I recently had the pleasure of attending John A. Warnick’s Purposeful Planning Rendezvous meeting. This is an interdisciplinary meeting of people who consider themselves generalists in the world of planning. The keynote speaker for this event was James Hughes. He is one of the most impressive speakers I’ve ever seen. The topic of his talk was the Role of the Secular Priest.
During the talk he spent lots of time comparing generalists to experts. His conclusion and mine are very similar. We need both types of people, and at the same time without generalists it’s much more difficult for a plan to come together.
Generalists don’t have products to sell.
In the planning world there are all sorts of specialists. We have lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, financial planners, investment managers, and dozens of other specialists we can call upon. Each one of these experts has something to sell.
Too often you might feel that these experts are trying to sell you something before they even know what you need. For an expert to make money, they have to sell you something. A generalist will charge you a fee to spend time with you. This fee is to help understand what’s important and then help you gain access to experts who can move your goals forward.
The challenge is choosing a generalist wisely. Just because someone doesn’t sell a product doesn’t mean they provide value. You should have a system for deciding whether the generalist you’re thinking of working with can provide value for you.
A good generalist will attempt to experience your reality.
Joining your world is important. If a generalist doesn’t understand where you’re coming from it’s difficult if not impossible for them to provide value. The first goal of a generalist needs to be to understand what you want to accomplish and why it’s important to you. The generalist you choose should have a toolbox that helps them discover both of these things.
Generalists use apprenticeship as a way to gain knowledge.
You can’t go to school to become a generalist. There is no certification that says the generalist you’re choosing to work with has a certain amount of knowledge. A good generalist has apprenticed in the field they work in. They’ve spent lots of time observing how the world works. They’ve developed and practiced asking good questions.
I believe a great generalist has developed wisdom. They’ve done this through the books they’ve read, the seminars they’ve attended, the clients they’ve worked with, and the life they’ve lived. A great generalist is also a great observer. They often see things others miss. Have you ever encountered someone like this?
Experts use certifications as a way to gain knowledge.
Experts gain knowledge through study. An expert often has certification letters behind their name. The higher the level of expertise, the more letters they have. Some of the experts you probably know are MD, CPA, JD, CFP®, CFA, PhD.
This group of people has spent years in school learning their craft. They bring a great deal of value. You need to understand what you want and why before experts appear otherwise you’ll often find yourself working on the expert’s agenda and not yours. Make sure you always work on your agenda. The only way you can do this is by knowing what your agenda is.
Experts have taken over our world.
We have too much expertise in the world. This doesn’t mean we have too many smart people in the world. It means we have too many people who have a lot of knowledge in a very narrow spectrum. It means that too many people have left the world of service to the world of what’s in it for me? I believe our over-emphasis on expertise has also led to an over-emphasis on greed.
It’s time we realize that experts need to move back towards service. Service has its own rewards and those who practice service well are amply rewarded. It’s time we think about us and not about me.
We need generalists.
We need generalists because we need global thinking. We need to look at our world as an integrated system. Nothing works by itself. If systems don’t work in consort with each other eventually we get out of balance. Generalists help us stay in balance and help us look at systems from a global view. They help by looking at your entire life.
I’m a generalist. I look at you as a whole person. You’re not just a business owner, an employee, a parent, or a child. You’re all of these things. A generalist can and does see you as an entire person. Don’t you think that’s a good place to start?
If you visit our resource center you’ll see that we have much content on all parts of your life. Whether you’re a business owner, a parent, someone going through a transition, or someone just starting out in life we have reports and workbooks that can help you along. Click on the button below to visit our resource center and sample our complementary wares.