Vol. 11 No. 16 – November 21, 2011

November 19, 2011


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. The Five Levels Of Interpersonal Communication

It’s easy in today’s digital world to become haphazard about the way we communicate. But each form of communication has advantages and disadvantages. On The 99 percent.com, entrepreneur Scott Belsky reviews five levels of interpersonal communication:

  • Message Into The Ether: Snail mail and email are generally presented as opposites, but both are not conversational. Emails and letters are sent out, and then new messages are composed and returned. Because they each lump all the points under discussion rather than go point-counterpoint as in a discussion, a high level of misunderstanding can occur with them.
  •  Back And Forth Messaging: Whether instant messaging or text, the next level of communication is conversational, but still conducted remotely. Misunderstandings are less likely because of the flow of points back and forth, but the bite-size messaging means it’s not well-suited to discussing complex matters.
  • A Verbal Dialogue: Here inflection is added to the mix, allowing elements like frustration and stress to be picked up easier than in written communication. But verbal dialogues must be scheduled.
  • In-Person Spontaneous Discussion: When something important comes up, you might decide to just drop by a colleague’s desk and start talking. Visually seeing each other improves the conversation, but if others are in the vicinity it can be less intimate and spontaneity isn’t everyone’s preference.
  • In-Person Scheduled Discussion: This allows time to think about the issues, and take advantage of inflection, visual cues, and the comfort of privacy.

2. Encouraging Yourself

Leaders provide encouragement. And if you’re a leader, the first person you must encourage is yourself. Consultant John Maxwell tells how even President Abraham Lincoln needed affirmation, and in his pocket the day of his assassination was a laudatory newspaper clipping. (See column on Business.Inquirer.net.)

Maxwell offers four strategies for keeping in high spirits:

  • Create Mementos: Find a tangible memento to represent the accomplishments that make you the proudest, be it framing written words of praise from your manager or an award you have won. Give yourself visual cues that will trigger recollections of success.
  • Build A Support Team: Every relationship in life can lift us up or drag us down. Make sure the people in your inner circle believe the best of you and will cheer you on as you encounter challenges.
  • Envision Future Rewards: Keeping future rewards at the front of your mind will provide encouragement. “If you’ve ever run a long-distance race, then you know the rush of energy that comes from seeing the finish line. Having the goal in sight gives you encouragement to finish the race,” he notes. “Spend time visualizing your arrival at the finish line.”
  • Sow Encouragement Into Lives Around You: Encouragement is reciprocal. If you want encouragement from others, then be generous with it yourself. “I’m amazed at how eager people are to return the favour after I’ve provided them with inspiration. They line up to express their gratitude, and their kind words give me the strength to keep going,” he concludes.

3. In Praise Of Rolling Budgets

Forecasting the future can be difficult, particularly for new, entrepreneurial organizations. On American Express OPEN Forum, consultant Ken Kaufman says instead of a static, locked-down 12-month plan, you should consider adjusting your forecast every month based on what you have been learning from the market.

Perhaps the costs per lead in your original forecast have been validated, but your estimate of the percentage of leads who will turn into customers has been wrong. Use that new information to create a new budget looking out at the next 12 months, so you aren’t stuck with outdated assumptions and unfeasible outcomes for the rest of the original budget year.

He notes that another great feature of the rolling budget is that you always have twelve months forecasted. “When most companies use a static budget, the forward-looking nature of their predictions gets shorter as the year transpires. A calendar-year company, therefore, only has three months budgeted in October — not much of a forecast,” he stresses.

4. Making It Personal

On his blog, personal success guru Robin Sharma praises someone he calls a Merchant of Wow, a leader in a department store chain who every Sunday night personally calls customers who have given negative feedback.

“In a world filled with people who are bored and apathetic and looking for the latest way to escape the doldrums of their work, this leader cared. He understood that even one unhappy customer was one too many. And that feedback is how the best become better. So he made it personal,” Mr. Sharma declares.

