What are enterprise skills, and why are they important for technical experts?

Written by Dominic Johnson 25 Mar 2022

Technical experts represent a specialised field of knowledge. Often, in their “development” to date, they have simply acquired more know-how and skills specific to that rarefied professional field.

But if experts are to actually “represent” that field to others in the organisation – and broader stakeholders – they need to complement those areas of specialist knowledge with some vital additional skills.

These skills include interpersonal skills (for success in the Relationship Domain) – collaboration/teaming skills, engagement and influencing skills, time management, political savvy (and diplomacy), emotional intelligence, trust-building, presentation skills, networking, and so on.

Experts additionally need to become masters of the organisational context (for success in creating tangible value in the Value Domain) – a strong grasp of the organisational strategy, familiarity with customer data, understanding the competitive landscape, a clear sense of how and where they can create quantifiable value. Collectively we refer to these complementary competencies as Enterprise Skills.

Without them – or if they are insufficiently developed or exercised – experts can find themselves marginalised, seen as irrelevant, lacking the influence their field deserves, abstract and obtuse, disconnected, or simply hard to work with.

But when those skills are developed and exercised, experts can gain relevance by skilful networking and stakeholder engagement, pitch compelling business ideas that align with strategy, focus on delivering with impact, have a seat at the top table – and a key voice in the organisation’s direction setting.

How are these capabilities developed? This is exactly why we have developed the Mastering Expertship program along with key resources such as the Expertship Growth Guide which provides tools, frameworks, and strategies for progressively developing these capabilities as mapped out on the Expertship Model.

So, in summary, what are these capabilities, and what are the specific payoffs for experts mastering each one, and the consequences for experts who don’t have these skills?

The five key capabilities are:

  • Collaboration and Teaming
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Influencing
  • Prioritization and Time Management
  • Political Savvy and Diplomacy
  • Strategic Acumen and Market Context

Below, we discuss each in summary.

Collaboration and Teaming

Description

  • Identifying when (and when not) to collaborate.
  • Advanced influencing skills.
  • Ability to reach across boundaries.
  • Ability to instil in teams the willingness to collaborate (whether the formal leader of the team or not, the expert often isn’t).
  • Empathetic listening.
  • Emotional intelligence – understanding the feelings and aspirations of others.

When it’s been mastered

Those who have mastered this capability are easy to work with. People enjoy their company, invite them to participate, and welcome their input. Such experts listen intently and have a desire to contribute to the overall organisation’s success – and actively reach out to involve others with shared goals in mind.

When it’s under-developed

Experts with a deficit in this capability are loners – disconnected. Often judgemental. People prefer not to include them because they find their inputs unrelatable or even jarring. Lacking people skills, they routinely get stakeholders offside. They are often stubbornly opinionated and not responsive to (or even dismissive of) others’ ideas.

The Payoff for mastery

Highly collaborative technical experts bring otherwise disparate areas of the organisation together and foster the development of shared goals and high levels of collective commitment towards delivering them. Those who can act as a catalyst for successful collaboration are in very high demand.

Stakeholder Engagement and Influencing

Description

  • Developing highly successful and sustainable stakeholder relationships.
  • The ability to understand others’ interests and agendas.
  • The ability to embrace a diversity of thought and ideas.
  • Storytelling and high-level communication.

When it’s been mastered

Those who have mastered this capability understand others’ interests and are proficient in pitching ideas in a compelling way. They expend the effort to elicit buy-in – recognising the importance of building coalitions. They adapt their messaging and approach in response to stakeholder reactions.

When it’s under-developed

Experts with a deficit in this capability typically fail to recognise the importance of fostering buy-in and bringing stakeholders on the journey. They typically believe that a rational argument alone should simply carry the day – and often conclude that if their presentations fail to convince, then this is because those they pitched to lack the necessary smarts.

The Payoff for mastery

Experts who excel at stakeholder engagement and influencing enjoy a clear line of sight to stakeholders’ needs and priorities, are capable of more effective gathering and “on target” delivery of requirements, which leads to more satisfied and engaged stakeholders.

