Speaker Profile: Art Turock

“Competence is Not an Option” and “Developing Good Managers into Great Leaders” are the two presentations that Art Turock will make at the 2012 PMPA Management Update Conference.


“Competence is Not an Option” and “Developing Good Managers into Great Leaders” are the two presentations that Art Turock will make at the 2012 PMPA Management Update Conference. The conference takes place February 24-26 at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla in San Diego, Calif.

Mr. Turock, whose job title is “Elite Performance Provocateur,” believes that for companies to build bench strength and compete long-term, management development must be a core competence. In his words, the management team has to move from being merely competent performers to being elite performers.

“Competent managers plan and direct so that work gets done,” Mr. Turock explains. “Elite managers not only get results, but they simultaneously improve the capabilities of their people so they can produce better results in the future. Elite managers are superb coaches both in one-on-one interactions and in designing a work process that enables their people to continuously practice and raise their skill proficiency.”

Mr. Turock says he focuses on being a disturbance to his clients in order to shake up status quo thinking. “You must disturb managers’ mindsets to move them from competent to elite,” he says. To achieve that, he uses what he calls “Mission Unreasonable Projects.” In year-long client engagements, he conducts quarterly seminars for senior management teams, sales leadership teams or emerging talent groups. In between the seminars, he conducts phone coaching to encourage participants on their projects.

“Doing work the way they had been doing it will not get managers to elite performance,” Mr. Turock continues. “In order to succeed, they have to initiate a behavior change, which appears unreasonable in terms of the effort or the perceived risk. They are aware of the behavior changes they need to make, but they don’t act because of apprehension about unwanted outcomes. But relying on what’s worked in the past actually undermines what’s now desired for results.”

Mr. Turock recalls that his own wake-up call regarding an inflated sense of competence came from his recent involvements in sports. “Sports is a field where nothing is left to chance in talent development,” he explains. “I took up sprinting at age 56 and saw a dramatic improvement in my capabilities as a sprinter. I was amazed at how my coach was able to produce results in such a short time.

“He was using methods that sports teams take for granted and which elite performance researchers call deliberate practice,” Mr. Turock adds. “Deliberate practice means doing tasks that initially feel uncomfortable and doing them over and over again,” he explains. “It is time-consuming, but the other option is never improving.

“Every player and coach has gone through deliberate practice,” he stresses. “If they don’t continuously improve, they don’t make the cut or win the big games. Research shows that deliberate practice is more important than ‘God-given talent’ in determining who become the elite performers in a field. With deliberate practice, employees get better and better. Stars aren’t born; they are made by engaging in 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.”

Mr. Turock believes that businesses can learn a lot from sports on how to develop people. “In the business world, who has time to practice all week for one game on Sunday?” he asks. “Game day for most companies is 5 days a week. There appears to be an unavoidable trade-off between getting work done and building capabilities. Most people think they have to choose one or the other, but you can actually do both. The cumulative effect is continuous improvement.”

How do people get work done and get better in their skill set?

Mr. Turock points to job-embedded development opportunities. “That’s where you’re getting work done but your mind is also assessing what is effective or ineffective in your efforts,” he says. “By taking a few minutes to alter your work process, your skills get better.”

He mentions meetings as an example. “Meetings are often seen as an intrusion to getting real work done. But they don’t have to be. Instead of mindlessly running through agenda items, meetings can be designed to practice skills for decision-making, idea generation and strategic thinking.”

Mr. Turock wants his audience to take two things away from his presentations. “First, I want people to be open to discovering those areas where they can do better. Make a list of those occasions when you’ve settled for being competent or where you’re just winging it.”

His second take-away is urging managers to become great coaches. “Typically, managers are involved in planning and making sure the plan is executed,” he says. “They should also give time to becoming a great coach. A great coach goes beyond teaching someone a skill.

“In my PMPA presentations, attendees will learn to dismantle a coachee’s self-imposed obstacles to behavior change. Elite coaches disturb a coachee’s mindset so his or her normal sense of unreasonable constraints comes to be seen as manageable, wimpy and even absurd.
“Walk around the plant and look for opportunities where you can provide coaching,” Mr. Turock advises. “Share your knowledge and capabilities with your people.”

Art Turock is an elite performance provocateur who helps businesses translate elite performance research and the talent development practices of sports teams to develop superior capabilities for a competitive advantage. His low-cost, high-impact methods are extremely relevant for “hunker down” times.