An argument raged on Facebook this week about whether or not some guy had the right to call himself an expert. It’s such an over-used word these days that I’m surprised anyone even noticed, let alone got hot under the collar about it; but comment after comment appeared passing judgement one way or the other.
It struck me that the bigger issue was not whether he was an expert or not, but that he was using the word to describe himself.
I no longer hold with my mum’s cautionary words that ‘self praise is no praise’…I firmly believe that you have to understand the value of your experience and know what that knowledge and experience is worth in the marketplace…but calling yourself an expert, or a guru as many now do, is to me, a bit like calling yourself ‘gorgeous’ or ‘brilliant’…it may well be true…but you can appear conceited and disagreeable in doing so.
In the business world which relies on us being known, liked and trusted, surely we should be leaving it to others to label us in a way that fits their experience of us? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that…
The dictionary defines an expert as ‘a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area’, and a guru as ‘an influential teacher or popular expert’.
For the media it’s often someone who has studied a subject in depth, researched, read lots of books…someone who has no practical knowledge of their own, but can talk a good game based on the experience of others.
For me, an expert is someone who has been there done it and got the t-shirt…someone who talks knowledgeably from their own personal experience, and can help me to add value in my business. While I respect those who have dedicated their lives to studying a subject, I personally gain more from those who’ve tried, failed, tried again, and won through in the end. Inspiration to augment the information.
The truth is that one person’s guru is another person’s minnow…it’s all relative, and it’s all personal. We often call people experts because they know more than us about a subject, or have greater skill…the techy friend who can always solve our techy problems…our numbers guy because he can make sense of our accounts. I like to think my customers see me as their process and systems expert…not because I know everything about process development…I’m no Six Sigma Black Belt…but because I know enough to add value to their lives and to grow their business.
And to me, that’s kind of the point. Why else would you need an expert?
But that’s just my view. What’s yours?
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Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)