5 Steps to Mastering Any Skill

August 24th, 2017 by Joelle

Mastering SkillsLearning to master skills helps us get ahead in our work and lives. To do this you need to have a deep understanding of the skill you are trying to perfect. You also need the dedication to put in the needed time and deliberate practice.

“Deliberate practice,” was introduced by researcher, Anders Ericsson who studied this concept for over 30 years. His research shows HOW you practice matters much more than HOW MUCH you practice.

Deliberate practice isn’t running a few miles each day, strumming a guitar for 20 minutes each morning, or grooming a few dogs each day. Deliberate practice is much more purposeful and focused. It might take you five to ten years of deliberate practice to truly master a skill.

To improve anything, you must push beyond your comfort zone. This process can be very difficult. Letting go of what is safe and learning to get comfortable with the unknown is hard for most of us. For some, it is impossible. But when you put sincere effort toward improving a weakness, you will grow.

To become great, experts focus on improving their weaknesses. Practicing on easy things never leads to improvement. Working hard just to work will exhaust you. Working purposefully towards improving is the secret to success.

It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to master a specific breed profile, specialize in a grooming technique, increase your speed, or skillfully run your business. To master any task, you need to focus and practice in a purposeful way.

Here are five ideas to help you stay focused on a skill you want to master.

  1. Deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance. According to Ericsson, “People who play tennis once a week for years don’t get any better if they do the same thing each time. Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time.”
  2. Perfect practice makes perfect. Repetition matters. Do it repeatedly. Football legends don’t practice their specialty briefly at the end of their practice sessions. They repeat the fundamentals of their specialty hundreds of times each week.
  3. Get consistent feedback. You must monitor your progress so you can adjust. Without feedback, you won’t know how to improve. Seek out a mentor or a coach in the area you would like to master. Asked them for consistent criticism and advice.
  4. Identify your weakest area. Focus on improving your weakest skill. Then move on. Don’t beat yourself up.
  5. Be prepared. The process is going to be challenging. It will physically and mentally exhaust you. Mastery takes commitment, focus, and extreme effort.

IMG_20150430_073120When I began a career with dogs, it didn’t take long before I knew I wanted to perfect my skills. I wanted to master pet grooming. I found mentors and coaches who could give me feedback. I read books. I studied images – photos of my own work as well as champions. I intently watched master pet stylists at work. I attended clinics and workshops. I tested my skills in the certification and competition rings. I always asked for feedback and focused on improving my work. I practiced. And practiced. And practiced.

Today, I work with a business coach. Almost every week we have a 90-minute conference call. We focus on our weakest link and ways to improve it. The following week, we review what worked and what didn’t work – then move on to the next weak item on the agenda. Having a coach keeps me accountable, focused, and on track.

Remember – start small. Self-improvement can feel overwhelming. You can’t take on everything. If you do, you’ll feel defeated and never succeed at any of it. Instead, choose one or two skills to focus on at a time. Break down the skill into manageable chunks. Set goals. Get feedback and track your progress.

Along the learning journey, stop to reflect. When you want to move from good… to great… to mastery, you need to stop and spend time reflecting on what you’re doing. If you don’t, the new skill won’t stick. Talk to your mentor, coach, or someone you respect as you go. Talking about your progress assists in getting valuable feedback. It keeps you accountable and it cements the changes.

Be patient with yourself. You are not going to reach perfection right away. Mastery requires perfecting many smaller skills and then putting them all together. It could take months to perfect a single new sub-skill. It will take years to truly master a particular technique or specialize in a field.

You can use these techniques on anything you want to improve or master. Many of us can do something well. True mastery takes it to a much deeper level.

Do you have what it takes to become a master?

Happy trimming!

Melissa

 MVpaw_no_Inner_whiteWhat are the things you’re working to perfect every day? Jump on the Learn2GroomDogs.com Facebook page and tell us about it.

 


4 Ways You Can Make a Better Day

November 3rd, 2016 by Joelle

dogIt’s Monday morning.  You walk into your salon with coffee in hand and look at your appointment book.  Hmmm… You’ve overbooked – and by the look of things, you’ve also scheduled too many oversize dogs.  What’s this?  Uh oh.  THAT customer is coming in today.  The one you can never seem to please.  And your first dog always decorates your table with unpleasant treats throughout the entire groom.

We’ve all had days like this. It’s all part of being a professional pet groomer.

I still remember the day I had 16 dogs on my schedule. When I first looked at my workload, I was totally overwhelmed.

But then I really looked at it…

…and chose positivity over panic.

I changed my thought process and my attitude.  I couldn’t change my schedule, but I could change my outlook.  I couldn’t change the fact that there was a lot of work ahead of me, but if I looked for the positives, I would see how much I stood to gain.

By the end of the day, a lot of dogs were going to look and feel a lot better.  And since I had been a commission-based stylist, I was going to have a lot of money in my pocket – not including the tips that were sure to come! This was going to be a good day!

Have you ever stopped and thought about how a day is going to unfold?  Has it ever dawned on you that you are ultimately in control of the day?  You are.

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Ultimately, we choose our thoughts.  We can also control what we choose to believe.

