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
Email | LinkedIn | TwitterWebsite | Blog | (562) 943-5776

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Priority Management for Leaders

Tips and Tricks to Align Team Priorities

Balancing Act

Ever since I was a child, I was told to get my priorities straight if I wanted to be successful. Turns out, that’s a lot easier said than done.

Sometimes it feels like I have a never ending to-do list; what’s more, everything on it feels important, and I can end up feeling as though I’m being pulled in 12 different directions. The pressure of this situation is amplified when you’re not only responsible for managing your own priorities, but those of a team as well.

It takes an extremely high level of organization and decision-making, whether you’re a project manager, small business owner, or a mid-level manager at a huge company.

So, how can we manage priorities to make sure we’re focusing on the right things?

Below, I’ll present you with five techniques that you can use to align team priorities, simplify your workload, and make sure you and your team are working on the right things.

Determine Your #1 Priority

This tip stands in direct contrast to the feeling that “everything is high priority”. Let’s take a second to zoom out and examine how this works.

I work for a company that developed a prioritization and collaboration tool that aims to help teams align their priorities and work together more efficiently. Due to the nature of my company, this is an issue we talk about a lot.

For us, what helps us stay on track is determining our #1 objective, and aligning our goals and action items around that.

For example, our overarching goal at the moment is growing our top funnel. When we consider taking on new initiatives and projects, we ask ourselves “does this contribute to the top funnel?” If the answer is yes, the project is a go.

Now, this isn’t to say we’re all working on the same thing. Our engineering team is still working on product development, our CEO still runs analytics and works on business development, and our customer success team still takes care of our clients.

However, each particular team works on initiatives that are geared toward the top funnel, rather than other steps of the business process.

By determining your #1 priority, you create a roadmap for all other initiatives and projects.

Make a List (of everything)

You may be rolling your eyes at me right now, but you’d be surprised how many people skip this simple step, even though it’s the first step of almost every method of time management you can imagine. 

Whether you go the traditional route and use pen and paper or you download a productivity app, write out everything that needs to be done.

You might feel overwhelmed at the beginning, but just lay it all out on that list.

Take some time to read through it and determine which tasks are the most important. If you’re having difficulty, next to each task, label it with a number from 1-10. A rating of one means that it will not make a difference whether you complete the task within the next day or the next month, or you might be able to delegate the task to somebody else.

On the other side of the spectrum, a rating of 10 means that you need to get moving on this task ASAP. Remember to be honest with yourself; not every task should be rated a one or a ten.

This allows you to see the big picture right in front of you and to determine what you need to focus on the most.

Yeah, I know this sounds basic, but trust me, it works.

Go Non-Linear

If your linear list is too long or overwhelming, try the Eisenhower Method of Time Management. Eisenhower is famously credited with the quote, “what’s urgent is seldom important, and what’s important is seldom urgent”.

This strategy promotes prioritizing by dividing all of your assignments, projects, and tasks based on their level of criticality and urgency.

Here are the four categories:

  1. Critical and Urgent
  2. Critical and Not Urgent
  3. Not Critical, but Urgent
  4. Not Critical and Not Urgent

Below is a picture that sums up this concept:

Eisenhower Method of Time Management

When you divide your tasks or projects in this manner, you single out the items that are both highly urgent and highly important. By focusing on these tasks, you can ensure you are doing high-impact work.

Helpful Tip: Use the ratings from the list you made above to help decide the proper placement of each task.

Be Strategic

Find out exactly what you are already doing right and what you are wasting your time on. A great way to do this is by doing a retroactive project analysis.

Similar to the Eisenhower Method, divide events and actions into the following categories:

  1. Planned and Successful: These are the initiatives that were carried out flawlessly. The time and effort that you put into preparation was well worth it in the end. The events that you would add into this category are those that you want to try to do again or replicate. This is the category where you give yourself a pat on the back and say “Keep up the good work!”
  1. Unplanned and Successful: Unanticipated events that occurred that drove you closer and closer to your end goals. We are not always lucky enough for these types of events to occur; however, closely inspect their causes and try to recreate them.
  1. Planned and Failed: You spent way too many resources on this project to attract more customers and in the long run, it did not do you or your company any good. Stay away from any similar projects that might have the same  devastating results.
  1. Unplanned and Failed: These are the unfortunate things that you did not expect to happen that did not bring you any closer to the finish line. Think about it through this real-life situation (this has happened to me, twice). You finally got your family room redesigned: new carpeting, new furniture, and freshly painted. A terrible thunderstorm takes place and floods the entire room. Try to stop similar events from happening again by working proactively to prevent their causes

When you conduct a retroactive project analysis, you might not feel like you are prioritizing, but you most definitely are. By determining what works and what does not work, you give yourself more time to accomplish what will get you closer to that finish line.

