Vol. 10, No. 3 – Feb. 22, 2010

February 22, 2010


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Learning To Be An Initiative-Giver

Most businesses and non-profits are started and built by driven people who see an opportunity or need and get on with it. They are initiative-takers — people who do it all, because they have to, and nothing stops them. But consultant Donald Cooper notes that, if they are successful, the organization will one day grow to a size where other folks must be hired to help. And that’s when trouble arises.

“The initiative-taking boss just keeps taking the initiative, because that’s who they are and that’s what got them where they are today. They can’t help themselves. It’s in their DNA,” he writes in The Donald Cooper Corporation Newsletter.

If you’re struggling with that issue, he stresses it’s important to realize that initiative does not exist in the air — it exists in people. And when you take it, you take it away from people. “Your people become puppets, the good managers leave and the weak ones stay, keep their heads down and wait for your next instruction,” he points out.

Instead, you must learn to become an initiative-giver, empowering others. Borrowing from sports, he says you have to make the transition from player to coach. Players take initiative while coaches give initiative.

Being a coach, he notes, requires learning to feel good about yourself in a new way: “I personally scored no goals today, but I coached an entire team to score enough goals to win.”

2. How Customer-Centric Is Your Company?

In the film When Harry Met Sally, Harry (played by Billy Crystal) has to field a question from Meg Ryan’s character, Sally. “Am I high maintenance?” she asks, expecting to be reassured to the contrary. Instead he bluntly tells her she’s the worst kind — a high maintenance person who thinks she is low maintenance.

Consultant Richard Fouts says most marketers are like Sally. They think they are customer-centric, but aren’t. On The Sideroad.com, he asks you to pick up some piece of marketing material for your firm, and apply the following test:

  • If the headline features your company name, subtract five points. If it features a customer issue, add five points.
  • If half of your lead paragraphs begin with the company name, subtract five points. If more than half of your lead paragraphs begin with customer issues, add 10 points.
  • If there are no named customers, subtract five points. If there is at least one named customer, add five. If you name three customers, add 10.
  • If your photos or imagery feature your company, subtract five points. If they highlight customer situations, add five.

If you got 25 to 30 points, you deserve congratulations, as you are leading in customer centricity. If you scored 10 to 20, the material — and the message you send customers — is too much about you. Less than zero: He says you’re probably like Sally, thinking you’re customer centric when you aren’t. Rework your material, so the focus is on the customer.

3. On Being A Visionary

Many leaders worry about whether they can be visionaries for their organizations — they aren’t sure they have the capacity to come up with big picture ideas. But executive coach Miles Kierson says in Executive Excellence that an effective leader doesn’t have to be a visionary in the sense of personally envisioning new futures. What that leader must be is someone who remains committed to accomplishing a future and who keeps things moving into the future. To be a great leader, you don’t necessarily have to see the future yourself but must be committed to it.

He points to a CEO whose father died the night before a two-day session planned to develop a vision for his company’s future. The CEO had to skip the session, but on return completely owned the vision that his team developed and became a brilliant spokesperson for it. That’s what a visionary does.

4. Look To Yourself To Change Others

If you want to be good at getting others to change, organizing expert Dave Allen says you should ask yourself: “Who got me to change… and how did they do that?” Bring to mind the three people in your life who were most effective in getting you to improve and grow. What was common to all three?

For Allen, the common denominator was they all held a vision of him doing better than he was currently doing, they held that as a standard when they related to him, and they cared enough to take him to task when he fell short. “They also all did it lovingly, though it didn’t feel like it sometimes!” he writes in his Productive Living Newsletter. “Really want people to change? Try that.”

