On Leadership and Burning a Few Bridges

Mega Shark

Conventional wisdom tells us to never burn a single bridge in our professional lives because you never know when you might need that relationship again. 

I firmly believe that there are going to be circumstances and people that nearly require you to do this:

Burn some bridges so that you will never need to work with those people again.

That’s Right, I Said It…

I have been working for the past 35 years and have learned a thing or two in this time span. For a long time I followed conventional wisdom and did whatever it took to part ways on a positive note.  There are times when the reason I was leaving was more than a promotional opportunity, more money, or a shorter commute.

These are all the generally softer ways of giving notice.

They are often spoken in truth, but many times they are used to cover up the real reasons to avoid burning bridges.

Burning a Few Bridges

As time progressed, I thought it would improve circumstances if I shared the issues that caused me to consider other opportunities, more money, or a shorter commute.

When leaving previous jobs, I did the conventional thing and had candid conversations with Human Resources during exit interviews, explaining the challenges with processes and particular personalities that cause concern and issues in the workplace.

I have spent the past 22 years in learning development, so my core was telling me that people can’t improve until they know that there is a performance gap.

Looking back, I would say that each of those times when I was honest and doing what I thought was helpful, I burned a bridge.  I’m not talking about toasting the wood a little; I’m talking about a five-alarm fire, nothing but ashes when I left.

There was no walking back over that puppy after I was finished burning it.  The people I left never spoke with me again.

And now I am left to wonder if this is really such a bad thing?

Out of the dozen or so people who would sooner slit their throat then say hello to me, I have to be honest that it doesn’t bother me in the least that they do not care about me.

These were folks that the word ethical wasn’t even in their dictionary.  Underhanded, manipulative, rude and down-right mean are better descriptors of their personalities.

I hated working for them at the time, and after leaving I felt a rush of relief at never having to work with them again.

Although it was not my intention to burn a bridge with these people, the fact remains that I did, and the primary benefit was to never hear from them again.

A Bad Referral Backfires!

Burning BridgesWhen they say we are only separated by about six people from each other at most, (six degrees of separation), it does cause a reduction in referrals and future contacts that might cause these people to question if they should begin a working relationship with you.

Recently I suffered the opposite of that type of disconnect when someone contacted an old manager to find out what kind of training professional I am and what it would be like to work with me.

I know that this must have been this guy’s dream come true to work his magic by telling this new contact what a nightmare I would be to work with.

He said this:

“Jim is a purist when it comes to training and needs to do everything the right way.  He plays by the rules and Joan of Arc has nothing on him when it comes to ethics.  It makes it challenging to work around him because he is such a goody two shoes.”

Well thanks to these comments, I have a new client that shares my servant leadership style and ethical code.

What my old manager was trying to do was clue in his friend to how difficult it will be to work with a person like me, and at the same time selling the attributes the new client was looking for in a new working relationship.

Now I will be the first to admit this situation was a fluke.

Understanding Consequences

Most of the time when you burn a bridge with someone, that person will have a negative influence over anyone asking about you, not to mention that they will never work with you again.

When I began consulting 6 years ago I was heart-broken that a particular person wasn’t giving me the time of day or throw me a bone’s worth of business.

He was angry over my leaving because as he said, “I don’t want you to go.” 

I had a difficult time explaining why I was being called to strike out on my own and go from a reliable income to complete uncertainty as a self-employed consultant.  While financially it was not the best decision I’ve ever made, it has brought me innumerable benefits I would not have collected if I had remained.

Finding a Better Route

One of these benefits has been the realization that burning a bridge forces you to find another route.

Without the easy ability to rely on old relationships to fund my new consulting business, I was forced to find new relationships early on and not wait until after the well went completely dry.

While I might have gone along with conventional wisdom in my early working years and left no bridge unburned, I’m glad to look back at a few I burned on purpose and realize that it was for my benefit that I can no longer connect with those people again.

I’ve learned overtime that you can’t fix every relationship, nor should you try.

