Expertise is an interesting thing.
I recently encouraged a coaching client to start a business to which he replied, “Who am I to do that?!” I responded, “Yeah, but who am I?” He said, “You’re an expert! No one would listen to me.”
Whoa...wait. What?! I’m an expert?
This got me thinking, if he perceives me as an expert, how did I get there? How did I get to the point where an individual believes I’m expert enough in something to pass along advice and coaching and merit pay in return??
For me, it’s a five step process.
Here’s how to become an expert in almost anything:
Step One: Real experience.
In both of the worlds I live in — leadership and career — I don’t just make stuff up. I speak from experience. I don’t tell other peoples’ stories. I tell my own. Expertise has come from the school of life -- from hating my job then trying something new before eventually finding a career I love. From ineffectively leading people and working for equally ineffective leaders before studying how to lead, learning more about my own leadership, and striving to improve.
The implication here is that if you don’t have experience in the area you want to be an expert in, go get some experience! Better yet, try something and fail at it. Then get better. Voila! Expertise.
Step Two: Harness talent.
Once I identified my areas of interest — leadership and career — I had to choose my piece of the pie. Would I plan events in those fields? Write books? Speak? Teach? Coach? Start a company? To answer the question of “where do I fit” within the expertise I looked to my talents. I’m good at synthesizing information for people (coaching and teaching), delivering content in a meaningful way (teaching and training), and researching information relevant to the topic (writing, teaching, coaching, and training). I’m weak with logistics and details (event planning) and operations (running a business).
Stick to the part of the field you do best. People will honor your expertise in that specific area.
Step Three: Know the content.
This is key. The biggest gap between experts and non-experts is in content knowledge. If you don’t understand the underlying content that drives the industry, you can’t effectively speak the language. I’ve immersed myself in a deep study of leadership and career articles, books, curricula, journal articles, and other research to learn the fundamentals of the fields. What I’ve found is that really smart people have taken the time to conduct meaningful studies that give credibility to the experiences I’ve had in Step One. Make the connections and articulate them clearly and those you’re trying to lead as an expert will grant you credibility in return.
Step Four: Define and deliver your key message.
What do you have to say? It’s one thing to believe "all people can love their career” or “the best leaders are authentic,” but you can’t build a business on that. Get specific about what you believe, why it’s true, and how others can go and do it. Define the key message and the steps they may take. Develop the system -- the "how." This is why I wrote RESET — I believe anyone can love what they do and here are the steps to do it.
Getting clear about your key message does two things: it builds your confidence and it also attracts those individuals who believe (or want to believe) the same things.
Step Five: Interact.
Expertise is never built in a silo. I can do steps One through Four but nobody becomes an expert in isolation. Connect with other experts and thought-leaders, but more importantly connect with the people a little further back on the trail who need a few tips and points to advance to the next stage. This is your audience. The more you connect and add value, the more your expertise grows. People share with other people the value you have to add and nothing builds expertise quite like a third-party testimonial.
Do these five steps consistently over a period of time and you’ll become an expert. Skip a step at your own risk.
There is no shortcut to expertise, but there is value in becoming an expert.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
I post here once a week on Tuesdays, every week, at 4:59am. You can also sign up below to have these posts magically air-dropped straight to your inbox.