How to Own Your Expertise

(And Better Serve Those Who Count on You)

Everyone is an expert. It’s hard to say those words any other way than dripping with sarcasm, but they are mostly true. Everyone has areas in which they have achieved some level of expertise; no one is expert in all areas!

What is Your Area of Expertise?

When I began my full-time career at our family funeral firm, I considered myself already pretty well equipped to serve families as a Funeral Director. After all, the majority of what we do for people lies in human interaction, creating experiences that resonate through Excellent Service and Superior Value.

Despite my extensive experience and relative expertise in the areas of service and building value, I began to feel like a poor Funeral Director. I was so eager to prove myself and take charge (being the son-in-law is a lot of pressure!) that I began over-promising and stretching myself- and my team- to produce. Sometimes, technical details slipped away from me in my haste to explore other aspects of the business. I was flaunting my expertise rather than seeking to own it.

Owning Your Expertise Means:

  • Offering Help…When It’s Asked

Offering help all the time probably doesn’t seem helpful at all. Early in my career, I offered technological help to a family under the care of one of my fellow Funeral Directors without consulting him. While I was able to solve the problem, the experience made it seem as though I was overstepping my bounds and probably damaged the trust of my coworker. On balance, today many of my coworkers ask for my help with technology issues; these opportunities build trust and help to establish my expertise.

  • Continually Seeking to Improve

Expertise doesn’t mean you’ve reached the peak of your performance. Rather, we all perform at levels of expertise that allow us to develop team members and coworkers. To continue our contribution, we must continue our own development and keep learning. Dedication to improving in our areas of expertise not only develop those areas, it shows our coworkers that we’re committed to improving, too.

  • Exuding Confidence (But Not Arrogance)

When you’re given a task or asked for help, exuding confidence can help earn the trust and confidence of your peers. Arrogance, on the other hand, will surely prevent them from asking in the future. In fact, it will almost certainly make them regret asking in the first place. This is a delicate balance; your coworkers want to know that you are confident in your ability to complete tasks and help out in your area of expertise, but nobody wants to work with a jerk.

  • Asking for Help

When your coworkers see that you are not afraid to ask for help, it builds trust and develops your own areas of weakness. In addition to building relationships among your team members, asking for help allows you to explore the expertise of your coworkers. Balancing out your offers of help with requests for help can help eliminate any perception of arrogance (see above). Additionally, asking for help identifies your weaknesses to those who are able to offer development.

As I’ve grown in my role, my coworkers have shared their areas of expertise, boosting my proficiency and developing my weaknesses. When I began to make myself vulnerable by asking for help, they softened and recognized my strengths as well.

A well-balanced team mean not only are the team members well-rounded individuals, each area of expertise compliments the others.

In the Comments: Has a coworker, leader, or mentor shared an area of expertise with you? How has this made you a more balanced member of the team? Can mentors gain knowledge from their students?


9 thoughts on “How to Own Your Expertise

    1. Thanks, Myles! I find that my greatest obstacle in growing as a leader is often myself. When priorities are realigned to put the interests of the group first, our areas of expertise compound to make a greater difference together.

      I like your idea about building Castles. The term resonated with me and I’d love to develop a blog post around the idea with your permission.

  1. Thank you Justin! Yeah that would be great as long as you put a link up to my site so they can also see what I got to say about the topic and get a full experience. Definitely look forward to the post!

    1. Thanks, Skip. Vulnerability is something that I ran from for a long time! I’ve discovered, though, that allowing yourself to be more vulnerable leads to deeper and more genuine relationships, both professionally and (more importantly) personally.

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