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How To Become A Subject Matter Expert: 5 Ways To Establish Credibility And Executive Presence

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at August 6, 2021

In order to become a true subject matter expert, you must possess more than just training and experience. Establishing credibility and executive presence requires more than just accumulated knowledge. Consider this question: where does credibility and authentic persuasion really come from? To step into your expertise, and your own executive presence, you have to connect your vision to your team – especially if your team is distributed across multiple time zones. In the hybrid work model, where remote work teams are how business gets done, here are five ways to establish your credibility and elevate your executive presence.

  1. Dealing with Data, Numbers and Statistics: do you believe the facts speak for themselves? Allow me to share a fact with you, and the fact is a number. The number is 20%. So: there’s a 20% chance of rain in Everett, Washington, today. Is that low, or high? In the Pacific Northwest, where it rains a lot, that number is low. Now, consider the same fact, 20%. There’s a 20% chance of a fatal heart attack today. Low, or high? Yikes. The same number has a very different outcome! Why? Because context drives content. Numbers are points in a narrative. If you want to be a subject matter expert, learn what matters: the context around the numbers turns data into insight. The story you tell, not just the spreadsheets you create, will drive real impact.
  2. Understand the Physics of Leverage: Become a subject matter expert on leverage by understanding where decisions come from. If you wish to persuade and influence others, so that your ideas are distinctive and powerful, consider that information doesn’t lead to realization. For example, I know that donuts aren’t good for me. I understand the glycemic index. I have knowledge of processed foods. And yet, guess what I’m eating as I type this post? I’m not proud of it, but this chocolate donut teaches me something about leverage. And self-leadership. Facts and figures aren’t the whole story. Information is everywhere. The true subject matter expert leverages knowledge to create service. Sometimes that service is a gentle reminder. Sometimes leaders help people to see what it is that they really want. And, come to think of it, that’s not a donut. How can you help people to find the expertise and the experience that really creates value? Demonstrate your knowledge and skills in service, if you want to really leverage your expertise. That service isn’t about manipulation, it’s about being a powerful and authentic resource.
  3. Discover What People Never Argue With: that’s their own experience. What’s the best restaurant in your city? Your answer is based on your experience. Are you telling people how awesome your experience is? Or are you leveraging theirs? If you want to establish credibility, get clear on where people are coming from. Sharing your vision and building executive presence begins when you understand the viewpoints of others. Consider listening for new perspectives. That’s how true subject matter experts avoid answering questions that no one has asked: because they read the room. By understanding other viewpoints, your own becomes clear. Your true expertise shines through, because you aren’t just puking out answers. You’re responding to what will serve your audience best. Become an expert on listening, and you’re becoming a powerful leader.
  4. Be a Resource, Not Just an Expert: Scientists tell us that only 5% of the universe is visible. That’s a lot of unknowns! If you’ve ever wondered where new results, innovation, and new products come from, it’s always the same place: the unknown. The role of subject matter experts (and scientists, engineers and effective leaders) is to make the unknown, known. To reveal discoveries and share expertise in a way that helps others create something that hasn’t gone on before. What are you saying, and sharing, from a place of executive presence – so that those around you are making new discoveries, just as you are? Become a resource for navigating the unknown, now.
  5. Speak of Things that Invite Agreement: In my workshops with engineers, scientists and business leaders, we practice in the realm of the “inarguable”. In other words, things that invite agreement – not argument. Consider that a persuasive conversation is nothing more than a series of “yes”’s. I teach something called the High Concept – an idea that anyone, anywhere can say “yes” to. What are things that all God’s children (no matter which god they worship) would say “yes” to? Do you know how to go beyond belief, and stop an argument before it starts? Here are some examples of high concepts: “Doesn’t it seem like we all want a sense of safety in our homes?” “Have you ever noticed that we all define success on our own terms?” What would happen if you accessed the skill of agreement, via these high concepts – how would that elevate your executive presence? Arguing around beliefs is a fool’s errand. Go beyond belief, and learn to speak in ways that invite agreement – because common knowledge can be the first step towards uncommon results.

If you want to persuade others that you are a true subject matter expert, explore the nature of persuasion and agreement. Understand that your vast knowledge alone is not the source of executive presence. It’s your ability to communicate your ideas – and listen to the viewpoints of others – that creates the real impact in your career. Share those ideas in a way that invites agreement, and you’re becoming a true expert on how to elevate your career. Can you say “yes” to that?


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