alt text image of a people practicing tai chi

Practice, Forms, Kata, and Relationships

The martial artist practices their form, their kata, thousands of times. They rehearse each movement, perfecting it, combining it with the next movement until it flows perfectly. When they’re not practicing their kata, they practice each of the individual movements over and over again until it becomes second nature. The martial artist also spars and practices their art under scenarios that closely match the conditions they’ll face if they’re ever called upon to use their skills to defend themselves or others.

The reason for so much repetition, so much deliberate practice, is that the right response no longer requires thought; it’s build into their reflexes. The martial artist no longer needs to think about what to do because the response is built into their nervous system. This saves time and reduces the likelihood that they are injured. They don’t overreact or under-react. They respond appropriately.

Business As an Art

In business, we generally don’t spend much time practicing. We don’t practice dealing with the every day scenarios where business is won and lost, where clients hearts and minds are won—or lost. We don’t develop the language choices that demonstrate how much we care about people, opting instead for transactional approaches that save time and money at the cost of relationships.

You think you need to win wallets, but you really need to win hearts and minds. At its core, business is about hearts and souls. It’s about caring, and it’s about human relationships.

As a leader, you need to take your team off the field to rehearse, to practice. You need to help your team develop a set of responses that start by demonstrating that you care deeply about the people you have the pleasure to serve. You need to abandon the transactional for a more appropriate set of responses, and you need your team to rehearse those responses. In the moment of truth, when people are under stress and challenged, you want the default response to generate the right outcome.


How much time do you spend rehearsing for the most important interactions you have with your clients?

Are you more confident when you have an idea about how to achieve the right outcome from difficult interactions?

As a leader, do you take your team off the field for deliberate practice and rehearsal?

As an individual contributor, do you practice or rehearse for important conversations?

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  • Kaptain Mirza

    A.1 – I do rehearse what will be important part to pitch and touch the client with, to pique the emotional interest or pain to be revealed..!!
    A.4 – Yes, sometimes, I do rehearse and sometime I just leave it for the 6th sense to do the job, when I’m prepared.

    But there’s no silver bullet to reach any specific target or achieve a goal / sale. Improvising is the art to master in sales.

  • Mike Kunkle

    As an ex-musician who spent countless hours in a small room or on stage, rehearsing, I understand this approach and fully endorse it. I’ve done it a lot myself and have taught and encouraged others to do the same. The one thing I’d offer for folks to consider about human communication is that while dialogue skills can be taught and learned, great dialogue happens in the moment and often those exact conversations can’t be rehearsed, per se. You can rehearse some things cold, like product information, or specific diagnostic questions. And you can learn a variety of types of questions and dialogue skills, but when the conversation really gets deep and valuable, you often have to craft the best response or question, in the moment. Preparation and rehearsal help, but they won’t take you all the way. You also have to train yourself to get “in the zone” or in “flow.”

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Great analogy, Mike. The highest level conversations are pure “jazz,” but you better have your chops when you sit in with the jazz guys–or you won’t likely be invited back.

  • marc zazeela


    Indeed practice makes perfect. If the best black belts practice the simple kata over and over, I guess it should be good enough for us regular folks too!


    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Plenty good enough for us, Marc! But not often a priority.

      • marc zazeela

        Exactly. Practice takes time. We have to make time to practice because it is as important as anything else we could be doing.