Spend more time ‘out in the wild’

Spend more time out in the wild

We will do a better job as an expert if we spend more time talking to our stakeholders and other people in the organization we work with. We call this getting ‘out into the wild’, beyond the comfort zone of our own specialty.

We all have a lot to do. There are many things we should be doing but aren’t, and many things that we are doing which we shouldn’t. Time management is one of the most important skills an expert can acquire.

As experts we are usually very busy. Our focus is mostly on doing work and meeting with others to discuss work being done and work to do. This leaves little time to spend out in the wider organization observing how our work is impacting our colleagues and customers, and understanding what the impact (positive and negative) of our work is. But we need find the time to do this.

It will surprise some of us to find that we are welcome in the wild. We will most likely arrive and see that our colleagues or stakeholders are delighted to see us. They will see that we are directly and personally interested in the challenges they face every day, and that we are concerned about them.

Spending time out in the organization is an intelligence gathering exercise, not a problem-solving trip. It’s also good to spend time with real people and junior staff, not just the leaders. Some of the most important insights will come from talking with people at the front line.

Finding the time to go wild

It is no good saying we don’t have time to get out into the wild. Everybody has exactly the same amount of time. People who say they don’t have time are really saying they don’t know how to prioritize. And a good way to prioritize is to see the big picture – the issues that really matter to the whole organization. Getting ‘wild’ is the best way to get this perspective.

Spending time out in the wider organization (‘in the wild’) actually helps us stop us wasting time. Time spent with stakeholders and colleagues who depend on our work and expertise helps us differentiate between requests that are important and those that are not. It helps us prioritize, based on real user needs, rather than the needs of those who are shouting loudest and longest.

It can be hard to prioritize this over other activities. But by getting out in the wild we soon discover what matters and what doesn’t. That will enable us to provide help where it is most needed.

Seeing the bigger picture

Going wild helps us understand what is happening in the real world. It shows us how we can positively impact colleagues and customers. This means less dependence on intermediaries who might simply be prioritizing their own agendas. We will have seen things for ourselves and we will be better able to understand – and challenge – them.

As well as saving is time the long run it also builds our organisational confidence, expands our network and improves our personal brand. It will give us a greater understanding of where value might be created, rather than simply responding to work requests from stakeholders whose jobs we don’t understand.

ALISTAIR GORDON is CEO and founder 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 Master Expert.)