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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L2L Book Review “Under New Management” by David Burkus

An Open Invitation To Join The Integrative Leader's Book Club

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David Burkus argues in his book Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual that the management practices that have evolved from the factory work economy just do not apply to today’s knowledge work economy.

Burkus walks the reader through compelling case studies of companies who have abandoned traditional management and leadership practices in favor of new ways to organize and lead.

His premise is this:

Burkus’s insights are convincing companies to leave behind decades-old management practices and to implement new ways to enhance productivity and morale. Fire all the managers, outlaw email, and make pay transparent.

L2L Book Review

Title: Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual

by David Burkus

Purpose:

NewManagement_3D

The purpose of David Burkus’s new book Under New Management is to find answers to these questions and more:

  • Do open-floor plans really work – or do they make employees miserable?
  • Are there companies which really put their employees’ welfare first, and their clients second?
  • Are annual performance reviews really necessary?

Premise:

Fire all the managers, outlaw email, and make pay transparent. These are all chapters in David Burkus’ new book “Under New Management”. David argues in this book that the management practices that have evolved from the factory work economy just do not apply to today’s knowledge work economy.

He walks the reader through compelling case studies of companies who have abandoned traditional management and leadership practices in favor of new ways to organize and lead.

A Reader’s Guide:

I found myself starting each chapter thinking that there would be no way that what I was about to read would work. But, by the end of most chapters, not only did I feel it was possible but optimal.

In my opinion, any book on leadership and management that gets me to pause and reflect is of great value. This book provides page after page of things to pause and contemplate.

New Book Club

The Integrative Leader’s Book Club

I was so energized after reading it, that I decided to feature it as this month’s selection in The Integrative Leader’s Book Club.

What is really exciting is, I was able to connect with David and he graciously agreed to join us for a live Q&A session.

Linked 2 Leadership is one of the best forums for leadership exploration. By nature, its readers are actively working to hone their craft. Therefore, I would like to personally invite you to join The Integrative Leader’s Book Club. Each month we pick a thought provoking book to read and discuss.

This club was created to help us lift our heads up from working in our business and allow us to spend a little time working on it. Leadership is a practice and the books read and the wisdom shared will help us all become better at our craft.

Sign-up Here.

I would also invite you to register for the online Q&A session with David on Monday, May 23at 11am Pacific.

Click Here to Register.

At the end of each month, I will post right here on Linked 2 Leadership a review of the book and some of the key learnings that our club gained and shared. Hopefully together, we can all become better leaders and develop future leaders that are well prepared to guide the organizations of the future.

I hope to see you in the club.

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———————–
Elliot Begoun

Elliot Begoun is the Principal Consultant of The Intertwine Group, LLC.
He works with companies to Deliver Tools that Enable Growth
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L2L Weekender: Leading Socially Responsible Investing

Is Socially Responsible Investing A Realistic Strategy To Follow?

Socially Responsible Investing

Is your leadership going above and beyond what you do as a boss? Are you thinking beyond your day job or your specific corporate role and looking into how your decisions affect a bigger picture?

And are you considering how your influence on a personal level can impact local, regional, national, or international concerns that can benefit society as a whole?

To be sure, anyone in a position of leadership has learned specific skills that are felt in the immediate realm. The question becomes can you lead in a different way that utilizes your skills and helps promote wise investments in a much longer-term way?

Investing Your Influence

If you have been recently surfing the web and browsing through sites such as the ones owned by Fisher Investments and other companies in search of investment information, you may have come across a term that baffled you.

While sources, such as the Fisher site, may contain a capsule definition of the term “Socially Responsible Investing,” you may still be wondering what this term actually amounts to in practice.

You may also be wondering if such a strategy is even possible to adopt, or if it is the right one for you to employ in the course of your own investment activity.

What Is Meant By “Socially Responsible Investing?”

A concise definition of “Socially Responsible Investing” might run as follows: Investment activity by people who wish to support or reward companies for engaging in activity that they feel is beneficial to the international community.

For example, a person who follows the Socially Responsible Investing strategy might choose to invest in companies whose activities coincide with their own deeply held political, economic, or ecological beliefs.

They may make use of the technique of shareholder advocacy. This is the technique by which they use their power as a shareholder to influence the policies of the company they invest in.

For example, they may use this technique to influence the company into adopting better safety standards, abandoning dangerous industrial practices, or giving better pay and representation to female or minority employees.

A Practical Use Of Socially Responsible Investing Techniques

People who make practical use of their socially responsible investing principles tend to screen the companies they are willing to invest in according to three general principles.

The first principle is known as the “Negative Screen.”

