Heads down

I recently kicked off a series of posts on insulation that’s meant to talk about the critical ways leaders can become disconnected—and hopefully provide some ideas on how they can fight against it.

I listed four kinds of insulation in the introductory post:

  • From the larger organizational context
  • From the work being done on the ground
  • From wider communities of practice
  • From the marketplace

In this post I want to dig into the third, insulation from wider communities of practice.

Something’s got to give

We all have enough to do for our jobs without taking on additional work. Most days it seems like just keeping on top of the currently burning fires is all we do.

Given this, it’s all too easy to lose touch with the wider world out there, i.e., the community of practitioners in your discipline. These are the folks who are doing the same job you are but at different organizations, are involved in standards boards and working groups, speak at conferences, write expert blogs, or publish articles and books.

You may know some of them…heck, you may have been one of them once upon a time before your regular job sapped all your professional energies.

My hero

Whatever the case may be, you likely envy them a bit–who hasn’t wondered how they manage to keep up with their day job and be a thought leader (and maybe daydreamed a bit about what it would be like to be them for a day or two)? Or maybe you think participating in the wider community of practice is a distraction, a nice to have, a way to put feathers in your cap that has little to do with getting the job done.

Just do it

The reality is that participation in the wider community of practice is vital to being an effective leader for a number of reasons.

  • Inspiration – you can’t sustain your engagement with your job–to say nothing of your career–by simply putting out fires. At a certain point, you have to find a way to step back and focus on what you need to do to push yourself and evolve beyond your current skills.
  • Networking – participating in the wider community of practice is a great way to build your network, which doesn’t just help you in your current position (by giving you fresh perspectives on the work you do) but also in your career path.
  • Brand – lets face it, career advancement has changed in the last few years. Resumes on 24 lb bond paper and a killer cover letter have given way to robust LinkedIn profiles and social media footprints. True, knowing the right person is still essential, but there are all sorts of new ways to get to know the right person, and participating in the wider community of practice is one of them…and has never been easier.

The final word

No surprise: I think everyone should make the effort to participate in the wider communities of practice that are relevant for them…what do you all think? Are you currently an active participant? How do you stay involved and balance your responsibilities to your “real” job? Of if you think participating in the wider community of practice is a nice to have, tell us why.

I’d love to hear what folks out there think about all this…so jump in and let’s get the conversation started!


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