5. Zingers

  • When you get stuck, ask yourself one question: Do I need action or introspection right now?” (Source: The M.A.P Maker blog)
  • Consultant Dale Furtwengler says whenever you feel tempted to lower your price because you don’t have a well-established reputation, ask whether you would rather have the prospect walk away saying “I wish I could afford his offering” or “the price is so low I wonder if his offering is good enough?” Price your product or service to reflect its true value, and then show your customers why it’s worth every penny. (Source: Get To The Point newsletter)
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, renegotiate some commitments. You may still be able to play a part in the many ventures you have going, but may need to scale back what you do in some instances. (Source: Dumb Little Man blog)
  • You can find yourself in an awkward situation when a frustrated customer tells you she needs to desperately hear back from one of your colleagues and wants to know when he will call back. If you say the co-worker will return the call by a certain time, you have made a promise that may not be kept. But if you indicate you don’t know when he will return the call, you may sound uncaring. Customer relations expert Jeff Mowatt advises you to offset what you can’t commit to with something you can: “I can’t say exactly when Gerald will return your call — usually he’s quite reliable. What I can promise is that I will give him your message as soon as he returns.” (Source: Influence With Ease newsletter)
  • The usual sequence in a sales presentation or other presentation is to methodically share every piece of supporting data in a logical order and present the conclusion after all the data has been shared. But presentations specialist Dave Paradi says research shows audiences recall better and understand your message better if they first hear the conclusion, then the supporting data. That way, they know where you are headed and can fit the data you present into the framework or conclusion you have already stated. (Source: PowerPoint Tip e-newsletter)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:
Ends Statements

Question: What is an Ends Statement?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood replies:

This concept comes from “The Carver Model” of policy governance, which separates the issues of organizational purpose (Ends) from operational or administrative issues about how those Ends are to be achieved. The overall system is rigorous and demanding, but the model is applicable to any governing body.

Dr. John Carver would say that defining success and determining Ends are the highest calling of leadership. While many organizations intuitively understand their values and the reason they exist — their purpose — many are vague about the outcomes they seek.

As others have written, Ends are always about making a difference in the world external to the organization. Crucially, they state what outcomes are to be achieved, for whom, and the relative priority, worth or cost of achieving those outcomes.

To what End does a non-profit serve an identified group in its community? How, specifically, does a business improve the life of a certain type of customer? Which of many desirable outcomes is priority #1?

It is easy for boards or other governance bodies to stumble in defining outcomes — how should one deal with a desired outcome that can’t be completely controlled? Or an outcome that involves an ambitious, complex and long-term effort? Or a result so broad that it reads like a platitude? It’s not about what you’re going to try to do — it’s about what your organization will achieve. Some suggested solutions:

  • Outcomes might be better defined with more focus on the precise benefit you can deliver or a more specific measure of success — such as every child having access to a computer or feeling safe while walking to school.
  • Longer-term outcomes might be scaled to milestones along the way: In three years we want X result; in 10 years we want the broader outcome.
  • Ends must define success, but typically they are set at a level higher than metrics or “smart” operational objectives, such as increasing sales by 5% or reducing accidents by half.

It may also be helpful to set up decision-making “tests”: Does this business decision take environmental impacts into account? Does this policy enable all customers to access our services? Do these budget decisions move us closer to our Ends?

Together with directors, managers will find these ideas useful in providing support for their boards. Or they can apply the rigour of Ends thinking when developing a sharp set of outcomes they wish to achieve in their own roles.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Thanks For Encouraging Us To #150!

We have surprised ourselves: This is our 150th issue of The 8020Info Water Cooler! We published our first issue on April 30, 2001, and here we are, still going after 450 weeks and 265,000 words.

We have been encouraged by the growing list of readers and particularly by the notes we receive regularly: “Your (newsletter) is the only one I know I ‘have’ to read once I get it; the other stuff stays in the ‘read someday’ pile”. Or “just finished reading your email newsletter… loved the how-to reminders.” Or, typical of many comments: “As always, I love getting the Water Cooler. I find value in it every single time. Thanks for making my Monday Morning a good one.”

Our goal is to provide managers, leaders, entrepreneurs and executive directors with practical, applicable highlights from today’s rich information stream — ideas that have consequences. We’ll do our best to keep it up for the next 150 issues.


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

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”

— Seneca