Vol. 12 No.12 – August 20, 2012

August 18, 2012



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Leadership: Your First 90 Days 

The first 90 days in a new leadership post can be crucial to your success. S. Chris Edmonds, a senior consultant with the Ken Blanchard Group of Companies, divides that 90-day period into monthly chunks, and delineates what must be accomplished. The advice on his Driving Results Through Culture blog may best suit moving into a new organization but is still useful if your shift is in-house:

  • First 30 days — Learn: You need to take time to observe, resisting the urge to fix things immediately. You will feel a responsibility to act (when given the assignment, you probably were told about problems that need addressing), but that comes later. Instead, gather information, through written documents and interviews, regarding the current strategy, values, goals, and actions. You want to learn about the players you have to work with, and share your leadership point of view with the new team.
  • Second 30 days — Clarify: Start setting expectations, whether they are refinements of existing policies or more drastic changes. You want to make clear what the unit’s vision, values, behaviours, strategies, and goals should be. Describe the targets you want achieved, and how you expect those to be attained. Engage team members in discussions to gain agreement about their individual goals and standards, and describe your accountability approach.
  • Third 90 days — Align: Activities need to be aligned to desired expectations, through your accountability system, using positive and negative consequences, and coaching, to steer your team to the desired outcomes.

2. Improve Your Listening By WAIT-ing

You can’t listen well while you’re talking. But the reality in conversation is that most of us are more intent on talking than listening. SoEdmontonblogger Ian McKenzie suggests improving your listening skills during conversation by learning to W.A.I.T.   — specifically, asking yourself “Why Am I Talking?”

Listening will also require putting your ego aside. “Let go of your need to control a conversation. Ask discovery questions to fully understand the speaker; let them take you where they want to go. Be engaged, but not in control. Let the speaker finish, then wait before responding,” he writes on Ian’s Messy Desk.

He suggests eliminating these bad habits:

  • Interrupting the speaker.
  • Not looking at the speaker.
  • Rushing the speaker and making him feel he’s wasting your time.
  • Showing interest in something other than the conversation.
  • Jumping ahead of the speaker and finishing his thoughts.
  • Not responding to the speaker’s requests.
  • Saying, “Yes, but… ” as if you have made up your mind.
  • Topping the speaker’s story with one of your own — “that reminds me…” or, “that’s nothing, let me tell you about…”
  • Forgetting what was talked about previously.
  • Asking too many questions about minor details.

Be attentive and open to new ideas. “During the course of a conversation where new ideas are being discussed, it is easy to listen in order to argue. Don’t be threatened. Listen to learn,” he concludes.

3. Success From Better Data, Not Better Analysis

In the search for success, most of us hunger for better analysis to cut the risk on our decisions. But Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, a field where sharp analysis abounds, says we have it wrong. Success comes from better data, not better analysis. Seek raw numbers, as Amazon does, rather than more people with sharply-honed analytical skills.

“Many organizations have spent the last few years hiring top analysts based on the belief that they create differentiation. Smart companies such as Google believe they need savants to crunch those numbers and find the connections that regular humans could not. But my experience, and what I’m hearing from more organizations (sports and non), shows that real advantage comes from unique data that no one else has,” he writes on Harvard Business Review Blogs.

His own team has excellent analysts but so do other teams. The edge is in giving those analysts more data — data that competitors lack. And the same will be true in your arena.

4. Start Your Job Ads With Candidate Focus

Most organizations begin job ads by listing the wonders of the company. Bad move. Just as you shouldn’t start a date by talking about yourself, you must start your job ad by focusing on the candidate, advises consultant Mark Murphy on his Leadership IQ site.

“This might sound like heresy, I know, but candidates really don’t care how long you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won — at least not right off the bat,” he writes. “People care about whatever they care about, so that’s what you need to give them in your job ad. Meet their needs, and you’ll attract them. Don’t and you won’t.”