What bridges have you burned in the past that you are glad you did? What bridges are still in place that should have been burned down? What do you think is wrong with burning a few bridges? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories!

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————–
Jim Hopkins

Jim Hopkins is the CEO of JK Hopkins Consulting
He a Consultant, Coach, Author and Speaker in Organizational & Performance Health
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Mentoring in the Workplace: Spreading the Knowledge

Sharing Knowledge

We often hear about the need for gaining and sharing organizational knowledge to further our careers, reach our goals (and create new ones), and make connections in various industries.

One of the best ways to share knowledge is also a vital part of the leadership toolkit – mentoring.

Mentoring in the Workplace

Mentoring is an essential leadership skill, and encompasses the professional development of others. Mentors show others the ropes, answer questions, and guide mentees in the direction they need to go.

When a new employee first meets with a mentor, the first question often is this:

What can you tell me about your experience at this organization?

Mentees must get oriented to their working environment and learn how to handle the challenges it poses. The mentor serves as a guide through those challenges with advice and constructive criticism, while paving the way to the mentee’s next goal or challenge.

Throughout the process, mentors build on their acumen as leaders and information sharers.

Sharing Knowledge

Sharing organizational knowledge is an invaluable part of mentoring, as much as it is a way to keep an organization’s business practices. Mentoring to share knowledge is different from traditional mentoring, in that there is more emphasis on practical applications than on organizational culture or building networks.

The key is to combine both types of mentoring.

Sharing information about an organization and teaching about its culture, mentors offer mentees a richer experience and a more complete picture of the organization and its needs.

Types of Knowledge

Knowledge management (KM) is the process of capturing, distributing, and using knowledge, and considers an integrated approach to sharing the information assets of a given organization. These assets include policies, databases, documents, procedures, and the expertise and experiences of individual employees.

KM looks primarily at two types of knowledge, explicit and tacit, which are the primary types of knowledge imparted to employees, especially via mentoring; a third type, embedded knowledge, can be found in processes, organizational culture, and ethics.

  • Explicit knowledge is codified, and can be found in documents and databases.
  • Tacit knowledge is more intuitive and is rooted in experience, context, and practices.

Learning How to Teach

One way to look at mentoring is to imagine teaching someone how to ride a bike. The act of learning to ride the bike is the tacit knowledge, while a set of precise instructions on how to ride the bike is the explicit knowledge. And embedded knowledge is the “rules of the road” to keep in mind while riding the bike.

Establishing mentoring relationships are crucial to fostering leadership skills and professional development, both for mentors and mentees. Mentors ensure the transfer of organizational knowledge and offer guidance to those who may one day become leaders themselves; mentees benefit from learning about their roles and the organization.

So how are you doing at creating an atmosphere and workplace that actively relies upon sharing knowledge, experiences, and expertise? If you are not doing this, what steps can you take now to implement a process of systematic mentoring to help people learn, grow, and develop? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————
Linda R. Ranieri

Linda R. Ranieri is a Graduate Student in Communication
She works in the Medical Testing and Assessment Industry
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Communication Breakdown: Are You Resonating With Your Audience?

How Leaders Can Refine their Focus to Know their Audience

Communication Breakdown

Over the course of my career many leaders have lamented this: “Little I say seems to be resonating!?!?”

Although this can be very frustrating, it certainly does not mean that you should just stop communicating (as I’ve also heard…)

Knowing Your Audience

Problem:

Most likely, the failure to communicate effectively an indicator that you need to take more time to find out what makes your audience tick, and how and when they’re most receptive to information.

Solution:

Think about any questions and concerns they might have that will impede their ability to hear you. By anticipating audience needs and concerns, you can ensure that you shape your message in a way that will resonate with your listeners.

The Real Communications Challenge

As challenging as it can feel to state your thoughts clearly and concisely, the real challenge is shaping those thoughts clearly and concisely for your audience.

Employees (and any audience) want you to appeal to them in terms that speak to them and their needs, often on a personal and emotional level—yes, even if you’re just talking about work.

Especially if you’re talking about work.

