Top Performer Perspective: Technically Competent
This particular top performer perspective is somewhat murkier than many of the others. It’s murky not because we don’t recognize and value it, but because it is so dependent upon the context of the role of the top performer.
We’re reminded of a presentation given by a senior executive some years ago. He talked about how, in his role, he was expected to be fluent in corporate finance, law, mergers and acquisitions, human resources, and a few other fields. What he said was a bit surprising but has been borne out by top performers in many roles. He said he knows enough about each field to know when to call someone who knows more. He also told us that the point at which he called in someone else varied from field to field but that there was no field in which he never needed help.
Too many times, we overemphasize the acquisition of expertise above all else. But perhaps a deeper principle applies. For any given role in any given field, an appropriate level of competence should be the target. Certainly a lawyer should know the law. But ask a criminal attorney about tax law and the best you should hope for is a good referral. Similarly, ask an engineer about structural integrity and, if the engineer is a mechanical engineer with a specialization in structures who is current on the earthquake building codes in California, then—well, you get the picture.
We should strive not to maximize but to optimize our technical expertise. In other words, we should seek to be technically competent.
Question to ponder:
- Do you strive for ultimate expertise or demonstrated competence?