Follow an Expert
by Colle Davis
Several years ago, I saw an excellent example of following an expert. I was invited as a guest for a weekend at Sebring Raceway in Florida. One of my hosts, Jim, was a sports photographer specializing in auto racing. He built his career taking pictures of new drivers, sending them a couple of pictures, and offering to send them more photos; he also offered to attend their next event to focus on them.
His business snowballed in an intensely competitive industry. Auto racing is a money pit; those involved in the sport have the money to spend documenting their proud achievements.
Jim had more interest in racing than just photographing the drivers. His real dream was to learn how to drive a race car. So, a few years ago, he finally booked an appointment to drive a NASCAR stockcar at a major track. The process required him to spend a couple of hours in a simulator and in a classroom setting, which also covered safety requirements, procedures, and what to expect in the car.
Then, Jim was to follow a professional driver around the track as the driver gradually increased his speed. The idea was to see how fast he could drive before he could no longer keep up with the professional.
A funny thing happened. The professional drove faster and faster, and Jim kept up with him by following the same lines and staying the same distance behind. Then, the speed picked up, and at some point, his only focus was keeping his distance behind the pro. Finally, after a dozen laps, they came into the pit area to discuss his progress.
The pro approached Jim’s car and asked how long he had been driving professionally. He responded, “I’ve never been in a race car before. This was my first time.”
This answer caused the pro to raise his eyebrows and comment, “You were staying up with me up to the limit of the tires and the track; that is professional-level driving. Congratulations, I’ve never seen that before. How did you do it?”
Jim learned how to drive on a track in a method called modeling by watching and duplicating the behavior of the professional drivers he photographed on the track. His mind and body modeled their abilities. He had no preconceived ideas of how to drive a race car at high speeds. He was following the pro and letting his body do the work.
1) You can use modeling to learn new skills, become better at those you already know, or see how you are doing by being more detached so you can critique what you are doing.
The use of firearms, especially pistols, is taught the same way in the military. The learners watched their instructor demonstrate the entire process: picking up the gun, loading it, taking the correct stance, aiming, pulling the trigger, and lowering the weapon. Then it was the learner’s turn. The instructor ensured the learner stayed on track throughout the process.
2) We are all capable of learning by watching, modeling, and doing. Many of us
learn to bake and cook using the same modeling process.
One of the best tools for modeling is YouTube. Millions of people turn to YouTube to learn how to fix a toilet, solve a problem on your computer, design a greeting card, hem a pair of jeans, cut down a tree, or any of thousands of other skills one needs to know today. I have enjoyed learning or improving several different skills on YouTube because there is no other way to obtain that information.
How do you learn leadership skills? Many model a leader they admire or have access to often enough to see how leadership works.
3) Mentoring is a refined modeling process where the mentor focuses on their protégé
to help them become a powerful and effective leader.
- What has to happen for you to get a mentor?
- Ask a leader you admire to be your mentor.
- They will be pleasantly surprised, but in many instances, they may refuse to be your mentor.
- Keep asking others to be your mentor. The mentor does not have to be in your company or organization. It helps because of exposure time, but it looks to those in your chosen industry as models.
Or, you can hire an Executive Coach who can combine all the best modeling parts into a program to get you to your goal/outcome quickly and elegantly. It’s your choice. You have gained the knowledge, and applying it is the next step.