The negative screen basically boils down to a practical refusal to invest in any company that sells products or engages in activities that the investor personally views as harmful or immoral.

This could translate into a refusal to invest in a tobacco company, or an oil company that is prone to oil spills and other activities that affect the environment in a negative way.

What Is The “Positive Screen” Technique?

The “Positive Screen” technique involves the investor giving their support to a company that they feel not only earns its profits in an ethical manner, but also uses these profits to support causes that the investor also approves of.

This could mean anything from a company that supports wildlife conservation to a business that engages directly in the construction and distribution of environmentally friendly solar panels.

Keep in mind that the definition of “Positive” is a highly subjective one, and will differ greatly depending on the mindset of the person who makes use of such criteria.

What Is The “Restricted Screen” Technique?

The final screening technique is usually known as the “Restricted Screen.” This means that the company in question may engage in activities that the investor may highly approve of, but may also be involved in other activities which raise a red flag of caution in their mind.

The dilemma is normally resolved when the investor weighs the effects of the company’s “positive” activity against the “negative,” and makes up their own mind whether to go ahead and invest in this company or not.

Leading Outside of Self

When a leader takes on a much larger role in which to influence decisions and uses those skills to better society, they are able to create a legacy that goes beyond their corporate role or day job.

Investing in areas that bring about a better planet is a great way to be able to look into the mirror and feel confidence and maturity about using your skills and talents toward something big.

So how are you doing in developing your personal professional skills in your career? And better yet, how can you take those skills and make a personal commitment to use those skills and talents to leave a large footprint on your leadership legacy? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Why Great Leaders Value Reputation Before Revenue

How to Put Principles Into Practice

Reputation

In 1996, I walked away from my first million-dollar client. Anyone looking at my company’s profit and loss statements would have questioned my sanity.

We were less than a year old at the time, and this was by far our highest-profile customer. I made this seemingly crazy decision because I value my company’s reputation over its revenue.

Making Business Decisions

Many leaders rely on Excel spreadsheets to drive their decision-making. They think something is only worth doing if the numbers add up and the price is right. My company, on the other hand, uses a set of five core principles to gauge every business decision it makes:

  • Employees come first, always.
  • Work as a team; win as a team.
  • Reputation comes before revenue.
  • Commit to safety.
  • Make it happen!

Our big client didn’t share any of these values with us. Further, he was overly harsh with my team members and set unrealistic expectations. Our weekly status meetings with him became sources of dread because it didn’t matter how well the previous week went; it was never good enough.

The entire office’s morale suffered, and I had to make a decision:

Do I put my principles first, or do I put my revenue first?

I quickly realized that if I put revenue first, there didn’t seem to be much of a point in having principles. If I sacrificed our core values in the name of profit, how could my team ever respect me or our values again?

The decision became easy — we walked away.

Money is Fleeting. Reputation is Forever

As leaders, we’re often tempted to compromise things — be it ethics, principles, or happiness — to maximize short-term profits. While compromise might immediately boost our portfolios, it doesn’t necessarily help build our reputations.

I’d argue that a company’s reputation is all that really matters, and having a good one is the only way to ensure long-term success. It’s the reason my company has so many great clients today, and it’s the reason they constantly refer new business to us.

This is a philosophy that was instilled in me during my youth in the Midwest. We had a folksier way to sum it up, though:

Pigs get fat, and hogs get slaughtered.”

Everyone has a right to a living, but greed yields guaranteed downfalls — and I’m not interested in being a hog.

Staying on Course

The benefits of this approach aren’t just lasting. By removing immediate profits as sole drivers of business decisions, you’ll no longer be tempted to veer your company off course to accommodate difficult clients with deep pockets. This will solidify your brand as a stable, upstanding, and moral institution — and that reputation alone will drive your growth today and tomorrow.

The great corporate scandals of the world (think Enron) typically involve companies that value short-term revenues over all other considerations. And what does that earn them? Bankruptcy, bad press, and prison time.

Putting Principles Into Practice

Having personal principles is one thing, but having company-wide shared principles that guide every level of decision-making — from the corner office to the reception desk — is something that requires practice, patience, and communication.

