Vol. 12 No.16 – November 19, 2012

November 17, 2012



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Five Habits To Break To Be An Effective Coach 

Coaching is important. But it isn’t always intuitive, and certainly not easy. On the Growing Coaches blog, consultant Chuck Reynolds outlines five habits managers must break to be effective coaches:

  • Stop Solving The Problem Of Others: Too often managers train their subordinates to hand all their problems over to the boss for solutions — dumping the monkey back to the manager, in the phrasing of a classic Harvard Business Review article. Coach them to solve those problems by themselves.
  • Stop Telling, Start Asking: Stop telling your direct reports what to do and start asking questions like, “What do you think you should do about it?” or “What do you suggest we do to resolve it?”
  • Stop Multitasking And Listen: He says that after observing thousands of 360-degree feedback processes for managers, it’s clear they must stop being so busy and take time to be focused listeners. “How valued do you feel when you’re talking to someone who doesn’t look you in the eye — but instead reads their emails as you speak?” he asks.
  • Stop Talking To The Mirror: Your direct reports are all individuals, and you must deal with them accordingly, recognizing and adapting to their different behavioural styles and their communication preferences.
  • Let Go Of Control: Many managers strive to control the behaviour of direct reports, which only backfires. Coach your people to act in alignment with the organizational imperative.

2. RSVP: The Secret To Event Promotion

When an organization plans a major event, leaders can be on tenterhooks about whether they will draw the anticipated crowd. To improve your chances, try the RSVP formula from Skip Lineberg of Maple Creative:

  • R – Repetition: Don’t count on the invitee paying much attention to the first invitation. He or she may just toss it aside, and even the second one may come at the wrong time. So send your request multiple times, assuming your budget allows, perhaps starting with a teaser, then a Save This Date message, then the official invitation, followed perhaps by a news clipping if available, and finally a reminder.
  • S – Simplicity: Make it really simple for the person to show up, by not requiring an RSVP unless absolutely necessary. (Try regrets only, instead.) Simplify the process to make it easy for the guest.
  • V – Variety: Communicate the information about the event in different channels, such as mail, email, phone, and if you have the funds and it fits the situation, perhaps newspaper or radio ads.
  • P – Packaging: To break through the clutter, add some sizzle to your invite to make it interesting. Build up anticipation, or sell it as the can’t-miss-event-of-the-year. Explain why your event is important and exciting. Entice.

“There’s no cookie-cutter solution. You have to be creative — and you have to know your audience. To be sure, there’s a fine line between unique and cheesy; your job is to know that balance point,” he concludes.

3. A Leadership Lesson In 29 Words

Terry Starbucker was in his first executive job in Los Angeles in 1987 when he noticed on his boss’s wall a poster, with the title, A Short Course In Human Relations:

The 6 most important words:
“I admit I made a mistake.”

The 5 most important words:
“You did a great job!”

The 4 most important words:
“What do you think?”

The 3 most important words:
“If you please …”

The 2 most important words:
“Thank you.”

The 1 most important word:

The 1 least important word:

Add to those messages: Seven important words that his boss shared after noticing his interest in the poster — “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

“I’ve never forgotten this lesson – because of its utter simplicity, and directness,” he writes on his blog. “Just 29 words. But one of the best leadership lessons I ever got.”

4. The Paradox Of Powerful Tools

Years ago when he worked for an organization that had two different word processors, Mark Shead noticed that the individuals switching to Microsoft Word, a more powerful system than was being used on the mainframe, were taking much longer to create documents because more choices were open to them.

That led him to this maxim, which he shares on the Productivity501 blog: Your productivity with a given tool is inversely proportional to the number of unnecessary decisions the tool requires.

“Even if the tool doesn’t ‘require’ you to make a decision, it will slow you down if it occupies your thoughts. This means that many ‘powerful’ tools will actually make you less productive by offering you options that you will never use,” he says.

5. Zingers

  • Start Monday Running:  If you have a regular Monday morning meeting for your team, cancel it so everyone can hit the ground running, says consultant Art Petty. If you need a recurring weekly meeting, you might opt for Monday afternoon, when people are well into the week’s activities and current on the issues. (Source: ArtPetty.com)
  • Cheer Up Your Office: Cheer up your office one day by giving everyone a standing ovation when they arrive, suggests consultant Michael Kerr. Or leave an inspiring message on everyone’s voice mail so it’s the first thing they hear when arriving. (Source: Humor At Work Newsletter)
  • Hiring Referrals From Staff:  If you have an employee referral program that encourages your staff to generate suggestions for new hires, you may wonder about a benchmark for evaluation. Well-run programs generate 30% of recruits from employee referrals and top programs can generate 50 to 75% of hires. (Source: The Seamless Workforce blog)
  • Backtracking On A Dumb Rule: What do you do when you put a stupid rule in place that employees hate and you later come to recognize was dumb? HR consultant Alison Green says the best thing you can do if you want the respect of your employees is to admit you were wrong. For example: “You know, in an attempt to resolve one problem, I created another….” (Source: Ask A Manager blog)
  • Let Them Do It:  To curb her tendency to provide all the answers for her employees, Laurel Ritchie, president of the Women’s National Basketball Association, brings some silly putty to meetings. She stretches it out over and over again, playing, while her staff uses the time to come up with ideas to challenges they face — even though she feels she could give them an answer much more quickly. (Source: New York Times)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  When Collaboration Gets Stuck

