Effective Skills for Technical Experts
Why experts need to adopt a consulting approach.
With so many requests to answer and stakeholders to satisfy, it’s tempting to solve issues fast and jump to the solution. It’s a natural survival strategy in our over busy world. But could this behaviour be doing us more harm than good?
Proficient at ‘jumping to solutions’, experts – no matter where we fit across the business – can tell what’s needed long before the person asking for advice has finished describing their situation. Or, colleagues already have a reasonably specific idea of what they want from us and aren’t really open to alternative suggestions – so we jump to their solutions. What could possibly be wrong with giving them what they’re asking for – even if we sense they really need something else?
Brand damage from acting fast
By jumping, there’s a good chance that the results won’t deliver the best value to our organisation. And, there’ll be major ramifications for us:
There’ll be damage to our reputation. We’ll end up becoming the go to person for last minute acts of heroism, or low-level grunt activity. We’re unlikely to be viewed as a strategy shaper.
If our solution fails, we risk earning a reputation for delivering sub-standard work. Relationships with the requesting stakeholders are sub-optimal – ‘master-slave’ rather than collaborative ‘brains trust’.
We’ll be stressed, maxed out, handling activities that are unfulfilling, less worthy of our considerable talents and not allowing us to realise your potential.
The answer? Switch to a consulting mindset
The good news is we can immediately start transforming these exchanges by adopting a consulting mindset. A handful of simple practices will transform the way we are perceived and our talents leveraged.
1. Undertaking a comprehensive, business-issue driven discovery process.
What are the business issues that the requested solution is to resolve? This is about not getting into the technical specifications until these are understood.
How exactly are those issues playing out and showing up? Are there metrics that indicate the scale of the problems, can they be quantified?
With the context fully understood, now we can start interrogating all the technical detail.
2.Shaping the solution
Define the issues or options as decided between the stakeholders.
The solution will have an agreed implementation plan and evaluation elements.
The solution must measurably address the issues as defined.
Prove we’ve succeeded by reporting on the hard matrix stats and the soft feedback.
Institutionalise the critical improvement question: “If we had our time again, what would we do differently?”
Honestly address the issues both predicted and from left field.
Record the learnings.
Adopting a consulting mindset means we need to slow down, address requests and issues from a 360 perspective, and fight for what’s best rather than the most expedient option. We’ll deliver properly targeted and impactful solutions. And we’ll be appreciated for it.
If this structure makes sense to you, but you’d like some guidance in pulling it all together then input your email below to download ‘The Consulting Approach’
DOMINIC JOHNSON is a Partner at Expertunity, and a master facilitator of the signature program for technical experts, Mastering Expertship. He is co-author of the Expertship Growth Guide, and the forthcoming book, Master Expert.