When experts don’t know everything

By Martin Tothill

Martin lives to help and grow others to be the best leaders they can and in turn inspire a future generation of followers to do the very same.

All Catseye clients are smart. You're an expert in your field. What more is there left to learn?

You spend, or have spent, a substantial amount of your own time getting really good at what you do. And this often defines you. “I’m a tax specialist – auditor – lawyer – financial controller…” This goes for all professionals who invest time and effort in mastering their trade. However, over the course of time, roles evolve and people find their responsibilities expanding. Welcome to leadership!

But what about all that other stuff you learnt in the early days - the lectures, the books, the exams? Must you forget all of that to progress in your career? Not exactly. But many find the transition a challenge. We have summed it up in a simple image above.

The technical aspect of the job, which provided much of the challenge and development in the early years, established you as credible member of whatever “club” you joined. You feel accomplished, confident and at home.

Then senior management see your potential and start helping you shape your future. This future sounds attractive but will require you to build some different skills - developing others, building teams, client relationships, even growing the business. And these (new) people skills seem quite unlike the regular work you’ve been doing up until now. It sounds like quite a change and where do you start?

Great leaders adopt a growth mindset for continuous personal development, which stretches them, makes them hungry for feedback and sees failures along the way as part of learning. Stepping away from the familiar (technical) tasks to a more people oriented approach to business may even seem counter intuitive as well as different. 

Developing a more emotionally intelligent view of your role in the business – from talent management to growing the business - will help you discover new things about yourself and might even change up your day job (which could be a blessing for some).

Why not see your career as a life long learning curve, with pockets of expertise along the way. Don’t let what you’ve been good at in the past limit your next great steps. Churchill said ‘to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often’.


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