Vol. 10, No. 10 – July 19, 2010

July 19, 2010


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Don’t Get Tripped Up On Power

Power can seduce leaders. It can lead to power tripping, losing you the respect of colleagues. In Exchangemagazine.com, health care industry executive Danita Johnson Hughes highlights the following ways to keep power in proper perspective:

  • Character: Manage the competing demands you face with integrity and honesty.
  • Courage: She notes Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  • Commitment: Commitment is the will and strength to keep forging ahead in spite of how many times you are knocked to your knees. In the long run, unwavering perseverance gets you to your goals.
  • Cautious Attentiveness: A good leader needs to be accurately informed. Be sure you have all the available facts before deciding anything. Think through the potential consequences of your decisions, which can prevent problems arising down the road. At the same time, use your gut: When you have all available information, fill in what’s missing with your intuition.
  • Connectability: You gain power through relationships — understanding and connecting with others.
  • Contribution To The Welfare Of Others: Don’t use your power to focus on what you can gain personally. One of the greatest attributes of a good leader is the willingness to serve others.
  • Creative Perception: Creative perception — otherwise known as vision — is essential to good leadership, as it can inspire and motivate others.

2. Hiring Tips from 37 Signals

Jason Fried, co-founder of 37 Signals, says one of the secrets to successful recruiting is to rarely hire. His firm has kept staff down to about 20 people, and resists hiring as long as it can. “We hire after it hurts. We hire to alleviate pain, not for pleasure,” he writes in Inc. “Any company that hires people before it needs them is hiring for pleasure. It’s an indulgence we’ve never allowed ourselves.”

Some companies invent positions for great people, to lasso them in. But he feels hiring people when you don’t have real work is insulting to the talented individual. Eventually, they’ll be frustrated by their lack of a real challenge, and depart. “We’re happy to skip over the perfect catch if we don’t have the perfect job for the person to do,” he says.

How do you know if you really need someone? He says a good rule of thumb is whether you already have done the job yourself. That means the work is needed. It also means you understand the job, and what is required to be successful in it.

Before the company hired its first customer service person, he handled all the customer service, about two years of answering e-mails. His business partner and one of their programmers did all of their system administration before 37 Signals hired its first system administrator. “We found great people because we thoroughly understood the jobs,” he stresses.

3. Stay Away From High Maintenance Clients

When he was in business for himself, Michael Hyatt — now CE0 of Thomas Nelson Publishers — had an unhappy, high-maintenance client fire him. But a few years later, the individual returned, begging to be taken on as a client, and Hyatt convinced himself that things had changed. But they hadn’t, leading to three painful lessons he shares on MichaelHyatt.com:

  • Some people are just high maintenance. They operate out of their “woundedness.” You are never going to please them.
  • High maintenance people are a distraction. They suck up more than their fair share of resources — in fact, they are a bottomless pit that will suck up everything you and your team have to offer.
  • They keep you from serving others. It’s not fair to other clients or your teammates to keep these “Me Monsters” around.

4. Some Myths About Employee Silence

If your employees are talking to you regularly, does that mean they aren’t holding back information you would find useful? Not necessarily. Academics James Detert, Ethan Burris, and David A. Harrison report in Harvard Business Review that data from 439 respondents found 42 per cent report periodically speaking up, but also holding back when they feel they have nothing to gain — or something to lose — by speaking their minds.

At the same time, personal security reasons are not always the reason for failure to speak. More than 25 per cent reported withholding feedback on routine problems and opportunities for improvement because they didn’t want to waste their time, rather than from a fear of consequences.

