Vol. 11, No. 6 – April 25, 2011

April 25, 2011


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Four Tips For Conducting A Skype Interview

Skype has become popular for keeping in touch with friends and family, but it also could be used for conducting video job interviews at a distance. On Inc.com, writer Gabrielle Blue offers these tips:

  • Set the example: Don’t fall into the trap of assuming a Skype interview is like video chatting with a friend. You must maintain professional standards, being as prepared as if the candidate were in front of you in the office.
  • Check your tech: It’s your responsibility to be familiar with the technology and to do everything to ensure there are no technological foul-ups during the session. “So whether you have used Skype before or are just starting out, it’s still best to test out the programs a few times with family, friends or colleagues to make sure you don’t have any connection, sound or video problems. Also remember Skype’s list of FAQs can help you troubleshoot any issues you may have. The list is detailed, thorough, and easy to understand,” she writes.
  • Look for red flags: Be alert to disconcerting signals that emerge. An odd Skype name for the candidate — motherofalldrugaddicts — may signal you should skip the interview. If the time zones are far apart, be alert to possible confusion on the exact timing.
  • Try recording: One of the benefits of Skype interviews is you can record them. Click on Tools/Extra on Skype, and download the VodBurner Video Call Recorder plug-in.

2. Start-Up Board vs. Bored Meetings

Many start-ups make poor use of their board members in meetings. On finance-fortune.cnn.com, venture capitalist Jeffrey Bussgang offers the following ideas, which may be useful for other organizations as well:

  • The CEO should begin alone with the board for 30 minutes, providing a one-page summary of business developments and key issues. This could be presented in a red/yellow/green format — what’s going well, what’s making you nervous, and what’s not going well.
  • The CFO and perhaps members of the management team then should provide summary updates on finances and other matters. The materials should be distributed in advance, so this is a question-and-answer session rather than presentation. Limit this to 30 minutes as well.
  • The group could follow that with a discussion on one or two strategic issues picked as the meeting’s focus. The CEO frames the issues, presents a recommendation, and then asks the board members for help and guidance. This may also be an opportunity for management committee members to present some material and get board exposure.
  • The CEO and board should then hold a 30-minute executive session, providing an opportunity to reflect on the content of the meeting and discuss important issues further.
  • The CEO could then step out and allows the board to hold a non-management session. Bussgang admits to fear when he first tried this — it was his company, in his mind — but he found it allowed his board to gain alignment on the key takeaways and directions to give the management team.

3. Lady Gaga And You

Entrepreneur Seth Godin doesn’t listen to Lady Gaga’s music, and says he wouldn’t recognize her if she stopped by to say hello.

But he doubts that bothers her. Nor should it.

“Even if you’re a pop star, you don’t need everyone to be a fan or a customer. And especially if you’re not a pop star, worrying about whether everyone laughs at your jokes, buys your product or even likes you is counterproductive,” he writes on Seth’s Blog.

Don’t worry about people who aren’t going to buy from you. Instead, remember you are in the hunt for fans, individuals who will cross the street to work with you. Accept that being remarkable — like Lady Gaga, for example — means that you will be ignored by some people and actively disliked by others.

It doesn’t slow Lady Gaga down, and shouldn’t bother you.

4. Improving Communication With Some Honesty

Consultant Sam Geist was sitting in a coffee shop recently when he overheard a cell phone conversation that offered a memorable lesson. The man said into the phone, “I know you’re frustrated because you’re not getting what you want. I’m also frustrated because I am not giving you what you need. Please help me out by telling me how I can help you get what you want.”

There was silence for a couple of minutes as the man listened to the other party, Geist recounts in his QuickBites e-newsletter. Then the man smiled, and replied, “I can do that. I’ll get on it right away.”

The open communication — precipitated when the man admitted to the frustration of both sides — allowed for a broader perspective and a chance for a new beginning.

5. Zingers

  • Not all email is worthy of a response. Some people are masters of shuffling email to look as if they’re busy. You don’t have to respond to every frivolous email that reaches your inbox. (Source: Timemanagementninja.com)
  • Most of us fret in the absence of any real risk or danger, according to Gus Lee, author of Courage: The Backbone of Leadership. Leaders can create calm, balance, and optimism or provoke anger, worry and stress. Take your choice. (Source: Management Craft)
  • Wondering about the marketing advantages (and disadvantages) of various social media? CMO.com developed a handy “cheat sheet” looking at the issues of customer communication, brand exposure, traffic to your site, and search engine optimization. You can download a PDF at www.cmo.com/social-media/cmos-guide-social-media-landscape. (Source: Drew’s Marketing Minute)
  • Ford CEO Alan Mulally has a favourite saying: “You can’t manage a secret.” During his tenure, the company has followed a twenty-four hour rule: You have twenty-four hours to take a new and emerging issue, try to understand it, and see if you can resolve it yourself. After that, you have to share it with the rest of the company, so the combined intellect can deal with it. (Source: Harvard Business Review blogs)
  • Leadership coach Erin Schreyer suggests taking a tip from Mary Poppins, who faced an obstacle familiar to leaders when she tried to get the children to think differently and use their imaginations in new ways. Her wise words: “Anything can happen if you let it.” (Source: Executive Excellence)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:
Getting Things Done

Question: I hear from time to time about David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. Is it something I should consider?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

You are probably using elements of the system already, since it has become part of the conventional wisdom.

I haven’t tried the full system myself, being a bit leery of how cumbersome it seems when explained and the obsessiveness of its adherents. But here are some elements that have stood out for me:

  • When an idea or issue surfaces, write it down. If it’s in your mind, it slows you down (or you forget it). Writing it down allows you to focus more intently on other matters – yet it won’t get forgotten.
  • There are various lists you can mark things down on. The two that stick out are a To Do list and a Waiting list, which catalogues what you are waiting for. Some users of the system arrange their e-mails so that copies of notes asking people to do something and respond get filtered automatically into a waiting folder.
  • When marking something on your To-Do list, make sure you write down the specific next action you must take. For example, “Work on Colville Project” can seem intimidating, since so much needs to be done, and subtly encourage procrastination. “Get files from Lisa” and “Send email to Fred about contract dates” are very specific next actions. “Stuff is unactionable until we’ve decided the outcome and the next step to move toward it,” David Allen writes in Ready For Anything.
  • Hold a weekly review. Every Sunday night, or some time before the new week starts, sit down and think about last week and, more importantly, what has to be done this coming week and how best to organize yourself. Review all your projects at that time — he defines projects as any outcome that requires more than one action step to get there. So buying a new lamp for your desk is a project as well as hiring a new assistant. Every project, as you now suspect, goes on a project list.
  • Try to have reminders about tasks confront you at the appropriate time. If you want to deal with something by e-mail next time you are online, you need the reminder to come up at your next online moment. “When you’re in a certain context, to be most efficient, you need to see all the things that could be done in that context,” he says.

All of that is helpful. You can tweak your own current time management system, adding what is missing, or learn more about his full approach through his Getting Things Done book or web site.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Three Phases of Change

Clients often sum up some hard-earned experience with an adage or expression that really sticks in your mind. This happened recently when talking with Stephen Sakell, the Training Manager for a major systems implementation project at Queen’s University.

“There are three phases during a change project,” he observed. “First you communicate to manage expectations, then train for exposure to the new way of doing things, followed by the experience of adjustment to the day-to-day reality of using the new system or process.”

That single sentence also neatly suggests three lessons if you’re managing change:

  • don’t wait to communicate;
  • training and other forms of support are essential in helping those being asked to adapt to the new ways;
  • the transition challenge doesn’t end the day you launch.

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

“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”

— Robert Heinlein