Imagine you have a big problem to solve.
And it has become overwhelming – or it may – with everything else that’s also underway.
It’s time to call in an expert, you say?
But who – for you and this circumstance – is the right one?
Before you look for the masterful resources, reinforcements or experienced clean-up crew for the problem you’re solving, stop and think a few things through.
Consider, for example:
1. Are you sure you need an expert?
You may not.
You may be the best person to solve the problem, even if you think that you don’t have the time or experience or confidence to do so.
Consider the immediate circumstance, and the consequences and benefits of solving this problem on your own, compared to bringing in someone who may can do the job faster and better this time around…but will take the skills with him or her when this work is done…unless they teach, coach or mentor people in your organization while they work.
2. If you need an expert, what do they need to be an expert in?
You may be hiring a technical expert, or someone who’s experienced in managing major change.
Perhaps you need someone to create a new product, process or service for you, or someone who can find better and more cost-effective ways of getting your work done.
Consider, also, if the expertise you need exists in one person, or if you need to look for a few.
3. What role do you want the expert to play for you?
Consider what you want them to do for you, specifically, and how much you can and want to be involved in solving this problem.
- Are they doing all the work for you, start to finish?
- Are they working with you by collaborating or coaching?
- Are they helping you solve this problem and also teaching you how to prevent it or minimize it, if it ever happens again?
- Will your right expert primarily be there to give you confidence, and to be your backup team, making sure nothing goes wrong as you solve this problem?
4. What’s the best way to find your expert?
Some of the places you might check include websites, LinkedIn and other social media, professional associations, alumni organizations, and your own professional and personal networks to find someone well-qualified, and with whom you can work well.
Also, ask for referrals from people who have experience with this type of problem, and have successfully solved it using the help of outside experts.
5. How will you recognize your expert?
Consider what criteria and credentials are important to you in the expert you hire.
- Is their educational background important to you?
It may be. It may not.
- What experience and affiliations do they need to have, if any, to give you confidence they can do the job?
- What prior experience did they need to have in solving this type of problem?
- Is it important to you that they have experience in your industry?
- What working style makes you most comfortable when you work with experts?
Some people are most comfortable working with people who are collaborative, while others seek the firm hand of very directive experts.
Still others like mentoring-style expertise, or a flexible combination of styles, depending on the situation in which they’re involved.
6. Do you need your expert to be able to share their knowledge, leaving you and your team with more skills than you had before?
Or is it OK if they solve this problem – just get the job done as fast and well as they can – and move on?
Many experts have a hard time sharing what they know. Others don’t have any interest in sharing their knowledge, for any of a variety of reasons.
When she was in college, our daughter needed help building her skills and confidence with college chemistry.
The only people she could find as tutors were primarily PhD candidates whose love for chemistry and knowledge were so deep that they had a hard time comprehending what a frightened, overwhelmed freshman didn’t know and couldn’t see.
It was hard in that case for our daughter to find her right expert – and all the while she was getting further behind in college chemistry.
That’s why great experts are, in many cases, like great teachers, worth their weight in gold.
7. Is there any downside for you in working with experts?
Expertise is not to be taken lightly.
And yet, expertise can sometimes restrict creative thought.
Great inventions often come from someone with little or no experience in the industry involved.
Their eyes are fresh, their assumptions are few, and their intuition and creativity are turned on “high,” focusing on their target of having the problem solved, few limitations clouding their beliefs and expectations about what they can consider in getting that job done.
And here’s one final thought.
It’s easy for people to make assertions about their expertise, sometimes without much information to back it up.
But expertise is not swagger, “war stories,” broad assertions, perceived or presumed bragging rights.
It’s a hard-earned asset that can be a relative life saver for you and your company, when an expert is the right one for the job.
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