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Self-Proclaimed Expert or Wannabe – Is Your Culture at Stake …


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A “real expert” serves as a force multiplier to your organization, allowing you to quickly identify and correct issues and move your organization towards greater success.

Unfortunately, in today’s robust internet world, the shallowness of the marketplace subject matter experts and apparent influencers is astonishing. It is like a “kiddie pool of true intellect, understanding, experience, and credibility.” Ten years ago, what passes for an expert today, would have been called a “new hire, a beginner or a neophyte.”

The wave of self-proclaimed experts to emerge and attempt to influence the trajectory of the future is here! As a business owner or leader, it’s your job to differentiate the real expert from the self-proclaimed before they infiltrate your organization and send it down an undesirable path.

Before hiring new individuals, consider these simple vetting observations and questions:

  1. Have they ever done the work as an apprentice or beginner? Can they prove it?
  2. Have they ever done the work as a journeyman or employee/member?
  3. Have they ever done the work as a master or leader?
  4. Can they prove anything based on fact, data, logic versus emotion, rhetoric, and assertions?
  5. What would ten of their reputable clients/benefactors say about their deliverables?
  6. Is there a degree in their area of specialty, and do they have it?
  7. Is there a trade association certification in their area of specialty, and do they have it?
  8. Have they ever been featured in a credible third-party publication or newswire about their specialty?
  9. Have they ever penned a White Paper on their specialty?
  10. If appropriate, have they ever authored a book that a credible and reputable publisher published?
  11. Have they ever designed, written, implemented, and taught an instruction course in which they are an expert?
  12. Do they hold a patent, trademark, or a copyright certificate on their body-of work, expertise, or deliverable?
  13. Are they the innovator of anything in their subject matter, or do they imitate others’ work?
  14. Have they ever spoken before a body of peer experts in their space?
  15. If you go to their website, will it prove they are professional?
  16. And above all, Can They Prove It?

Once candidates have passed your first round of vetting, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and dive in deeper. It may seem excessive and time-consuming, but you’ll save yourself time, money, and frustration in the long run by plucking out the wannabes early on.

  1. Fact-check their resume. If the candidate does not have one, that may be a significant clue.
  2. Have they have harvested others’ credentials and body-of-work as their own?
  3. Check their online footprint. What social media accounts do they have, and what are they posting?  While you can always add more content to bury past trails, it’s challenging to make data disappear. If their employment changes with the seasons, you need evidence for why they are not a charlatan.
  4. Check their credentials and experiences cited and make sure the math adds up!
  5. Ask for several references. If they hesitate or can’t provide multiple references, consider this a warning flag.
  6. A self-proclaimed expert can’t sustain an ROI. When asked about their past, they will be resistant to answering and deflect to other topics to avoid accountability.
  7. During the interview process, consider asking the candidate for copies of the past employer-employee performance reviews and discuss what they uncover.

Accountability matters, and how you create or deflect accountability is critical. When you are in the presence of a self-proclaimed expert, you will see a history of the following:

  1. Culture (generational, ethnicity, regional, diversity, etc.) is re-written to justify their outcome with no sense of personal ownership and personal responsibility.
  2. Values were abandoned.
  3. Deflection (deflect responsibility and blame someone else) away from themselves and the core matter by playing the blame game to make someone else the problem and positioning themselves as the victim.

The ramifications of a self-proclaimed expert on your business are devastating. Successful employees who want the best for an organization will not stick around when this type of environment is maintained, and your business as a whole will suffer.

If you believe that you already have a self-proclaimed expert in your midst, provide them with a mentor. Engage a sage as a coach for daily or weekly check-ins and accountability growth opportunities. This will allow them to learn from a true subject matter expert who has spent years, if not decades, accumulating their expertise. Create peer groups comprised of people with a range of credentials that can serve as a 360° benchmark for excellence. Develop a balanced IQ and EQ with substantial readings and continuous mental DNA enrichments regularly. Then, when your previously self-proclaimed expert grows into an actual expert, explore opportunities for them to tithe to others with their knowledge.

Just as complacency and mediocrity grow contempt, so too can success beget success!

Written by Dr. Jeffrey Magee.

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