Being an expert means having an airplane ticket and a set of PowerPoint slides….

…But does it last?

Several years ago, I had an arrangement with another health system Chief Medical Officer that we would give a presentation at each other’s annual medical staff meeting.  Although he was nationally renowned, he told me candidly, “I think my medical staff is tired of hearing from me.  You could even use my same slides and they will listen to you, because you are new to them and from out of town…And I could do the same for you.”.

That sounded reasonable to me.  After all, I would get a well-respected speaker to address my medical staff, and he would get the same.  It worked out so well, that we repeated it the following year.

It has long been said that one cannot be a profit in one’s own land. And it is probably true.  There is something about an itinerant “professor” flying in from somewhere else that gives that person extra credibility that the incumbent may not have in his/her own shop.

That’s one of the true values of an outside speaker.  I have found many times that I can deliver a message that has been heard before by the attendees, but because it is coming from an outside source, and ostensibly an expert, its credibility is enhanced.  I have learned over time to use this to my advantage.  I can reiterate key points to the audience that the present executive team has already discussed with them… but now with enhanced believability.  And it is instrumental in getting the job done.

So, just what is so special about that outside person?

It is doubtfully the training.  Most of us have had equivalent education, post-graduate experience, etc.,  It could possibly be the experience of the outside speaker.  After all, that is why that speaker was considered in the first place.  Maybe it’s just the unknown or human nature?  Perhaps we will never know, but I must admit that the perception certainly exists.

The question naturally arises that if the outside person were to spend enough time in the new situation, would that credibility attenuate?  And would that person now become just one of the rest?

I had the opportunity to put that question to the test this year.

For the past few months I have assumed the role of acting Chief Medical Officer of a large health care system in the northeast.  I have worked with that system over the past four years on several issues, and had presented to their Board and to their physicians on multiple occasions.  I was always well-received.  I was the outside expert.  But now I am their acting CMO and I am with them on a regular basis.

For the first few months, I was definitely able to maintain the image of the expert.  My opinions were rarely questioned.  After all, I had so much experience to bring to the system.  But after several months, I seemed to have less of an automatic effect on the group as the outside expert.  Put simply, I was expected to perform.  We have very challenging and aggressive issues to deal with, some of them quite controversial and potentially derisive to the group.  It was now my job to get it done.

My “previous experience” became less and less important as time went on.  Are we meeting the performance expectations for the System? … that was the operating mantra.

Bottom line, things are going very well with this institution.  My role as outside expert was replaced with the expectation of being an effective medical executive.  It has worked.

And that’s exactly the way it should go.  All professionals should be evaluated on their ability to successfully lead the present organization.. no matter where one may have been in the past.

Remember the old customer service saying: “What can you do for me today?”

Maybe one should not be a profit in his/her own land.

But of course, I am gaining tremendous experience in my present situation and may very well have some new PowerPoints to add to my future repertoire.  Who knows, it may make me an even greater expert.

Or maybe not….

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