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Staying in your lane of competency while widening the net

Association of MBAs

Now is the time to enhance your expertise while staying authentic to yourself: evaluate where you are and where you want to go, advises Kevin Crawford

In a turbulent world full of uncertainty, it is critical to be adaptable to the daily challenges presented to each of us. It is imperative to be authentic to yourself and your brand while being able to shift expertise to whatever the world is dealing that day, from a global pandemic to civil unrest to upcoming elections.

Whether challenging yourself as an individual or leading the helm of an organisation, below are a few suggestions of how to stay in your lane of expertise while widening the net to grow and expand. There are many ways this can be done, but this is a good place to start to evaluate where you are and where you want to go.  

First, you must determine your current lane

Codify your own values as well as the mission and values of your organisation. It will serve you as a constant reminder of why you are there and what you want to accomplish. Determine what you do best, and how you can help lead the organisation to excel in producing to its maximum efficiency. 

Realising your organisation’s mission and values is more than just platitudes – it takes heightened emotional intelligence to strive for excellence and reach potential as an individual and help lead your organisation to new heights. It requires setting short- and long-term goals and working diligently to achieve those with your whole team.

It also requires knowing your audience and stakeholders, and ensuring you are communicating with them as effectively as possible. Identifying internal and external stakeholders is key to knowing your competency and figuring out how to expand because your audience is your end user, and you need to know how to communicate with them to ensure they are continued proponents of your product or service. Your stakeholders must be supportive of you as a leader as well as the organisation – there must be mutual trust – for you to cast a wider net. Without trust, expansion can be difficult because the foundation is not there with your target audience to have you see through potential bumps in the road.

As an example, during this pandemic, several car manufacturers began producing ventilators. That was still in their lane of expertise because they had the machinery to produce the much-needed medical equipment, and they expanded their net in consultation with medical experts to ensure they were on track. They didn’t compromise car manufacturing to produce ventilators, they just added to their facilities and expertise.

You must determine what you do well and figure out how you can expand on that while staying within your organisation’s core competencies. Take what you do well and apply it to what is needed as the end-goal. In the case of car manufacturers, creating medical equipment was what was needed at that time, and they pivoted their manufacturing to meet a global need for the devices.

Once you’ve defined your current expertise, below are ways to cast a wider net

Look Ahead

Car manufacturers could see a growing need coming down the pipeline, and they adapted their facilities and capabilities to address the medical need. Executives who can look ahead to see what is needed for them personally and their organisations are the ones who are most successful. You must monitor emerging trends, and gauge how to place yourself squarely at the forefront of the trend to be able to expand your offerings within your capabilities.

Mentorship

Everyone needs a mentor to hone and refine skill development to help stay in your lane of competency while expanding your knowledge and growing. Personal development and preparation can only go so far, one needs the private confidential sounding board in work and personal life to help avoid missteps.

Leadership means putting one’s self in position to receive input, correction, guidance, and have an objective sounding board to seek counsel. The business world would benefit greatly if hubris was cast aside to seek objective counsel to cast a wider net while staying competent and providing the best service possible.

Many think seeking mentorship can seem weak, when in fact, seeking guidance and objective counsel can only enhance your potential. A mentor can see what one may miss and help navigate expansion and growth with your best interest in mind.

Be authentic

Don’t be lulled into trying to be everything to all people and getting too far outside of your lane of competency. Be authentic to yourself, your brand, and your expertise. Do not try to reinvent yourself or take advantage of vulnerable populations. The worst thing one can do is get outside of lane of individual competency because it won’t be a good service to your client, and you won’t be legitimate to your brand.

True kindness

Bring your best self to the forefront, and exhibit true kindness, not manufactured niceties for ‘PR’. Show kindness, respect, and set aside anxiety. Prepare yourself for potential outcomes and exude calm and restraint. Clients and customers may be more patient with a learning curve to help expand your knowledge base if you display humanity and kindness.

Kindness conditions those around us to hear from us and form an opinion about what we have to say which lends itself to dialogue. It is the precursor to exchanging of ideas and thoughts to provide a safe context for effective communication. Authentic kindness is more important than most people recognise – do not be dismissive of kindness, but rather embrace it as a strength within yourself and others around you.  

Marketing and referrals

Competency begets referrals, even when you are expanding your knowledge base. Marketing helps get the message out to potential audiences through everything from earned media to digital marketing to advertising. You should be marketing your expertise/products and frame it in how you can help others and society, not your business.

Fake it ‘til you make it

When all else fails, figure it out. Use every resource at your disposal – colleagues, mentors, Google – to learn, seek guidance and expand your knowledge and network. Hire a consultant to help guide you through the process and identify potential blind spots you may miss being too ‘in the weeds’ of your organisation. Look at things as objectively as possible, and remember, it takes real strength to say, ‘I don’t know,’ and ask for help. It makes you a better leader, it will make your organisation function better to have a leader at the helm willing to seek support, and it will build trust with your stakeholders because you are demonstrating leadership with authenticity and kindness.

It shouldn’t take a global pandemic to make us realise we don’t have all the answers and should seek guidance.  


Kevin Crawford Consulting provides C-suite executives with high-level, strategic counsel with the utmost confidentiality. KCC partners with executives to identify potential pitfalls, unintended consequences, and other unforeseen outcomes in their professional and personal lives. For more information, visit www.kevincrawfordconsulting.com.

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