Vol. 10, No. 6 – April 26, 2010

April 26, 2010


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Rules For Leading Clever People

Today’s management challenge, according to Rob Coffee and Gareth Jones of the London Business School, is to attract and manage clever people. In Executive Excellence they set out some rules to follow:

  • Explain and persuade: Clever people do not like to be told what to do and are likely to react badly if they are, since it undermines their sense of self-esteem.
  • Use expertise: Don’t use hierarchy to justify decisions or behaviour. Clevers respond better to expert power than to hierarchical power.
  • Give space and resources: Create the right environment for clevers, one in which they have enough space to try out new things, but be careful it doesn’t become a playground where they aren’t expected to deliver results.
  • Tell them what, but not how: Give them a sense of direction. But leave them the fun of working things out for themselves.
  • Provide boundaries: While clevers need space, they also need structure and discipline. Provide boundaries that help them focus their efforts.
  • Give people time for questioning: Even if you are intimidated by their intelligence, you have to talk to clevers and give them a chance to engage with you.
  • Give recognition and amplify achievements: What clevers do is central to their identity, so recognize their achievements.
  • Protect clever people from the rain: Clever people view the administrative machinery of the organization as a distraction from their more important pursuits, so protect them from organizational rain.

2. The Goals You Never Hear About

When we’re setting goals with others — or even by ourself — some goals remain unstated. Those unstated goals often reflect our timidity and fears.

Entrepreneur Seth Godin notes that people will eagerly say, “I want to help this village get out of poverty,” or “I want to double our market share,” or “I want to be financially independent.” On Seth’s Blog, he adds: “What you rarely hear is, ‘I don’t want to fail,’ ‘I don’t want to look stupid,’ or ‘I don’t want to make any mistakes.'”

But the problem is, often those motivations are part of the thinking and, if left unsaid, he says they can dominate because they are easy to do. In school, for example, if your goal — overtly, or subconsciously — was to avoid being called on in class, it was easy to achieve.

He asks you to think about how often your goal at a conference or a meeting or in a project is, “don’t screw up!” or “don’t make a fool of yourself and say the wrong thing.” Those are very easy goals to achieve: Just do as little as possible.

“The problem is that they sabotage your real goals, the achievement ones. It’s not stupid to have a stated goal of starting several ventures that will fail, or asking three stupid questions a week,” he states. “If you don’t have goals like this, how exactly are you going to luck into being remarkable?”

3. What’s Your Guarantee?

Buyers want guarantees. Every initial purchase carries with it some risk in the buyer’s mind, and to encourage the purchase you must deflate the risk. Consultant George Torok, on his marketing blog, says one of the best ways to demonstrate your good faith and understanding of your clients’ needs is to offer a guarantee.

Domino’s Pizza built its success on the guarantee, “Fresh hot pizza in 30 minutes or it’s free.”

But a guarantee can’t be empty, like Torok’s newspaper, which doesn’t offer any restitution if it misses its 8 a.m. delivery guarantee. “A guarantee must have two parts. There must be a measurable parameter and there must be a reward or restitution to the client when you don’t measure up,” he stresses.

4. Acknowledge Your Silver Bullets

Folklore has it that if you want to kill a werewolf, you need a silver bullet. But Ohio State University Professor Jeffrey Ford says ordinary people are also stopped in their tracks, sometimes with a single word or tone of voice. Those “silver bullets” hurt productivity.

On professorford.com he says our silver bullets are whatever we don’t want people to think, say, or feel about us. So if we’re afraid people will think we’re arrogant, any hint we are being arrogant can stop us cold.

He suggests disarming the bullets by “making friends” with them. One way is by publicly acknowledging the silver bullet, as he does when he deals with his fear of appearing stupid by saying, “I know I might appear stupid at times, and it’s true that there are many things I am stupid about, but this is not one of them.”

