Relationship Economics® Newsletter
The Nour Group, Inc. | May 2007
What About Reverse Mentoring ?
You're never too young or too old to have or become a mentor. Many companies have traditional, even sophisticated mentoring programs.
What about reverse mentoring? Is there anything that more seasoned company executives or board members, who have been doing the same work the same way for the past 30 years, could learn from the new generation? Could 20 and 30-somethings entering the workforce help the senior leaders become more receptive to innovation? Will the status quo continue to serve the company well, or will some fresh thinking, a fresh perspective, and what your clients are telling you in various blogs and podcasts offer some unique ideas? Wonder how many board members of the Fortune 500 know what a blog is or have ever visited one!
Could your company benefit from reverse mentors?
When You Damage Relationships...
Peter got back to the office and there it was – a strange, rather cold e-mail from an otherwise warm, friendly and favorite client that says something to the effect of, “we need to talk!” The tone hinted that there may be trouble, so beyond the typical phone call, he decided to get on the next flight to LaGuardia and go see them in person (remembering that nothing will ever replace feet on the street).
It turns out that something he did – let’s refer to them as “undeniable facts” – was completely misconstrued, misunderstood, and mistaken for a direct insult to the sanctity of the project, the organization, and most importantly, the sacred trust they had placed in Peter and his organization in sharing confidential information about an upcoming product launch, board meeting, or M&A event.
Without intent, Peter had misaligned expectations (which are typically how many relationships get damaged) and had clearly disappointed not only his favorite client, but several other key influencers in the organization as well. These are people he had considered to be friends. They have been out to several dinners together and attended a Yankees game together last month. He genuinely liked them, although the client often acted as though Peter had a hidden agenda. Peter felt that his products or services could sincerely improve the overall condition of this client’s organization and help them achieve their key goals and objectives.
But with a damaged relationship, they cancel the next three product purchase orders, four professional service engagements, or send Peter’s entire team packing!
What now? Here are a few practical steps:
- Clearly understand their perspective! Regardless of how unjust it may sound or how disappointed you may be that you’ve let them down, regardless of how unintentionally it happened, shut up and listen quietly, politely and intently!
- Apologize. Even if you did nothing wrong, the only thing that matters is their perception, so put your ego aside and apologize. The only thing they need to hear is that you’re sorry for the isolated incident.
- Fix It Now. Drop whatever else you’re doing, get on the phone with the right resources, and get it resolved. Regardless of the cost, effort, or anything else, if the relationship is important to you, “do the right thing and do it now” as Rusty Gordon, a CEO I respect immensely, likes to say.
- Follow Up. Immediately follow-up with an e-mail that confirms the issue has been fixed (hopefully to their satisfaction) and apologize again.
- Follow Through. Follow-up (#4 above) is an event. Follow-through is a process of offering value, repairing the damage, and letting time heal the wounds. They may not want to see you right now, but that doesn’t mean you should disappear forever. Politely and professionally take the high road, stay in touch, and find ways to add value to their efforts. They’re still the same company with the same set of challenges.
Above all, make certain that you and your team have learned from this misstep and try not to repeat it again. After all, we’re all human and we will make mistakes. What is critical is that you fail fast, fail forward, learn from each mistake, and chalk-up a case of bad judgment as an expensive experience!
Tell us about an interesting and effective approach you took to repairing a damaged relationship and get a FREE copy of David's Audio CD Set - Connecting The Dots.
Beyond the global war on terror, there is a global war for talent and it encompasses the enormous acquisition and replacement cost of a bad hire.
Effective recruiting requires extensive search, diligent assessment, optimized on-boarding, coaching, mentoring, training and development, and ongoing candid and pragmatic organizational alignment. And, unfortunately, when the fit isn’t right, outplacement with the least amount of disruption to the business. The developmental value and ROI of an organization’s human capital heavily depends on not only these critical components, but also the presence of high performers, as well as high potentials. Drop the ball on any of those and your most valuable asset will walk out the door in the next 12 months.
The current positive economic conditions are ripe for looking. Contingent and retained search is experiencing a strong boom as a result of organizations too blind to flight risk. Subtle warning signs are ignored and when those “A Players” are on their way out the door, it’s often too little, too late to change their minds.
As an executive, if you are not outright afraid in your organization or industry’s inability to infuse fresh talent to compensate for the mass exodus of the Boomers in the current workforce, you should be. If you’re not engaged at the university level in search of energy, passion, drive, motivation, work ethics, and the fundamental desire to compete and win, you should be. Blind spots on the nuances of the four generations currently at work – Mature, Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y – can create a ripple effect in your customer, supplier, investor, and talent acquisition strategy.
If the demographics of your organization or industry are 45-60 year-old white males, with cobwebs hanging from their suits, and they have yet to realize that they are no longer in charge, you should be afraid. The rate in which diversity has penetrated all levels of roles and responsibilities mandates that it be viewed as more than affirmative action, but rather one of unique perspective from a broad base of experiences.
If the leadership of your organization still thinks top-down, maybe it’s time to read Thomas Friedman’s book, The World is Flat, and draw direct parallels to your organization. If you have not revisited your relationships with your employees and adapted to their unique and highly individualized requirements, you should be afraid. If the executives in your organization consider incremental attrition as more of a nuisance than a warning call for fundamental change in your intra-company relationships – and only an outright walkout of 80% plus of the workforce will get their attention – you should be very afraid.
The issue of Flight Risk, which forces top performers to explore other opportunities primarily due to perceived limitations to their personal and professional growth within their current teams or organizations, is very real.
Email us for David Nour's highly acclaimed keynote speech overview: Flight Risk - why your most valuable talent will leave in the next 12 months!
Losing Your Sight
This past month, I opted to shed a 20-plus year dependency on glasses, contacts, and an assortment of other painful supplies that go along with that regime. What was supposed to be a simple LASIK procedure became more complex, resulting in a week of discomfort, the constant need for medication, and a good deal of time for introspective thought.
For the first two days, I could not open my eyes. I had to sleep with shields taped on both eyes at night and, for the first time, I truly gained an appreciation for vision. It has been said that it is human nature not to appreciate something until it’s gone. Can you imagine listening to TV programs, navigating your way around by touch, and being completely dependent on others for the most simple of tasks?
During those two days, it made me think about organizations that are visionless and have lost their sight. How can you possibly know where the ship is headed without a compass, a captain, and the wind in your sails?
A compass – What are the fundamental drivers in your market? What are the competitive attributes that define your market? What course corrections must you make and where is your ultimate destination? Do your team members succinctly understand the direction in which the team, the organization, and the industry are headed? Is the needle visible to everyone who must work closely together to aim for that ultimate destination?
A captain – Is the captain battle tested to sail through the storm? Can the leader of the mission be trusted? Is he or she a motivator, a coach, and an inspiration for others to follow? Is there a mutiny slowly brewing due to incompetence, lack of empathy, or answers to tough questions? Is she savvy enough to identify overt and covert pushback on key initiatives?
The wind – Inertia, momentum, and interest are all strong enablers or inhibitors of progress. When vision is combined with experience, the ship is steered in the right direction to take advantage of the wind. Do you have the right sails to maximize that momentum for not just incremental progress, but exponential leaps in the journey? When the momentum is no longer the driving force, what are your contingency plans to move key objectives forward towards their desired execution?
It has been said that if you have no idea where you are headed, any path will get you there. I would submit that without vision and foresight, those who are sailing their projects, teams or companies blindly are surely headed for a perfect storm.