“Good enough is the enemy of excellence. It is no longer good enough to meet expectations. It’s time to exceed expectations and, in the process, set new ones.” ~Otis Williams
"First we will be best, and then we will be first." ~ Grant Tinker
We all admire those in our organization that seemingly know something about everything, but ask yourself this question; if you have a specific task to accomplish, would you seek them out or the person that knew the most about that specific thing you needed?
In the 1980s Jack Welch famously eliminated all business units at GE that were not 1st or 2nd in their respective markets. Why was that? Because being the best allows you to play to your strengths, it allows you to demonstrate the value of your services more, control your own direction and the direction of the industry, and puts you in a better position to steal market share and move the business forward on your own terms. Of course, the reason he didn’t cut the second place units was to attack whomever was happened to be in 1st at the time.
Jack Welch was ahead of the curve because the days of “generalists” are gone here in the 21st century. The marketplace demands expert level products and services. This leaves the “Jack of all Trades” susceptible to competition that is focused on specific areas. So how does this translate to you and your oversight of the operation?
Experts stand out from the crowd – Being the best at something is its own form of marketing, and have no illusions, marketing is just as important in your career as it is in your business. You will be talked about when aspects of the business are reviewed, be a resource when needed, and thought about when opportunities arise.
Experts have a say in their work – Seize opportunities and direct the discussion. Do you have more of a say in the meeting when you are presenting the material or when you are in the audience? Experts have control over what is shown, highlighted, covered over, and left out of presentations. This also gives them opportunity to highlight opportunities, and the person who has the idea usually gets the first chance to run with it.
Experts can show their value – Specialization differentiates you from others. Job security and a raise are two things that can occur when you are able to demonstrate skills and talents that are not easily replaceable and become increasingly relied upon. Just be careful of becoming too indispensable, while the job security is nice, you may make yourself un-promotable because you are irreplaceable.
Expert level service is now the entry level demand of the consumer and that will have an increasing effect on how businesses run as well. Yes, you need to have a broad understanding of your work environment, but if you don’t seek to be the “go to” person for certain things, you will unnecessarily handicap your career. If you aren’t considered the expert in something yet, the step by step for you is simple:
Become an expert at something – For those not used to the spotlight, it might be weird, so just pick something that you can quickly become the best at in your department. Odds are there are a few things that you do better than most, so pick the one that you can set yourself apart in quickest. It is less important what it is as it is that you train yourself for excellence.
Become an expert at something vital – Now if you haven’t already chosen a vital area to be an expert in, seek that out. This doesn’t necessarily happen quickly. It may be an ongoing thing as you use one area of expertise to build confidence in yourself and confidence in your boss to lead to increasingly important areas of expertise.
Build off that expertise to broaden your sphere – As you climb the ladder, look to gain a broader swath of understanding. This can lead to you being the expert in larger areas. Think along the lines of going from the expert in PCs to all of electronics, or from the expert in the call center to the expert in the customer experience. Executives see and control the big picture, and you should too.
Being OK at something is a death sentence. If not now, then eventually you will be passed over, laid off, or otherwise eliminated. Excellence is a powerful thing and can lead to much more stability and success if you use it, so seek it out.