Vol. 10, No. 17 – Dec. 13, 2010

December 13, 2010


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. How To Delegate Better

Out of fear of coming across as a micro-manager, it’s easy to go to the other extreme and delegate tasks without following up. It’s also easy to get burned.

That’s what happened to Michael Hyatt early in his career. The publisher of Thomas Nelson has since developed the following five steps for improved delegation, which he shares on his blog:

  • Assign the task to one person. Ask them to confirm that they understand the assignment and have accepted responsibility for it. Until that is done, the hand-off is not complete.
  • Articulate a specific outcome. Make clear exactly what you are expecting the other person to deliver. You have to be able to tell whether the task was completed as assigned.
  • Include your delivery timetable. Some projects have hard, fast deadlines while others may not be as time sensitive, as with a task needing to be done, say, sometime over the next two weeks. In either situation, you must clearly express your expectations.
  • Make yourself available for consultation. You want to be a resource, not a micro-manager. “The best way to do this is to stay focused on the outcome rather than the process. I personally don’t care how the other person gets the job done (assuming it is ethical); I only care about the end-result,” he writes.
  • Track the delegated task on a to-do list. This is crucial since not everyone assigned a task will have a good task management system in place.

2. Money Shouldn’t Always Come First

Vancouver-based meetings facilitator Eli Mina says that too often he observes boards and councils getting bogged down in arguments about the bottom line and thereby losing sight of what they need to achieve for the organization or community they serve.

In his Deliberations Newsletter, he cites the example of a committee discussing the possibility of organizing an educational event. The discussion barely began when financial issues took centre stage: “How much money do we want to make? How much can we charge per person? What will the market bear?”

A lot of time was spent discussing the numbers, without much progress. Then someone, frustrated, spoke out saying they were putting the cart before the horse. “Can we discuss first who we want to attract to the event and how they will benefit from it? Once we answer these questions we should plan the agenda for the session. Only then should we talk about money,” the individual stated. That intervention re-focused the discussion and greatly enhanced its quality, depth and productivity.

Another side effect of the preoccupation with money that troubles him is that members of the decision-making body can become competitive as they protect or advance their favourite priorities or budget items. This leads to adversarial, “win-lose” thinking.

“So next time your group gets bogged down in financial arguments, see if you can shift the debate to the purposes of the organization and the various ‘bottom lines’ that should be addressed,” he concludes.

3. What Signals Do You Send Your Team?

Consultant Donald Cooper recently held a three-hour workshop for a group of retail store owners and their store managers. Although the owners were “independents”, they all belonged to the same buying group, and at the workshop they chose to sit with each other. That left their store managers at other tables.

Cooper found it odd, since his presentation was about how each store could, as a team, work together to improve their sales, service and bottom line. So in the first five minutes of his presentation he pointed out the dysfunctional seating arrangement to them and gave them an opportunity to shift and sit with their team.

No one did.

“Everything we do sends a message. Everything we do either honours or dishonours the other person. Make sure that you are sending the right messages to your team in everything you do,” he advises in his e-mail newsletter.

4. First, Hear The Pain

When we mess up with a client, we immediately go into fix-up mode, trying to correct the problem. But consultant Drew McLellan, in his The Marketing Minute e-newsletter, says that just makes it worse.

“The client doesn’t want you to fix it. Not yet. First they want you to feel their pain,” he notes.

They want to know you’re sorry, and that you are upset you let them down. It’s time to say the key words: “I am sorry.” You don’t have to grovel. But the clients are feeling lousy, and want to know you feel as badly about the situation as they do.

Then you can fix it.

