Vol. 12 No. 2 – January 23, 2012

January 22, 2012



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. The Six Attitudes Leaders Take Towards Social Media

Leaders of organizations first saw social media as a threat. But now they are starting to see it as an opportunity, Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald, of the Gartner technology research firm, observe on Harvard Business Review blogs. Here are the six different postures they have identified:

  • Folly: Leaders in the organization consider social media as nothing more than a source of entertainment. Anyone trying to initiate a social media venture must therefore emphasize how it would directly impact organizational challenges and goals.
  • Fearful: The leaders see social media as a threat to productivity and management authority. Any initiative must be low risk.
  • Flippant: The leaders don’t ignore social media but also don’t take it seriously. They view it as a matter of technology, allowing access and hoping something fruitful might arise. Proponents must convince the leaders of the valuable purposes that social media can serve.
  • Formulating: They recognize the value of social media and the need to be more organized and strategic in using it. The approach here is to build on that positive foundation, emphasizing the broader strategic possibilities.
  • Forging: The organization is starting to develop competence in using social media to reach out to communities. To keep progressing, it must recognize past successes and capitalize on growing momentum.
  • Fusing: Still rare, this is the most advanced attitude, with community collaboration viewed as an integral part of the organization’s work, ingrained in how people think and behave

2. Seven Strengths Shy People Have

Shyness is generally viewed as a weakness. But on the Life Optimizer blog, Dan Stelter, of the Anxiety Support Network, sets out seven strengths that shy people have — each drawn from what traditionally has been viewed as weaknesses:

  • Cautious thinking: Yes, we live in an era when it’s vital to act quickly at times. But not always. When you encounter a difficult problem at work, a snap decision can thrust you headlong into trouble. Thinking things through beforehand can be a big plus.
  • Meekness can make you approachable: Meekness can be a social strength, since people are comfortable approaching ordinary folks.
  • Being quiet leads to a calming effect on others: Not saying a lot can calm the waters around you.
  • Appearing vulnerable is great for certain jobs: For various human-service jobs such as counselling or therapy, appearing vulnerable encourages other people to open up to you more.
  • Shy people appear to others to be innocent or good: People may respect and trust shy individuals more than their aggressive and dominant counterparts.
  • Shy people tend to be more believable: Aggressive and outgoing folk can seem self-serving, while shy people, with their “good guy” persona, can be more believable and likeable.
  • Being shy leads individuals to learn from an early age how to overcome barriers: “Once you learn how to overcome your shyness, every other barrier in life will be easy in comparison,” he concludes.

3. Are You Helping Clients Understand What They Need?

A year ago consultant Donald Cooper and his wife booked a cruise adventure to the Falkland Islands, traveling around the bottom of South America and up the coast ofChiletoValparaiso. He estimates that at least 70 per cent of the people on that trip should not have been sold the package.

In his newsletter, he describes elderly people with canes, walkers, wheelchairs and electric scooters on a choppy trip through one of the most feared bodies of water in the world. And without mention of the typical winds and temperature for their December trip, people lacked the long johns, down vests, toques and mitts to feel comfortable.

The lesson he shares: What information, coaching or help do your customers and clients need to effectively choose among and use the programs and products you offer? 

4. Cultivating Serendipity With Deep Dives

In his book Where Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson writes about the role of serendipity in innovation, and suggests we can cultivate it by deep dives in which we immerse ourselves in a topic in a condensed period of time. An example he cites is Bill Gates’ annual reading vacations when he would take a week off from Microsoft to go through reading material he had gathered throughout the year.

BryantUniversity’s Michael Roberto, referring to this approach on his blog, notes how Johnson stresses that compression of time is vital: If too much time lapses between reading these books, we are more likely to forget certain things and fail to see the potential for novel combinations of ideas.

So plan a deep dive this year into a topic of concern. 

