Congratulations on your success! You’re no longer needed.

After a number of years in the knowledge management space, I have come to realize that I know I am successful when I am no longer needed in the role I was hired to play. KM professionals generally get hired to “fix” things – better content management or search capabilities; better processes for storytelling and sharing; better mechanisms to capture tacit knowledge or connect people to people.

Once these systems, processes and expectations have been communicated and integrated into the way people work, what then? The goal for every KM professional is to work yourself out of a job.

KM professionals are like organizational SWAT team members – they come in, assess the situation, set up culture-appropriate processes, measure success and move on to the next opportunity whether it be within the same organization or a different one.

This is a scary proposition in a down economy…the fact that if I do my job right, I won’t have one in the future. But, I think it is the true test of success. Having KM processes and systems part of a culture and a way of doing business really ought to be our ultimate goal.

Now, this can take years…especially if leadership desires change that may not be indicative of the current culture but of a future state they envision. So, we can probably relax a little as we all certainly have work to do. However, we should always be looking for future opportunities to fix and depart from.

Flexing Your Style

flexibilityIn a knowledge management role, it is important to understand a company’s culture, technology infrastructure and processes. But, everything starts with people. How a culture influences people management styles is critical if you are trying to change behavior, increase adoption new things and inspire collaboration.

A person’s management style is unique to them. I have managed people for years and certainly have a “style” about the way I do that. I believe in collaborating across the team, adequately defining roles and responsibilities to prevent toe crunching, setting goals and allowing employees the freedom to work on their own and propose recommendations and solutions to me. Then, I get out of the way. I manage this way because that’s how I like to be managed.

I have always known that sometimes you have to flex your style a little bit to engage your employees in the manner that suits them. Some employees want to be left alone and others need frequent touchpoints and more direction. I pride myself on being fair. It’s taken me years in people management to realize that fair does not necessarily mean equal. That flexing is necessary for continued employee engagement.

However, recently, I have found that sometimes you not only have to flex your style to meet an employee’s needs but also to fit within a culture especially if it’s new to you. A long-standing culture generally has dictated a management style – command and control, hands-off, hands-on, touchy feely, etc. So, how do you balance your style, your employees’ needs and the culture’s paradigm?

I’m not sure I have all the answers. I think this is why managing people is so difficult, why it is truly a discipline and why it’s not for everyone. Finding simple and small ways to flex for all of these reasons without compromising you and your abilities is the secret. 

For example, if a culture is command and control, perhaps you should try to be a change agent here. I actually have never found command and control to be effective. Touchy feely – Check in more than you’d like to with your employees if it’s expected; spend time talking about the weekend. Hands-on – offer to review things more than you’re used to. Hands-off – delegate and let a few things go!

I think finding these small items to flex on makes a world of difference. Stretching ourselves as a people manager can only help us succeed.