As experienced professionals, we’ve invested years learning and growing to the point where we’ve become experts in our respective fields. Our success has given us confidence that we know how to do what we do. It’s part of who we are.
Yet sometimes that very success can blind us to changes in our fast-moving world and prevent us from adjusting our perspective to recognize when the way we need to do things needs to evolve.
As a leader, I was wary of this when I interviewed experienced candidates for positions on my team. Even so, at one point, I was obvious to my own blinders. I remember once saying to a colleague, “This approach has worked for me at other companies, I don’t know why it’s not working here.” My colleague was kind enough to say, “You’re not working for those companies now.” Although it was hard to hear, I will be forever grateful to that colleague who could have kept those thoughts to herself and left me in my clueless bubble.
How do you know if your experience is hurting you? Do you feel that your expertise isn’t appropriately valued by your colleagues? Does your team avoid making suggestions for increasing success and just deferring to your expertise? Do you hear yourself saying, things like, “This is the only way to do it,” or “This has always worked for me in the past?”
Recent scientific studies shows that people who consider themselves to be experts tend to look at the world with closed minds. Having a closed mind means that opportunities may pass you by or interviewers and superiors may think that you’re only capable of doing things the way you know.
If you’re in this situation what do you do? Consider adopting the Buddhist concept of beginner mind. When you learn something new, you’re open to the possibilities.
- Don’t let experience allow you to ignore what you perceive. Be open to the idea that what you're seeing is NOT what you've encountered before.
- Use the spirit of enquiry to understand what is going on.
- Focus on questions, rather than answers.
- Live in the moment, not thinking about the past.
- Perhaps most importantly, let go of judgment and your own expertise. The world is changing fast. Be open to the ideas and suggestions of others because they may have valuable insights.
I’ve used this frame of mind in many spheres, including the practice of yoga, which I’ve been doing for over ten years. Using beginner mind has saved me from injury because I start every practice checking out my body at that moment in time, understanding what my limitations might be. It has also enabled me to accept challenges and try things that I couldn’t previously do. Isn’t growth what we’re all about?
QUESTION: How do you keep your expertise from blinding you?
Leadership/Career Coach Kris Ishibashi works with leaders to bring together their skills, their authentic selves, and their intentions to inspire their organizations to superior performance. Click here to set up a complimentary consultation.