Vol. 12 No.11 – July 30, 2012

July 28, 2012


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Five Myths About Giving Praise

Research shows that appreciation for a job well done consistently ranks high as a motivator for employees, but such praise is rare. On his Great Leadership blog, executive development specialist Dan McCarthy suggests that’s because we subscribe to five myths about praise:

  • “You can overdo it”: Perhaps we’ve raised a generation of kids that have received too much praise from parents, but that’s not the workplace situation. For 20 years he has been asking groups of employees, “How many of you receive too much praise from your manager?” He’s never had a single hand go up.
  • “It’s easy”: It may be easy to say “good job,” but not quite as easy to describe the specific behaviours or characteristics that merit tribute, which is essential for effective praise.
  • “It’s all about technique”: It is important to learn how to give praise. But giving praise is more than a skill. It’s a mindset. “People that are good at giving praise tend to see people, and the world, with a different set of eyes. They look for the positive, and can see good in people and situations that the rest of us can’t see,” he notes.
  • “Not everyone needs or wants praise”: Actually, feeling valued is a basic human need. Some may seem awkward when receiving praise. But they value it.
  • “It takes too much time”: In fact, it can be offered in a few seconds, with a magnificent return on that investment.

2. How To Minimize Office Politics

It’s not uncommon for leaders to receive complaints from members of the executive team about their colleagues. The difficulty, notes venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, is that just by listening to the complaint without defending the employee in question, you send the message that you agree.

“If people in the company think that you agree that one of your executives is less than stellar, that information will spread quickly and without qualification. As a result, people will stop listening to the executive in question and they will soon become ineffective,” he writes on his blog.

If the complaint is about behaviour, he suggests getting the two executives together, and have them explain themselves. Usually just having them hear each other will lead to changed behaviour. “Do not attempt to address behavioural issues without both executives in the room. Doing so will invite manipulation and politics,” he warns.

If the complaint is about another executive’s competency and it’s telling you something you already know, then you’ve let the situation linger too long. You must resolve it — quickly.

If the complaint is a surprise, he advises you to immediately stop the conversation so it doesn’t cloud your judgment. Then reappraise the executive in question: If they’re doing a fine job in your estimation, figure out the complaining executive’s motivation and deal with the situation, rather than letting it fester. But if the other executive is doing a poor job, then seek the complainant’s input and act.

3. Jack Canfield’s Success Formula

Jack Canfield, the best-selling co-author of Chicken Soup For The Soul, has a simple formula for success: E + R = O.

Life coach Marla Tabaka explains on Inc.com that E stands for events — what is going around you. These day, for example, the economy is in the dumps in most companies. But that doesn’t deter Canfield.

What’s important to him is how you respond — the R in the formula. And he believes you have only three “Rs” that you have any control over: Your thoughts, the images that you hold in your head (such as visualizations, worries, fears and fantasies), and your behaviour. Your response shapes the effective control of events so they no longer dictate outcomes — such as letting the recession defeat you — provided you change those images, fears and your behaviour.

Move on to “O,” the outcome. Visualize the good things that you want to happen, rather than the negative outcomes the environment might normally be expected to produce, and act accordingly.

Canfield says you must know your priorities, and then identify five powerful initiatives that can move your initiatives forward every day.

4. Delivering A Three-Minute Speech

You may encounter situations where you have just a few minutes to give an off-the-cuff speech. It may be a sales pitch, where you expected to have 20 minutes to present and get just five, or a meeting where you want to speak on a newly proposed idea. On his Public Words blog, Nick Morgan says that you should decide what you want to say, take a deep breath, and then start with your headline — your main point. Next, give up to three supporting reasons, depending on your thinking and the time allowed. Finally, finish by repeating your headline: “That’s why we should do X.”

5. Zingers

  • Potential is not the point:  Potential has little to do with success, says Mike Myatt, of leadership development consultancy N2growth. Many studies show little correlation between potential and actual success. Instead, the high correlation flows between work ethic, performance and success. “Potential is unrealized attainment — nothing more and nothing less,” he says. (Source: N2growth.com)
  • Productive deadlines:  Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg leaves the office every day at 5:30pm, a practice that attracted much attention earlier this year. Blogger Cal Newport says that’s an example of fixed-schedule productivity: Putting strong constraints on your working life can paradoxically improve your output as it makes you focus on what’s important. (Source: Study Hacks Blog)
  • Opinions that count:  If you’re marketing a product or a service, entrepreneur Seth Godin says you shouldn’t care what everyone thinks about it. All that matters are the opinions of those interested in that product or service. “Shun the non-believers,” he advises. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • New? Take charge:  New leaders perceived as having low status because of their age, education, experience or other factors will get better results when they adopt a directive style, according to organizational studies professor Stephen Sauer. His research suggests they should take charge, set the course, and tell subordinates what to do rather than trying a more participative approach. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Just the facts:  Consultant Wally Bock says that when talking to a team member about performance or behaviour, you’ll get better results if you do it without adjectives. The use of adjectives — such as weak, poor, awful — only get in the way of a productive conversation. (Source: Three Star Leadership Blog)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Leveraging Summer Slack Time

Question: Is there anything I can do to make summer doldrums productive?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

Two words come to mind, each with different benefits:  Enjoy. Communicate.

Let’s take enjoy first. If the rest of the year rushes by with lightening speed and long hours of toil, maybe this is a good time to rejuvenate. If the slack at work is seasonal, not a sign of diminished demand for your services, relax and relish it.

That may mean simply lying in the backyard or on a beach. Or it can involve finding a challenge that captures your attention and provides a different type of sensory experience. Chris Brady, an entrepreneur who has just written a book calling for strategic sabbaticals and mini-breaks, notes that your subconscious will still be working, so you may get some wonderful ideas as well as refreshing your wellspring of energy.

As for communicate, this may be the time to focus on conversations with people — your clients, your suppliers, your staff (even your spouse and children). You have the time. Conversations build trust. They generate new ideas. So without being robotic about it, and without boring or frustrating individuals who are busier than you are right now, map out a plan for conversations. Call people out of the blue, with no agenda. Set up some lunches. Arrange some golf or tennis matches. It’s a good time to reach out to prospects who seem to have disappeared from sight, re-igniting the relationship.

Obviously there is more you can do when the pace of work slackens. You could learn some new technology, clean out old files, or undertake an important research study. All good. But I’d start by considering two words: Enjoy and communicate.

7. News From Our Water Cooler: Employee Communications

It’s no secret that organizations are far more effective, productive and competitive when they truly engage their employees. But how best can we enhance formal and informal communications that build on effective human resource management strategies?

In September, 8020Info will be presenting a special opportunity for you to learn about approaches used by top Canadian companies and organizations to heighten employee engagement.Karen Humphreys Blake, our Senior Associate, will review:

  • 2012 research findings from her Master of Communications Management program atMcMasterUniversity,
  • insights into current leading practices, and
  • practical guidelines for use by CEOs, senior teams and communications and human resource managers.

We encourage you to let us know if you could benefit from some of the leading  internal communication, leadership and human resource development strategies. Just send us an email to ensure you receive future information updates:  strategy@8020info.com?subject=Employee Communications

8020Info helps teams develop and implement their strategic plans, stakeholder consultation/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

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson