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Expertise is important.  Experts bring technical skill to help us achieve outcomes that are important to us.  Doctors help us when we’re sick, architects design spaces that delight us, and engineers make sure we’re safe.  At the same time these experts can and often do develop an illusion that whatever their expertise is they can solve anything using it.

When your only tool is a hammer the whole world looks like a nail.  Experts often have a narrow view of the world.  If you visit with an expert in any field they often see the world through the lens of whatever world they spend time in. They see many ills and opportunities can be solved by more of whatever it is they do.

Attorneys might believe the world would be a better place if they were allowed to make the rules (oops, that example doesn’t work very well, many politicians are attorneys).  I noticed medical specialists have a belief that their specialty can help solve a medical problem and never look at the entire body to look at health in a holistic manner.  A specialist I recently worked with never looked at anything but my foot and ankle instead of my whole body when I was with them.

A specialist will often think less of ideas from people who don’t share their specialty.  You may have had the experience of speaking with a specialist and feeling that your ideas were not being taken seriously.  Specialists spend a tremendous amount of time learning whatever their specialty is.  In many instances this will lead to the specialist to think they know more about global problems than they really do.

I recently was working with an estate-planning attorney who was giving insurance advice to their client.  Unfortunately this attorney who had been practicing for over forty years didn’t know very much about insurance and gave advice that was factually incorrect to their client.  When their client pointed out the error the attorney was dismissive and arrogant event though they were wrong. 

Specialists don’t often understand the big picture.  Specialists are usually brought in to solve a specific problem.  Often they wander past the original issue and give their opinion or even insist that only their method of solving a larger problem is appropriate.

If instead the specialist was to ask some questions about what was trying to be accomplished they might understand how their specialty fits in with the bigger picture.  When one knows a lot about a particular subject they often don’t understand what the other options might be.  Exploring other options might provide a better solution than what the specialist thinks is the solution.

Specialists can become overconfident.  People who develop a specialty in a particular area can become overconfident in what they know and how their knowledge fits into the big picture.  Unfortunately when someone has the only answer it might just be the absolute wrong one.  Overconfident experts can cause great deal of pain, inconvenience and expense.

When I engage an expert to work with me on a project I always look for someone who exhibits humility.  I usually want an expert to solve a particular problem.  I want them to understand the bigger picture.  Those who ask questions and listen to my answers are the ones that work the best for me.

I’ve written a special report on how to hire great people.  I find that many people start with technical (expert) skills first.  This report will help you understand that expertise is important, but not the first thing you should look at.  To get this report click on the button below.


Securities and Investment Advisory Services offered through NFP Securities, Inc. (NFPSI), Member FINRA/SIPC. Stage 2 Planning Partners and NFPSI are not affiliated.

This article is published for residents of the United States only.  Registered Representatives and Investment Adviser Representatives of NFP Securities, Inc. may only conduct business with residents of the states and jurisdictions in which they are properly registered.  Therefore, a response to a request for information may be delayed.  Not all of the products and services referenced on this site are available in every state and through every representative or advisor listed.

Topics: communication, success, specialists

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