more you practice the skills, the more they become second nature and the more you'll do them automatically. So the learning point is this You have to get yourself out of learning mode and into doing and practicing mode before you'll truly master the art of leadership communication. And in the journey to become a master communicator, you're going to have to make some mistakes.
You're going to have to embrace those mistakes, learn from them, move on, and try to apply the principle or technique again in the future. Eventually, you'll master that technique or principle if you will commit yourself to the journey of learning to master leadership communication, rather than just know about leadership communication. You can talk like a leader.