5 for 5 blog – From reservoir to river to many rivers

27 Mar

Photo Jul 11, 9 30 54 AM

“Our lives are to be a river, not a reservoir.” – John Maxwell

This is one of the earliest leadership lessons I ever learned. And one of the hardest to practice. Sharing what you know, or what you believe you know, requires embracing vulnerability. The fear of how people may judge what and how you share can seem overwhelming…until you recognize the potential to positively influence even one other person by passing along what you have learned outweighs any potential negative feedback.

A lot of people may describe their stance as not giving a rip about what anyone thinks about them or their input, but the truth is everyone cares. Negative feedback hurts. But worse than that is anticipating negative feedback, that most often never comes. In 5 years of sharing both internally and externally, I have rarely had any feedback that I would classify as hurtful or malicious.

But there is a bigger challenge still…encouraging your team to share what they are learning…with their peers….and with their teams. As Ralph Nader said:

“The function of leadership is to create more leaders.”

And if you believe the corollary between these two quotes, then as leaders we need to create and encourage cultures that enable and reward sharing knowledge. I find it hard to explain why more people don’t share what they know within and outside of their teams. The only logical model is that most people are indifferent and aren’t learning, or they believe that somehow in our highly performance managed organizations, that an article on negotiation, or creativity, or leadership will give them some small competitive advantage. Both of which are a shame.

But if you can get that ball rolling, the potential for the growth of knowledge and relationships among your team is amazing. If creating a knowledge sharing culture is important to you, here are a few tips I would share:

  • Be clear about your intention – If your goal is knowledge sharing, don’t beat around the bush and certainly don’t brow-beat your team into sharing, help them see why sharing has potential to educate and even innovate by bringing new ideas together.
  • Model what you what done – Leaders go first. Share, share, and share some more. Eventually people will
  • Recognize the effort – Make note of individuals who to step into the ring to share. Comment on what you learned from the share and pass it along to others.
  • Be patient and reiterate the why – The challenge of embracing vulnerability does not come easily for everyone. Be patient. Remind people of the opportunity they have to make a difference.

I am very proud of the work our team is doing as we are starting to take the small steps towards becoming a knowledge sharing culture that will not only benefit our team but potentially in the future many of our colleagues outside of our immediate group. As we like to say, we can never have too many leaders…as such, we can never have too much sharing of knowledge to build those leaders.

Be a river and, in turn, enable others to be rivers as well….

Here are this week’s 5 for 5 articles:

How New Evidence Supports the Classic Advice From a 1972 Book About Tennis – by Brad Stulberg

The genius of frugal innovation – by Navi Radjou

Three simple and difficult steps – by Seth Godin

Leverage the Difference Between “Doing” and “Getting Done” – by Mike Sturm

Most people are secretly threatened by creativity – by Jennifer Mueller

all the best, kevin