I do a lot of asking for advice and help these days.
Having recently started ConnectHuman and launched Connection Zoo, I regularly need to seek out and rely upon experts in many different areas for advice and instruction. The challenges with this include knowing who to call, how to most effectively leverage their expertise, and what to learn to do myself vs. hand over to an expert.
It’s like someone telling you how to make a peanut butter sandwich, but you don’t even know where the peanut butter is. Can you relate??
Imagine that you want to make a peanut butter sandwich. You’ve heard they are really great and maybe have been told you either need to know how to make them or need to find someone that can make them for you. Like happens so often with experts, when they’re teaching, they leave out the steps that are obvious (to them). So, the instruction might go like this:
- Get some bread, peanut butter, a knife and a plate.
- Spread the peanut butter on the bread (they might specify to spread on only 1 piece or maybe both).
- Put one piece of bread on top of the other to make the sandwich.
Easy, right? Well if you’ve never made a PB sandwich, you might not know the following:
- Bread: Where do I find it? What kind of bread? How many pieces? How do you open the bag?
- Peanut Butter: Where do I find it? Creamy, chunky, natural? Jif, Skippy, Justin’s, Wild Friends, Rx Nut Butter? How much peanut butter should I use?
- Knife: What kind of knife? What will I be using it for? Spreading and cutting?
- Other: I heard jelly is good to add? Is that true? What do I need to know about jelly?
Here’s just 1 example of how I often experience this:
I’m don’t have IT or developer expertise…and I don’t want to have it. But I do need to know enough to keep my website in good shape. There are 7 systems that support our website with separate accounts, invoices and customer and technical support teams. There isn’t one expert to call that has expertise in all the systems we use, so I regularly contact technical support teams when I need help. Most of these companies don’t have people you can talk to; it’s either email or chat. With one company, I sent an email to technical support and explained I was one of two people with a startup and no developer experience. They sent me standard language (I’m sure they didn’t actually read what I sent) in response. I know it was standard language because when I didn’t hear back again after I replied trying to explain my situation again, another person sent me the same thing. It said, “If you or your engineers have questions….” What?!?!
Your need for experts may be related to medical situations, home repair, your career or other area of your life.
5 Things I’ve Learned
- As you’re evaluating or working with experts, learn enough to be able to ask good questions and then always ask, “what else should I know, or should I be asking you?”
- Tell yourself over and over, “I’m smart enough to implement what they tell me to do,” and have the confidence (or pretend to have it) to say I don’t understand and ask them to explain again. Understand that they don’t always know everything either. If you feel like you’re not getting the advice or instruction you need, either ask them to check with someone else, or try again with another expert.
- Be very thoughtful about how you spend your time. What are your strengths? What do you want to learn that you could be really good at, AND if you spent your time doing it you could grow your business? In what areas do you have no expertise, no interest in learning and/or won’t ever be really good at? (HINT: Outsource all or part of that work).
- If you’re unsure about what exactly you need or are not 100% sure about the expert you’ve selected, start small. Maybe a small project to test the quality of their work, their level of service and the kind of partner they are.
- When you feel like screaming, crying or giving up, be prepared with a go-to self-management practice (you need to create and practice this before you need it). I have 2 go-tos: movement/working out and what we call at Connection Zoo, the Big-Bellied Seahorse breath. Full transparency…if I’m alone or with people who know and love me, I will likely start with a release of my emotions (scream, swear and/or cry). It’s healthy to acknowledge and release (appropriately) so you can move forward.
Experts…can I give you some advice?
Please start conversations with the people who seek out your help with great questions like:
- “What kind of experience, if any, do you have with X?” or
- “What are you trying to accomplish that I might be able to help you with?” (I know what I’m trying to do but may not be able to tell you how you can help me, so asking “How can I help you,” might not get us where I need to go)
Try to be patient and be sure not to eliminate important steps, like where to find the peanut butter (which may include how to open the cupboard). Remember to check for understanding.
(I’m listening to my advice as well so I’m a better expert too)
Let me know if I can help by being an expert for you, referring you to an expert, letting you cry on my shoulder after a challenging situation with an expert.
I continue to develop my expertise.
While we’ve been developing Connection Zoo, I’ve learned a ton about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and have dived deeper into Social and Emotional Intelligence (SEI); in fact, I just received another coaching certification, in SEI. If you need an expert in this area…speaker, consultant, workshops, coaching…let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org)! I’ll bring my expertise in a way that meets you where you are and ensures you accomplish your goals!
Next up at ConnectHuman, we’re learning about using social media to grow our business. SO overwhelming! So, we found an awesome expert to get us started…shout out to Jenna Redfield at Twin Cities Collective. We’re also working with the amazing Shelly Dvorak at Sphere 421 on influencer marketing. We’ll be connecting with some really interesting people who are making a difference.
Wish us luck!
Thank you to all the experts that have and will help us along the way!
Yours truly and perfectly flawed,
P.S. I am also an expert on peanut butter; it is my favorite food. If you ever need ideas about fun ways to eat it or want to know my favorite kinds of PB, send me a message!
Kjirsten is CEO and Co-Founder of ConnectHuman, maker of Connection Zoo. Their mission is all about creating human connection that improves well-being and performance. She is primarily focused on launching Connection Zoo with her son and is also doing select work with organizations, including workshops, coaching, consulting and speaking.