Categories
Coaching Leadership

Don’t Burn Your Bridges

As you go on your leadership journey, you will ever more be called upon to use your influence to get things done. You have to convince people, win them round to your way of thinking and show them why what you want to do is important.

That means you have to negotiate. Understand what you want, what you can give and what outcome you are after. You might try to Get to Yes, or you might prefer to Never Split the Difference, but you’ll need to get better at these skills as you’ll need to use them more.

An important thing to realise when you are part of an organisation, is that you’ll be going round the loop multiple times. It’s no good “winning” once if that sours the relationship for the future.

That’s short term thinking, when you need to be in for the long term. You need to think about how to make it better for everyone, so you enhance your reputation as someone great to work with, rather than someone to be avoided at all costs.

Your basic outcomes should always including building the relationship, as you know you’ll be back, whether it’s next week, next quarter or at the start of the next year.

So, don’t burn your bridges, build them up instead and make your future path smoother.

Categories
Harvard Business Review Leadership

Strength of No

There are lots of articles online teaching you about how and when to say “No” to a request. It’s a common problem, especially for those of us who want to be seen as a team player or go-to person.

However, getting your “No” right is a super powerful way of building up this perception. It’s really bad if you say “Yes” to every single request, and end up delivering badly on most of them. The reputation for being flaky or unreliable is definitely not where you want to be.

Recently I had a classic opportunity to say “No” in a constructive way. One of my teams were racing to finish a high profile project with a fixed deadline. In the tech world, that equates to a big “Do Not Disturb” sign flashing over their heads. Another department had an idea for a short term initiative, with a desired start date that would impact the team and risk the high profile project.

First up, I did some fact finding. Pulling in some domain experts to confirm my understanding of the new initiative, and the impact it would have. Then I looked at options. Were there other people available with the skills to help out? What was the actual impact of the current work, and who cared about it being successful. If we left the team alone, when could they pick-up the fresh initiative, and what date could it launch by?

All this came together to present a strong “No” to the other department, backed up by the reasons for that answer. “We cannot support the new initiative by date X, as the required team are fully committed to Project Y in support of one of our major company objectives. They will be available in two weeks time, meaning we could launch the new initiative before the end of the year if that would still provide value.”

Even with the strength of the answer, I was able to present options for the other department, giving them an expectation of when we’d be able to support them, even though it didn’t meet their initially desired dates. This slight softening helps to maintain the long term relationship with the rest of the business.

If the project had been lower profile, there had been more lead time or the team was less committed, then I could have used a different approach. I’d use these for times where I’d prefer not to distract the team, but to keep the conversation open.

The lighter forms are statements like “Yes we can do that if …” or “Yes, but it’ll need …”. These are particularly useful approaches if the person requesting work is also the stakeholder for the existing work. You give them options on what to pursue, whilst being very clear that not everything will keep happening at the same pace.

Saying “No” effectively is a vital skill, so find opportunities to practice it whilst leaving a positive impression as a result.