Here are a few tips to help you instill this reputation-centric mindset into your company:

  • Provide mentorship and coaching. Look for opportunities to mentor, coach, and train your employees to make sure they have clear understandings of your company’s core values. Show them what it looks like, and feels like, to do the best quality work in your industry while maximizing your company’s reputation.
  • Ask great questions. There’s a management style called “inspect what you expect” that involves asking your employees quality questions to ensure the things you want completed are, in fact, being completed. It’s a low-impact form of oversight that’s more trusting and less stressful than full-on micromanagement — and it will help you determine what’s going on outside the walls of your office.
  • Align expectations. Meet with every employee and client to make sure they understand what your company is all about and how you got to where you are. Also provide them with a list of your core values, as well as specific examples of those values in action. This will give everyone a clear understanding of what to expect, and it will also show employees how to exceed expectations.
  • Make happiness your success metric. Don’t look at your bottom line to assess whether your company had a good year. Instead, look at the quality of your work, the happiness of your employees, the contentment of your clients, and the state of your recurring

Don’t let that one difficult, deep-pocketed client turn your business into something it isn’t. If you stay true to the values near and dear to your heart, the right clients will find you.

So, do you have a client or supplier that has dramatically different values than your organization? If so, would you give them up despite the cost to save your reputation? How important is your reputation you? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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——————–

Steve Randazzo is the founder and president of Pro Motion Inc
He builds deep emotional connections with consumers to create lifelong relationships
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web

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How Leadership Is Evolving In 2015 and Beyond

Millennials CollageAs the Millennial generation comes of age, there are changes happening in the workplace that are revealing just how Generation Y will leave their mark on society in the decades to come.

When it comes to the workplace environment it has becoming clear that factors like diversity and making sure everyone has a voice are crucially important to this new wave of employees.

But that’s not all.

Millennials are also looking for new styles of management to match their unique approach to the workplace. And with Millennials already overtaking Baby Boomers in prominence in the workforce, the winds of change are going to continue blowing for a long time.

Here are some of the environmental building blocks that management should be using in 2016.

Humility

It may sound strange to old-school management, but leadership in 2016 is no longer about creating an environment that caters to the rock stars within the company. Today’s Millennial workforce grew up on television shows like The Office, where faux-Type A leaders like Michael Scott and overeager disciplinarians like Dwight Schrute were mocked.

Meanwhile, the show’s characters gravitated naturally toward employees like Jim Halpert, with his easy-going confidence and a sense of low-key humility. Cultivating a similar mix of humility and confidence in your office can create a synergy and a collaborative spirit that will help lift productivity and keep your employees around longer.

Transparency

The days are long gone when management could keep a closed-door to employees and hide key information like expected salary range and how the company is performing financially.

Employees nowadays are smarter and have more potential mobility than ever before.

Sites like Glassdoor.com make it easy to compare salaries, both within a company and for similar positions in different companies. They can also reveal warts about a company’s leadership or divulge how the company is managing hiring and layoffs. And, frankly, with fewer benefits like pensions to keep employees around for life, generation Y is looking to know the companies they work for more intimately than ever before.

The company behind social media tool Buffer has set an incredible precedent for transparency, posting their salary formula for each and every position at the company as well as how each dollar a customer spends is used to fund the company. While I’m not saying you have to go quite that far, don’t hide the type of information that your employees need to know in order to decide whether they want to invest themselves in your company long-term.

Flexibility

With more and more companies adopting a more mobile workforce, questions that surround managers today include allowing employees to bring their own devices to work and whether or not they will require remote access through a VPN or the cloud when they are offsite.

In some organizations, the worksite has become more like the incubator office where employees can meet up when needed while working primarily offsite. Look for this trend to continue in 2016.

This idea was echoed by Kevin Brogan, VP at Meadows Casino.

He says this:

Whether it is a workflow or an end result giving your team the freedom to create more efficient ways of working has allowed the US to help bring back some jobs that were previously moved overseas.”

It also helps workers take advantage of their natural focus and energy ebbs and flows and cuts down on commute time, “getting ready” time, etc. It also incentivizes “staying in the zone” and working as efficiently as possible instead of pacing one’s self to make sure that everything takes exactly 8 hours to complete.

Putting your employees in control of their schedules tells them that they are responsible for getting results by any means necessary.

Empathy

In customer service, the maxim used to be: Feel, Felt, Found. It was a way of empathizing with the customer so that one could say, I know how you feel. I have been in that situation myself before, and here is how we can resolve this. Applying that to your employees in abbreviated form is an area of being a manager that should pay dividends in 2016 and beyond.

After years of being hit by ‘toughen your emotions for the war’ in the media, it is now okay to show your emotions and feelings about something.

Of course there is really no need to be maudlin, but showing that you are alive and empathetic will be appreciated.

2015 has been a pretty good year for business in the United States. Employment is up and management trends continue to emphasize a more humanist approach as a means of motivating and building productivity.

By correlating details of the environmental desires of your workforce with your management style, you can be in position in 2016 to reap the benefits.

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———————–
Tayven James

Tayven James is a Freelance Business and Tech Author
He focuses on Emerging Trends and the Marketing Methods behind their Success
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter

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