5. Zingers

  • Instead of telling your prospects what they stand to gain from taking your advice or buying your product, tell them what they stand to lose if they don’t. Steve Martin, co-author of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive, note that losses are more persuasive than gains. (Source: American Express Open Forum)
  • What is the most popular To-Do List manager? In an online poll primarily of techies, paper surprisingly came in first place, rather than a digital competitor, with 22 per cent of the vote. That being said, it was only slightly ahead of Google Tasks, which also earned 22 per cent of the vote. And the other three top choices were digital: Remember The Milk (17 per cent), Toodledo (13 per cent) and Mac’s Things (10 per cent). (Source: Lifehacker.com)
  • To highlight customers’ unmet needs in marketing planning meetings, consultant Rick Spence suggests asking, “What do our customers take for granted?” Those can be set aside, as table stakes, while you then focus on things customers value that nobody is supplying now. (Source: Canadian Entrepreneur blog)
  • Entrepreneur Robert Pagliarini says multitasking can be a terrific productivity tool, as long as you combine a “head” activity with a “body” activity, something people who knit through meetings learned long ago. (Source: Dumb Little Man blog)
  • When you forgive someone for a transgression, consultant Michael Josephson says it will be mere words unless you not only forgive but also forget. True forgiveness involves letting go in a way that frees both parties from grudges and guilt. (Source: CharacterCounts.org)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:
Non-verbal Communication

Question: We know non-verbal communication is important. Can you suggest points to consider when preparing presentations?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood replies:

We often use the phrase “embody the message” to emphasize the importance of gestures, posture, grooming, use of space or territory, body orientation, eye contact, facial expressions, and other non-audible expressions to communicate a message.

As an excellent resource from the College of DuPage in Illinois points out (at http://www.cod.edu/Course/MGT100/mgtcomm.htm), there are basically three elements in any face-to-face communication: words, tone of voice and non-verbal behaviour.

The piece points out that non-verbal elements are particularly important for communicating feelings and attitude, especially when they are incongruent: If the tone of voice and nonverbal behaviour contradict the words, people tend to believe the tonality and nonverbal behaviour.

In Silent Messages, a 1971 classic in the human communications discipline, Dr. Albert Mehrabian analyzed the messages people send and divided them into three parts — verbal (the actual words), vocal (the tone or inflection placed on those words, such as a sarcastic or sincere tone), and nonverbal. Dr. Mehrabian estimated that 7 per cent of liking a message comes from verbal content and 38 per cent from vocal tone. That means that 55 per cent of liking depends on the nonverbal.

Nonverbal communication can:

  • complement a message (for example, speaking from a respectful distance)
  • repeat your message (rolling your eyes as you say “I don’t believe it!”)
  • contradict (shaking your head “no” as you say “Yes, that’s a great idea, boss!”)
  • regulate a conversation (holding up your hand to signal you want to interrupt)
  • substitute for your message (giving a hard stare in place of saying something), or
  • accentuate part of your message (jabbing your finger to emphasize a point).

The next time you have an important presentation to make, particularly where emotions are involved and it’s important for the audience to like your message, be sure to spend as much time on your non-verbal presentation as your speech and PowerPoint slides.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Technology Affecting Our Brains?

The recent chatter around our water cooler has focused on the plasticity of the brain and how technology might be affecting the way it is structured and how we use it.

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, suspects the Internet “is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.” If you scan a lot of digital content and process dozens of emails daily, you too may be finding that your attention strays after reading a page or two — a length that was standard for many documents not so long ago.

And in the New York Times’ Opinionator, Robert Wright commented recently that technology is weaving humans into electronic webs that resemble big brains, letting people link up with more and more people who share specific interests.

“It’s at this level, the social level, that the new efficiencies reside,” he says. “The fact that we don’t feel efficient — that we feel, as Carr puts it, like ‘chronic scatterbrains’ — is in a sense the source of the new efficiencies; the scattering of attention among lots of tasks is what allows us to add value to lots of social endeavors. The incoherence of the individual mind lends coherence to group minds.”

We think attention skipping along like a scratched CD could also be a consequence of the fast pace of life today, leaving no time to read with reflection and digest at leisure. But that’s for another time… feel attention drifting … big brain calling … must go.


8020Info helps teams develop, communicate and implement their marketing communications, research and strategic plans more effectively. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries at (613) 542-8020, or by email at watercooler@8020info.com.

8. Closing Thought                                                                 Top

“Doing nothing is very hard to do… you never know when you’re finished.”

— Leslie Nielsen