When leaders don’t understand their audiences’ needs or perspectives, they make these two common missteps:

  • They mistake any communication for good communication
  • They communicate from their perspective instead of the audience’s

Your Communication Role as a Leader

As a leader it’s your job to use communication to help your audience make the connection between business objectives and their role in helping you meet them. But it’s important to understand that before you can get to the business big picture, you’ll need to address employees’ personal needs first.

At the end of the day, employees want to know “What’s in it for me?

They might articulate that need in any number of ways:

  • “How does this affect me?”
  • “What does this have to do with me?”
  • “What should I be doing?”
  • “Does anyone care about me?”

The Solution: Know Your Audience

Know your audience and speak to them. There’s real magic in addressing your audience’s needs first. When you do your audience is more likely to trust you, and as a result be more generous, open and receptive to big-picture, strategic communication.

All communication should always be tailored to the specific audience to make them aware of their role in the organizational whole.

That’s what leads to engagement and the discretionary effort all of us want.

Then, you can truly inspire employees to action as only a great leader can by giving them feelings of significance, community, and excitement through your communications.

Specifically as a leader you should:

  • Contextualize organizational information to ensure your team understands how it fits in.
  • Craft information so that it’s relevant to individual employees and teams.
  • Provide job-related information so that individuals and teams can do their jobs effectively.

When it comes right down to it, it doesn’t matter what you say, it’s whether you can make it relevant to your employees.

So, how clear are you about who EXACTLY is your audience? Have you developed the right mindset to serve them in a way that will work with them? Or are you stuck in a place where you seemingly don’t connect well? If you are, what would you do to get to a more effective platform for your audience? I would love to hear you thoughts!

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———————
David Grossman
David Grossman is Founder and CEO of The Grossman Group
He is a much sought-after Consultant, Speaker, and Executive Coach 
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HR Leaders: How Decisions Actually Affect Talent Retention in a Real Way

Talent Retention

It isn’t uncommon for the human resources department to be viewed as one having little impact on a company’s profitability, finances, or sales. However, is this consensus a fair one?

After giving it some thought, which department in the business is responsible for the talent driving the finance and sales sectors?

Developing Your Business Infrastructure

Once all the layers of a business are peeled back, it is safe to say that it is truly only as first-rate as the talent working within each department. Without those individuals, the business wouldn’t exist, and the human resource department is responsible for each of these employees.

They not only attract them, but they also help develop them and organize them strategically throughout the company, so they perform at their best.

Giving further thought to this subject, it makes no sense not to give credence to the critical factor that HR plays in a company’s profitability and decision-making process. The real question is, though, how this department’s decisions impact the company’s bottom line, where their value lies, and how their decisions affect the retention of talent in a real way.

Decision-Making and Talent Management

The most obvious point of contention regarding HR is the decisions the make regarding talent management, and its impact on retention. The driving force behind every successful company is a solid talent. Therefore, it’s up to the HR department to have a thorough understanding of the business’s talent requirements, how to attract them, and the requirements necessary to develop that talent to enable them to assist the company strategically, so goals are met.

Because it’s so difficult for organizations to attract and retain experienced leaders currently, those holding these management leadership roles deserve separate mentioning.

A business is a “make or break” situation if strong leadership isn’t in place, especially when times are tough, or during periods of transition.

Attracting the Right People

The HR department can have a huge impact on an organization when they attract the right leadership and develop them effectively. They don’t just advertise for a particular leadership role and fill that slot.

Instead, they will assess the needs of that leadership position for a particular department, first attracting an individual fitting that specific need, and following through by developing their behaviors and skills based on particular requirements.

When each of these decisions is made, and all of these goals are accomplished by the HR department, how the company’s bottom line and the retention of talent are evident. Companies not only have the correct people serving in the right positions, but they are working at their highest level that, in turn, will inevitably have a positive effect on the company’s performance and profitability.

HR Strategy Alignment and Decision-Making

Every department in a business is an important one and, with every strategy and decision, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore, when it comes to HR activities, some of these decisions truly impact employee retention in a real way. Integrated HR software helps management hire and retain employees.

