Vol. 12 No.10 – July 9, 2012

July 8, 2012


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Preparing For Difficult Conversations

There is a tendency to want to avoid or, at least, procrastinate over difficult conversations with others. Sometimes that means when the conversation occurs you are unprepared. Consultant Cheri Baker, on her Emergence Consulting blog, recommends the following checklist to prepare properly: 

  • Write down why you are worried about the conversation. Is it not wanting to seem foolish, or concern that your reputation is on the line? Be clear about your worries.
  • Write down what you want to achieve in the conversation, and what you think the other person wants to achieve.
  • Write down why you are worried about what they might say or do.
  • For each of those concerns, write down what you will do. If you’re worried the other person might cry, for example, you might plan to respond: “I am sorry that this upsets you, but it’s important we move forward.”
  • Talk through your plan with someone else, to gauge if your worries are reasonable and responses realistic and fair.
  • Say your planned responses aloud a few times, so the phrases become anchored in you and will come out properly under pressure.
  • Just prior to the conversation, re-read your goal to keep it fresh in your mind.

“Enter the conversation with your goal in mind, and with a commitment to listen.  Know that if your ‘worries’ come true, you’ve prepared some phrases and responses to get you through the tough moments.  Instead of focusing on those phrases, focus on listening to the other person,” she concludes.

2. The Three Stages Of Love (For Your Services)

Your customer’s relationship with your services may well mirror their relationships with other people. So it makes sense to align your marketing with stages of love familiar to us all from personal life. On Fastcodesign, Olof Schybergson, co-founder and CEO of the Fjord service design consultancy, explores three stages of love and what it can tell you about customer relationships:

  • Matchmaking: This stage is about people finding and discovering your services in the first place. “Services must be designed so that they are easily discovered and understood. They have to feel real and relevant, by way of meeting real human needs,” he writes.  There must be a strong “hook” or differentiation that sets you apart and encourages people to mention you to their friends.
  • Dating: This is the first stage of trying your service or product, and you must reduce all barriers so that it’s as easy as possible to get going. Appeal to the heart, since that encourages people to truly engage with what you have to offer.
  • True love: This is the most powerful stage. “If you’ve designed a service that adds value and is meaningful over a long period, users will stay loyal and let the service become a life companion. Consistency and trust will be essential during this stage,” he notes. As the customer trusts you with more of their information, they must never have doubts about your true intentions or their privacy.

3. The Home Interview

Inc. com columnist Glen Blickenstaff calls it the best and weirdest job interview he ever had. He was a candidate for a key position in a company, and had endured a gauntlet of tests and an interview. Now came the final step, something mysteriously called the “home interview,” where the decision maker would hold their final discussion, ostensibly to be on neutral territory and discuss the position.

After beverages and some chit chat with the family, the hiring manager asked Blickenstaff if he would make some unsweet tea, an anomaly in the area of the Southern U.S. they lived in. “This well-choreographed step was to remove me from the conversation. He then spent the next several minutes speaking with my wife. I returned with the tea and we sat discussing the weather and other benign subjects,” recalls Blickenstaff, before the manager asked Blickenstaff to walk him out. At that point, having seen the candidate’s home life and determined support was there from spouse and children, the manager made the job offer.

4. Lessons From A Low Ropes Course

While mentoring a group of eight men at a retreat, Thomas Nelson Publishers Chairman Michael Hyatt observed them closely through progressive challenges in a low ropes course. (This typically involves cables, ropes and obstacles strung close to the ground between trees or poles, with physical tests prompting participants to confront their emotional fears of falling, failure and/or losing control.)

Afterwards, on his blog, he shared some lessons:

  • Someone must step up and lead.
  • The best leaders solicit ideas from their followers.
  • Alignment is more important than strategy:  Leaders don’t always pick the best strategy and team members often are not in agreement with the strategy, but aligning behind that strategy leads to better outcomes.

