Expertise as power
It may be tempting to learn a skill and keep that skill to ourselves.
To become the best at doing something, because we perceive experts are in short supply.
The theory is, if we are the only ones that can do something, we can charge more for what we do, we’ll be in high demand, and we’ll never be out of work.
There are a few problems with the theory.
When you’re the highest paid, you are automatically evaluated when times get lean. Do we really need that level of expertise? Can we get by with someone a little less skilled for less money?
Also, the value of an expert that is the “only one” is limited to one.
Sharing power creates exponential value
But what if we can be experts that are multipliers? Experts that create more value and generate more savings, opportunities, or revenue than the amount of our paycheck?
Now we have a winning formula.
How much of your day do you spend problem solving? It could be responding to requests from senior leaders, helping team members work through an issue, or just figuring out where to park in the morning.
If you’re anything like me, it seems like every day is a stream of problems waiting to be solved (or prevented).
Problem solving is the bread and butter of all leaders – it’s what we do and where we shine. Not only do we tackle problems directly, we are charged with empowering and coaching others to solve continually more challenging problems.
A Leader’s Role in Problem Solving
The easy thing to do, when presented with a problem by someone on our team, is to solve it. After all, it’s what we do. However, just because we can solve a problem doesn’t mean we should.
When helping someone else with a problem, problem solving skills may or may not get a workout – depending on whether we have seen a problem like this before and already possess the wherewithal to figure it out.
When we empower our people to solve the problem, however, both of us get development. We exercise our coaching skills (and our restraint…sometimes we just want to jump in!) and our folks build their problem solving skills. By enabling others, we raise the capability of us both.
Whether we are solving a problem ourselves, or guiding someone else through the process, there is a quick rule of thumb we can use to make sure we understand and are solving the right problem…the Rules of 5.
When we receive critical feedback or a bad review, ideally it is partnered with on-going and actionable feedback from our manager that can help us move forward productively.
What should we do if the feedback isn’t very clear?
Sometimes, it’s difficult to provide actionable feedback. The WHAT we do could be fine, but HOW we do it may need some work. If we say and do all the right things, we can still be perceived negatively. It may be difficult for our manager to help us understand why and what to do about it.
Vague feedback is easy to ignore
Vague feedback can be very frustrating. Years ago, I was told I made “some people” feel uncomfortable. When I pushed, there was no specific incident, nothing I said or did, and no contacts that I could speak with for more information.
With no specifics, I asked the question I was most concerned about: “Do I step on people or treat them poorly in my attempts to move things forward?”
The answer was “No. Your team, customers and partners all respect you and the way you interact with them.”
So I dismissed the feedback.
Bad idea. The feedback was still be meaningful, IF I could figure out what it meant and what to do about it. It took many years, and input from an executive coach, but I finally figured it out.
Everywhere we turn, we can find advice on how to be a better version of ourselves. A better leader, employee, spouse, parent or friend.
In order to improve anything, we must take action. Read this article. Attend this conference. Follow x steps to a better blah blah blah.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sure, assuming we don’t already have a full plate. That we aren’t over-scheduled, overloaded and overwhelmed.
The Importance of Creating Time and Space
Last month, I attended Mass Conference for Women. Following the event, I was asked to participate in a panel, where several of us shared our experience.
At the end, we were asked to relate the most important take-away that we would bring back to our role, team or life.
My aha moment wasn’t at the conference itself. The sessions were interesting and provided good insight in a number of areas, but by themselves, they offered little value without two critical components: time and space.
I realized those were the true gifts the conference offered. Time away from my desk, team, and family was not enough. I also had to let go of my daily commitments long enough to actively listen and engage.
While we may be able to find time, it is only by creating space that we open ourselves to opportunity. If our heads are buzzing with a million and one things, there is no room left for new information.
Creating mental and physical distance for our commitments creates capacity for learning. For our aha moments.
Of all leadership responsibilities, developing our people is arguably more important than whatever the “job” is that we’re assigned.
As we progress in our careers, our views on development shift. Early on, it’s about building practical skills that can make us better in our current role, or prepare us for the next one.
It is only later that we can start to see that it’s not about those practical skills. It’s the cycle of learning and applying that matters.
I’ve been responsible for the development of a wide variety of people. From interns and individuals early in their careers, to those on the sunset who are approaching retirement.
Regardless of where they are in their journey, I have similar advice when asked about their development.
It’s not a class. Or a book. Or a mentor. While each of those may offer some amount of value, how many of us walk away from any specific development activity with more than one or two nuggets we can apply?
Instead, it’s a mindset. The earlier we develop it, the further we can go and the better positioned we are to take those nuggets and turn them into action.
We can learn anything, do anything, if we break through natural limits and fears that would otherwise hold us back. That prevent us from realizing our full abilities.
So what is the magic? They are nine secrets that are no secret and no magic. Just life lessons that we can master or let them master us.
Leaders expect you to be good at your job. After all, that is why they hired you. Who gets hired to deliver crap? While you may have seen some that do, they certainly were not hired to.
But I am awesome at my job, you may think. So what? The only thing that tells a leader is you are good at this job. What certainty does he or she have you will be any good at another?
Performance in your current role a good indication of future capability, but not a certainty. What makes you an expert in this role is likely not the same set of skills and abilities that will make you an expert in the next one.
So what do we have to do to get promoted, if being awesome at a job is not enough?
We have to show we can be more than awesome.
Anyone can work hard. Anyone can be really great at the job they are assigned to. So what can an individual do to demonstrate their readiness for another role or level? Do more.
It is not about working harder. Remember that the assumption is you work hard already. It is about doing different things than your job to demonstrate flexibility and adaptability, a willingness to go the extra mile, and the ability to stretch.
These are all characteristics that go beyond the current role. They show potential for greater responsibility across a wider array of opportunities than just your current position.