CEOs need deliberate practice too

CEOs should improve their skills via deliberate practice

Tennis player Li Na at the 2007 Medibank International in Sydney, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often use sports analogies in my writing and teaching, and an article by Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project – fittingly titled The 6 Keys To Being Awesome At Everything – caught my eye as both a tennis player and a CEO veteran. Because performance in sports is so easily measured, we have made great progress in understanding how to drive performance through practice. As Tony relates, Anders Ericsson, the top researcher in high performance, has found that individuals can greatly improve their performance with “deliberate practice.” The concept of deliberate practice describes the intense effort required to reach the highest levels of any human endeavor – around 10,000 hours.

Knowing this need for practice, it is always surprising to me how most CEOs spend almost no time trying to improve their skills as CEO. They seem to feel that with the title they have reached a level where improvement is no longer necessary. I believe the CEO role is the most challenging position in any business, requiring constant learning and improvement to reach even moderate levels of performance.

When did you last take time to perform deliberate practice as CEO?

Related article:

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Can 10,000 Hours Of Practice Make Perfect? (TechCrunch)


  1. Hi Joel, I would say that the majority of professionals think that they don’t need to brush up their “professionals” skills outside work hours – there is a common-sense division between personal and professional life that people try to keep managing (but aren’t they all part of the same life?). What do you think?


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