Back to Basics

Practicing the basics is a low cost habit  that creates high payoff results. – Justin Liesen 

Basic Competencies are Better than Advanced Techniques 
This past week my team was invited to attend an exercise as part of our deployment readiness validation. Part of the exercise included an after action review (AAR – we love our acronyms). The AAR is where we come together at the end of an event (after the action) and share any lessons we learned from that specific experience (we review). This specific AAR was new for me because I was acting in a support role and for the majority of the exercise was unaware of many of the other teams’ operations. Some of the teams requested more gear, others more training, many were introspective on their lessons, but all learned something. What I found most interesting was that it sounded a lot like many of the AARs in which I participated when I was in similar shoes. At the end of the comments, one of the senior leaders for the group thanked everyone for their input and imparted some of his own observations. He reinforced a lesson that should have been obvious to me but I completely missed throughout the week. He told us that when we peel back the layers on the teams and units we see as having the best gear or training we actually find that the gear and advanced training are not what make them great. He said that those teams are at the top of their games because they become the best at the basics, they practice until their core competencies become second nature. He asked us to imagine what we would do with two extra hours at the end of each day.
Daily Focused Training 
As I thought about his question, I felt that he had a good point about identifying and prioritizing our time. I also realized that I should ask myself something similar at the beginning rather than the end of the day. Each day I need to ask, “which core competency do I need to train today?”
  1. Asking at the beginning of the day directs me to dedicate time to continual practice and improvement. It ensures that I am setting my own priorities for the day rather than falling victim to others’ priorities. 
  2. Asking which core competency, it helps me to identify which specific task my boss and my team expect me to maintain proficiency. 
  3. Asking the question in the singular helps me to focus on one thing rather than becoming overwhelmed with a potentially long list of competencies that I can work on in a day. 
  4. Asking what needs attention today clarifies the most pressing priorities, gives me internal urgency, and creates a deadline for practicing. 
Each day we have the potential to focus on those key aspects that make us successful in our roles as leadership. Throughout the day we come across many distractors that pull us away from our own priorities and push our attention toward someone else’s. setting a daily habit that brings us back to our own priorities and ensures that we are in the path that we set for ourselves. 
What is the low cost core competency that you can train today and would result in a big payoff?
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