5. Zingers

  • Consultant Steve Roesler says you can be in charge, but you’re never in control. (Source: AllThingsWorkplace.com)
  • The first 10 seconds of a visit to a web page are critical for users’ decision to stay or leave. The probability of leaving is very high during those initial few seconds because users are extremely skeptical. If the page survives this first, extremely harsh judgment, users will look around a bit. But they’re still highly likely to leave during the subsequent 20 seconds of their visit.  (Source: Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)
  • When you’re hiring, look for talent hiding in plain view, suggests writer-manager Jeff Haden. Hire career switchers, like teachers, who can be excellent trainers and understand how to manage different personalities and motivate. Don’t reject someone just because they currently have a crappy job, assuming that’s all they can handle. They may have developed valuable talents, such as attention to detail, and a good work ethic.  (Source: CBS Moneywatch)
  • Consultant Patricia Katz suggests turning your “To Do” list into an “I’m Looking Forward To” list. As you mark down the activities at hand, think of how you should be looking forward to them – sharing experiences, moving forward, making a contribution, and the like.  (Source: Pause Blog)
  • Mike Myatt, chief strategy officer of N2 Growth, urges you to create a culture where meetings are the exception, not the rule. And keep in mind the purpose of a meeting is to create solutions, not problems, and to alleviate frustration, not cause it.  (Source: N2Growth Blog)


6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Better Employee Communications

Question:  How can I improve communication with our employees at little or no additional cost?

8020Info Senior Associate Consultant Karen Humphreys Blake responds:

Organizations that strategically maintain good communications with their employees stand to benefit from the enhanced engagement and improved performance that result.

Here are a few things you can do to improve how you handle this important management function:

  • As a leader, set a strong example of good communication.  Pay attention to what and how you communicate with employees. Share your strategic vision, expectations and an open, honest assessment of the challenges the organization faces.  And take time to listen to what people say. Your managers and staff can then follow your lead.
  • Never assume the job is done. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is assuming the message gets through on the first attempt. Communicate, communicate then communicate again.
  • Recognize different learning styles. A combination of various approaches will ensure best results. Use the spoken word, print, charts and graphs and stories. Video is now an inexpensive technology accessible to all.
  • Use clear, concise, simple language. Avoid insider jargon and vague terms or sentences. Run key messages through a readability measurement tool such as www.read-able.com. Check them with family members, friends or others outside your work environment to see if they could be misunderstood.
  • Provide context up front. People need to know why they should read or listen. They need to understand complexity and nuance. Providing this background information up front will make them more receptive.
  • Make managers accountable for good communication. Make your own special effort to communicate with your managers. And make them accountable for good, clear two-way communication with the staff in their areas, perhaps as part of your performance management process.

Good employee communication need not cost a lot.  Poor communication can cost a bundle! 

7. News From Our Water Cooler: Finding Motivation in January

In January, some offices find they lack energy coming off the holiday break. The first instinct for leaders when it comes to motivation – or more specifically, a lack of motivation – is to take action that stirs up the troops. But in fact, research suggests the role of leaders is to ensure there is a healthy environment in the workplace for people to motivate themselves.

Check your situation:  Has anything changed since before the holidays, and that you need to re-adjust? Have you talked to anybody about the lack of energy, and asked them what the reasons may be (or even whether your interpretation is correct). Did this happen last year? Is there something about your annual work cycle that makes it inevitable — for example does January tend to focus on planning instead of stimulating client interactions or sales successes? There’s danger in trying to artificially stoke up enthusiasm if logic suggests this isn’t the appropriate time.

Most leaders will want to try to spark enthusiasm:  Choose your approaches carefully, tailored to the situation. Maybe all you need is an informal Friday afternoon at the pub, or have the boss bring in some Timbits a few mornings. You might try a contest to bring in the most customers, if that fits, or have some fun coming up with the wackiest captions for a series of photos.

Just remember, motivation comes from within. You can help nourish it. You can eliminate barriers. But you can’t change the weather in January or make people feel motivated. 

8. Closing Thought

“If there are one hundred good things to do and you can only do ten of them, you will have to say no ninety times.”
— Richard Swenson