Vol. 12 No. 6 – April 16, 2012

April 14, 2012


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1.  Skip The Stew: Use Four Meetings

 A clueless cook who takes everything in the pantry and refrigerator and combines them into one stew would likely get an unpalatable concoction. And consultant and best-selling author Patrick Lencioni says that’s the mistake we make when we gather administrative, tactical, strategic and personnel issues into one long, exhausting staff meeting.

“The fact is that the human brain is not meant to process so many disparate topics in one sitting,” he writes in his new book The Advantage. (See review http://bit.ly/HIRddQ)

Instead, he urges your management team to separate its work into four types of meetings:

  • Daily Check-In: This should be kept to at most 10 minutes, with no agenda and no resolution of issues — just an exchange of information. If managers know they will see each other daily, that can forestall some email and impromptu meetings.
  • Weekly Staff: This 45- to 90-minute meeting handles tactical matters. Don’t prepare an agenda in advance, but seek out the issues that need attention at the start of the meeting by going around the table and having everyone report on their two or three priorities for the week.
  • Ad Hoc Topical Meetings: These sessions give you time to dig into a critical issue that can have a long-term impact on your organization. In the past, you may have allotted them 15 minutes in your general staff meeting; now take a few hours to grapple with them properly.
  • Quarterly Off-Site Reviews: Step back from the business and get a fresh perspective quarterly, looking at your strategic thrusts, goals, and performance of key employees.


2. The Four Paradoxes Of Great Performance

Consultant Tony Schwartz says the key to great performance — and leadership — is the capacity to embrace opposites. On the 99 Percent blog, he shares four paradoxes to master:

  • Physical Performance: We have grown up believing that bigger and faster is better at the physical level. But in reality, he says, human beings operate best when we alternate between expending and renewing energy. Intermittently renewing and refuelling our energy prevents us from withering out as the day progresses.
  • Emotional Performance: Confidence is generally accepted to lie at the heart of success, with vulnerability and uncertainty considered weaknesses. We certainly need confidence, but it can turn into arrogance, denial and rigidity unless it’s accompanied by humility.
  • Mental Performance: Society worships at the altar of facts, the scientific method, and analytical, left-brain thinking. But it’s now recognized that we need the intuitive leaps and creative breakthroughs provided by the right hemisphere of our brain as well. Whole brain thinking is essential.
  • Spiritual Performance: It helps to have purpose, but he notes that people in professions such as health care, education, social work and the military often run almost solely off spiritual energy. By focusing single-mindedly on helping others, they can succumb to compassion fatigue. So you need to balance self- care with your desire to help others.


3. Giving Interns Proper Guidance

Over the next few months, many young people will join our workplaces, seeking money to fund their education as well as experience that might help their future careers. On her Ask A Manager blog, consultant Alison Green warns that often the experience they need will start at the very basics, such as being on time and calling in if they are sick. Many of them don’t understand basic office procedures, so the explanations are part of the price of cheap labour and helping them for the future.

“This means, as silly as it might seem, explaining things like ‘you’re expected to be here every day, on time, except if you’re sick or you’ve cleared it with me ahead of time’ and ‘if you’re not able to come in, please call and let us know before 9 am’ and ‘you need to call with that message, not text it,’ and ‘please keep the use of social networking sites to a minimum during the day’ and so forth,” she writes.


4. The Five Influencing Styles

Whether managing direct reports or marketing to the masses, we tend to develop preferred influencing styles. Researchers atTemplehad identified up to nine primary influencing tactics, and Chris Musselwhite and Tammie Plouffe at Harvard have identified five distinct influencing styles:

  • Rationalizing: Using logic, facts, and reasoning to present your ideas. Do you leverage your facts, logic, expertise, and experience to persuade others?
  • Asserting:  Relying on your personal confidence, rules, law, and authority to influence others. Do you champion your ideas even when others disagree, and challenge ideas in disagreement with yours? Do you debate with or pressure others to get them to see your point of view?
  • Negotiating: Looking for compromises and making concessions to reach a satisfactory outcome from your point of view. Do you make tradeoffs and exchanges or delay discussions until a more opportune time?
  • Inspiring: Encouraging others toward your position by communicating a sense of shared mission and exciting possibility. Do you use inspirational appeals, stories, and metaphors to encourage a shared sense of purpose?
  • Bridging: Attempting to influence outcomes by uniting or connecting with others. Do you rely on reciprocity, engaging superior support, consultation, building coalitions, and using personal relationships to get people to agree with your position?