Focus on One Thing at a Time

This is probably the most straightforward tip of them all.

Stop multitasking. Stop trying to do multiple things at once. None of us are superman or superwoman. It is impossible to work on one thing, then be disrupted, and start working on another.

In fact, this is a recipe for being counterproductive.

According to the Zeigarnik effect, when we leave tasks unfinished, they linger in the back of our minds and cause us to feel distracted. This means we aren’t utilizing our full cognitive capacity or working to the best of our ability when we don’t finish what we started.

Use the techniques above to decide which tasks you need to work on first and foremost based on their criticality and urgency.

Then, keep your attention on one task at a time, give that task your all, and move on to the next one. 

Understanding how to align and manage priorities is key in order to complete your massive list of tasks. Managing your priorities efficiently allows you to get ahead.

So think about your goals, determine what you need to do in order to achieve them, and prioritize accordingly. Try out these different approaches and knock all of those items off your to-do list (and maybe even have some time to take a breather).

What are you doing to make sure that you are focusing on the right thing(s)? How can you improve on letting of the things that are holding you back and work on things that produce better results? What else have you done to be more successful with your time and energy that you can share? I would love to hear your thoughts! 

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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Kari Beaulieu

Kari Beaulieu is Marketing Manager at Appfluence Inc.
She serves her clients with Marketing, PR, Business Development, and Customer Success
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web

 

Image Sources: acclivityperformance.com

 

EntrepreLeadership: Tips for Self-Leadership in Your Own Startup

3 Important Steps to Launch Your Online Business

Leadership Keyboard

Working in organizations and leading teams certainly has its up and downs; its joys and challenges.

The right organization and the right people in the right places is often very satisfying for everyone involved.

Some of the good things about working in an organization are:

  • Availability to work with others
  • Enjoying personal and professional growth for you and others
  • Being at a place that provides a certain level of resources and a bit of job security

However, leaving the financial security and resources that come with working at an organization to start your own business can be a scary thing to do.

Self-Leadership on Your Own

One way modern entrepreneurs are jumping into the brave new world of self-leadership is to start their own online business. Online businesses often provide relatively low barriers of entry and much more freedom to experiment with different ideas and approaches.

But taking this role requires a massive amount of self-leadership.

So for the brave, industrious, and inspired entrepreneurs who jump into this easy-to-enter world of an online business, self-leadership requires that they do their homework on the very fundamental aspects of launching their new venture.

Getting Up and Running

So if you are ready to go, you will need to follow some good advice and take a realistic few of what to do. This requires an open mind complemented with a healthy dose of discipline.

Think about this advice:

You are probably very anxious to finally get your site up and running so you can start earning some money. It is very understandable that you would feel this way. It is an exciting thing to start a new business.

However, you must remain patient and not get carried away.

Stay calm and do not neglect any essential tasks that you need to complete before the official launch of your site. Important details that you neglect now will most likely come back to haunt you at a later time.

3 Important Steps to Launch Your Online Business

Here are some of the most essential things to do before your site goes live.

1. Decide on a merchant service provider

You will need to sign up with a company that provides merchant services if you are going to be accepting payments on your site. This company will process all of the credit card payments on your site and keep a small percentage of each payment as their payment.

It is very important to shop around and compare the fees being charged by all of the various merchant service providers. You might be surprised by the disparity in the fees they charge. It will not cost you anything to contact all of these companies and see how much you will need to pay for their service.

You should also find out if they will require you to sign a contract. Ideally, you do not want to be involved with any company that will require you to be locked into a contract.

2. Test all facets of the site

Any good web site design company will be testing your site while they are designing it. However, the real test will begin once all of the designing has been completed. You would be wise to spend as much time as possible testing everything on your site to make sure that it works exactly how it is supposed to.

Many business owners who are about to launch a new site will hire people to test out the site and report any problems they find. They will also provide valuable feedback regarding the speed and maneuverability of the site.

The input of these people can be an extremely valuable tool in your quest to design a site that will capture the imagination of the general public. Your site needs to be working flawlessly by the time you go live.

3. Have your budget in place

You will have expenses once your site goes live. You need to be sure that you have enough money to cover them. This is why you need to create a budget for your business.

This will keep you aware of how much everything costs so you can adjust your spending properly. The daily operations of a website can become very costly if you are not careful. This is not even counting the money you will need to spend to promote it. Stick to the budget you have created as best you can.

However, you should always have some spare cash available for emergencies.

So, have you decided that you may want to jump into the world of being an online entrepreneur?  Or have you already gone down this path? What might be some other perspectives that you would add to this list? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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