Every Mindful Leader MUST have an area of expertise.
This is an area of knowledge where you are considered to be in the top 10% of your industry. A domain where you have put in the blood, sweat and tears to master.
This is why the very first principle of The 15 Principles of Mindful Leadership is called Depth.
Depth is the corner stone of becoming a Trusted Professional and lays the foundation for all of the remaining stages of The 5 Stages of Mindful Leadership.
I’ve seen way too many corporate zombies skipping this principle, avoiding putting in the effort to really develop their skills.
Here are some tips that I have found useful and will help you identify your area of expertise and to create your own learning plan:
1) Don’t follow your passion.
In my experience competence comes first, passion second. Passion comes once you start seeing the positive results of your efforts and this doesn’t happen until you become really good at something. Once you build some momentum and start seeing some positive results, you will be well on your way to following your passion.
2) Take control of your learning.
Don’t wait for your company or your boss to put together a learning program. Take control by creating your own personalized development plan.
3) Your real education starts after school.
Your real education will start when you hit the work force. Make reading, seminars, courses and workshops a regular part of your routine. Get curious and following your interests.
4) It’s not about the credentials.
I’ve never been a big fan of credentials. I look at the quality of MBAs and PMPs in the workplace and I’m not overly impressed. I was never a big fan of formal education programs. It’s not aligned with my learning style. I much prefer to follow my own interests and create customized learning programs.
5) Don’t neglect the soft skills.
My biggest leaps in success where due to my investment in leaning soft skills. Communication, public speaking, health, self-help, influence and mindfulness to name just a few.
6) Follow your own path.
You are going to get a lot of well meaning advice from others. While it’s important to listen to the people you respect, remember that this is your life and ultimately your choice.
7) Develop your character.
Regardless of the path that you follow you must develop a reputation of being trustworthy. Make it a priority to strengthen you character by living the values of integrity, humility, empathy, courage, and growth.
8) Identify your strengths.
To discover your area of expertise, strengths are a great place to start. The challenge with Strengths is that they are so ingrained within us that they can be difficult to identify on your own. Ask the people close to you what they believe your strengths are. There are also a number of online assessments that can help you identify your strengths.
9) Always be learning.
I’ve made it a rule that regardless of what role that I’m in, I must be learning something. As soon as I stop learning, it’s time to identify another skill to develop.
10) Start where you are.
You don’t have to leave your current job to start learning. Simply list out all of the possible skills and competencies that exist within your current role. Choose one specific area that you are going to master.
11) Look at someone your admire, and model them.
I’ve had many role models throughout my career. Both people that I’ve know personally and from afar. Study what they do and model their success strategies.
12) Go deep (aka T-skill development).
When you think about your area of expertise it’s useful to envision a letter T. List all of the skills that are applicable in your role or industry along the top of T. You now want to choose one of these areas as your area of expertise. This is the vertical bar of the letter T. This area of expertise is the area that you are going to develop deep knowledge and skill mastery.
13) Put in the hours.
To develop mastery is a specific area takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate study and practice. Developing your area of expertise requires that you become very intentional with how you study and practice. Read, attend seminars and workshops, and model the experts in your industry.
14) Breakable Toy.
A breakable toy is a small project that you create to practice your skills in the real world. Choose something where the stakes are not as high. Something where it doesn’t matter if you mess it up. The point is to get real world experience and valuable feedback.
15) Aim for the top 10% of your industry.
Your goal is to be the go to person for a specific area of expertise. Start by being the goto person in your department, then your company, and eventually your industry.