Have you noticed that everyone seems to be an expert these days? A while ago I was impressed, and slightly overawed, by many of these experts. Then I was impressed more with their ‘front’ than their expertise.
I had started noticing that some ‘experts’ in the same field were offering diametrically opposing advice, and so many others were selling ‘expert’ packages online that have very limited value. So now I am suffering from expertise fatigue.
I have been in networking meetings where there has been discussion around profile raising and positioning and marketing oneself as an expert to attract clients. The cynic in me has thought ‘Really, all of us?’.
Surely we can’t all be experts? Surely there needs to be a differentiator to warrant such an accolade? Surely, like beauty, expertise is in the eye of the beholder?
One definition of an expert is ‘A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area’.
Marketing yourself as an expert is risky. Earlier in the year I went to a presentation on a subject of which I have a good working knowledge, and I was interested to learn more. But what a disappointment.
The ‘expert’ presenter could best be described as competent. They certainly didn’t know any more than I did, and their response to questions showed gaps in their knowledge. I would even go further and say that they put out some misinformation in the name of expertise. For me, this presenter lacked credibility because I didn’t see any expertise, and as a result I didn’t find them trustworthy. I later found I was not the only one to feel this.
I have on occasion, when asked what is my area of expertise, commented with tongue firmly planted in my cheek, that ‘I am an expert in GTD*… getting things done’. In a deeply unfashionable way I am unashamedly a generalist. I have a competence and knowledge across many business areas, and I have a practical approach that gets results. But more than anything, I know my limits and when expertise is required, I hire it in.
What makes an expert?
The Harvard Business Review, citing scientific research, states that…
‘true expertise is mainly the product of years of intense practice and dedicated coaching. Ordinary practice is not enough: to reach elite levels of performance, you need to constantly push yourself beyond your abilities and comfort level. Such discipline is the key to becoming an expert in all domains, including management and leadership.’
Characteristics of an expert
- They have an in-depth understanding of their customers, knowing what they need and want.
- They know their own industry in detail, keeping up with news, trends and innovations, so they can provide the most relevant and up-to-date information to their clients.
- They share information and expertise, both online and offline, and may have gained recognition in the media.
- They contribute to other people’s publications and promotions and align themselves in collaboration with other respected experts.
- They have built a credible bank of endorsements from customers, peers and other industry experts.
So this ‘expert’ status is not something that can be acquired overnight, it takes time and effort, consistently and constantly, and a real desire to be the best.
I have had the pleasure to meet and learn from some great experts, specialists constantly learning and honing their skills. These are professionals who truly stand out from the crowd of self-appointed wannabe experts. They exude credibility, and generally wouldn’t dream of calling themselves an expert. They leave that to others.
What do you think? Do leave me a comment below.