5. Zingers

  • Constructive conflict conversations focus on issues; destructive conflict conversations focus on people. Constructive conflict conversations focus on the future; destructive conversations on the past. Constructive conversations bring people together to solve a problem; destructive conversations create polarization and division within an organization. (Source: The Recovering Engineer blog)
  • If you want to improve your business plan, entrepreneur Seth Godin suggests you should have someone else write it. That sounds odd, but he says you should find a document buddy, someone else who needs a business plan prepared, and interview each other before writing the other person’s plan. Tell your story, answer questions, and see what they come up with. It may be a better description of your plans than what you would write yourself. (Source:Seth’s Blog)
  • A trend to watch according to consultants Rachel Botsman and Roos Rogers: Collaborative consumption. It gives people the benefits of ownership while reducing personal burdens and costs, as when people share tools, camcorders and other tools through zilok.com or get recycled boxes through usedcardboardboxes.com. Is there an opportunity for you in that concept? (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Researchers have found that distraction leads to boredom — not the other way around. That means you must cut out distraction to get focused, or else you will get bored. (Source: Howtogetfocused.com)
  • In keeping with the New Year’s spirit, consultant Sam Geist suggests you ask yourself what one thing you can begin to do right now to get where you want to be. Write it down, look at it every morning, and do it every day. (Source: Quickbites newsletter)


6. Q&A with 8020Info:
Approaching The New Year

Question: How can I improve my organization’s performance next year?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

Here are some possibilities:

  • Hold a strategy session early in the year. Beforehand, work with attendees to identify your three biggest problems as an organization. Then focus only on addressing those three issues.
  • Alternatively, hold a strategy session that you don’t attend. Let your staff decide how best to improve the organization next year. If you’re brave, then walk into the room (like Jack Welch in his famous workouts) and for every proposal they have, answer immediately with either “yes,” “no,” or “we need more information on that.” If you’re not so bold, ask for a report, and then respond, quickly and thoroughly.
  • Improve yourself. Name four habits you need to improve. Each quarter of the year, work on one. There are many different methods for doing that, but if you want some possibilities try Richard Daft’s recent book, The Executive and The Elephant.
  • Why not commit to reading one relevant business/management or self-help book a month? Better yet, see if you can form a book club and commit to reading and discussing five books next year — that’s one every two months, allowing for a break during summer when it can be harder to arrange a meeting.
  • Focus more on recognizing the good work of staff. Take time to thank them, regularly, with notes or personal praise, especially in front of others.
  • Write down the names of your staff. Then list their strengths and write down ways you could make better use of their strengths. Do it.
  • Get the year off to a strong start with some stretch goals for the first quarter for yourself and others. Be realistic: Choose challenging goals that can be achievable. Three months is a reasonable time to keep a goal front of mind — a year is usually too long. Sell the approach to others.
  • Do one new thing in marketing — perhaps one startlingly new thing.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Goals And Policies Compared

It can be all too easy to dodge the hard work of real policy development by coasting once you’ve determined your goal. A goal does not a policy make — a distinction made at a policy development session we facilitated for a client this past week.

Policies play a crucial supporting role in relation to goals. Effective policies typically go beyond expectations for behaviour and actively guide decision-making related to those goals. For instance, our goal may be health eating in schools and wanting to ensure that healthy food is available — a school food and beverage policy makes it so.

A policy is also more than a take-it-or-leave it suggestion. An entity or person with authority is needed to apply a policy, perhaps enforce it when necessary, and at the very least to persuade the intended audience to follow it. To encourage compliance, which must have a base of support found in social norms and education, we may also consider consequences for non-compliance. Usually policies are also too much work unless they have repeated application (vs. one-off instances).

In the planning session, we used the example of a speed limit. The goal may be safety on our streets, but that alone is not a policy. A posted speed limit, however, gives us guidance on appropriate driving behaviour. It is set by an authority (the government) and supported by social norms in the community. We can choose to comply, or risk nasty stares or even penalties. It’s a clear policy with efficiencies — applied repeatedly, eliminating any need to argue case by case whether the driving was unsafe.

So check your goals and see if your policy-making effort can be crafted in ways that will have a more powerful impact on achieving them.


8020Info helps teams develop, communicate and implement their 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

“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its shortness.”

— Jean de La Bruyère