5. Zingers

  • Productivity blogger Ali Luke recommends “ringfencing” particular days and times, ensuring that they can be used only for working on important goals. (Source: Little Dumb Man)
  • Consultant and trainer Keith Ferrazzi suggests designating a “Yoda”, or even two of them, to be your official advocate for candour during a day of meetings. Based on the Jedi Master from Star Wars, this individual’s job is to notice and speak up when something is left unsaid. If the Yoda hasn’t spoken for awhile, the leader should interrupt the meeting to ask him or her if the group is missing anything. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Psychologist Travis Bradberry says research shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you will experiences stress and burnout. One tip: Sleep on it. Even if you’re inclined to say yes to a request and certainly if you are in doubt, ask for a day to think about it. It’s easier to say no when you have considered all your other commitments and the interval allows you to find the best way to say no. (Source: TalentSmart Newsletter)
  • Consultant Kevin Eikenberry notes that organizations don’t change, people do. (Source: Kevin Eikenberry’s blog)
  • Financial advisor Barry Glassman found a way to improve productivity and profitability in his firm without spending a dime. Once each quarter, every member of his team gets to choose a day to unplug from the office and stay at home for the purpose of devising new ideas and directions for the firm as a whole. (Source: Forbes.com)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Using Personas Effectively

Question: What is a “persona” and how do you use it in planning?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood responds:

The methodology of persona development was introduced more than a decade ago as a way to understand not only who your buyers (or users or clients) are, but also how and why they buy (or use your technology or services).

It’s a misunderstanding to think of personas as simple descriptions or customer profiles based on basic demographic or socioeconomic characteristics. Personas were designed as a research-based technique that prompts you to reflect on the behaviours, attitudes and triggers typical of those you serve and, more importantly, how best to optimize the way your organization serves, interacts and communicates with them.

You design to serve one or more distinct sets of buyer goals, communications and behaviour patterns, modeling their mental models, values and experiences as well as interaction scenarios. As one of those involved with personas from the beginning, Tony Zambito from Buyerology points out some questions critical to success:

  • How do your primary types of buyers (or users or clients) make their decisions?
  • What is their typical path, scenario or journey through or to interactions with you?
  • Do you understand when and how they experience critical “moments of truth” that determine their decisions?
  • What are the values and networks and “buyer ecosystems” that affect their behaviours and decisions?

A couple of examples to think about:  An affluent, mature arts-loving couple who buy theatre subscriptions by phone every year based on certain types of content in a glossy season brochure may have quite different buying behaviours and needs compared to two cash-strapped students seeking to buy rush tickets online via mobile at the last minute because friends just texted them about a show. Is the theatre optimized to serve both types of clients?

Similarly, should the staff in a men’s wear store “sell” to a man who walks in to buy a suit or to his wife, who is with him and not only heavily influences the purchase decision but also how he will feel about it afterwards?

Well-developed personas will tell the story of how your buyers, users or clients behave when making decisions, and that will shape your approach to services, customer care, sales and marketing strategies.

7. News From Our Water Cooler: Team Interactions Unlock Success

After facilitating many sessions to help teams think together more effectively, we are keenly aware of the impact of complex communications cues. Our interest was naturally piqued then when the director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory reported some telling research results in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review (The New Science of Building Great Teams).

Alex “Sandy” Pentland used sophisticated electronic badges to collect data on how members of great teams interact with each other, and he identified several defining characteristics of teams when they have a “productive” or “creative” day:

  • Everyone on the team talks and listens in roughly equal measure, keeping contributions short and sweet.
  • Members face one another, and their conversations and gestures are energetic.
  • Members connect directly with one another — not just with the team leader.
  • Members carry on back-channel or side conversations within the team.
  • Members periodically break, go exploring outside the team, and bring information back.

He notes the key elements of communication for high team performance include energy (the number and nature of exchanges, especially face-to-face), as well as balanced engagement of all members of the team to integrate ideas, combined with cycles of exploration or communications to discover information from outside the group.

8020Info helps teams develop and implement their strategic plans, research and marketing communications 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

“You can always find a distraction if you’re looking for one.”
— Tom Kite