emerge performance - What is Mastery and Why Does it Matter?

What is Mastery and Why Does it Matter?



15-Jul-2018

Do you know how to explain complex theories to someone with little knowledge of the specific topic? Are you able to look at a building plan and quickly identify risks and problem areas? Can you make a perfect omelette every time without even trying?

If you can do any of these things, it probably means that you’ve achieved mastery of a particular skill or topic. In this article, we explore what ‘mastery’ means and why it matters.

Understanding mastery

The Oxford English Dictionary defines mastery as “comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity” and “the action of mastering a subject or skill”.

Said another way, this means that you’re an expert.

Mastery can be narrowly applied, referring to expertise in a very specific action or skill – for example, you can master the ability to quickly cut open a durian without hurting yourself. In a professional context, however, a broader degree of mastery is generally sought after. For example, think of a lawyer achieving a high level of expertise in all areas related to corporate law.


Reaping the benefits

Mastery can play an important role in career development. Here are four ways that developing expertise in your chosen field can strengthen your professional capabilities:

  1. Performance. One of the fundamental benefits of mastery is improved performance. When you master a skill, you become better at delivering high-quality results. Being able to deliver on target consistently is especially important in professional fields where the stakes are high. For example, mastery is crucial for pilots and surgeons to ensure they deliver the desired outcome every time, since any errors can be catastrophic.
  2. Efficiency. When you achieve mastery, certain skills become second nature. Since you are able to perform tasks without the need to go slow and think hard about each step, you can be much more efficient at your job. Think of a graphic designer working on a major design project – if they’ve mastered Adobe Photoshop, they can be much more productive than a novice designer who continually needs to look up how to use different Photoshop tools.
  3. Versatility. Mastery in one area can lead to greater professional versatility. If you know your field inside and out, it becomes much easier for you to collaborate on cross-functional teams. Mastery helps you to understand both the big picture and fine details in your area of expertise, which often makes it easier to understand the interplay between different domains. This versatility is important for working well with others.
  4. Leadership. Mastery can help you rise to the top of your profession by making you a better leader. Achieving mastery often requires seeking a mentor with the know-how to guide your development. As you build knowledge over time and become an expert in your own right, you will be able to move into a leadership position and provide guidance to others. Mastering your field will help ensure you have the wisdom and credibility needed to be an effective leader.

Why mastery matters

Achieving mastery means you’ve reached a point where your deep knowledge and skills in a certain area have made you an expert. While mastering anything takes time, effort and a thoughtful approach, the benefits are well worth it as you enhance your performance, efficiency, versatility and leadership. Whether you’re pursuing personal or professional development, mastery can help you in your journey.


Header photo by Guilherme Cunha on Unsplash

Body photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash