We meet and engage with many different personalities in the workplace. Some people are more challenging than others.
Dealing with subject matter experts can be problematic when you want to get things done.
Dealing with Subject Matter Experts
Subject matter experts have knowledge about a specialist or technical subject that we don’t have or don’t understand. What’s more, they value their expertise.
Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what you want can’t be done and why. Then do it. – Robert Heinkein
But how do we engage with subject matter experts? How do we know they’re not pulling the wool over our eyes? And how do we encourage them to take on our ideas and make the changes we need? Here is a short list of tips for dealing with experts.
1. Give Credit
Give the expert credit and verbally recognise their knowledge. Giving brief professional acknowledgement helps to minimise defensiveness and increases their openness to your ideas.
2. Be Prepared
Be prepared for your meeting. Do your homework. Understand their area of expertise and the work they do. Prepare one or two pertinent questions in advance and make sure they know the purpose of meeting in advance.
3. Back Ideas with Facts
Be prepared. I know, I’ve already said this. However, you need to double your efforts when dealing with subject matter experts or you’ll lose credibility. When preparing for a meeting gather objective data and facts that support your ideas.
You are more likely to reach an understanding if you convey information in a clear, concise, and logical way.
4. Paraphrase Ideas
During meetings paraphrase their ideas. Providing clarification demonstrates that you are giving them your full attention and will ultimately make them more receptive to your ideas or suggestions.
5. Ask Questions
Counter disagreement or problems with questions. Turn points of contention around by asking questions that allow the expert to understand the problem and consider solutions.
Use open questions and avoid negative statements such as “that won’t work.”
What advice do you have for dealing with experts?
Can you add to the list?
Creative Commons image courtesy XP Investimentos.