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Performance management principles: nurturing expertise in the workplace
As the famous quote goes, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”. This quote has been attributed to a wide range of leaders over the years, but it’s one of the most important principles in management and leadership. Being a strong leader isn’t about having the most knowledge, it’s about making the most of the knowledge and expertise around you.
Last week, we looked at the importance of spotting and nurturing potential in your workforce. This week, it’s time to take a look at expertise.
According to a trusty Google search, expertise is defined as “expert skill or knowledge in a particular field”. So, at what point does knowledge cross over from general interest to expert?
The answer lies in research.
Throughout your career, in your personal life, and across a wide range of media, you will likely encounter people who claim to be experts in a specific field. Perhaps they have a PhD, have devoted years of their life to collecting memorabilia, or they may simply have a particular fascination with something a little niche.
Ultimately, expertise comes from learning. Learning will always be a vital part of performance and development in the workplace at every level of an organisation. Here at Kallidus for example, we believe that we cannot teach if we are not willing to learn.
When it comes to managing performance in the workplace, spotting expertise (and the potential for expertise) is a pivotal factor in growing a successful team.
An important thing to remember is that not everyone is, or wants to be, an expert in any particular field. And again, just as with potential, this is OK. Experts are specialised and regardless of intent or a prevailing want to learn, there will always be people around you at work who know things that you don’t. Cherish this, because their knowledge will only make you stronger.
In terms of interpersonal and working relationships, expertise is one of the most interesting aspects to look at. As a manager or leader within an organisation, it is important to recognise the expertise of others as a valuable asset, and not something to be threatened by.
No one person can know everything, so being able to step back and let your resident expert take centre stage is hugely important to their growth as an employee and the growth of your organisation. It does mean that in certain situations, your resident expert will have more control and power over certain outcomes than you do, but this is no bad thing.
Someone doesn’t have to have been in their field for 20 years to be an expert. Whether you’re looking to a senior software developer of a junior architect, expertise come from all levels of seniority. As a manager or leader, you are the sum of the strengths of your team members. Spotting, using, and rewarding expertise will only make you all stronger.
There isn’t one blanket answer for this; everyone is motivated in different ways depending on a wide range of things like personality types (a popular choice is Myers Briggs), workplace drivers, career ambitions, and the context of their wider life. Not everything can be answered by a survey, but there are a number of ways you can begin to understand the needs of your workforce.
When it comes to managing the performance of your resident experts, we would recommend a combination of the following:
Expertise in the workplace are extremely valuable and should never been seen as a threat. A huge part of job satisfaction and morale is feeling recognised and valued, so make sure your performance management strategy reflects this. Experts need room to flourish and are a key part of a culture on continuous learning in the workplace – so give them space to learn new things and be open to new areas of research or even new job roles they may wish to move into.