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The expert equation


By Adelaide Ness

Expert. It’s the level we all strive to attain in some way, shape or form. Being called an expert is the greatest compliment any professional can receive. It’s a short word, but those six letters convey much more than the sheer space they take up on a page. That singular word conveys years and years of hard work and dedication to our chosen skill or craft. It conveys a deliberate and tireless journey to achieve the best of the best. We all strive to be experts.

In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000-hour rule. This book describes the phenomena of becoming an expert better than anything else I have read on the subject. Gladwell states that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of about 10,000 hours. In his research, this was true of The Beatles, Bill Gates and many other wildly successful people who reached the very pinnacle of accomplishment in their chosen fields.

Why then, do we ignore this concept in our businesses? By and large, emerging leaders in your organizations have reached 10,000 hours working at specific jobs, tasks, or technical roles. They’ve spent countless years honing their craft, and their job performance reflects this intense training and focus in a specific area of expertise. They very well may earn the reputation as experts in their field. Why then, do these very same young people struggle to be successful in your organizations?

Most emerging leaders climb the ranks in their organizations and find themselves newly responsible for growth and management of a pipeline. They know that in order to contribute to a wildly successful business, they need to bring in additional revenue to sustain it. However, they’re at a loss as to where to start. While they certainly have the expertise in their chosen technical or professional area, more often than not, they have not had appropriate training in leadership and business development. They find themselves responsible for tasks outside of their comfort zones and essentially feel as though they’re set up for failure.

Gone are the days of purely technical executives. The most successful and profitable organizations have a culture of growth and hold all of their key contributors accountable for such growth. Promoting an emerging leader without appropriate business development training is an avoidable mistake. Exposing your young people, your emerging leaders, to good, solid, proven soft skills training early in their careers sets your firm up for continued growth for many years to come.

Help your people achieve their 10,000 hours of practice in growth and business development in tandem with their skill development on the technical side. It’s never too early to start building that culture in your organization and in your people. In today’s hypercompetitive drive to find talent, if you do not invest in emerging leaders, you may discover your competitors doing it for you. Growth perpetuates growth. Encourage and invest in your emerging leaders now – they may be paying for your retirement.

RainmakerAdelaide Ness, M.A.
Executive Vice President at The Rainmaker Companies
Reach her at or +1 615.373.9880 ext. 239