Knowledge Leadership… Transform your organization’s performance with 2 simple questions

Dec 6 2010

Great leaders have always found ways to help teams deliver high performance. But it takes more than formal work teams to succeed in today’s rapidly-changing business world and uncertain marketplaces. Everyday we hear a new story about a company that is leveraging the collective experience of their organizations employees, partners, suppliers and customers to create breakthrough performance.

Behind every one of these successes is a great ‘knowledge leader’, someone who created the demand for their people and teams to share and transfer their knowledge across organizational boundaries. In doing so, they have developed a highly adaptable and agile company that can deal quickly and effectively with the ambiguities and complexities of today’s business environment.

One of the most powerful things these knowledge leaders do is shape highly productive knowledge sharing behavior during high-profile performance meetings, such as quarterly performance reviews. This can be done very effectively through a leader’s response to the performance results reported by one of their team members. Here’s how:

When a subordinate team leader reports results that beat or meet expectations, acknowledge their performance and ask the following question: “What have you and your team learned that enabled you to perform better than plan?” Then, quickly follow up their response by asking other leaders in attendance, “Where else in the organization might we benefit from this learning and experience?”

When a subordinate team leader reports results that don’t meet expectations, acknowledge their performance and ask, “What do you and your team need to learn to help improve your performance and deliver on plan?” Then, follow their response by asking other leaders in attendance, “Where else in our organization or others might this knowledge and experience exist?”

You’ll be surprised what these simple questions set in motion. For one thing, the knowledge leader running the meeting has made it clear that he or she expects people in the organization to seek learning and knowledge from outside their teams…they have been given official ‘license’ to spend time sharing and transferring experience across boundaries. And, since word travels fast after these kinds of meetings, others will quickly get the message as well.

Another thing that happens is actual sharing and transfer of relevant knowledge is kick-started. In some cases, people won’t be able to respond immediately to the questions. They will likely want to get with their teams to figure out what specific knowledge they need, or what unique knowledge they now have to offer. This sets many knowledge conversations in motion, leading to an upward spiral of continuous performance improvement.

And, people are smart…they will come to future meetings with their knowledge needs and offers in hand. This is when things get really interesting, and knowledge sharing and transfer becomes just part of the way things work.

Find a leader who’s keen to improve their organizations performance and help him ask these questions…and let the knowledge flow!


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