Watching the tape-part 3

Continuing with the excellent list of 52 ideas y’all shared for getting better at delivering value to your clients.I was hoping for a dream to reveal to me which category to tackle next, but instead I dreamt a giant loaf of Wonderbread the size of a schoolbus was chasing me around. The chase ended on a sandy beach and the loaf of bread was on top of me, pushing me down. Like that scene in The Simpsonswhen Bart hooked the creamed corn hose up to Groundskeeper Willie’s shack, I remember in the dream saying, “well, I guess I’ll just have to eat my way out from underneath this thing!”, and then I woke up.Anyway, here were the ideas some of you shared that I put into a category named General Expertise Improvements:

  • Connections and interactions with colleagues
  • Got p/t job at agency in niche to learn from “big boys”
  • Say “yes” to stretch projects
  • Dev related or marketing case study or reverse engineering a random site’s traffic or funnel strategy.
  • Proactively tacking new skills that seem useful and invest in training as necessary to build skill
  • Listen to my own podcasts too, on a regular basis. In fact, I often listen to them 3-5 times each. Why? To learn the vocabulary my customers use to describe their world, and to understand their problems better. Given that a podcast allows you to do those things, it blows me away that more people don’t have them.
  • Structured group followup in a recurring monthly event
  • Quick, reflective journaling at the end of day about lessons learned that I need to take forward

Several of these struck me as particularly inventive or high-leverage.Say “yes” to stretch projectsSaying yes to projects that stretch you certainly could contribute to developing valuable expertise. But it needs to be productive, not destructive.This would be me if I walked into a gym and tried to life more than a tiny amount of weight:weightlifting failYou can go too far with stretching your current abilities. I know it’s difficult to quantify how much exactly you’re stretching if you take on a project that’s beyond your current abilities, but I’m estimating that more than 20% is going to be stretching too far. That said, stretching 5% each time repeated over a year or two could create a dramatic improvement at the end of that time period!Also, I know you can’t just summon stretch projects on command. They’re a function of your lead generation, and if that’s not in place then you may not get exposed to these kind of opportunities.So as always, start with the basics and build from there. And manage risk on behalf of your clients. You should be the expert on at least some facet of risk management in order to help your clients.Proactively tackling new skills that seem useful and invest in training as necessary to build skillIf your lead flow doesn’t bring you opportunities to build new skills, then you have to get proactive about that.And you can! You can invest in training. If you have the money, you can spend it to get training. If you’re tight on money, you can invest time to build new skills. The Internet has done three things: 1) given everybody a platform 2) made politics nastier than I’ve ever seen them 3) created a tremendous free deposit of information, connection potential, and opportunity to learn new skills. In fact, that last thing is why some of you are seeing downward rate pressure because in your field there are no real barriers to entry and there is a huge supply of free learning for folks in lower cost of living areas to use to undercut you. Ok, that’s a rabbit hole I don’t intend to pursue here. :)If you want to learn something, there are probably at least a half-dozen blogs, email lists, or other venues to learn that thing. And if those resources don’t exist, you can sometimes build a surprisingly good little business by learning it on your own and sharing what you’ve learned with others.I listen to my own podcasts too, on a regular basis. In fact, I often listen to them 3-5 times each. Why? To learn the vocabulary my customers use to describe their world, and to understand their problems better. Given that a podcast allows you to do those things, it blows me away that more people don’t have them.I love this one. It’s related to the next one I’m going to feature, but different because it can happen totally online.Years ago I somewhat naively encouraged some mentoring students to “just start a podcast”. Precisely 0% of them took me up on it IIRC.That’s because it’s freaking hard to do. There is a technical learning curve, which isn’t all that hard. But there’s a social/performance learning curve too, and that’s not really any easier than learning to be a good live speaker. And then there’s also an outreach learning curve too, which is where a lot of introverts (I’m one too!) get stymied. “Reach out to strangers who know more than me about _______ and ask them for an interview! Philip… what are you smoking?”These days I’m a lot more careful when I suggest this to folks. But I also can’t shake this thought: “Do you want it or not? Do you really want it? If you really want it, are you willing to do what it takes to get and keep it?”You should feel zero shame if you don’t really want it. But if you want it (it could be valuable expertise, a rushing pipeline of inbound leads, profitable part-time work, the ability to do value pricing, the ability to confidently lead a sales conversation, the respect of your peers, or lots of other things that look pretty awesome from the outside), then you’re probably going to have to step outside your comfort zone to get and keep it. </soapbox>Anyway, creating a podcast specifically to learn from a group of people that you want to learn from is a great idea. Don’t go into it unawares of the challenges, but also know that it’s currently an under-utilized way to build relationships with people or learn from them.Structured group followup in a recurring monthly eventThis looks like the following: creating a recurring event (probably monthly at most cause IRL stuff requires more of the people who are participating in it). The purpose of the event is to contribute value to the kind of people you want to connect with, build trust with, or simply learn from. You facilitate the event. That means you organize shit, line up the venue, bring donuts or pizza or beer or soda water or whatever, and you clean up afterwards. You confirm stuff and thank people and generally make the whole thing happen.Yes, you do a fair bit of unpaid, possibly thankless work. But as a side-effect, you are at the center of this group of people. You build connections, trust, and gain insight into these people’s world.Check out this interview starting at 20m for a real live example of this: http://consultingpipelinepodcast.com/100And here’s another one: http://consultingpipelinepodcast.com/080Quick, reflective journaling at the end of day about lessons learned that I need to take forwardThis email’s getting kind of long, so I’ll keep this one short.In his book The Business of Expertise, David Baker says we experts are often–somewhat ironically–bad at data compliance. We’re bad at collecting the metadata that could help us further our expertise.I know this firsthand. I’m working to get better at it.I love this suggestion (not from David, but from a different list member) for dealing with that. Quick, reflective journaling as a way to notice stuff that could make us better but might slip through the cracks if we don’t commit it to writing somehow.Alrighty, that’s 1330 words on increasing your expertise. More coming tomorrow.Go get em!-P