This past Tuesday evening was a Cub Scout meeting. As the leader of my sonâ€™s age group we were continuing to go through first aid requirements for a rank advancement. We had to move a couple of times because the church where we meet is having some construction, but eventually we settled in the front of the church sitting on the grass. That evening we had a couple of new scouts that were supposed to be in the older group (they had met off campus that evening and they did not get the word so they sat in with us). So with new faces and beginning a little behind our normal schedule I started to work through my presentation.
We began by reviewing previous weeks (what should go into a first aid kit, defining first aid, how we had made our own first aid kits, etc.) and then we started into new material. We began discussing â€œhurry upâ€ cases like severe bleeding, heart attack, stroke, etc. and as I asked the boys the partner up to practice scenarios, for the first time I looked up and scanned the parents who were sitting toward the back.
One of the dads there was in medical scrubs, so I just asked him, â€œSir what do you do?â€ and he responded â€œopen heart surgery.â€ Of course, I laughed out loud. Here I am teaching first aid while a person who does open heart surgery was sitting in the back of the crowd. An expert in all things first aid was there but a novice was doing the teaching.
As I have reflected on this crazy turn of events I wonder how many times in organizations those who are â€œexpertsâ€ are not utilized; they are in essence sitting the back of the crowd. As the night progressed and we moved from severe bleeding, to stoke, to choking and the heimlich maneuver, I constantly looked to him and said, â€œlet me know if I get this wrongâ€ and â€œplease feel free to add somethingâ€ and he did eventually jump in and begin to add some great insights.
Generalists and Specialists
The Merriam-Webster dictionaryâ€™s simple definition of a generalist states a generalist is â€œa person who knows something about a lot of subjectsâ€. A specialist is defined as â€œa person who has special knowledge and skill relating to a particular job, area of studyâ€. In my example above I have a shallow and broad range of knowledge about first aid. The â€œopen heartâ€ expert dad has â€œspecialistâ€ knowledge in medicine â€“ which is much deeper and specific than my own. Thatâ€™s what he does for a living. Doesnâ€™t it make more sense to let him lead this specific area of study with the boys?
Specialists add a depth to what you are doing; so how does one include then, especially if you are a generalist?
- Advanced Planning â€“ As with any degree of creativity and ingenuity, these things often take time to put together. You canâ€™t ask someone to prepare a wonderful presentation, a speech, or even be there if your request comes at the â€œlast minute.â€ As the leader, take the time to think way ahead and you will be surprised at how many opportunities and specialists will present themselves to your organization. They have always been there, you were just not in the right frame of mind to see or utilize them.
- Communication â€“ Once your plan is together, then communicate it with the group who is involved in what you are doing. Give the invitation to those whom may have a specialty in a given area to help in that one area.
Many people are unwilling to lead an effort as a whole but they may be much more willing to lead an evening, or specific meeting â€“ especially if it involves something they are passionate and knowledgeable about.
- Leave the Ego at the Door â€“ People are leaders for different reasons. If you are a leader who always wants to be in the spotlight, then you are limiting your organization. If the teaching, speaking, leading, etc. always has to be done by you, then you are blocking great opportunities and moments from your organization.
Make sure that this is not being done because of your pride, that you have not communicated with others, or simply havenâ€™t taken the time to plan things out.