Vol. 11, No. 7 – May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. How To Lose A Client In Seven Easy Steps

We don’t set out to lose our clients. But sometimes, we act in counterproductive ways, not noticing how it may annoy customers. On USAToday.com, entrepreneur Rhonda Abrams details how to lose clients in seven easy steps — “advice” you want to ignore:

  • Don’t communicate: The number one complaint that clients have with contractors is that they don’t keep in touch, regularly informing clients of progress or contacting them when there’s a problem.
  • Overpromise and under-deliver: Often firms seeking a new customer will paint an unduly optimistic picture of what will be provided. The end result is a feeling the contractor didn’t put their best effort into the work.
  • Wait until the client pushes you: The client has mentally transferred at least some of the project management responsibility to you, and you must accept that role.
  • Don’t show up for a meeting, or cancel at the last moment, or show up late: Demonstrate you value the work by meeting your meeting commitments.
  • Surprise your client with unexpected invoices: Be very clear at the outset about costs, and make sure you indicate when any additional costs are being incurred by the client.
  • Don’t send your bill: It’s frustrating for small business clients not to get your bill on time, since they must manage cash flow carefully.
  • Insist on your communication methods: If the client prefers e-mails or phone calls, use that communication method rather than favour your own proclivities.

2. 20-Minute Leadership

With time of the essence, many leaders feel they don’t have the extensive time required for mentoring and coaching conversations, worthy as those may be. But consultant Alan Vengel in Executive Excellence sets out a template for a 20-minute coaching conversation, in which you make sure you are guiding your employee to proper goals and also setting an example for crisp, direct communications:

  • Expectations and importance: Give yourself one to three minutes to state your expectations and why they are important. Team members need to know what you want before they can give it to you.
  • Questioning and listening: Take four to ten minutes to question the other individual about his expectations on the relevant issue or issues and how to reach mutual satisfaction.
  • Solution and agreement: Schedule the last five minutes to select a solution and get agreement. This should be a reasonable goal, achievable by the specific action steps you both agree should be taken.

The idea is to be clear, concise and compelling in your interactions with staff. “When you show the courage to say what you need in a clear, direct manner, people know where you stand and what is expected. By being a role model for clear, direct communication, your message to the team is that we can be clear and direct with each other,” he concludes.

3. Improving Your Market Power

One of the key challenges businesses face is to gain enough power in the market to achieve the results they are seeking. On Inc.com, venture capitalist Geoffrey Moore says the prime way a small business can improve its market power is by tightening its market focus around a class of customers who reference each other when they make buying decisions in your category.

You want to become the word-of-mouth favourite in that community, which may allow you to take advantage of what he calls “The Bowling Pin Strategy” — an adjacent community can be affected by the word-of-mouth credibility you have built. For a small company under $20 million in sales, he advises it’s preferable to tighten your market focus geographically, in your existing town. When looking beyond, he urges you to keep in mind that it’s easier for a product company than a service company because products travel easier than services.

4. Two Ways To Add Time To Your Day

A lot of productivity advice offers hints for speeding up a particular task. But that only gains you a few minutes here and there in your day. If you want to add hours to your work day, productivity writer Ali Hale on Little Dumb Man suggests you start by dropping one of your goals. “You can’t do everything you want to do,” she says, so put aside one goal for awhile.

Another possibility is to ditch an unwanted commitment. You probably have a few commitments which you’re not all that keen on, in your work or personal life. Pick one that you can drop.

5. Zingers

  • There’s nothing wrong with making hiring mistakes. That’s forgivable, says consultant Mike Figliuolo. What’s unforgivable is not doing something about it — quickly. Accept you have made a mistake, see if the person can fit better in another role, and if that doesn’t work out, you have an obligation to your team to help the person move on. (Source: Thoughtleadersllc.blogspot.com)
  • Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Nelson publishers, recommends taking time to plan your ideal week. Just as you should plan how you spend your money, you should plan how you spend your time — and work out this budget, as well, on paper, anticipating, as best as possible, how the week can be shaped. (Source: MichaelHyatt.com)
  • The three deadly sins of email marketing, according to consultant Megan Leap, are overmailing (which is not about frequency, but too many irrelevant messages); not tracking the reputation of the sender you use; and not taking advantage of technology that allows for messages customized for segments of your audience or personalized for individual subscribers. (Source: MarketingProfs Daily Fix Blog)
  • A study of Finish workers found a significant relationship between sleep disorders and bullying — whether the bullying was experienced directly, or simply witnessed by the individual. (Source: Workplacebullying.org)
  • Career coach Robin Sharma says leadership is about out-thinking and out-performing who you were yesterday. That’s scary, because it requires consistently doing what is uncomfortable, but all growth lies on the outer edges of your comfort area. (Source: Wisdom newsletter)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:
Is Delegation One Way?

Question: Should delegation always be one way — down — or can it flow upwards?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

The root of delegation is “delegate” — someone who acts on behalf of another person. So technically, delegation can go in any direction.

You can delegate upwards, sideways, or downwards. You can even delegate to someone outside your organization, asking a customer, service provider, or family member to take on a task, where appropriate.

We tend to think of delegation as purely downward. It flows from a master-servant relationship that work was once assumed to be. Often it’s more focused on our needs than those of the person we delegate to. If we’re overly busy, we pass something on to a subordinate, not hugely caring if that person is overwhelmed. They are there to lift burdens from us, we assume.

Delegation should be about growth or who can most capably handle a task, not about your time pressures.

It should consider the question of availability of time, but the reality these days is that almost everyone is overburdened, so don’t assume somebody else has the time just because you are too busy to handle a task. Over the next few days, however, another person may be free to take the calls required to complete that task, while you are trapped in a slew of meetings. Or that person may be better able to make a quick deadline because what they are working on can easily be postponed.

But the main focus should be on capability and growth. Who can best do the task? Who can grow from it?

Those permutations should be going through your mind on all tasks, although the reality is that we don’t think twice about many things we do automatically — or consider the possibility of delegation. Nor should we: It might bog us down if we second guess too much of our work. But considering growth and capability can help you to identify the proper delegate, whether upwards, downwards or sideways, inside or outside your organization.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Understanding Work Styles

During times of stress and change, an appreciation of different work styles can help teams reduce internal communications problems. You can imagine how sore points can develop:

  • Colleagues with a results-focused Behavioural/Action style will drive through stressors to achieve goals, but may ruffle some feathers with their blunt responses to people and tasks.
  • Cognitive/Analytical styles favour evidence, quality and guarding against errors, but are prone to analysis paralysis.
  • Adaptive types with the Interpersonal/Harmony style respond with practical reliability, but can resent it when others take advantage of their flexible nature.
  • Expressives on your team can bring creative, influencing and interactive strengths, but need attention and can talk too much.

When the stress of change is intense, team members with different styles may complement, or grate on, their colleagues (or clients) — it helps for them to understand work-style preferences different from their own and shift their styles a little to connect effectively with others.

A self-assessment tool many clients have found helpful is the online Personal Style Indicator (PSI) developed by the Consulting Resource Group International in British Columbia. If you think an assessment of work styles might help improve communications among your team members, 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

“There are two things people want more than sex and money: Recognition and praise.”

— Mary Kay Ash