How often have you been amazed at leaders who are knowledgeable about all aspects of the business? Whether you meet them at your workplace or at a networking event, they leave an impactful impression. Such is the power of cross-functional expertise.
Cross-functional expertise provides a complete perspective of how a business is run and the challenges that are faced by each functional group. It is almost like being able to see the broader picture from both sides and taking informed decisions.
It offers the advantage of broadening one's horizons
Ira Gilani, Director, Goldratt India says, "cross-functional expertise is important for both men and women as they prepare themselves to take on leadership roles. Whether you are in marketing, HR or supply chain, if you are interested in widening your horizons and taking up a larger leadership role, you need to be able to connect the dots and see the big picture. Also, as you become more senior in the organization cross-functional expertise is very helpful in influencing your peers and key decision makers as you can see things from their perspective."
This assumes even more importance for women. Women often get stereotyped into certain types of roles by organizations that are still male-dominated. Actively seeking out cross-functional roles can help women get out of their comfort zone, increase their contribution and become more confident.
It helps sharpen management skills and generate strategic insights
Kavita Gupta, vice-president, Enterprise Digital and Analytics at American Express says, "cross-functional experience is not just good to have but essential to progress beyond a certain level in your career. Great leaders are those who show empathy and can make connections with people they lead, and true connection comes from having been in their shoes and really understanding what their work entails, which comes from diverse functional roles."
Kavita's career has been a case of cross-functional experiences with stints in data analytics and marketing before moving into strategic leadership roles.
It instills confidence and self-belief
Apart from the work related aspects, cross-functional expertise also helps women to gain confidence in their own abilities to manage complexities at work. With this expertise in the background, it becomes easier to understand requirements of different projects swiftly and hit the ground running.
However, over the course of a long career, it's important to get in-depth experience in at least one area and then spend some time in other groups as well. Too frequent switching between roles could lead to instability and impair growth of a personal brand within the organization. However, opportunities to become part of multidisciplinary groups or working for credible periods of time on different functions should be grabbed wisely.