Vol. 11, No. 3 – Feb. 21, 2011

February 21, 2011


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Delegate Or Die

Entrepreneur Derek Sivers calls it “The Delegation Trap.” It happens to many people, but particularly the self-employed: You know you need help, but to find and train someone would take more time than you have. So you keep working harder, until you break.

Another way to describe the trap: Delegate or die.

Sivers faced that with his start-up, CD Baby, when every five minutes one of his eight employees would come with a question for him to answer for them. He realized he had to make himself unnecessary to the running of his company.

The next morning, when he walked in the door he was hit immediately with a question about a client wanting a refund. Instead of answering, he called everyone together, described the issue and question, and answered, sharing his thought process and the philosophy behind the decision to everyone. He asked around to make sure everyone understood.

He asked someone to start a manual, writing down the answer to the situation and the philosophy. Ten minutes later, when another question arose, he repeated the process:

  • Gather everybody around.
  • Answer the question, and explain the philosophy.
  • Make sure everyone understands the thought process.
  • Ask one person to write it in the manual.
  • Let them know they can decide this themselves next time.

“After two months of this, there were no more questions,” he writes on his blog, Sivers.org. “Because my team was running the business, I was free to actually improve the business!”

2. Three Things Every Web Site Needs

While you are in a meeting, travelling out of town, or even asleep, your web site is working for you. But does it measure up to the challenge?

On his Marketing Minute blog, consultant Drew McLellan suggests there are three things a web site needs:

  • Call to action: Visitors to the site need direction. Attention spans are short these days, particularly when online, and you must guide visitors to the next stage in the sales process. Make sure you have a prominent call to action on every page of your site.
  • Compelling copy: You need effective headlines and short, simple, motivating copy.
  • Consistent user experience: This is a little less concrete, but you have to pay close attention to the way users feel while interacting with your web site. Make sure the design is consistent with your brand, sends a message of credibility, and that navigation of the site is not frustrating for prospects.

3. Advice For Year Of The Rabbit

The Chinese ushered in The Year Of The Rabbit earlier this month, and consultant Rhonda Abrams says you can use that as your theme for jumping ahead in business this year.

She’s not a big believer in astrology, but feels there’s a benefit to using the concepts of rabbit years as an inspiration. Rabbit years, for example, are a time for persuasion rather than force. Try to work things out, especially when a customer calls.

Rabbits get ahead in a calm, steady manner. “If you want to do the same, consider hiring,” she writes in her Planning Shop newsletter. “Hiring frees you up to focus on what you enjoy — and profit from — most.”

Rabbits are good communicators. See if you can increase — and improve — your networking this year. Rabbits tend to be creative and artistic. Let your imagination soar this year.

Rabbit years also tend to be lucky ones. “Don’t believe in luck? Then take matters into your own hands. Whether you’re launching a new marketing campaign or setting up a new web site, make sure to track your results.”

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Have A Happy And Prosperous New Year!

4. Why Business Cards Are Dangerous

Beware of your business card. It may be dangerous to your business health.

That’s the message from leadership consultant Seth Kahane. On The Fast Company Experts Blog, he says business cards assume an old-style communication approach: I have a message for you. “This is a transactional view of communication. If you simply put your card in someone’s hand as a way of marketing, chances are it will end in the trash can when your back is turned,” he writes.

As well, the act of handing out a business card is almost always about the person who is giving it, you, rather than about generating new possibilities with the people you meet.

He’s not ruling out using business cards. But he stresses the key is to have a conversation that matters and will be remembered. Then you can hand out the card, or better yet make an appointment to talk in greater depth about how you can help them achieve their goals.

5. Zingers

  • Too many teams are lax about deadlines. But consultant Ann Gomez says that teams function more productively when members can rely on each other, and deadlines are the contracts people make with each other. Establish a deadline-driven culture in your team to heighten productivity. (Source: Clearconceptinc.ca)
  • Try writing your e-mails in short paragraphs titled: What, When, Why, and Details. (Source: The Nathan Zeldes Newsletter)
  • People rarely seek or welcome feedback but they do seek and welcome advice. Leaders must understand the difference between feedback and advice, and offer both, nurturing their staff’s thirst for improvement. (Source: Kevin Eikenberry’s Leadership & Learning blog)
  • Do you need a Super Soaker water gun at your meetings? Consultant Howard Mann recalls a company which had a simple rule for meetings: Nobody could whine or complain about something unless they proposed a solution to fix the problem. The penalty was a blast of water dispensed by the plastic gun-wielding president. If not a Super Soaker, do you need an equivalent rule? (Source: The Business Brickyard)
  • Research shows people who are prone to guilt tend to work harder and perform better than people who are not guilt prone. They are also perceived as more capable leaders. Francis Flynn, of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, who conducted the research, speculates that guilt activates a keen sense of responsibility for one’s actions. (Source: Harvard Business Review)


6. Q&A with 8020Info:
The NOSE Test for your Content

Question: How can I make sure my communications content “works” consistently?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood replies:

Given the complexities of context, timing and interpretation, there’s probably no sure-fire way to ensure in advance that a communication will “work”. You might find it helpful, though, to apply the NOSE test to your content before you tweet, send an e-mail newsletter, publish a marketing brochure or upload your next blog piece.

A format known as the NOSE model, which comes from The Twitter Job-Search Guide by Whitcomb, Bryan and Dib, offers a useful framework to assess almost any type of communication content. NOSE stands for:

  • Noteworthy: Will your audience find your content new or fresh? Will they want to know and remember it? Will they find it worth passing on to others?
  • On-Brand: Does the content reinforce your brand — what you or your service, product, event and/or organization stand for and mean to your audience? (While brand is about meaning, it is often described in terms of identity, reputation, core promise, positioning, image and personality.)
  • Strategic: Does what you have to say support key priorities or directly advance efforts to achieve your strategic goals?
  • Engaging: As Selena Dehne succinctly asks on JobJournal.com, does your material make readers lean forward and want to respond to you, take action or share your message with others?

If you can make this NOSE test part of a standard internal discipline and apply it consistently to all of your communications, you’ll be well on your way to achieving impact and results.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Purposeful Practice

You may be familiar with the findings of several studies that indicate it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve a world-class level of skill. This rule seems to apply to accomplishments of complexity in disciplines as varied as chess, music, sports, poetry, art, various types of research or academic pursuit, and feats of memory. Most so-called child prodigies do not have special innate talents but have simply had more practice at an early age.

In his book Bounce, subtitled Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham and the Science of Success, Matthew Syed points out that simply logging the hours will not get the job done. (In a great example, he notes how 10,000 hours of distracted driving over a lifetime have had little effect in improving his performance behind the wheel.)

The crucial difference, he says, lies the number of hours devoted to purposeful practice, where “the goal is to extend one’s mind and body, to push oneself beyond the outer limits of one’s capacities, to engage so deeply in the task that one leaves the training session, literally, a changed person.”

Motivation, of course, is essential to the pursuit of continuing progress; we have to want and enjoy those countless practice hours. Some jobs — think firefighters, nurses, or figure skaters — demand full attention when performing the task at hand. Other professions make active use of training systems that systematically challenge and advance knowledge and skill. Syed notes that we learn and remember more deeply when a task is challenging and just a bit beyond our current skill level.

But many of us accept the natural temptation to ease off at some acceptable level of skill: we “plateau”. Maybe it’s time to invest again in some purposeful practice!

8. Closing Thought                                                                 Top

“Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.”

   — George Santayana