Robert-photo-w-icon-150-4-7-10-FINAL4-150x150Leaders seeking higher levels of engagement have learned that clarifying the purpose of their business (the reason they exist in the marketplace), enabling their people to increase their autonomy, and encouraging the development of mastery in the workplace have increased collaboration and commitment among the workforce, producing higher profit.

Of these 3 components, the pursuit of mastery, the drive to get better at something, can be most challenging.  The definition of “mastery” continues to evolve, causing some mystery around how mastery should appear.

At one time, the perception of mastery was clear. It referred to an extraordinary competence, related to technical excellence or subject matter expertise.  Masters were those who have the highest levels, a “state-of-the-art,” understanding and technique in a given discipline. There was a compulsory set of specific skills to be learned and applied.

But as the world grows increasingly more dynamic and knowledge continues to expand at an exponential rate, the definition of mastery has also progressed. Now, pursuing mastery drives us to discover the core of our creativity and ingenuity, transcending the obligatory mastery of skills. It’s about using our curiosity, initiative and imagination talents, paired with the keen observation and problem solving abilities learned through experience, to push the boundaries of knowledge and skill. And then, it’s about sharing and transferring our new knowledge and methods through documentation, dialogue and education.

Mastery at this level is focused on innovating breakthroughs in a person’s field of expertise. It’s about pursuing ideas and questions that consume us and then adapting to what we’ve discovered. This level of mastery is a continuous process, seeking to push beyond the boundaries of what we know today. It asks, “why not” instead of just “why.” It has no summit or finish line.

It turns out that the mystery of mastery is revealed not through exceptional skills or intellect, but rather in the ability to deepen our understanding of how to thrive in an ever changing world. And the secret of the mystery is that everyone has the potential to achieve this level of mastery – a fact that every leader can leverage to bond an organization together and to improve results.  Matthew May says it well: “It is not enough that we become the best at something, we must become the best for something.”

How are you encouraging the pursuit of mastery in your organization?

How could you use the pursuit of mastery to boost engagement with your team?