DARE to Guide Their Big Idea

NYU SternSurely, you’ve heard that if you want to become an expert in a particular subject or skill, then you should try teaching it.

Maybe you feel that once you’re 40 or 50 or 60, you’ve become a “subject expert” in so many things it would be hard to find, let alone select, any skills or topics you don’t know enough about from first-hand experience.

In fact, how you view and assimilate the experiences of your twenties and thirties in the second half of your life affects not only your continued personal development but your capacity to guide, coach, mentor, and teach others.

Before I decided to earn my MBA at New York University several years ago, I had worked in marketing services firms for twenty-five years, about half of that as a senior manager responsible for diverse teams of professionals.

There were fundamental lessons I couldn’t, didn’t, or wouldn’t absorb until I was in my forties, when I finally realized I still had a hell of a lot to learn, and it had little to do with becoming smarter about marketing or coming up with yet another so-called Big Idea.  I realized how much I could and needed to learn from the very people I was responsible for “managing “especially about how not to lead.

Guess which lessons were more rigorous? More humbling? More valuable?

Embracing the role of COACH, MENTOR, GUIDE, LEADER, TEACHER, or PATRON, formally or informally, so that others can learn from your experiences and develop their own Big Ideas, is a D A R E -ING move.

While it might seem that you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career because an org chart or your boss or your business card declares you the leader or chief something, not so fast (how about never?) do you become the Empress of Everyone.  The people above you, below you, around you, and in back of you (especially in back of you) will see to that.

They’ll DARE you to prove you’re worthy of their respect, admiration, and loyalty.

In September, I entered a classroom at NYU once again.  Only this time, it was I who was at the front of the room as the instructor.  What I really want my students to learn about marketing is this:  The first brand they need to know how to market effectively is themselves, and that’s about more than just demonstrating their technical expertise or Big Ideas.

If they can’t with confidence and compassion convince a decision maker that they possess the personal empathy, experience, competence, and commitment to help him or her solve a problem that literally keeps him or her awake at night, they will never be able to interest the leader in their technical expertise or persuade the leader to buy into and champion their Big Ideas.

Almost anyone can get book-smart or tech-savvy or quant-driven.  It takes defeat plus determination, it takes humiliation as well as humility, it takes resolve and resilience, to deal with and DARE accept the fact that some of our worst experiences are also those that teach us so much we become experts.

And, who is more expert at that than women over 40?

 to figure out what you’re smarter at than anyone else. DARE to declare yourself an expert. DARE to guide others with what you’ve learned. And, DARE to admit what you don’t know but are willing to learn from the very people you DARE to LEAD or GUIDE or COUNSEL.

It’s really true that in order to be considered an expert in a subject, skill or topic, you have to have learned it so well that you could teach it.   I’m still learning, and I hope all of you are too.