Perhaps you tend to lean on only one approach, style or set of influencing tactics: could you benefit from better use of the full range, selected according to audience and situation?  (For more, see the Harvard Business Review at http://bit.ly/xPAGW3)


5. Zingers

  • We know a picture is worth a thousand words. For those using smartphones, Craig Changfoot says you should look at sending information using a picture rather than a lengthy email. The manager of maintenance and operations at SimonFraserUniversity’s downtown campus in Vancouvernotes that his department, for example, now uses photos to relay repair and maintenance problems from the specific site to relevant co-ordinators. (Source: OrganizedActions.com)
  • Incentives specialist Paul Hebert says everyone in your workplace wants to be king (or queen) of something, be it the United Wayeffort, a change project, the office picnic, or some other initiative. Try making that happen — for everyone — and he says you’ll be surprised at the energy unleashed. (Source: Incentive Intelligence)
  • Creativity requires insight ability, when you take leaps into the unknown, and analytical ability, when you solve problems by working steadily to an answer. Research by academics Mareike Wieth and Rose Zachs found that people whose circadian rhythms are strong in the morning are better at creative problem-solving in the evening, while evening types fare better with creativity in the morning, probably because being a bit sleepy and vague broadens the mind’s focus. (Source: PsyBlog)
  • Entrepreneur Jeff Haden says it’s tempting to assume long-term clients love your brand. More often than not they love your employees. So be careful about changing your employees. (Source: Inc.com)
  • End-of-project reviews often focus on the negative — mistakes we hope to profit from. Blogger Ian McKenzie recommends not forgetting the positive: Instead of just asking about what went wrong, ask what went right? Instead of flagging new issues based on project experiences, consider what past concerns might be dropped. Look at what you would do differently next time, but also what you would do again and which strengths you could use more. (Source: Ian’s Messy Desk)
  • Consultant Colleen Francis says research shows a testimonial with plain text on your web site will draw significantly fewer click-throughs than one dressed up with a punchy font and graphics. (Source: EngageSelling.com)


Q&A with 8020Info:  Reconciling Vacations And Project Deadlines

I had been planning a special two-week vacation this summer, but my boss just assigned me to lead a project with a Sept. 1 deadline: What should I do?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

I’d start by not assuming the project and your vacation are incompatible, despite the end-of-summer deadline. What are the options for giving yourself a July 1 deadline, and finishing the work — or, say, 95 per cent of it — by then?

Often we tackle the bulk of the work at the end of a project, but if we push up the end date, the work can often be handled, to our surprise, in a compressed period.

Or, is it possible to schedule the work in a way so that you are not needed during your vacation period, involving others more at that point (and similarly, arranging the sequencing of work so that your key staff can get their time off as well)? It’s rare that everyone needs to work flat out every week on a project. Perhaps handoffs can be better managed.

If that’s impossible, try pushing back on the deadline. Announcing a Sept. 1 deadline may reflect a routine or casual office practice rather than a rigorous decision. The date has likely been picked because your boss or someone else wants to pick up the ball in the fall, bringing Sept. 1 to mind. But could Sept. 15 work? Or Oct. 1?

Since you’ve carefully weighed the workload and time crunch in evaluating whether you can take a vacation, you have some ammunition to ask for a more acceptable deadline. Vacations are important, and your boss should acknowledge that reality with a concession, if possible.

If he or she doesn’t, you have to re-examine your vacation plans. Can that vacation be postponed, or split into two one-week trips, or a series of vacations arranged to make sure you refresh yourself over the summer? Think about the purpose vacations play in your life, and rethink the summer schedule to fulfill your needs. Perhaps some longer weekends or four-day weeks can be worked in, while still meeting the deadline. But don’t totally postpone time off until “tomorrow” because in the modern office, tomorrow has a habit of never coming.

Work-life balance requires endless balancing. It also requires thought and creativity. Apply that thought and creativity here.


7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Why We Procrastinate

In our project-oriented consulting practice, we know procrastination is a tempting siren to be avoided at all costs. Recently we discovered some helpful advice on www.itworldcanada.com, in Merideth Levinson’s article 4 Reasons We Procrastinate Despite Knowing Better.

She quotes author Rory Vaden who compares procrastination to buying on credit — making easy, short-term choices that have difficult, long-term consequences. He says we procrastinate because:

  • We are blind to the impact. Counter that with a clear vision of how acting now will make your life better and a keen awareness of how putting things off wastes a significant amount of time and money.
  • We procrastinate out of fear. Realize it’s okay to be scared. Sometimes just getting started will help get past the fear.
  • We procrastinate out of a sense of entitlement, feeling we just shouldn’t have to do the work. Roll up your sleeves and stay focused on how the work on your plate today will help you achieve your goals tomorrow.
  • Procrastination may be linked to perfectionism. Don’t wait for the perfect plan to ensure success; focus on making progress. Realize that each passing moment tends to weaken your intentions.


8. Closing Thought 

“Only those who are asleep make no mistakes.”

— Ingvar Kamprad