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What Makes You An Expert?

September 1, 2019   By Jim Cuene

At Fahren, we’re building a business that connects digital experts to growing organizations. We believe that an experienced leader can help ambitious organizations accelerate their digital transformations and play to win.  But, in a time where change is happening so fast and new tools and methods are emerging all the time what makes someone an expert?

On a fundamental level, what we’re looking for is applied knowledge in the service of great outcomes, over time. It’s the wisdom that comes from having been in a wide variety of positions, and building the practical skills to get things done in constructive, creative and innovative ways.

We know our clients are looking for leaders that can apply that wisdom to make smart calls about the future and what’s coming. They want guidance to avoid mistakes and the confidence to make smart investments, plus the courage to make the right bets on innovation.

We’re also looking for fast learners, those with the ability to build knowledge and skills, fast. It’s more than pure brainpower. We’re looking for those with enough experience to discern what signals to follow, which skills to build. We think that skill makes it easier to make decisions about strategies and actions going forward.

Our Filters

As we’re building Fahren, we’re building tools to help us focus our interviews and discussions with potential teammates. Beyond the first “get to know you” conversations over coffee or lunch, we’re building methods and techniques to help us surface the differentiating or unique expertise our folks can bring to our clients.

We’re digging into the following:

  • Developmental Experiences – We’re looking for what you learned about leadership and performance during key transitions and transformations, like merger/acquisition, fast/accelerated growth, significant changes in strategic direction, start-ups, global expansion, etc.

  • Results – We’re looking beyond the metrics, to what kind of business results were you responsible for? And, were the results you got yourself or did you coach a team to deliver them for the org? Did you change the trend line? Did you turn around the results?

  • Growth as a Leader– We’re looking for a track record of expanding growth in responsibility: more resources, more complexity, more scope. And, we’re looking for growth in results: Broader impact across the organization, starting with better individual results all the way through the results of the function, team, division or group you led. Finally, we’re looking for growth in your leadership skills: Your ability to develop strategies, cultivate your teams’ dynamic, influence the organization, etc.

But, the track record is only part of the equation. We’re looking for leaders that can thrive and grow in change and guide Fahren and our clients to the right future. That’s a function of your mindset and personality and style.

So, we’re looking for some specific characteristics and behaviors that we believe separate the good from the average:

  • Genuine curiosity – We’re looking for people that are asking “why is it that way”, “how does that work?”, “How did this happen?” Or “How did we/I get here?”

  • Empathy – We’re looking for leaders that are excellent listeners, the ones that know the most valuable nuggets of insight are in that space between the words people say and the things they actually do.

  • Imagination – Perhaps it’s just applied curiosity, but we’re looking for leaders who are actively making the connections between what they’re learning and what they can do with the knowledge. The ones who see unexpected opportunities and applications in common technology or concepts and can come up with novel approaches to solving problems

  • Discovery – We’re not interested in shiny objects (unless a great emerging tool/technique also happens to be shiny). We’re seeking leaders that are trying to figure out “where is this headed” and “what’s about to happen”. These leaders are using imagination, empathy, pattern recognition and good old fashioned intuition to figure out new ways to get work done, smarter.

Strong Opinions, Open to Possibilities

In addition to a proven track record and a creative mindset, experts should have a considered, confident point of view on the future. We’re not looking for would-be visionaries (the world already has enough Jaron Laniers), and we’re not expecting folks to be genuine visionary entrepreneurs like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos. But, we do want to connect with leaders that have the combination of experience, wisdom, and insights to build a clear idea of how to navigate and thrive in a transforming, digitally-driven organization. And, just as importantly, a leader who can communicate so that those around them are inspired and moved to act. So, we look for leaders who:

  • Know What to Say No To  – A lot of strategy is knowing what to ignore or say no to. Our leaders should be able to clarify action by helping others know what to ignore

  • Help Others See the future – We’re not looking for fortune-tellers, but we are looking for people who can confidently set a direction for the future, the ones who can say “I know where this is going and here’s what need to do

  • Coach and Teach – Great leaders develop understanding and support by actively teaching and sharing their insights in a way that others will understand.

What’s Next?

Because Fahren is a relatively new organization, we’re still building our own toolbox through experimentation, exploration, test/learn and eating our dog food. It’s been fun trying the tools on ourselves and seeing how they work as a way to unearth the unexpected or under-appreciated parts of our professional biographies.  Stay tuned as we continue to evolve our approach.

Co-Founder and CEO

Jim has over 20 years of digital brand building experience. From running a start up digital agency to leading digital strategies for global brands at Ameriprise and General Mills, he’s been at the front of digital marketing his whole career. He loves the web and the opportunities it is creating for people and businesses to actually make the world better. Jim has an entrepreneurial mindset, the ability to see how the dots will connect in the future, and the knowledge & experience to put plans and teams in place to get results now.

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