Prioritization and Time Management

Description

  • Achieving clarity and agreement around priority work, based on value and impact.
  • Spending the right amount of time for the right reasons on the right activities.
  • An advanced ability to diplomatically say no.
  • Strategic alignment skills.

When it’s been mastered

Those who have mastered this capability have structured their lives so as to focus on proactive, strategic-shaping activities with long-term benefits. They push back on lower priorities and often build up talent around them so that they can delegate activities that do not make the fullest use of their considerable skills.

When it’s under-developed

Experts with a deficit in this capability often complain of being on a treadmill where their time is engaged in lower value activities – and they feel that there is little they can do about this. They often fail to discern what is truly of the highest value, tend not to push back, and have typically failed to build up others to meaningfully carry any of the workload. They reactively lurch from one short-term crisis to another – without a clear plan or sense of longer-term goals.

The Payoff for mastery

Experts who have mastered prioritisation focus on work of the greatest strategic value, and actively eliminate low-value activities. This means they deliver strategic value to the organisation and feel fulfilled by the impact they have.

Political Savvy and Diplomacy

Description

  • Being highly informed about the aspirations and goals of both the organisation and its most important decision-makers, as well as having a good knowledge of their own and their teams’ goals and aspirations.
  • The ability to navigate the conflicts that inevitably exist in complex organisations, finding common ground and therefore the ability to move forward.
  • Advanced influencing skills that are honed to strategic alignment.
  • The ability to build the right business cases to win resources.

When it’s been mastered

Those who have mastered this capability have a clear sense of how things really happen within their organisations – who the key stakeholders are and how to engage them. They read the political landscape and know who and what to align with to get things done. They know how and when to broach ideas to optimise buy-in, foster alliances, and smooth tensions.

When it’s under-developed

Experts with a deficit in this capability are oblivious towards – and sometimes have an antipathy towards – the political climate. They fail to recognise who the key players are and build timely alliances. As such they routinely fail to garner sufficient support for their initiatives and/or proposals. Lacking insight, they sometimes get key players offside by failing to appreciate their significance or identify their interests/allegiances.

The Payoff for mastery

Experts have the ability to get things done because they know how to successfully broker agreement between otherwise competing interests and parties.

Strategic Acumen – a strong grasp of Market Context

Description

  • Understanding the market situation of their organisation.
  • Understanding not just the what but the why of organisational strategy.
  • A deep knowledge and understanding of key customer and client groups, both internally and externally.

When it’s been mastered

Those who have mastered this capability have a clear understanding of the organisational strategy – both what it is and why, how the organisation adds value to customers and differentiates itself from competitors both today and into the future. This understanding allows such experts to align their own contributions with the strategy, to add quantifiable value today and in the future, to position recommendations in terms of how they positively impact strategic objectives.

When it’s under-developed

Those with a deficit in this capability are typically unaware of, or indifferent towards, the organisation’s strategy. Focusing on typically today’s problems within their own technical domain, they are often seen as somewhat irrelevant to the organisation’s “main tent” activity (i.e., a peripheral sideshow with marginal relevance only). They don’t know how to directly impact the organisation’s key strategic imperatives – nor position their recommendations in a way that they are seen as essential strategic contributions.

The Payoff for mastery

Experts shift from solving today’s problems to helping the wider organisation solve tomorrow’s problems. They provide timely innovations shaping competitive or community advantage and are seen as thought leaders. This innovation and future focus make them far more valuable and ensures they get invited to the meetings that plan the future.

Additional resources

Expertunity has developed a range of resources that help managers of experts, and the experts themselves, accelerate the development of these skills. We run highly rated programs: Mastering Expertship and Leader of Experts. We have also published the book Master Expert and developed a capability model that explains these skills in far more detail (The Expertship Model).

We also offer organisations consulting services to help them build their own effective interventions.

Subscribe to the Expertship mailing list