Are You a Generalist or a Specialist?

The Kansas City Chiefs have just won the SuperBowl.  Surrounding any major accomplishment like this, comes the evaluation of the skills and abilities of the players involved.  Granted, it takes a combination of individual and team strengths to get a win in a sport like football, but what areas should you specialize in and where should you focus on a more generalized approach to create success?

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs Quarterback, has been lauded for his ability to be a generalist.  His past high school sports days playing a variety of sports: baseball, basketball and also football, has provided him with unique abilities that have transferred into his football career with gusto.  His ability to pass without looking and read where he teammates were going to be came from his basketball days.  His on the move side arm throws were developed playing shortstop.  Mahomes, and his coaches, realized that he has a unique ability to capture skills and create muscle memory from plays that aren’t necessarily on the football field.

In thinking about your skill set, where does this place you?  What particular skills are you really good at (I.e. a specialist)?  You might be amazing at analyzing a financial statement and identifying areas for improvement, but maybe your delivery style of these results is sub-par to achieve buy in from your team.  I use this example in the business world, as we all tend to flock towards those skills that are easy first.  Better yet, if they are easy and also interesting to us, becoming a specialist is the path we pursue.

Becoming an effective generalist takes a more complicated approach.  You can very easily spin your wheels and waste a lot of time trying to be everything to everyone.  What I want for you to consider is what general skills can you develop to get you the results you want in a certain area?  Take my example from above with the financial analyst.  If you are not able to achieve success through your specialized approach, what generalized skills can you develop that compliment your specialty?  Is it creating connections with team members that can present your information for you in a more effective manner?  Is it seeking out opportunities to develop your own presentation skills?

One area of life that I like to encourage everyone to get engaged with is non-profit boards.  Regardless of the area of your business, seeking out volunteer opportunities in the form of board and committee work can provide you with a personally rewarding experience in an area that fills your heart.  In addition to this, board work creates a platform to learn a variety of skills that can be applied to your business.  Things like: running a meeting, due process, board member recruitment and fundraising events are all skills that can be captured through board service.  If you have the benefit of being a part of an effective board, with strong leadership and engagement, the skills that you will develop can be applied to any area of your life to be more effective.  Board service allows you to test those skills amongst individuals that have a lot to share from their own experiences, and will help you create your own set of generalist skills.


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