Problem? What Problem?
It has become conventional wisdom that expertise can be achieved by putting in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Although some argue that there are other traits such as genetic gifts or innate talent that contribute to success, that seems to me somewhat irrelevant because you are only likely to make that commitment to something you enjoy - and enjoyment tends to be related to success in the area.
But how many people are able to do only the things they enjoy? With nearly any job there are elements we don't like: The rock star who enjoys playing in front of crowds but hates life on the road. The football player who hates lifting weights. The technical expert who doesn't enjoy managing people. Some can find intrinsic motivation to improve in these areas, because they see them as necessary to being able to do the things they do enjoy. Others need more encouragement.
And encouragement is exactly what Dale Carnegie says we should provide. "Make the fault seem really easy to correct," he advises. It is probably best to begin with praise. Any task can be broken down into many components. Surely the person is doing one of them well. Start by focusing on that.
"You write well, you just need a few tips to make it punchier."
"You are naturally strong, you just need a little work on form."
"You are already great at the technical skills - we just need to develop a couple of tools for dealing with other people."
In some cases it may be possible to use the "perfect adjustment." Developed by the Gracie family of Brazilian jiu-jitsu fame, it is a sort of mental jiu-jitsu move. When the instructor sees that an arm is in the wrong position he simply moves it to the correct position and says "perfect." Particularly for skills that involve motor memory this can be a highly effective technique.
I encourage you to try Carnegie's method the next time a child, or a colleague, is doing something wrong. Find something to praise, offer encouragement, and make the problem seem easy to correct. Let me know how it works.
Photo by Tim Ebbs