Wonder Woman

101 Maxims for Subject Matter Experts

Alan Berrey
  1. Focus on what matters.
  2. Three things matter most: establish trust, determine mutual vision, and ensure delivery. That’s it! When you help in the selling process almost everything else is a distraction.
  3. Answer questions if you must but do it to establish trust, determine mutual vision, and ensure delivery.
  4. Being an expert in the eyes of one person does not guarantee you are an expert in the eyes of another.
  5. Being an expert in the eyes of many people does not guarantee you are an expert in the eyes of all.
  6. Use expertise to benefit others before you use it to benefit yourself.
  7. People seek experts for one reason: to eliminate risk. So, eliminate risk.
  8. Identify risks, rank them, and vanquish them in order.
  9. If you can’t eliminate all risks (which you can’t) isolate and mitigate.
  10. If you can help someone, don’t wait, help quickly.
  11. If you can’t help someone, don’t obstruct. Clear a path for those who can.
  12. Stay in your lane. Don’t pretend you’re expert in subjects you are not.
  13. Keep it simple. If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t know it well enough.
  14. Challenge the status quo.
  15. Know the radius of your character and stay within it.
  16. Lift where you stand.
  17. Don’t expect others to get out of the way–they won’t.
  18. Tell the truth.
  19. Don’t be arrogant when you tell the truth.
  20. Keep secrets.
  21. Never violate a trust.
  22. Protect everyone from folly.
  23. Declare your recommendations with confidence.
  24. If you aren’t confident about your recommendations, then don’t declare them.
  25. Smooth the edges.
  26. Fix what’s broken.
  27. Soothe what hurts.
  28. Honor what is holy.
  29. When someone is wrong, assume ignorance before malice.
  30. Test and test again.
  31. Take care of your equipment.
  32. Don’t waste anyone’s time.
  33. Don’t assume you know the answer before you know the question.
  34. Don’t assume people know what they want. They rarely do.
  35. Don’t assume people know what you are talking about. They rarely do.
  36. Listen, ask, listen, talk, listen, listen, listen. In that order.
  37. Respect every person in the meeting, especially the least among them.
  38. Find the edge of human knowledge and explore further.
  39. Find the limits of your personal skill and stretch further.
  40. Make your audience feel smart.
  41. Answer questions with hope and optimism.
  42. Interpret stupid questions as valid, serious, and important.
  43. Never condescend.
  44. Know your numbers.
  45. If someone gives you a number, assume it’s wrong.
  46. Count twice.
  47. Do the math three times.
  48. Leave nothing to chance, or to the imagination.
  49. Avoid expressing doubt.
  50. Never show anger.
  51. Put your passion on display, your enthusiasm matters.
  52. Remain current in your domain.
  53. Read twice before sending.
  54. Assume your message will be forwarded.
  55. Assume your tone will be amplified.
  56. When others are doubtful, display confidence; when others are confident, be doubtful.
  57. Don’t praise your competitors, but don’t disparage them either.
  58. Avoid acronyms and technical jargon.
  59. Find a way to say “yes” as an alternative to saying “no.”
  60. Don’t criticize your colleagues.
  61. Don’t diminish the value of your colleagues.
  62. Don’t surprise anyone. You can warn, caution, inform, remind, signal, prompt, suggest, and urge, but do not surprise.
  63. Avoid the Hindenburg. If something is going to fail, ensure it fails fast, fails cheap, and inflicts no injury.
  64. Know the laws that govern your domain.
  65. Know the standards that inform the laws.
  66. Ignore distractions.
  67. Be discerning. Distinguish things that matter from things that don’t.
  68. Be enthusiastic. If you are not excited about your subject who will be?
  69. Maintain patience when working with the unskilled.
  70. Trust others and be trustworthy.
  71. Don’t assume your audience trusts you–they don’t.
  72. Don’t assume your audience will believe you–they won’t.
  73. Don’t assume your audience is convinced–they’re not.
  74. Give people a reason to listen. Don’t just talk.
  75. Ignore the nay-sayers, the mockers, and the haters.
  76. Keep it short. Don’t say “boo-hoo” when “boo” will do.
  77. Rejoice in the successes of others.
  78. Seek the consensus of other experts.
  79. Love what you do and do what you love.
  80. Practice your craft deliberately every day.
  81. Performing in your craft rarely counts as practice.
  82. Know the people who set the standards of your industry, learn from them, then set the standards for your industry.
  83. Remember how hard it was to learn a new skill.
  84. Grant people the space and time to learn a new skill. Let them crawl before they walk, and walk before they run.
  85. Practice with people who are better than you, until they are no longer better than you.
  86. Remember the end of the project is the hardest. The first 90% of the project will take 90% of the time. The other 10% of the project will take the other 90% of the time.
  87. Avoid sarcasm when you write, speak, and think. Pretty much always.
  88. Be nice. If people find you offensive, they will eventually stop finding you at all.
  89. Demo what your audience needs to see, not what you want to show.
  90. Assume the worst conditions for your demo.
  91. Never let them see you set up the demo or presentation. Configure everything in advance.
  92. Practice what you preach and preach what you practice.
  93. Unless you know Google will quote you as the authority, don’t say, “Google it.”
  94. Don’t extend vain promises.
  95. Focus on one person at a time. If you remain focused on one person, the world will change. If you focus on the world, no one will change.
  96. Act with autonomy. Do what must be done, especially when no one else will.
  97. Context is everything. Be certain your recommendation fits the nuance of the situation.
  98. Accept accountability.
  99. Avoid using absolutes. Words such as never, always, absolutely, completely, all, none, and impossible are rarely true.
  100. Avoid ambiguity. If your words can be interpreted in more than one way, assume they will be interpreted in the way that does the most harm.
  101. Always end where we began: establish trust, determine mutual vision, and ensure delivery.

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expert \'ek-spərt\
adjective: having or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience
dig \'dig\
verb: to unearth
verb: to like or enjoy
noun: a sarcastic remark
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