5. Zingers

  • We organize our schools around obedience, in the hope it will lead to self-control, notes entrepreneur Seth Godin. Similarly, we organize our companies around obedience, seeking self-control and success. But he questions whether obedience is the way to get to success: Compliant sergeants rarely become great generals. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  •  The word feedback has morphed into “Here’s what you need to correct” instead of “Here’s how I think we’re doing,” says consultant Steve Roesler. With the word feedback taking on negative connotations, drop it, and instead start holding ongoing “conversations,” which since we were kids have been held to discuss how things are going. (Source: All Things Workplace)
  • Workers change the computer windows they are working in 37 times an hour, on average, according to the New York Times. Marketing executive David Lavenda suggests new collaboration tools are only making it worse and we need to focus more, integrating the productivity tools better with our work flow. (Source: FastCompany.com)
  •  Uncertainty creates a void, and where there is a void negativity will creep in, says consultant Jon Gordon. Leaders must constantly fill the void with positive communications, getting on the phone and meeting with people personally to explain your vision. (Source: JonGordon.com)
  • When asked what annoys them about PowerPoint presentations, 74% of respondents in a survey listed the fact the speaker read the slides to them; 52% picked full sentences used instead of bulletpoints, and 48% complained the text was too small to read. (Source: Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Blog)

6. Q&A with 8020Info: Six Ways To Check Project Integration

How can we better integrate planning for multiple projects?

8020Info CEO Rob Wood responds:

We’ve been hearing a lot about this issue over the past few months – organizations can’t afford to duplicate effort, overburden limited internal resources with multiple demands, or have their own projects bumping into one another at an operational level. They want to coordinate areas of overlap in planning, operations and resources. Here are some perspectives or “lenses” you can use to identify your pressure points:

  • Strategic Alignment: Do your various programs and projects fit within a coherent overall model or do they serve different masters, with conflicting strategic goals or priorities?
  • Project Management: One project’s output may be another’s input. Look for dependencies: What must one project deliver before another can begin or finish? How will progress on one program depend on others meeting their milestones and deadlines?
  • Sharing/Access to Resources: When do you both need access to the same resources? When could you share the workload or save time or money by a joint purchase?
  • Keeping People in the Loop: Do those who manage your projects know how and when they should check in with each other? Time spent getting input from your colleagues early, as a project is being chartered or designed, will often save trouble later. Or it may be more important to check in at critical points during project implementation or when you need help with problem-solving. It’s usually important to “close the loop” by reporting back on how things turned out.
  •  Reporting: Who needs to know what, and when? (A weather report is useless the day after. And remember audience-centred communications — what you want to tell them may not be what they want or need to hear from you.) What communications format will work best for the individuals involved: High-level or high-detail? Text or pictures or charts? Reports? Meetings? Email updates? A demonstration or on-site review?
  • Managing Change: Most projects, almost by definition, involve change and its shadow — resistance to change. Your project may generate fear or concerns for others related to their sense of meaning, control, identity, belonging, competence, or status.

A thorough discussion of these points with your project leads will go a long way to help improve coordination and integration of your group of projects.

7. News From Our Water Cooler: “Impact Buyers”

Typically we let buzzwords sit awhile before using them, like a wine that must age before we know its real worth, but we’re finding it hard to resist the idea of “impact buyers”.

The term popped up in a recent conversation with Kingston’s innovative Cultural Services team, used to describe how arts and cultural programs create highly valued social impacts in the community.

Authors like Jason Saul in The End of Fundraising: Raise More Money by Selling Your Impact describe how impact buyers attach real economic value to social outcomes and act like consumers to purchase those social benefits — they could be funders, investors, corporate citizens, employees, partners, service providers or individuals who pay for some product, service or experience to support social outcomes.

The idea of an “impact buyer” also applies in many other contexts outside of the arts, and is a fresh way to look at the feature/benefit distinction. We buy fair trade coffee for the social impact on farmers. We make a hospital donation to support a healthier community. We pay to hear a great speaker to stimulate imagination and learning. We support recreation programs to make a difference for youth.

It’s always worth being reminded that we aren’t buying the ¼-inch drill bit (feature) — it’s the ¼-inch hole (benefit) we want. It may not be the product or service or funding/investment opportunity, but the social impact we seek.

8. Closing Thought

“Man is rated the highest animal, at least among all animals who returned the questionnaire.”

— Robert Brault