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You strive for excellence in everything you do – especially your career. You read the latest books and you study the best new techniques. At times, though, you may wonder if it will ever come together. Surely there must be a better way. There is: it’s called “modeling.” In a nutshell, modeling means precisely duplicating the strategy of the person who is already achieving the result you want.
Quite a mouthful, but think of it in terms of that recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation, mother to daughter, but has never actually been written out. What if you wanted to make that dish (duplicate that result)? What would you do? You could taste the dish, and through much trial and error, attempt to duplicate the result. Or, a much more effective method would be to put the cook in the kitchen and carefully observe the exact ingredients, the amount of each ingredient, the order the ingredients are combined, the temperature used to cook the dish and for what length of time the dish is cooked. At the end of that period of detailed observation, you would have a recipe (strategy) that could be followed to product the exact result every time. Simple.
Let me give you a real world example. In 1984, the U.S. Army experimented with a new training initiative called The Jedi Project. The aim of the experiment was to use the modeling technique to increase the efficiency of .45 pistol shooting training. One of the major reasons this skill was chosen was because the .45 had a reputation for being hard to handle: some shooters could get no reproducible results with the weapon while others swore by its effectiveness. (Sounds like some of the sales techniques you’ve learned, doesn’t it?) Here’s specifically how the task force used the modeling skill. First, they identified the three best .45 shooters. Second, the experts were questioned in detail about their beliefs surrounding shooting. They were asked about their confidence levels, what shooting meant to them, what pre-shooting rituals they engaged in, and what they said to themselves while shooting. The experts also shared their belief that shooting is 20 percent physical and 80 percent mental. Third, the experts were observed while shooting: their stance, body posture, muscle tone, pistol grip, arm position, breathing. Fourth, the task force distilled all the information gathered and extracted the one critical element that all three experts had in common: mental rehearsal. This element is known as the “difference that makes the difference,” the element that, if taken away, drastically reduces the rate of success. This element may be a belief, a physical action, or a mental exercise. For these expert shooters, mentally rehearsing the visual (sights), auditory (sounds) and kinesthetic (feelings) details of shooting was this key element.
After eliciting all the physical and mental elements of the experts’ recipe (strategy), the task force trained their test group by using the specific physical components and mental attitudes in the exact order they had modeled from the experts. In order to remove any bias, a control group of shooters was trained in the conventional manner. The result? In the control group, 73% of shooters qualified after 27 hours of training. In the test group, the ones modeling the experts, 100% of the shooters qualified after only 12 hours of training. Sounds like a skill worth mastering, doesn’t it?
So how specifically can you use modeling to enhance your career? Let’s review the steps.
Step one: Identify a role model.
Who is already accomplishing the result you’re looking to achieve? An effective addition to this step is to find a number of people who are experts at this skill; you can refine the strategy even more quickly by comparing their responses. Elements that are repeated immediately stand out as important, whereas elements that are part of only one person’s strategy, or elements that are contradictory, can be eliminated as non-essential to the overall strategy.
Step two: Put the cook in the kitchen.
In order to accurately elicit the specific results strategy, the expert must be fully associated to the experience that you are modeling. One simple way to get a person fully associated is by asking him to remember a specific time when he was in the flow of achieving that result. Ask him to step back into that experience, as if it were happening to him right now. It may be helpful to have him close his eyes in order to better imagine the experience. This is a very important step. Many times, an expert has become so proficient in his skill, that he unconsciously follows his success strategy. If you attempt to elicit his strategy when he is not “in state,” you will get intellectual responses that may or may not accurately reflect all the details of the strategy. He honestly may not know exactly what he does! But you can figure it out by following these steps.
Step three: Uncover the expert’s belief systems.
Become an investigator. While your role model is fully associated, ask him specific, detailed questions about his beliefs and attitudes surrounding the particular skill. What does being an expert at this skill mean to him? What value does he believe this skill adds to others? To himself? Any question that helps your role model share his beliefs is a great question. As a final question, you may even ask, “What else do you believe about this skill?” Asking “what else?” after all answers seem exhausted, prompts the expert to look even more deeply into himself, and very often produces insightful responses. Another valuable technique is to ask the same question in different ways and compare the answers. Are they consistent?
Step four: Elicit the specific results strategy.
While your role model is fully associated, ask him questions to determine the specific sequence of actions that he takes. Ask, “What is the very first thing that you see, hear, feel or do when you are doing X?” Then ask, “What is the next thing that you see, hear, feel or do when you are doing X?” Continue asking until the sequence is complete. If, during this process, your role model is knocked out of state (for example, if it becomes apparent that he is intellectually answering your questions as opposed to experiencing the answers), stop and have him get fully associated before continuing.
In this step you are looking for the specific ingredients, the amount of each ingredient and the exact order that each ingredient is added. For example, the .45 pistol shooting experts all revealed that prior to each shooting match they mentally rehearsed every shot. By specifically including the visual (see), auditory (hear) and kinesthetic (feel/do) modes in these questions, you prompt your expert to bring forth all the details they have stored in their subconscious mind. You want to know what they picture, and when, what they say to themselves, and when, and what they feel and do, and when during the sequence each of these things happen. This is your recipe.
Make sure that your role model’s answers also include his specific physiology (posture, gestures, breathing, facial expressions) at each step; tailor your questions to elicit as much detailed information as you possibly can. An invaluable addition here is to observe your role model in action. This will allow you to pick up on nuances he may not even be aware of!
Step five: Find the “difference that makes the difference.”
If you were able to model more than one person, compare the answers you received. Is there any one component that all agreed was essential? Compare your new recipe with the strategy of someone who is getting good, but not outstanding, results. What is/are the main difference(s)? Finally, ask your expert! In his opinion, what is the most important element in his strategy?
Now that you have your expert’s strategy for success you can duplicate the results each and every time that you follow the recipe. As you go along, you’ll add your own style and even make improvements. All the knowledge in the world, however, won’t benefit you unless you take action. You know what to do and you know how to do it. It’s time to take action. Find a cook, put him in the kitchen, and you’re on your way to creating massive, lasting change in your career and in your life. Have fun with it!
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