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So how do you turn your thoughts and beliefs into affirmative actions?  Is the glass half-full or half-empty?  It’s both – and how you choose to interpret how you feel about that fact is what forms your outlook.

Here are 4 ways to mentally take charge of your grooming day that will boost both your outlook and your productivity.

Planning

anchors-aweighUltimately, you oversee your time and choose how to manage it.  To get the most out of your day it makes sense to plan it as efficiently as possible.

When I had a lot of dogs to get through, I chose an assembly line grooming technique.  This works whenever you have two or more pets to work on.  If you are mobile and the family has multiple pets, take them all at once to your mobile unit.

This is the order that has always worked efficiently for me.  I started with bathing the largest and furriest dog, working down the line to the smallest, lightest coated pet.  Once all my pets were bathed, I started the active drying process.  To determine which dog to start with, I simply reversed the order.  I started with the smallest, lightest coated pet working up to the furriest.  Once everybody was bathed and dried, I started the finish process.  Typically, I started with whatever was the fastest and easiest to move through the rotation.

Always look at your whole day, first.  Take a little bit of time to plan and organize it based on what has been scheduled.  No matter how chaotic it looks, if you believe you can get through it – you will.  That’s half the battle!

Focus

All of us are given 168 hours per week.  For those of us that work full time, about one quarter of it will be spent at work.  That’s not a bad trade if you are passionate about your job.  Plus, it offers the opportunity to earn a living by doing what you enjoy.

Yet, no matter how passionate you are about grooming – it can become unsatisfying or even stressful if you do not learn how to manage your time and focus.

I know stylists that are extremely happy doing just four dogs a day.  If you are one of those groomers – consider yourself very fortunate.  You have the luxury of time.  There are many professional groomers who rely heavily on grooming to support their families and need to groom more pets to sustain their lifestyle and standard of living.

Most efficient, seasoned pros can do between 6 and 12 dogs a day without sacrificing safety or quality.  If they work with an assistant, their productivity only goes up.

How do they do it?

They are totally focused on the task.  They are not distracted by phone calls, emails, Facebook, or idle chatter with coworkers.  They are 100% focused on the pet.  Most experienced pet stylists can turn a small to medium size pet in 30 to 60 minutes.  That includes everything:  bath, blow dry, nail trim, ear cleaning, and full brush-out/haircut.  Larger or extremely heavy coated dogs may take a bit longer.

If you are struggling to hit the time mark of one hour or less per dog, eliminate distractions.  Start timing yourself on a regular basis.  Break the grooming process apart and set time goals for each step.  Most people will find the bathing and drying process is the major time hog that can be improved upon.

Don’t Be Perfect

Of course, you need to produce quality results to bring clients back.  But does every pet that walks out your door honestly need to be show ring perfect?  Really perfect?  Not a hair out of place?  Probably not.

Focus on the fundamentals.  Keep the pet safe and injury free.  Get them squeaky, squeaky clean.  Remove all mats, tangles, and loose undercoat.  Get them blown out to perfection (this is where you can shine – most pet parents do not own a high velocity blow dryer).  Get smooth clipper work.  Trim those nails and make sure the ears are clean.  And don’t forget – a super cute face.

Do not nit-pick the job to death.  Even in the contest ring, the grooms are not perfect.  Do the best you can and then move to the next pet.

The Word “No”

There is unbelievable power in this word.  It doesn’t have to be negative and shouldn’t feel uncomfortable to say.

All of us are given 24 hours in a day.  It is up to us to decide how we are going to use it.  If you are overloaded or getting close, the most powerful word in your vocabulary is, “No.”

However, before you use it (especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed) analyze your day.

  • What can you do to make the day more manageable?
  • Do the problems stem from your overall attitude?
  • Is it a lack of experience and/or knowledge of skills causing the problem?
  • Are inefficient products or equipment slowing you down?

If you are truly being pushed to the brink and can’t squeeze anything more out of your grooming day, it might be time to embrace the “less is better” concept.

Even though we all get to choose what we say yes to, there are trade-offs for every choice we make.  If our work days are already full and we say yes to one thing – one more dog, one more customer – we must say no to another item on our agenda.

I have two suggestions for this dilemma.

First, if you have too many customers – and you don’t want to hire more help – you need to eliminate a few clients.  One of the easiest, and most rewarding ways to streamline your client base is to raise your grooming prices.  By raising your prices, you will automatically weed out the customers that do not value or can afford your services.  Typically, you can free up your time without sacrificing your earning capacity.

Your second option is to focus on your most valuable clients.  Those regular clients you see every six weeks or less.  Take the time to schedule them in advance.  Taking control of them first makes it much easier to say “no” to customers who don’t use your services as often.  Many highly regarded pet stylists book a year in advance.  They take full control of their schedule and take care of their most valuable customers.

Both scenarios ultimately utilize the word “no.”  No, you will not cut a special deal for certain clients.  And no, you will not take any clients that do not fit your ideal regular client profile unless you honestly have room to work them in.

Always be aware of your attitudes and how they are affecting your actions.  Always learn from your past but then let it go.  Look forward to creating the future you want.

Life is full of variables.  Our perception becomes our reality.  Whatever you choose to believe will either help you move forward or hold you back.

The choice is yours.  Make it a good one.

~Happy trimming,

Melissa


 
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