5. Zingers

  • Effective e-mails are short, to the point, and ask for what is needed up front. Long e-mails, with convoluted questions and poor e-mail response times, hurt your job performance. (Source: cuberules.com)
  • In turbulent times, DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman says leaders must focus their team on what they can control. When her company’s revenues were dramatically declining in the recession, her staff were afraid, so she focused on things they could do immediately to increase revenues and began implementing. (Source: Knowledge@Wharton newsletter)
  • We are all customers. We all know what we appreciate as customers. We all know what we detest. So why, asks marketing consultant John Dodds, don’t we treat our customers as we would wish to be treated? (Source: Make Marketing History blog)
  • For every goal or intention, consultant Lisa Haneberg suggests writing down three ways your management habits should change to better support the goal or intention. “Hint, your managerial practices ought to change if you want to get a different result,” she adds. (Source: Management Craft blog)
  • With 99 per cent household penetration in the 1990s, there didn’t seem much room for Procter & Gamble’s Hipoglos brand of diaper rash ointment to grow. But talking with consumers, marketer Melanie Healey found that they were applying the salve after diaper rash began to appear. So she ran ads showing that was too late to prevent the rash, and benefits could be felt by their babies if the ointment was used routinely. Sales soared, a lesson according to venture capitalist Scott Anthony that innovation doesn’t always involve new features, services, or business models. Sometimes it’s as simple as a new marketing message. (Source: Harvard Business School blogs)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:
The Social Media Bandwagon

Question: I’ve created a social media account — now what?

8020Info Project Manager Michelle Godin replies:

Using social media to create a presence on the web is not the same as having a website. It’s not about advertising or trying to sell something. It’s about connecting, building relationships, and creating a persona. Today’s consumers are more informed, and are influenced more by their peers than by advertisements. This creates an opportunity to reach them at a more personal level.

Responding to individuals on a personal level, however, is time consuming. The maintenance it takes to effectively sustain a social media campaign can be, in some cases, a full-time job. Consider how often you would need to write material to stay up-to-date and hold the attention of your audience. Even writing a weekly blog may not be enough for those seeking a constant, real-time media experience.

In addition to the time it takes, you must also consider your language and content — your voice. It’s important to keep it consistent and continuous. Before beginning to explore your online media options, think of how this will benefit your organization in the long-run. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Where will you establish your presence? Be strategic: Have you identified why you would get involved with each network, connection, interaction or platform?
  • What will your audience gain by following you? Understand the 3 Cs: communication, commerce and community. Which will you offer? What are your reasons for doing so?
  • Who will you connect with? Are they in your target audience?
  • Why are you going online? “Because everyone else is doing it” is not usually a sufficient reason.

Professor Sidney Eve, a Queen’s National Scholar and assistant professor in Film and Media at Queen’s University, says that using social media can help your company “become a thought leader in your industry and increase your credibility.” In her presentation, she also explains how to use online platforms to add measurable value to your bottom lines and gain media coverage. (See http://www.slideshare.net/SidneyEve)

Whatever you do, ensure your social media activities complement your brand and your strategy.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Interpreting Statistics

We smiled when reading about a recent Leger Marketing poll: 19 out of 20 Canadian workers feel they are comparable or more competent, hardworking and productive than their colleagues. Hard to believe that only 5 per cent are, in fact, below average, but that’s what 1,504 respondents reported.

Clive Thompson pointed out in Wired magazine this month that most people have a shaky grasp of statistics. This has consequences when you:

  • confuse a chance correlation with the real cause of an outcome
  • take a statistic as gospel when the calculation omits certain key factors, such as calculating same-store sales growth for the year but excluding results for stores that had to close
  • make forecasts like the gambler who thinks that a flip of the coin is more likely to come up tails after a long string of heads (unless you’re being conned, the odds are the same for each toss)

What does it mean when you have an average client satisfaction score of 7.1? Are the scores all clustered around the same mark, or does the average reflect a bipolar mix of highly satisfied and very dissatisfied customers? Does anything less than a 9 mean they will loyally resist alternative or competitive offers?

Instead of using a numerical rating scale, would it be more meaningful to ask, “would you recommend our product/service to your family and friends?” or some other measure linked to concrete behaviour that affects your success?

As Thompson notes, “thinking statistically is tricky.” But you need a good grasp of the data to properly understand your situation, discern cause and effect, appreciate risk in making forecasts, and use statistics to make better decisions.

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

“Hell, there are no rules here — we’re trying to accomplish something.”

— Thomas A. Edison