Vol. 12 No. 9 – June 18, 2012

June 17, 2012


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Seven Blind Spots To Avoid

Sometimes smart people fail to see blind spots and pay a heavy price. On his blog, entrepreneur Rajesh Setty warns about these seven blind spots:

  • Being nice at the expense of being honest: When asked for feedback by a colleague, don’t sugar coat it, since that only hurts the other individual in the long run.
  • Being critical at the expense of being thoughtful: At the same time, when feedback is solicited, don’t unleash a fusillade of criticisms. Be thoughtful in your critiques.
  • Being humble at the expense of taking pride: Humility is a virtue, and many smart people are wary of being considered boastful. But it’s also not helpful to short-change yourself and forget to be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
  • Being focused on the short-term at the expense of personal growth: Becoming addicted to short-term wins can prevent you from building your own capacity to perform.
  • Being confident at the expense of being open: Confidence can be wonderful, but it’s dangerous when it leads to close-mindedness and selective hearing.
  • Being fast at the expense of moving in the right direction: Smart people can cover a long distance very quickly, so when they are overconfident and wrong, they have covered so much ground it’s hard to get back on track.
  • Making money at the expense of making meaning:  Don’t get caught up in the cycle of making money to open opportunities to make more money. Remember the importance of also making meaning.

2. Build Your Message Hierarchy

When you were a teenager on a date with someone you had a crush on, there may have been times when you babbled on and on without making a good impression. On Drew’s Marketing Minute, consultant Drew McLellan suggests the same could happen when you are dealing with a new prospect for your services, unless you have a plan — a message hierarchy.

Imagine you meet someone and they ask what work you do. McLellan recommends answering in this order:

  • If you could relate only one thing about your work that you hope he’ll remember forever and repeat often, what would it be?
  • If you discovered you had time for a second sentence, what would you add?
  • If you could add a third sentence, what would you say?
  • The person seems eager for more, so what comes next?
  • The other person hasn’t said a word and seems mesmerized, so you can squeeze in one more sentence.

He urges you to think of the approach as a triangle, building with every sentence. The most important point is at the top and then you add a layer underneath, over and over.

It’s that first sentence which is the key and usually difficult to formulate: The one thing that encapsulates what you do and will be memorable. “But once you figure that out — that’s golden,” he writes. “It doesn’t have to be the exact same sentence every time, but the message should be the same.”

3. Do you have a multitude of advisors?

Michael Hyatt believes that your advisors can determine how successful you will be. The chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, on his blog, says we all need advisors to help us with five tasks:

  • Educate you with relevant, timely information.
  • Provide objectivity in evaluating your current situation.
  • Seek to understand your goals and why they are important to you.
  • Suggest possible strategies for achieving those objectives.
  • Use their expertise and contacts to help you accomplish the goals in the quickest, most economical way possible.

He erred in the past, however, by having just one advisor. He notes it wasn’t sufficient, as the Bible warns on three separate occasions: “In a multitude of counsellors there is safety.” He now has several trusted advisors, and doesn’t make any significant move, professionally or personally, without consulting them.

4. Five Questions For A Performance Review

If you want to take the tension out of performance reviews with your employees and unleash useful discussions, here are five questions from The Essential HR Handbook by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell that publishing executive Eric Jacobson shares on his blog:

  • What have I done to help — or hinder — your job performance?
  • What can I do in the next review period to help you achieve/improve?
  • What conditions here enable you — or make it hard — to do your best work?
  • What do you want most from your job?
  • How can I help you reach your career goals?

5. Zingers

  • Knock, Knock: Productivity consultant Jason Womack urges you to set “interrupt me” times when you will interact with colleagues and answer emails. The rest of the day, keep your nose to the grindstone. (Source: Jason Womack’s Newsletter)
  • Emotional Exercise:  Consultant Peter Bregman suggests once a day picking something emotionally difficult to do — from taking the blame for something that isn’t your fault to asking for a raise. He contends that will strengthen the muscles which encourage us to act with integrity even when it runs counter to the prevailing culture. (Source: FastCompany.com)
  • Noticing Questions:  Consultant Alison Green recommends paying attention to the kinds of questions your boss asks, since that will give you a better idea of the issues that he or she worries about. (Source: The QuickBase Blog)
  • Apple-style Meetings:  If you want to have great meetings, try these three rules, gleaned from Apple CEO Steve Jobs by Ken Segall, an ad agency executive who worked closely with him: Throw out the least necessary person at the table; walk out of the meeting if it lasts more than 30 minutes; do something productive to make up for the time spent at the meeting. (Source: Entrepreneur.com)
  • Limo Fun:  Create some buzz and fun in your office by holding a limo lottery — the winner gets driven to work for a day or some other period of time by limousine. Or hold a contest for your customers with that prize, advises consultant Michael Kerr. (Source: Humor At Work newsletter)


