Preparing to Build Authority
Do you want to be a step ahead of your colleagues and competitors? Do you want to be recognized as an expert inside and outside of your organization? Most people would answer yes. Unfortunately, many individuals today do not take the appropriate steps to become an authority in their area of expertise. Being that person that does put in the extra effort to become the go-to member of the organization will put you ahead of the game and in a better position to further your career. We will refer to this as being a thought leader throughout this paper. Thought leaders are especially effective when it comes to leading decision-making. Generally, people in your field will respect your decision-making and advice and mimic the way you operate in order to achieve the same status as you. Being a thought leader, the information you hold is invaluable. When preparing to build authority, it is imperative that you plan. According to Dave Crenshaw of Invaluable Inc., you should focus on the talents you already have. A talent is “an activity where you are gifted, that you love to do, and where you’ve developed skills.” (Crenshaw, 2012). Next, you want to list some of your most valuable activities, or MVA’s. These are activities that you are extremely well versed at, and if you were to pay someone else to do the same work, you would have to pay them top dollar. Once you’ve compared your talents to your MVA’s, you can determine in which areas you want to be an authority. If your talent and MVA happen to be the same, you are already a step ahead in becoming a thought leader. The next important piece of the thought leadership puzzle is ensuring you set aside enough time to develop your authority. You don’t have to go crazy, starting with a half hour to an hour a week is fine (Crenshaw, 2012). Once you develop a rhythm, you can increase the time or decrease, as you feel necessary. Just remember to make it a habit and pencil it into every schedule you use so you don’t forget. Lastly, choose a mentor that is successful in your field, whom you trust. For example, my cousin is a master at personal branding. His personal brand is quite broad, but his main focus is real estate in Edmonton. Currently, he has over 7000 Facebook friends, so other real estate agents in the city will pay him hundreds of dollars per month to post their listings with his name on them on the Facebook platform. This is just one example of how he markets for other agents. As someone who wants to build my own personal brand in real estate and be recognized throughout the city, I would select my cousin as my mentor. Think of this as the master/protégé relationship.
Building Authority Within a Company
When attempting to build authority within your organization, start with being a systems expert. Be the employee that other employees can run to when they need advice operating within the organization. I previously held the position of sales consultant of an ultra-luxury automotive dealership. Although I was in the sales department, I was an expert in all departments due to my previous position as a lower level employee. If a client had an issue with servicing their vehicle, I could help. If a new employee didn’t know where certain supplies were, and nobody else in the dealership did, I was the person they came to. When new managers started, I was the one showing them around the dealership, explaining how we operate. My general manager loved me because I was able to train others, and he was able to focus on running the business. For example, in other organizations, you could master the primary software you and your colleagues use, and come up with best practices to share with the rest of the organization to improve efficiency. Many CEO’s believe that one of the things that makes an employee invaluable is that they know a system so well they can teach it to others (Crenshaw, 2012). Just remember, when attempting to improve implemented systems, you have to have your management team on board. You don’t want to be overstepping boundaries by trying to improve processes if you have no business actually doing that. Management will notice quickly if you are a systems expert, so simply discussing areas of improvement with them before trying to make those changes is a naturally a good idea. Best practice for improving systems is to create a quick outline of how the system works, what the end result will be, and the new steps to get there. Leave out fine details, because as an expert, you can teach those from your knowledge. Once you’ve completed the outline, submit it to higher-level management; whomever that may be. Once management formalizes these improvements, you can start training others on the new processes. Throughout this entire process, you are actually improving your skills as a system expert within the company (Crenshaw, 2012).
Building Authority in the Public
Now that you’ve become an authority in your organization, the next step is to branch out and become an authority in the public. Dave Crenshaw began as a small business trainer/coach, became an authority within his organization, started his own coaching business, wrote two books, and was featured in various world famous new outlets and magazines throughout North America (Crenshaw, 2012). The transition from being an authority in his field to being an authority in public happened when his first book gained notoriety and slingshot him into the public eye. Now, anyone who performs a Google search regarding his field of expertise is likely to read a piece of literature he has written. Clearly, for Mr. Crenshaw, this took multiple years. In 2018, we can try to achieve public authority status quicker by using social media and building a social network. Remember, you want to be the person in your field that your colleagues and competitors look up to. By publishing helpful articles or blog posts and building a library of your own content, you will draw in others that want to learn from you. Also, by having a heavy social media presence, you will improve your recognisability, therefore improving your reach/impression. Also, building an offline network within your industry is highly recommended. For example, if I was a driving instructor, I could start the Driver’s Training Association. I would invite all owners/trainers in the city to a meeting and we could discuss our best practices and come up with ways to improve our businesses. Not only am I recognized as the individual that brought everyone together, my status as an authority is now solidified in the public because I can call myself the president of the group.
The goal when becoming a thought leader is not to gain celebrity status. You want to be recognized and respected because of your body of work and your expertise. As mentioned previously, my cousin is a master of personal branding. He is in the top 5 for real estate agents in the city, and his competitors actually pay him for his advice. This did not happen over night, however. He had multiple jobs over the course of 20 years, where he was able to make connections that have proven to pay off in recent years. His network runs so deep that I meet people every week that know of him or have done business with him, or would do business with him simply from his track record and client testimonials. He is a true authority in his field, tried and respected.
Crenshaw, D. (2012). Final thoughts. [online] Lynda.com – from LinkedIn. Available at: https://www.lynda.com/Business-Skills-tutorials/Final-thoughts/88535/105359-4.html?autoplay=true [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].