Is having knowledge — power?

Or is sharing knowledge power?

I had started to write this month’s Leadership Article titled “Everyone young is not a Millennial” but changed my mind while traveling back from meetings in Europe.

Over the past year I have been fortunate to work with sales teams and customers outside the US. As you might guess, they are not much different than we are, they just have not adopted the “DSO” nomenclature- but they are basically the same.

In my last meeting, before heading to the airport, the subject of “management style” came up. Seeing as I love this subject lately, my ears perked up and I finally joined the discussion of “should leaders keep things from their teams, or should they share?”

I could answer this quickly and say that traditionally leaders that have strong self-confidence share knowledge and those who don’t keep information to themselves.  But that would be a cop out, and the article would end here.

The reality is that some people in management just like to know “the whole picture” and feel that delegating projects keeps them viewed as the person in power.

Let me give you an example: A dentist (a man in this case) asks his office manager to “give him the percentage of patients that were ‘no shows’ the last past month.”  The dentist does not explain the reason. The office manager sets out on the task and doesn’t understand, why, after all this time, is the doctor actually asking for numbers verses his normal statement of “looks like I had 2 empty slots today, huh?”

The office manager is now wondering if the dentist is mad at her for not finding replacements for cancellation calls or what. Does he “not like the new woman” in the office that is supposed to make calls?  “Should I lie” she might be thinking? The team is getting nervous of what is behind this question and a few others.  Scared people make mistakes and spend time wondering what is going on.

The reality is that the dentist is thinking about getting new software that would interface better between the office and their patients.  The dentist has figured that he doesn’t need the team to know why, he is the boss and he knows his office manager just hates change.

It is more possible that the office manager doesn’t like changes because she is never consulted about the changes that are about to be made that affect her or the people in the office.

Let’s look at this issue from more of a corporate office than a dental office. Many times, not sharing power is because a manager has hired someone that now appears to be much better than he or she thought the team member would be.  The manager now realizes if they share all in the information they are learning in meetings, the team member might take their job.

As I am writing, I am again thinking that many mangers, are in fact, not leaders and that not sharing knowledge is just another attribute of a manager versus a leader.

Let’s look at an example of what is going on often in our space- a dentist is considering making a deal with a DSO- The “keep it to myself” dentist does not tell the office staff anything prior to the day they walk into the office and announce “I have just made a deal with a great DSO and in 60 days we will be known as  “We Are Great Dental, our town USA.”

I think the announcement comes across the same as “mom and dad, I am getting married to that guy you have heard I might be dating, and I will be taking his name.”

In both those cases it would have been nice to be told about this, even introduced to the new company/person, before the “deal was made.”

Setting the example of “sharing information” by doing it as often as we can, teaches others to do the same.  As we know, people who are working with us down the line usually know more about the patient experience than we do.  We need them not to be afraid of sharing what is going on in their role.

Let’s go back to the “joining a DSO example.”  Your team might have heard more from sales people and insurance companies about local DSOs, that may actually be a help in your decision. More importantly you get to understand concerns of your team that you can actually get answers to, before deciding who to join.  In all fairness, I must also mention here that the dentist knows the team better than I, the writer. There are cases where this kind of discussion may scare an associate or hygienist to looking elsewhere and devalue the practice if they left, only the owner can make that call.

The expression that “knowledge is power” has taken on an entirely different meaning from where it originated.  The expression was credited to Sir Francis Bacon back in 1597. Actually, the true translation is “knowledge itself is power” referring more to the fact that the brain is more powerful than physical strength.  Knowing this again brings me to the fact that sharing knowledge with teammates brings more strength to the workplace. You could easily equate what I am saying with another expression “two heads are better than one.”  By sharing your knowledge with others, many times even better ideas surface then just feeling you are “all knowing.”

This has been another article on increasing your leadership skills.  They are simple, basic but often forgotten about.  Remember that being a boss doesn’t make you a leader except on an organizational chart.  You want to gain respect by the characteristics that make others see you are someone they want to follow and do things for. Sharing and brainstorming with your team, even when you may have always thought you knew the answer, is a strong attribute of a leader.

I will write the article I had planned on submitting this month; based on interactions between generation in next month’s DSO News.   If you want to hear more on other leadership topics, feel free to write me at [email protected].