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  • Writer's pictureNancy Dering Mock

Sharing a Priceless Commodity

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

"We're sort of awash in knowledge. But what we could use a little more of is wisdom."

In this observation, Chip Conley sheds light on one of the most valuable assets of people within any organization: wisdom. Wisdom is partly a product of accumulated experience that allows us to see patterns and connect the dots. It is knowing when to pay attention to intuition. In many cases, it is deep learning, almost always learned the hard way. It can't be found in the Employee Manual, much less Google.

Sharing wisdom is not the same as mentoring, although it is one component of mentoring. It can take place between and among people regardless of age, relationship, or experience. And here's the good news: most people possess more wisdom than they initially assume or give themselves credit for. Here are ways that leaders can share wisdom and encourage their team to share their own:

1. Reflect on Lessons Learned the Hard Way. Often, the most profound learning comes from mistakes, challenges, trailblazing and invention. Think about those experiences and the lessons taken away from them. Share your insights with others and invite them to do the same. Compare notes.

2. Illuminate "How Things Really Work." In organizations, there is the formal side, what it says on the Organization Chart and the Rule Book. But, there is also the informal side, the often unspoken "rules" of how things get done. Leaders can assist employees by advising them on the realities of the informal side: who can help regardless of title... who or what to avoid.

3. Navigating Organizational Politics. Power and authority are inherent in all organizations. How they are used, however, differs. Leaders can share wisdom with employees by pointing out how decisions are made and "who calls the shots." Pointing out where the political shoals are buried and how to steer clear or navigate them is a gift.

4. Invite Reciprocity. This is the cool part. Wisdom in organizations is not necessarily correlated to age. Different career paths yield different insights. Different experiences result in different learning. Different generations bring different perspectives. Leaders create opportunities for people to share their insights, learning and perspectives regardless of age.

Resist the temptation to picture the "wise old man" on the mountaintop. Wisdom resides within people of all ages, titles and backgrounds. The savvy leader will share this priceless commodity with his or her team and invites the team to share theirs as well.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Reflect on lessons you have learned the hard way. Share what you learned and how that has added to your body of wisdom.

  2. Have you ever had a boss who helped you navigate the organization and its politics? How did that benefit you?

  3. How can leaders create opportunities for people to share their insights, learning and perspectives?

  4. What are the implications for leaders? For you?

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