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CrossPertise: 3 Secrets to Mastering a New Business Skill | Business Genome | Blog of Andrea Kates

CrossPertise: 3 Secrets to Mastering a New Business Skill

What’s on your business bucket list?

All of us have untapped talents. We have hunches that we could be more or do more professionally. Sometimes the only thing holding us back is that we need to master an entirely new skill set to rise from our current job performance to a new level. The catalyst might be a new promotion, where suddenly we find ourselves with new leadership expectations. Or, it could be we need to dig into an entirely new world of analytics to create strategy for our organization. The ability to develop “CrossPertise”—my term for well-honed expertise in a new area—is worth mastering. Here’s a simple roadmap to get started.

It bugs you. It gnaws at you. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, or catches you by surprise in the midst of a busy business day. You fantasize about it, trying to get it out of your mind. But, it won’t go away—the desire to add a new skill to your professional quiver. Maybe it began with lust—you fell in love with someone else’s incredible data visualization during a recent meeting. Perhaps it started with a deep-rooted hunch that you have a secret talent that hasn’t been fully developed. It could be that technology has advanced around you and you finally want to catch up. Or, maybe you were inspired—you heard someone give a fantastic presentation about a topic that is outside of your current knowledge base and you thought, “I wonder what it would take for me to learn that.”

Andrea Kates Crosspertise

Give in to your desire for CrossPertise. Add a new business skill to your quiver.

Take the plunge. Allow desire to win over fear; encourage curiosity to conquer inhibition. Admit it, name it, and master it—get started with the step-by-step guide to CrossPertise—that all-important process for adding capabilities from an entirely new area to our professional skills.

What’s your hunch for a business skill that would take you to the next level? My hunch was: “I’d like to learn the art of live presentation.” I set out to find out how, and worked with a master to raise my game.

I had a big moment coming up (a TED talk), and I suddenly realized that I needed to evolve from keynote speaker to compelling storyteller. I’d watched reality televisions shows like Dancing With The Stars where sports figures, politicians, actors, and other dance novices were put through the paces to take them from no experience to television worthy. What always fascinated me was not so much the specific moves they learned, but how the experienced dance coaches started with whatever clay they were given and molded it into a final routine. I wondered, what would it be like to put myself into the hands of an experienced director to guide me through the paces of the journey from novice to master? How could those lessons apply to other skills I have on my business bucket list?

I worked hard on my material (with co-presenter, Tom Stat). I rehearsed the script the best I knew how. But I came to understand a critical component of the path to mastering something unfamiliar: The key to CrossPertise sometimes requires guidance from an expert who knows how to mold clay—someone who has a vision for what your talents might become and can put you on a path to accelerate your progress.

Andy White

Andy White, artistic director of Lookingglass Theater Company, took on the challenge of bringing an amateur up to speed in uncomfortable territory.

Andy White, Artistic Director of Lookingglass Theater Company in Chicago, agreed to serve as a coach. I thought I’d share the secrets of his approach—basic lessons that apply any time you want to raise your game and master CrossPertise:

1. LET THE MASTER DEVISE THE STEPS IN THE JOURNEY. The Suzuki music system has ten basic books that guide a child through the fundamentals of technique, all written by an expert who knew the ropes and understood what it took to make progress. Let the business expert assess your skill level and set a similar type of path. Part of the experience is the realization that you don’t know what you don’t know.

2. ZERO THE BOARD. A sound engineer who mixes classical music on Monday and jazz on Tuesday has to “zero the board”—set all of the settings back at zero to make sure that his/her patterns from one day’s genre don’t bleed into the next session. Keep an open mind.

3. PLAY FULL OUT. Bring your highest level of discipline and commitment to learning the new skill. Commit to practice sessions, do the homework, do the extra credit, and immerse yourself in the experience. Let desire win out over fear or inhibition.

What is on your business bucket list? What secrets can you share about conquering a new capability, mastering a new skill, raising your game?

2 Responses to “CrossPertise: 3 Secrets to Mastering a New Business Skill”

  1. Cathy Buchanan March 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    I was asked to create a website for my organization with a very limited budget. As I am lacking in artistic and computer programming skills, I was overwhelmed and kept putting it off. The day came, however, when I plunged into the tutorial for a very simple website creation program. I found that website creation was a lot of fun, and the site was up and running within a few days. The hardest part was getting over my fear! It may not be the jazziest website in the world, but it has worked well for us.

    • Andrea Kates March 9, 2012 at 8:50 am #

      Cathy–that’s an incredible story. Loved the part about getting over the fear. I’ve also discovered that once I get started, there are a lot more people than I ever realized who are willing to provide support, ideas, and resources. The idea brings momentum–agree?

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