one surprising secret to being recognized as an expert

One Surprising Secret to Being Respected as an Expert

I was having dinner with a group of senior leaders after a strategic executive offsite. So naturally, the conversation turned to … octopus hunting. Apparently, Carlos, the senior leader sitting across from me was an expert.

He described his technique in intricate detail. I listened in amazement. In all the times I’ve gone scuba diving looking for Octopi, I’ve only seen one of these eight-legged guys (and the only capturing I did was in the photo above).  And here he was bringing home nine or more at a time.

He smiled, “Karin, you can’t see them because you aren’t an expert.” Fair enough.

The Most Effective Way to Show Up as the Expert

But as his story continued, I realized Carlos’ true expertise was how he used it.

We like to hunt as a family. My Dad doesn’t see them as easily as he once did. So when I spot one I linger around it, to draw my Dad’s attention there. But don’t mention the octupus. Then he sees it, and comes back to the family with all the stories of the one Carlos almost missed.

My son is still learning so I find some in the smaller crevices and tell him I can’t possibly get my hands in there, and let him be the hero at dinner because he got the really hard ones.

Carlos gets the results he needs. Enough octopi for his hungry family waiting at home to cook them. He has fun with the people he loves. And everyone surfaces feeling a bit better about their contribution. Winning Well, confident humility at it’s finest.

Above the Surface

The next day, I watched Carlos again when he was handed the mic to talk about leadership characteristics as part of a panel discussion. He spoke in detail about each of his peers sitting beside him, sharing exactly what he admired about them as leaders—most of them he’d only been working with a short while from a remote distance. I watched their faces as he spoke. He clearly nailed characteristics they were truly proud of.

The best experts don’t need to tell you they are, they show you. They encourage, develop, and recognize the expertise in others.

BONUS How to Hunt an Octopus

In case you didn’t know Octopus hunting was a thing either, here you go.


Posted in Winning Well and tagged , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Thank you for this great story about showing leadership characteristics. Complimenting others shows, humility, compassion, and that you’ve been paying attention. The octopus hunter story is something I’m going to remember for a long time. Thank you, Karin.

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