Our brains do some weird things when we are successful. It can pay to prepare for it. Especially, because we can get what I call “expertitis.”
I have a confession to make. After getting some really rough feedback about ten years ago I realized that I had come down with a bad case of expertitis. I had become successful as a change agent, and at helping people transform. This success unfortunately went to my head (which swelled a few sizes). I began to lecture people who had no interest in my advice. I was showing the first two symptoms below. No surprise, my success rate (and popularity) began to decline.
Symptoms: Expertitis is that dreaded egotistical state that shows itself in one or more of the following behaviors:
- Knowledge bias: (pompous chest puffing-up) “I’m an expert in one area which of course means that I’m an expert in a bunch of areas.”
- Teacher bias: (unwanted professorial air) “Of course you want my advice! Let me tell you how to do it right“
- Specialist jargon: (speaking in terms no average person can understand – see the urban dictionary for more.)
- Narcissistic bias: (with nose up in the air) “I’m so smart that I deserve better treatment than others.”
My solutions to priming by brain to be more realistic and helpful were simple, if not easy.
- First, I posted above my desk the following quote. “Focus on learning, not knowing”.
- Then, I made sure with every program that my goal was to “Add as much value as possible, rather than show my expertise.”
I’d love to hear what you do to balance yourself and prevent expertitis.
Also, I love learning about other brain geeks that use research to help us all learn how to work and live better.
I’ve followed Dr. Srini Pillay for a while. Here are his great suggestions for counteracting expertitis in the Harvard Business Review blog. The Unexpected Consequences of Success