10th August 2018

Getting the best from people who know more than you

Experts are people with a special, superior skill or knowledge in a particular field. We need them. In all areas of life, and business, experts have a vital role to play. But when it comes to managing someone in your team who knows more than you do, it can be daunting. Whether he or she is a subject matter expert, or simply has much more relevant experience or know-how, managing ‘an expert’ can feel awkward. This short article explores how to get the best from people with greater knowledge or expertise.

I know a gentleman in his eighties called George. He is an old softy but comes across as rude and aggressive when dealing with suppliers on the telephone.  This is because he a) doesn’t like modern telephone systems b) doesn’t feel comfortable speaking with strangers on the telephone and above all, c) feels anxious and intimidated. The person on the other end of the phone just hears a gruff, rude and angry old man.

Think now of when a manager is dealing with an expert in their team.  It’s easy to feel the same kind of insecurity as my elderly friend, although of course in a very different context. Feelings of inadequacy manifest themselves in defensive, unhelpful behaviour, leading to fractures in the working relationship.

Nobody likes to appear stupid in front of others, so rather than be frank about what we don’t know, it’s easier to avoid the topic altogether and before long, the expert does his or her thing in isolation from the rest of the team. Implicit bias against your expert colleague will be evident in your behaviour, so thoughts like ‘typical IT man!’ or ‘typical online millennial!’, really don’t help and send out entirely the wrong signals.

Poor communication and awkward stand-offs are commonplace when a manager doesn’t feel comfortable working with an expert and they result in sub-optimal team performance at best and deliberate sabotage at worst.

Appreciating what the expert can do (even if not actually being able to do it or understand it ourselves) is the starting point for building a profitable working relationship. If you understand what outputs can be achieved from harnessing your expert’s skills and knowledge, you can start to think about how they can help you and the rest of your team achieve your goals.

Positive behaviour towards your team expert will foster collaboration and valuable contribution, so respecting their expertise, whilst not being overawed by it, will promote innovation, problem solving and better teamwork.

It’s so easy to be like George when dealing with experts in your team. But a confident manager, who is open about his or her lack of expert knowledge, and who actively embraces the benefits of having an expert in the team, will learn so much more and gain from optimised team performance.

Here are some tips for managing the expert worker:

Managing the Expert Worker is a video in our ‘Management Challenges’ series and is available for you to see.  Please call 01638 723590 or email video@scottbradbury.co.uk to request a free demo.

About WATCH & GO® videos

WATCH & GO® videos show people how to perform better at work by illustrating practical phrases and key behaviours in just a few minutes. There are around 60 titles, each dealing with a different management topic or ‘tricky’ situation. Learners simply ‘watch’ and ‘go’ to manage everyday situations at work.

www.watchandgovideos.co.uk

Follow us @WatchGoVideos

Email us video@scottbradbury.co.uk

 

Getting the best from people who know more than you

Other Recent Posts

No blame gains

Posted: July 30, 2018, 1:05 p.m.

‘Lessons will be learned’ is an often-repeated phrase trotted out by government ministers and heads of organisations when things have gone dreadfully wrong. In this short article we explore the importance of action rather than words in developing a genuinely blame-free working environment, where people are open about making, correcting and sharing the learning from their mistakes.


Feeling sluggish after a break from work?

Posted: July 26, 2018, 3:06 p.m.

Have you ever felt sluggish returning to work after a break? This was me on my first Monday morning back after two and a half weeks off. Sitting at my desk, feeling strange to be in smart trousers and a shirt again, I found it very difficult to focus and kick my brain into gear. In the following days, I found myself getting overwhelmed by my workload, I tried to multi-task (and failed) and wasn’t handling interruptions or distractions effectively. I started to omit important details, I forgot to do things, and often I quickly lost focus. Whether you’ve just returned from a holiday, maternity leave or sick leave, we can all struggle adjusting. But by adopting an ‘accuracy mindset’ and being ‘present-minded’, you can prevent errors from causing problems and stay stress-free at work.


Change for good

Posted: July 11, 2018, 12:46 p.m.

‘We’re going through a lot of change at the moment’, is a common refrain. We hear it all the time. The pace of change might be faster nowadays, but organisational change has always been with us. In this short article we explore the problem of change paralysis, the energising potential of change and the importance of understanding how change is perceived.


How can you prevent making mistakes in emails?

Posted: June 6, 2018, 11:46 a.m.

Emails are an essential part of our day-to-day work and it’s important we avoid making mistakes to communicate effectively. But there are many ways emails can go wrong and cause unexpected problems and frustration. Have you ever sent a message and suddenly realised you’ve addressed it to the wrong person, or you’ve forgotten to attach some essential files? I’ve made both these mistakes, and more, with my own emails, but over time have trained myself how to stop making the same errors. To avoid spending time doing re-work and be more productive, here are three simple, useful tips you can use when sending your next message.


How can you defeat distractions?

Posted: April 30, 2018, 9:59 a.m.

Distractions and interruptions are an inevitable part of your working day. Humans are designed to be easily distracted, yet we expect ourselves to do work that requires complete focus. Your attention is drawn away from a task when the phone rings, or when your colleague offers a cup of tea, or when your manager asks a question. Interruptions like these might be small, but they disturb your train of thought, and have a big impact on your personal effectiveness. Let’s talk about three steps you can take to minimise distractions and get the job done.