I’m not a bird lover. I have to say that at the get go. I know that many of you in my dear Aspen Edge Community love them. I do love nature and animals, but birds have never really been my thing. Two weeks ago, as I was putting the finishing touches on The Edge, I was distracted by what was happening outside of my office window. For 3 years now, 2 birds have made themselves a cozy home on my front porch. For weeks, mama and papa flew back and forth tirelessly bringing twigs and leaves building their nest. This year, I was privy to the baby birds as they were learning how to fly out of the nest for the first time. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I loved viewing them and became emotionally attached to those young ones. Slowly I began to notice the many parallels there are to leadership.
Mama and papa bird flew determinedly back and forth from the nest encouraging those who hadn’t yet flown the coup, much like great leaders mentor those just starting out, giving them tips and showing them the way. One of the new birdies was very brave. She kept standing on the edge of the nest flapping her wings. I kept thinking she was going to fall, but she kept practicing and practicing…literally hour after hour before she flew from the nest down to the pillar and then back to safety again. Quickly after flying out of the nest, she built so much confidence, she came bounding back and forth encouraging the others. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the bestselling book Outliers, tells us that it takes over 10,000 hours of doing the same thing over and over to become expert at a new skill or ability.
In business, we also need to take smart, calculated risks. We need to stop playing inside of our comfort zone all the time. We need to stretch ourselves to greater heights. And that change won’t happen overnight. A quick google search will tell you the research varies on how long it takes to change a habit. It seems to range from a minimum of 21 days to an average of 66 days as researched by a team at the University College London. The reason for this is our brain likes to take a sequence of actions and convert them into an automatic routine, where it goes into the unconscious portion of the brain. Think about driving your car. To get from point a to point b takes hundreds of small actions that you don’t consciously think about anymore. Have you ever ended up at work and thought, I don’t remember driving here? That’s because you did it repeatedly and it became automatic.
When was the last time you tried to fly the coop with a new leadership skill that was outside of your comfort zone? How often did you practice it before it became natural? How did you encourage others around you with this new skill? I’d love to hear your stories! Please drop me a line.