Question:  The main purpose of our member-based association is collaboration, but we don’t seem to be very good at it — our working groups often get stuck. Any suggestions?

8020Info CEO Rob Wood responds:

The stakes for succeeding at collaboration seem to be rising: as organizations grapple with tight budgets, higher expectations, and daunting performance challenges, they are quick to see the strategic appeal of leveraging partner assets. But collaboration is usually far more difficult than it may seem at first. It involves much more than just getting people in a room to talk. 

Before you can collaborate to work up action plans, your group needs to ensure it has a clear, common and supported agenda, plus the resources and dynamics to succeed. Here are some typical problem areas:

  • Different contexts, mandates and accountabilities:  You and your partners may operate in environments that have meaningful differences in context or accountability. For example, some may need immediate results; others may play for the strategic long term.  Some serve the client; others serve the funder or shareholder. Some may have certain legal constraints. Some may have resources to invest; others may be strapped. The outcomes you need to deliver for your board or CEO may be different from those demanded of others around the table. Look at how you might reconcile such differences.
  • Conflicting goals:  You need to align agendas. For example, one partner may be looking for growth, while others want to focus on strategic relationships, market positioning, training/professional development, or achieving cost efficiencies. Build consensus first to define one or more collaborative priorities and then the particular tasks that will address those goals.
  • Lack of a clear charter and resources:  It helps to address conflicts of intent early on, by first establishing a clear charter for the collaboration — the purpose, scope, roles, authorities, boundaries, assumptions, constraints, commitments, communications and resource requirements that will be involved. This definition should be explicit, understood and supported by all the active partners.
  • Stuck on the “lowest common denominator”:  Collaborations are easy when everyone in the group can see an opportunity for big wins that benefit all the partners.  But sometimes the only common opportunity is a high-effort/low-payoff option with little appeal. In that case, it can be better to connect in sub-groups around clusters of interest rather than a single project where “one size must fit all”.  A few partners might split off and benefit more from working on project “A” while others invest their energies on project “B” or “C”.
  • Insufficient drive or priority:  Many collaborations fail because partners leave the meeting room and park the follow-through “on the side of their desk” – soon buried by other day-to-day priorities. Successful collaborations make their projects a priority for action and support them with some method of pro-active project management.
  • Joined at the top/disconnected below:  Perhaps you’ve seen this as well — organizations agree to collaborate on a project, but execution falls to middle managers or front-line staff who were not in the room or party to the agreement. Partners need to communicate well internally with their own staffs if the collaboration requires connection at those operational levels.
  • Misinterpretation across organization cultures:  Words are important. And in different organizational cultures, they mean different things. To one partner, “integration” means a takeover; to another, it means smoothing out workflow of a process. “Profit” is a sin in one culture, and the ultimate goal in another. Make sure the language of your collaboration conveys what you mean for all parties.

You may have additional concerns about dynamics, personalities and control issues, but addressing the pitfalls noted on this checklist will certainly improve your potential for collaborative success.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  How Best To Engage Employees

Organizations recognized as top employers in Canada are taking a new approach to communications with their employees and enhancing employee engagement. They are combining technology with the power of authentic, transparent and ongoing communications between senior leaders/managers and employees.

Leading employers want to hear from their employees, and they act on what they hear — an approach that facilitates change and increases productivity and innovation. Learn about the “best and next” practices with this complimentary webinar based on research conducted by 8020Info Senior Associate, Karen Humphreys Blake, APR, MCM.  

Strategic Employee Engagement and Communications
Nov 28, 2012 at 12:00 PM EST.  

You can register now: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7087115848258560512  


8020Info Inc. is expanding its practice in the area of strategic employee engagement and communications.  If we can help your organization become more effective, productive and innovative, we would be pleased to discuss your needs. Enquiries are welcome at (613) 542-8020, or by email at watercooler@8020info.com 

8. Closing Thought

“Potential has a shelf life.”
— Margaret Atwood