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The Surprising Secret to Being Respected as an Expert

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The Surprising Secret to Being Respected as an Expert

I was having dinner with a group of senior leaders after a strategic executive offsite. So naturally, the conversation turned to … octopus hunting. Apparently, Carlos, the senior leader sitting across from me was an expert.

He described his technique in intricate detail. I listened in amazement. In all the times I’ve gone scuba diving looking for Octopi, I’ve only seen one of these eight-legged guys (and the only capturing I did was in the photo above).  And here he was bringing home nine or more at a time.

He smiled, “Karin, you can’t see them because you aren’t an expert.” Fair enough.

The Most Effective Way to Show Up as the Expert

But as his story continued, I realized Carlos’ true expertise was how he used it.

“We like to hunt as a family. My Dad doesn’t see them as easily as he once did. So when I spot one I linger around it, to draw my Dad’s attention there. But don’t mention the octupus. Then he sees it, and comes back to the family with all the stories of the one Carlos almost missed.”

“My son is still learning so I find some in the smaller crevices and tell him I can’t possibly get my hands in there, and let him be the hero at dinner because he got the really hard ones.”

Carlos gets the results he needs. Enough octopi for his hungry family waiting at home to cook them. He has fun with the people he loves. And everyone surfaces feeling a bit better about their contribution. Winning Well, confident humility at it’s finest.

Related: How to Build a Great Culture in a High Turnover World

Above the Surface

The next day, I watched Carlos again when he was handed the mic to talk about leadership characteristics as part of a panel discussion. He spoke in detail about each of his peers sitting beside him, sharing exactly what he admired about them as leaders—most of them he’d only been working with a short while from a remote distance. I watched their faces as he spoke. He clearly nailed characteristics they were truly proud of.

The best experts don’t need to tell you they are, they show you. They encourage, develop, and recognize the expertise in others.

BONUS How to Hunt an Octopus

In case you didn’t know Octopus hunting was a thing either, here you go.

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