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Practice Being the Non-Expert

One of the most fundamental ways that the manager's role has changed has been in the area of expertise. In the past, the manager was the expert. The manager had to know more than the employees about the department to ensure everything was running and to teach employees what to do. That was, in essence, the way employees were developed.

In the knowledge economy, the idea of a manager being the expert is laughable. The span of control of the average manager is too great and the skills needed changing too fast. It has completely flipped on its head and now the employees are the experts and the manager is trying to wrangle them towards a common goal.

This is an emotionally difficult thing for managers to do. In many cases, managers feel like they have to be the expert to justify the title and salary. In other cases, it is downright scary to think that everyone knows more than you. After all, what do they need you for?

To help with this, practice being a non-expert. Find someone on your team who is skilled at something you aren't and admit your weakness. Say "you know more about X than me, can you teach me a little bit". Be humble and be willing to fail. It doesn't show you in a bad light, it models development and acceptance.

One last note, your employees don't expect you to know everything they do - that is what makes them valuable! They do expect you to admit it, appreciate what they bring to the table, and be willing to learn from them.

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