These organizational tools assist the HR department to organize hire dates, compile data, and track every employee’s career path. The importance of this data includes making a determination for future leadership roles, as well as identifying where employees can serve in various departments in the company.

When strategies are intrinsically linked to the goals of the business, as a whole, then there is greater success for talent retention. This is because when employees know that companies are willing to invest money into developing them and increasing their skills, then they’ll be more willing to stay with the company.

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Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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On Leadership, Communication and the Personal Touch

Why Leaders Still Needs the Personal Touch In Today's Digital World

Electronic Communication

Digital channels like email, instant messaging, social media, and video conferencing can make communication within a business a lot easier easier.

It can allow leaders and teams to keep in touch with the office even if you are on the other side of the world.

However, it is important to realise that these methods cannot completely replace face-to-face conversation.

The Power of Person

Indeed, speaking to someone directly offers several benefits that cannot be recreated digitally. Personal communication remains the best method for delivering crucial information. If you need to get an important point across, inspire your workforce, handle a sensitive issue, or move people to action, face-to-face remains the best way to effective communicate.

This is why leadership training should still contain a strong direct communication element.

This article looks at some of the reasons why a good leader in the digital world still needs the personal touch.

The Personal Touch

Personal Relationships

Despite the obvious convenience aspect of modern digital communication methods, a significant part of leadership involves forming personal relationships with the people you are leading.

This is much easier to do when you are in the same room as them, talking to them directly.

Furthermore, direct conversations allow you to give people your undivided attention. If you are on a video call, or using an online messaging system, you may become distracted by an email or by having multiple communication channels open at once.

Talking to someone on a one-to-one basis lets them know that you value them enough to drop everything else and allows more authentic, individual connections to form.

The importance of forming meaningful connections with your employees is often emphasised in management skills training and it is significantly more difficult, if not impossible, to do that through an electronic device.

Clarity and Nuance

One of the primary advantages of digital communication is said to be speed. And indeed, when it comes to simply getting a message to someone else, it can be extremely quick. However, that speed can be counter-balanced by a lack of clarity, ultimately making it less efficient than face-to-face conversation.

Mina Chang, CEO of Linking The World explains it this way:

It’s easy to misinterpret a text or email. For sensitive or otherwise important communication, having tone and body language for context makes a difference.”

Research shows that effective communication relies on non-verbal cues. Generally, digital communication removes these, along with nuance, increasing the chance of misinterpretation. Tone, for instance, cannot be conveyed through email or text messaging, while even video communication impacts upon the ability to read body language.

Sensitivity

Throughout their leadership career, people will encounter a number of serious or sensitive issues, which need to be dealt with carefully. For example, they may need to address an employee’s personal appearance, deal with a complaint about workplace bullying, or give a staff member a strong verbal warning about their conduct.

Dealing with such issues face-to-face demonstrates your personal commitment to reaching the best possible outcome. It helps to foster a greater level of trust between you and the employee in question and it is the best way to ensure that their dignity is preserved and your message is clear.

Reactions and Feedback

Finally, leadership often relies upon feedback and the ability to gauge reactions accurately, which can be done more easily through direct communication. You may notice hesitations or changes in facial expressions, which can act as a cue for you to develop points further or ask for opinions.

This ability is inevitably lost through digital communication channels.

Employees like to feel as though they are valued and their contributions to discussions matter. Once again, it is easier for them to make contributions during face-to-face conversations, which allow for interruptions or deviations.

Moreover, people pay closer attention and participate more actively in conversations if the person they are speaking to is actually present. This is partly because they are also aware that that person can pick up on their reactions.

So, what can you do to make your communications more effective by making them more personal? How can you create environments that make it easier for all team members to communicate confidently with personal tones and calm body language? What steps can you take to evaluate how you come across to others? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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——————–
Alison Brattle

Alison Brattle is a marketing manager at Uk Based Company AchieveGlobal
She specialises in providing Exceptional Leadership Management Courses
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