Hey Leaders: Knowledge is Power, So Cultivate It

Growing Knowledge

As leaders/managers, we have all been in situations where a stellar employee for personal or professional reasons, moves on to a better or different opportunity in his/her career. 

Gone are the days where an employee starts working in an organization immediately after high school or college and stays in that same workplace until retirement.

Knowledge is Power

It is a highlight for any manager to have an employee who is a quick learner, very intelligent, self-sufficient and is very efficient and effective in their current position.

It is an extra bonus when they have some longevity in the position.

This type of employee also tends to be a leader and has no problem when assigned a task or project. They often are the ones taking the ball and running with it with little to no direction.

Bridle the Power

This person generally has an extensive knowledge base in their head. This can often cause some unintended situations. Although they can be a breath of fresh in one moment, they can also end up on the other end of the spectrum and be harmful the next because they are so smart.

This dichotomy can be avoided if the manager has the right steps in place.

The last thing you want as a leader is any negative impact to your team, organization, or project. So it is best to get a handle on all of these smarts. Especially before they decide to move on to another new opportunity elsewhere.

Preparation and Change Management Is Key

Here are some steps to make sure that if or when the time comes and that star employee chooses to move on, you are prepared and any gaps or changes in staff are transparent to both your internal and external stakeholders:

1)  Every once in a while, immerse yourself in the weeds. 

In a leadership position, you are not expected to know every granular detail of any employee’s/team’s work.  However, it is a good practice to occasionally take an interest in the details of an employee’s/team’s project or task.

Have a sense of what is involved in their work.

You may be very surprised to see how much effort it takes to get from Point A to Point B.

2)  Cultivate learning like a seed. 

Encourage lifelong learning in your organization at all levels.  On your immediate team, always take a vested interest in the aspirations of your employees.   Encourage them to be all they can be and to take that mantra with them until they retire (no matter whether they choose to pursue other opportunities internally or externally or stay in their current position).

If they would like to learn work for which another team member has primary responsibility for, support that person in any learning endeavors.  In other words, as a manager and leader…INSPIRE, EMPOWER AND MOTIVATE!

“The seeds of knowledge may be planted in solitude, but must be cultivated in public.”  Samuel Johnson

3)  Don’t operate in a silo. 

Ensure that your lines of business/employees are not operating in a silo.  Always encourage cross collaboration across departments and among employees and have an idea of what other areas/employees do.

In an emergency situation, you may have to rely on resources from other teams temporarily until you can back-fill a position.

4)  Have process documents prepared and kept up to date.  

A best practice in any organization and for any leader should be to have process documents, procedures, process flows, etc. prepared and kept up to date.

5)  Have a succession plan in place for C-level positions. 

It is critical your organization have succession plan for C-level positions so your organization can continue operating without any disruption.

6)  Be a champion and shepherd of change management. 

The day has come which any leader dreads like the plague.  The highest performer on your team or person in a key executive level position officially gives their notice.

At first you wish that you could clone the person.

However, instead brush the dust or lint off of your change management toolkit.  Depending on the influence of the person leaving and until you can find a replacement, the ride in your organization or team may be a little bumpy.

However, between fostering lots of collaboration and navigating affected employees through the sea of change management, you will soon see the silver lining in that dark cloud. 

“Success with change is less like engineering an event and more like navigating a journey.” ~ Dr. Rodger Dean Duncan

Does your organization have any best practices in place to promote learning and knowledge sharing?  If so, what are they? What contingency plans are in place on your team if a key member decides to pursue other opportunities? As a manager, have you ever lost a key player on your team?  If so, how did you handle it? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Marie Maher
Marie Maher is Director of Operations Analysis at The College Board
She manages projects and new operational initiatives for testing programs
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Skype: Marm69

Image Sources: altongansky.typepad.com

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