Vol. 12 No. 1 – January 3, 2012

January 3, 2012


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Isolation And The Information Worker

A study of 35,000 information workers in a variety of organizations found, not surprisingly, that they suffer from overload, miscommunication, and disorder, unable to find information when they need it. But Mike Song and Bill Kerwin, of Get Control.net, say they were surprised when their study found a fourth productivity pain point: Isolation. Information workers feel alone in facing these common productivity challenges; less than 20 per cent report receiving any coaching on how to manage email and meetings more productively.

 The consultants list these reasons for the isolation:

  • No goals: Most organizations lack workflow goals to which their people can aspire. When somebody masters new software like Outlook or WebEx (becoming more productive compared to colleagues who don’t), it’s likely their organization doesn’t even have a name to describe the achievement and therefore doesn’t recognize it or motivate others to achieve the same proficiency. 
  • No guidelines: Employees are handed their computers but never given any guidelines for using those tools productively. “Without standards for reducing overload, writing better messages, discovering key tech tips, and other useful knowledge, most professionals simply stumble along, missing huge opportunities to streamline their work flow,” the authors write. 
  • No leaders: Without goals and guidelines, leaders struggle to convey productivity insights to staff, feeling unqualified or even uncertain it’s part of their duties.

It’s clearly an area that organizations must address so employees no longer feel they are floundering, alone, in a world of overload, miscommunication, and disorder.

2. The Need For Prototyping In The Social Sector

Prototyping is common in businesses these days, as entrepreneurial executives and designers come up with a “quick and dirty” model of some new product they are developing. But in Harvard Business Review, Sohrab Vossoughi, founder and president of Ziba Design, says it’s time for social services organizations to adopt the same development and testing approach. 

“Prototyping not only speeds up the design of solutions but helps you solicit valuable input and get buy-in from diverse constituencies. If a problem calls for a truly novel solution, it’s the best way to get the ball rolling,” he observes. 

But he points out that’s not how things work in the public sector, where government and agencies are geared for stability not change. The processes typically focus on thoroughness, fairness, and certainty. Something as simple as adding bike lanes in a neighbourhood can go through endless reviews before the first stripe is painted. “The process can take years and probably costs several times more than it would to just install the infrastructure and remove it if it didn’t work,” he declares. 

He argues we can’t afford that expenditure of time and resources. And we’re fooling ourselves by thinking it prevents risk; it’s actually riskier, because the certainty it seeks is an illusion. 

Prototyping — developing an idea to get a sense of reality — counters the tendency to resist innovation. So the social sector needs to learn from designers, making prototypes and testing them, internally first, and then with a small set of users, modifying as feedback is received.  

3. Act Like A Leader

Leaders have presence. They exude self-confidence, are self assured, command attention, communicate well, and make others feel good. To do that, it helps to learn some acting techniques, leadership development specialist Dan McCarthy writes on his Great Leadership blog. 

First, pay attention to your entrance. People form lasting impressions from how you enter a room, your physical characteristics, and your initial words.  

Actors learn to deliver their lines effectively. Like them, you must know your lines – in this case, the subject matter. You must also pay attention to volume, tone, speed, choice of words, and articulation as well as gestures, facial expressions, and movements. 

Actors connect with their audience, and you must invite them to participate, ask questions, listen, and make them feel good about their participation. Finally, re-emphasize your key messages, just before you exit stage left. 

4. Is Your Organization Pre-Digital?

A brief visit to the emergency room recently reminded entrepreneur Seth Godin of what a pre-digital organization is like. It was a 90-minute ordeal to see a doctor for 90 seconds, with six people doing bureaucratic tasks and screening that are artefacts of the paper universe instead of being plugged in electronically and knowing his medical history from a quick ID scan at the entrance. 

“School is pre-digital. Elections. Most of what you do in your job. Even shopping. The vestiges of a reliance on geography, lack of information, poor interpersonal connections and group connection (all hallmarks of the pre-digital age) are everywhere,” he writes on Seth’s Blog

The message he takes away: We are just at the beginning of the transformation of our lives.