6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Summer Reading List

Question: Do you have any suggestions for leadership, management, or marketing books to read this summer when on vacation?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

 Patrick Lencioni, who has enchanted me over the years with his fables, has published his first non-fiction book, The Advantage, and it’s a winner. It brings together many of the themes touched on in his previous books, from teamwork to meetings, with expanded messages and tips. As always with Lencioni, it’s practical, incisive, and terse. And certainly not heavy reading, making it fitting for vacation reading.

 Joan Magretta, a professor at Harvard Business School, tackled the strategic writings of colleague Michael Porter, which might seem like heavy stuff for vacation reading. But in Understanding Michael Porter she brings his various ideas together in an impressively crystalline way, helping us to understand the most influential thinker on strategy. It’s not easy reading, but surprisingly it’s also not particularly difficult reading — and it’s important stuff, for businesses and non-profits alike.

 Hannibal and Me is a provocative essay on careers and lifetime growth by The Economist’s Andreas Kluth. The thread linking it together is the life story of the Carthaginian military commander, but it also offers insights from other famous people such as Albert Einstein, Harry Truman, and writer Amy Tan, seamlessly and thoughtfully stitched together by a velvety-smooth writer.

Consultant Chris McGoff brings together 46 eclectic principles for high performance in The Primes.  Each is a clever insight, presented in a few pages with a graphic to help remember the notion, such as the right ratio between analyzing and imagining, how to gain cohesion in a group, how groups really make decisions, and why saying no protects your yes. Quirky, but practical and fun reading.

Former Procter & Gamble global marketing officer Jim Stengel makes the case — with statistical back-up — that the key to success in business is having ideals that power your products and services. He offers advice in how to do that effectively in Grow, with lots of examples from his own experience and other big businesses.

I’m a sucker for books on conversations because they are essential tools that animate our day. Conversational Transformation by Ben Benjamin, Amy Yeager and Anita Simon looks at six destructive conversational patterns that routinely trip us up at work and outside work. In Power Questions, consultants Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas share 44 key questions that can be helpful in conversations, breaking logjams and stimulating meaningful discussions, whether in selling or collaborating with a colleague.

Let me close with two books, both of which happen to be independently published, based on analogies extended to the workplace, and engrossing. Tall ship captain and leadership coach Crane Wood Stookey offers workplace engagement messages from the sea in Keep Your People In The Boat, while former hospital CEO Paul Levy uses his experiences coaching girls’ soccer as a jumping off point for his ideas on workplace leadership in Goal Play.


7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Strategy & What We Care About

In our strategy development practice, we are placing increasing emphasis on questions that clarify what is important to a board of directors or management team. What do you really care about?  What do you value?  These are not meant to be “fluff” questions or ask about the obvious; they should unearth heartfelt values that determine strategic choices and priorities.

It is not perfectly clear what mechanisms lead human beings to value stamp-collecting but care less about sports, prefer the new and creative over the tried and true, or treasure harmony in relations while remaining unmoved by fiscal responsibilities. But what is deeply and personally important to the decision-making individuals around the table will play out in strategy development.

It is one thing to act on values as an individual, and quite another to achieve consensus as they apply to an organization. These seemingly straightforward questions should be asked early in the process, since the answers drive the dynamic of setting goals and defining ends — the outcomes to be delivered by strategy.

We like the Carver formulation that Ends Statements should define the specific “customers” to be served, the concrete results to be achieved, and at what worth or cost to the organization. Deeply-held values about what is important will play a crucial role in defining focus and deciding on strategic priorities.

8020Info helps teams develop and implement their strategic plans, 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

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”
— Pablo Picasso


Thanks for taking the time to read this e-mail. Look for the next edition ofThe 8020Info Water Cooleron July 9.
— Rob Wood, Harvey Schachter