Sharing your knowledge, especially if it’s useful and unique, isn’t always easy. There are plenty of reasons why you should do this, but somehow it’s very easy to get stopped by negative assumptions. In today’s post, I’d like to share my opinion on sharing knowledge, and ask for yours in return.
Naturally, most of us feel competition. Even in your own team, you’re bound to think now and then of how good or bad your performance is compared to that of other team members. While this is absolutely natural, you shouldn’t let such a competition spirit get in the way of you sharing the knowledge with others.
The Truth About Sharing Knowledge
One of the worst things you can do is to refuse sharing the knowledge with your team. When you do this, you may have your own reasons, but even if you tell them, your peers would get their own, very different ideas.
One of the most common reasons for not sharing is the fear of losing your unique advantage. I used to think that it’s always best to have a unique skillset within a team, and never share any of the knowledge with others. The more you know of things nobody else knows, the better. Boy, was I wrong in such thinking!
The truth is, all the knowledge must be shared. If you think a bit longer, you will understand that no matter how good you are, if you work for a company and act on behalf of a certain team of people – this implies that everything you know or learn must be shared. You are paid for achieving collective results, and if this means teaching others how to do everything you’re capable of, then do your best and show them. You are not paid for making life harder for other team members just because you’re not feeling like sharing something.
Being open with your team and freely sharing anything you know is one of the major signs of you being comfortable where you are. Being a great team player depends on your comfortable participation in every process of such a team, including knowledge exchange. In addition to this, shared knowledge ensures your team stays safe should anything unexpected happen to you – even if you’re temporarily unavailable, your team members will be quite comfortable covering for you with the information you had previously shared with them.
There is a certain point in your professional life, when you suddenly see how most of your fears were really amateur. In fact, I’m sure that every fear you have about your job becomes silly at some stage of your career. Every single one of your fears can and will be smiled upon one day – you’ll look back and laugh how you were afraid of doing something so simple or easy. It’s just a matter of time and a subject to your ever-expanding experience.
Common Fears and How to Overcome Them
With this in mind, I’m going to save you the trouble of figuring out most of the competition fears which stop so many people from sharing their knowledge. I’m giving you the false statements similar to the ones I myself had once believed to be true.
Before we start: Using this opportunity, I’d like to apologize for my behavior to some of the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with in my career so far. I also thank you, for if it wasn’t for the support and guidance from some of you, I would have never changed for the better.
Here they are, the statements which you should never accept, long with my advice on how to act in every situation:
Fear of Not Having Unique Skills
False statement: If you don’t have a unique skill, you will no longer be needed in your team and will probably be fired.
Yep, that’s exactly how I looked at sharing knowledge at some stage in my life (the first years of my career, to be precise). Now, I admit that some companies support and promote such a behavior among their employees, but without cooperation and shared knowledge it’s impossible to have people function as a team.
My advice: Skills, not matter unique or not, can’t really be shared. They are your own ways of doing things, of applying the knowledge the most effective way. Your knowledge can and should be shared, but skills are always going to be yours – there will never be two people on a team with exactly the same skills, so you shouldn’t worry about it. If you explain everything you know to others, you will only gain wider acceptance as an authority.
Losing Your Roles and Positions Within a Team
False statement: If I give away everything I know, my services will no longer be needed as other team members will be doing everything themselves
My advice: if you have so much knowledge you worry about sharing it, you’re probably an avid learner. This means it will never become possible for you to give everything away, because you’ll be learning something new almost every day. If others start doing more based on the knowledge they get from you, this will give you a chance to work on new and perhaps more exciting projects.
You know what? Eventually there comes a time when you want to move on. When you’re no longer feeling like you’re giving most value by staying in your position and doing what you currently do. And guess what – until you have your knowledge properly shared, you won’t be able to leave your functions behind!
Another common way this happens is that you become so unique and so good ad your particular functions, that everyone else in your team wants you and only you to keep doing it! Sometimes your colleagues won’t let you work on other things just because this will mean you’ll have to abandon some of the common functions you’ve been doing so far. For them, it can be an unnecessary risk – nobody knows how good you’ll be at new things, but everyone knows you’re really good with your current functions. So, before you decide that you want to move on to something new, be sure to get into the habit of sharing.
Shared Knowledge Reducing Your Chances to be Promoted
False statement: If I share everything, I will never stand out enough to be promoted
My advice: you never get promoted based on the knowledge you possess, it’s always to do with your experience and results – both measuring your ability to apply the knowledge.
You can get hired partially because of your vast knowledge, yes. But promotions usually happen because you grow out of your position by accepting more responsibilities and doing more. This happens not because your professional knowledge grows, but because your become more aware of processes in your organization and recognize the potential for improvements. The higher you are in your career, the more personality-based your success is, and the less it is dependent on your professional skills. The value you bring to the team or organization is rarely based only on your knowledge of the processes, it’s increasingly more to do with how comfortable you are doing what you do and taking on new projects and challenges.
Sharing Knowledge To Be Successful
Sharing knowledge is one of the best things you can do to become a great team player and ultimately a leader. It is essential not only for the success of people around you, but for your own success in the first place. The more you share, the more people respect you. The more respected you feel, the more you’re willing to share. The more you give away, the more new opportunities come your way.
Perhaps my advices won’t cover every possible situation you can find yourself in, but they’re drawn from my own experience. I know how hard it is to learn from somebody else’s mistakes and not your own ones, but my advice stays the same – learn to share the knowledge, and you’ll thank yourself later.
Finally, if you recognize the common fears of sharing knowledge or have some of your own – leave them in a comment, I’m sure it will help someone.