5. Zingers 

  • Marketing consultant Sally Hogshead says you should have a career goal that scares you. It should expose you to a real chance of failure, and be big and important enough to give purpose to your work. (SallyHogshead.com
  • Early in her career, consultant Susan Finerty ran into a colleague who was constantly criticizing her to others.  She wrestled with whether to complain to her boss or confront the critic, but eventually decided the critic was somewhat right and Finerty needed a coach to build expertise. So she approached the critic to be her coach, channelling that woman’s energy into helping rather than criticizing. “I don’t remember anything that she coached me on.  But this lesson on disarming a critic will stick with me forever,” she says. (LeadershipMutt.com
  • Web designer Ilya Pozin says if you want someone to do something on your web site, such as signing up for a newsletter, don’t confine yourself to putting up a box that says “enter email” or even “sign up for newsletter.” Tell people why they should do it – what’s in it for them.  (Source: Inc.com
  • Facebook has been hailed as an excellent source for checking up on job candidates. But employee engagement coach Cindy Gordon asks us to question how useful it is: “Can we really believe that someone who likes to get drunk during university parties would make a poor hiring candidate?  Does the fact that a person has 1000 Facebook friends mean that they have people skills or relationship building skills?” (Source: Coachspotlight.com
  • Take a 10-minute walk each day and say out loud what you are thankful for. It will set you up for a positive day, advises author Jon Gordon. (Source: Jon Gordon Blog)


6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Learning From Tales

 Question: What can I do to sharpen the stories in my communications content?

8020Info CEO Rob Wood responds:

We always recommend the use of compelling stories whether for important presentations, website content, e-newsletters, case studies, testimonials or other communications content. 

Here are some great tips from Veronica Maria Jarski, writing on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix last October. She sums them up in 5 Content Writing Lessons from Bone-Chilling Tales

  • Use a character that inspires strong emotion. With Halloween tales, for example, how can one be indifferent to intriguing characters like Count Dracula or Dr. Frankenstein. But make sure the reader can identify with the organization or person you’re writing about and that they come across as a real person.  
  • Write with rich detail. It’s not just a Snowman, it’s the Abominable Snowman; not just a Horseman but the Headless Horseman. Telling details and emotion-inspiring words make a story come to life. 
  • Sentences do something. Use active sentences far more often than passive voice. In bone-chilling tales, hearts thump, witches fly and werewolves howl. 
  • Wordplay underlines the story.  Rhyme and rhythm help make content stick in our minds. Remember the three witches incanting: “Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” 
  • The story takes you somewhere. A good writer carries you along on a journey. For more on that, see what we wrote about Nancy Duarte’s take on The Hero’s Journey (8020Info Water Cooler, Vol. 11 No. 14 – Oct. 10th). 
  • A lesson is learned.  Whether a big lesson or small lesson, Jarski says, leave the reader with something to ponder. 

If you work hard to apply those tips (and it is hard work!), your content will have a much stronger effect as your stories intrigue, satisfy and stick with your audiences.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Match Behaviour to Prospects

This is the time of year when many of us come back from the holiday break ready to get focused, tune up the plan and do great things in the coming year.

You may be thinking about ways to boost program enrolment, increase sales, attract donations, or connect with and serve new audiences or stakeholders. Here’s a simple framework from The CEO Sales Solution newsletter that brings attention to the different types of prospects you may have — and the need to adjust prospecting behaviour accordingly: 

  • Taking Orders:  This type of buyer knows they have a need or problem, they know you have a solution, and their pain is sufficient to spark prompt action: This is the “easy sale”. Be in the right place at the right time with a competitive offer. 
  • Competing For The Deal:  This type of prospect knows they have a problem and that you have a solution to it, but the problem isn’t so bad they need to make an immediate decision. They’ll be shopping around and expect you to work for the deal. 
  • Getting On The Radar:  Another type of potential prospect knows they have a problem, but have no idea you have a solution to their problem. In fact, you may have a far better (more effective/less expensive) option for them, and you need to bring it to their attention. 
  • Reframing Opportunities:  Finally, there are those who don’t realize they actually have a problem, or are missing out on available opportunities — until you reframe the situation, helping them to understand it in a new light (what many call a “paradigm shift”). 

Depending on the competition, the first two types of prospects are the easiest to serve, but only one in 20 clients may fall in those categories. Succeeding with prospects in the last two categories require real expertise and skill, elevating a sales person to the role of trusted advisor.

8020Info helps teams develop, communicate and implement their 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

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson