I was talking to some expatriates in United Arab Emirates last week. There were Chinese construction experts working in Iran, American telecoms engineers working in Afghanistan, a Scottish railway expert advising Dubai and a whole range of other permutations.
As we discussed training a common refrain came out “the local nationals get training but the rest of us are hired to come out here as experts, so we don’t need it”.
Several of these experts were long term expatriates in quite technical areas. When I asked them how much their fields were still developing they all told me of the great strides that their professional areas were making – none of them had a strategy for remaining an expert!
Without professional development their skills will inevitably decline and become less valuable.
None of them had receivedtraining in the key skills of being effective in different cultures or of cooperating with a more diverse and distributed group of colleagues.
When we hire “experts”, we should, first of all, realise that this expertise starts to decline from the day they join us unless we encourage them to update their expertise through study, reading and training.
Just because we hire someone with a specific expertise that does not mean that they are an expert in everything. The fact that you know about railways does not mean you are an expert in cultural differences or leading people. Nobody is an expert in everything: everyone needs a development path for when their environment, technology or role changes. Just standing still in a fast changing world is a challenge.
It is the same for senior leaders. Just because you reach a certain level of seniority does not mean that you don’t need new skills or perspectives. If anything you need much more development as your decisions have more far reaching consequences.
So if you consider yourself an expert, don’t forget what made you an expert in the first place – learning. If you stop learning and your environment or context change you won’t be an expert any more.
- Find out more about the key skills of being effective in different cultures
- Find our more about working in distributed groups
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