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Pundits, Pontificators and Perspective


So. Many. Experts.

Online and in-person it's hard to miss bumping into someone labelled an expert at something.

What is an expert, actually?

If you're familiar with the court system you know that judges and juries rely heavily on expert testimony.

  • Having been designated as an expert witness in state and federal court, I shudder at the eagerness of people who willingly proclaim themselves an expert.
  • Being deemed an expert provides very little upside and places a big target on your chest instead.

If you're a literal person, as I am, you find comfort in taking words at face value.

So, even if we remove the legal threshold, if you proclaim yourself to be an expert, I still expect to see some evidence of that.

And simply having an opinion about something, regardless how well informed that opinion is or how many other people believe it ... it's still just your opinion.

Yet, here we are.

Pundits and pontificators everywhere.

Similarly, people with experience, insight and even mastery in one domain doesn't instantly make them an expert in other domain.

Back to the law and order theme for a moment.

As a successful private investigator, it was common to see police officers leave law enforcement to seek the same success. Rarely did that happen, however. Here's why:

  • In law enforcement, many results are achieved with the help of a gun and a badge, finesse optional.
  • In private investigations, achieving those same results requires more experience with finesse and less with 'my way or the highway.'

Many police officers were simply not able to successfully transfer and translate their strategies from one domain (public sector) into another (private sector).

Which brings us back to my original point.

As a consultant, I'm primed to notice other consultants.

Some appear to be extremely successful sharing their stories, anecdotes and solutions 'born on the battlefield.'  Despite their marketing juice however, I'm dubious about the outcomes they actually deliver.

  • If you and your organization can benefit from learning how to kill an outlaw with your spoon in an Afghani back alley, then by all means, find a special forces warrior to teach you that.
  • If you and your organization can benefit from a pundit who 'pontificates but doesn't practice', then by all means, there's no shortage of self-described experts to chose from.
  • If you and your organization print bumper stickers or memes and can benefit from a spigot of clever, one-liners about leadership, then by all means find an inspirational visionary to quote.

Just don't mistake their prowess in one area to translate into actionable improvement where you need it most: in YOUR leadership and in YOUR organization.

Is this post self-serving? Sure it is.

It's also a cautionary tale for folks that are disappointed when they discover that they know how to kick down a door or deliver a toast but still don't know how to implement any useful leadership processes.

  • I don't use my extensive background as leverage, I leverage my solutions to help you overcome your challenges.
  • I don't claim to be an expert.
  • I don't have all of the answers.
  • I don't know how to kill someone with a spoon.

However, I do know the difference between motivational chest-thumping and real, tangible improvement.

If you're committed to the latter, I know a guy.

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Mike McKenna

About the author

Mike McKenna is the founder and president of TEAM Solutions. He helps public and private sector leaders improve their outcomes before, during and after a planned event or unplanned crisis.Please contact Mike via the Contact page.

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