5. Zingers

  • A New Take on 80-20:  Entrepreneur Scott Scheper says that 20 per cent of your time should be spent on reactive tasks, which are driven by others, and 80 per cent on proactive tasks, driven by your own goals. (Source: HowToGetFocused.com)
  • Make Use Of Anger:  Executive coach David Kaiser gives these three reasons why anger can be turned into your friend: It gives you the energy to confront a threat, helps you to set boundaries as you recognize what boundaries someone has violated to stir your anger, and helps to show others you are serious. (Source: Stepcase Lifehack)
  • Ultra-short Rules Mobile:  When writing content for mobile users, web expert Jakob Nielsen asks you to remember that “short is too long for mobile. Ultra-short rules the day.” Defer secondary information to secondary screens. The first screen users see should be ruthlessly focused on the minimum information needed to get your top point across. (Source: Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)
  • Share The News Sooner:  Poor communication with management is one of the primary causes of stress among employees, notes writer Don Sadler. So create an environment of open and honest communications. Keep them from wondering about the direction of the organization or security of their jobs by sharing good and bad news as soon as you can. (Source: Allbusiness.com)
  • Bad Days Show Values:  Jack Dangermond, founder and president of Esri, an information systems provider, likes to ask job candidates, “What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?” As they talk of the situations they have faced — sometimes being forced to do dirty work for others and not feeling good about it, for example — he gets a sense of their values and judgment. (Source: New York Times)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Creating More Strategic Boards

Question: How can we make our non-profit board more strategic?

8020Info CEO Rob Wood responds:

That’s a question we are hearing more and more frequently as traditional non-profit boards seek a more strategic or generative focus for their role, to move beyond trusteeship.

  • Traditional fiduciary boards spend their time stewarding assets and ensuring the organization is faithful to its mission, accountable for performance, and compliant with laws/regulations. Their core work is to oversee operations and ensure accountability. Their first question tends to be: “what’s wrong?”  Their structure usually mirrors the operations of the organization with standing committees.
  • Strategic boards work together in partnership with management to set direction and priorities, and deploy resources effectively. Their core work is to shape strategy and review performance; their first question tends to be: “what’s the plan?”  Their structure often is more flexible, employing few standing committees but more task teams, ad hoc committees and working groups.
  • Some boards also focus on their “generative” role — providing leadership by reframing issues and providing a new lens on the problems and opportunities at hand. To ask “what is the question?” and then learn about it, boards often set aside time in a less structured part of their agenda (or at a special session) to explore ideas, frameworks and ambiguous issues.


If you’re looking to revamp the focus for your board to become more strategic, you might consider some instructive pointers presented in Strategies to Create a More Strategic Board, an article by Bud Crouch on the Canadian Society of Association Executives website. To change your processes, he suggests:


  • Develop a strategic direction and plan:  Strategy is about choices and change. In your plan you will want to define a limited number of goals and develop consensus so board members are “on the same page”.
  • Refine the board agenda and meeting process:  Make discussion on significant strategic issues your prime focus, along with reviewing progress on implementation of the strategic plan and policy development, with minimal time spent on FYI reports and routine business (consider using a consent agenda).
  • Institute a knowledge-based decision process: Make sure board members are provided with legitimate background information prior to discussions, identify possible solutions and discuss pros and cons based on the evidence.
  • Develop an effective orientation process for new board members:  This should include information on what it means to be part of a strategic board, how it behaves and what the correct relationship is between board and staff.
  • Improve organizational leadership and succession planning: Ensure you have the spectrum of skills needed on your board, and develop a non-political process to identify, recruit and develop the best possible leaders you can get.
  • Develop a board job description:  Put in place a set of governance policies and practices that clearly define the board’s strategic roles and responsibilities (not just describing the bylaws).
  • Develop values for board interactions: Define appropriate behaviour for board members — how they are expected to treat one another, boundaries for debate, how ideas are to be valued, listening, confidentiality, disclosing conflicts of interest, and so on.

These pointers cover virtually all the major areas you should look at as you pursue a transformation to become a more strategic board.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Workplace Interruptions

This study result may resonate with you — it did with us:

In a survey of 500 advertising and marketing executives in April 2012, The Creative Group found that the most common culprits of on-the-job distractions are people stopping by to chat and phone calls (cited by more than a quarter of respondents in each case).  At 19%, e-mail was the third most frequently mentioned cause of work distractions, followed by instant/text messages and social media.

Ad and marketing executives said the longest they can work on a task without being interrupted, on average, is 30 minutes.

Unexpected activities are often the main reason that planned work does not get completed. A LinkedIn study found that despite frequent use of to-do lists (by 71% of women and 60% of men), only 1 in 10 business professionals say they accomplish *all* the tasks they had planned on a given workday.

For more, see:  MarketingProfs.com

Now, where were we …


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

“Leadership is not magnetic personality — that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’ — that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

— Peter F. Drucker