August 18, 2013



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. I Had A Marketing Plan But Life Intervened

C.J. Hayden had a marketing plan, but then life happened. The independent professional notes on Rain Today she’s not the only one: “We know we won’t succeed if we don’t spend time on marketing, but somehow days and weeks slip by, and our marketing to-do list gets longer instead of shorter.”

Here are tips for overcoming that problem:

  • Build a ceiling and a floor: An element missing from most marketing plans is how much time will be required to implement it. That can result in not having enough time for getting the tasks done or, alternatively, spending too much time on a particular task, trying to be perfect. So include a floor and a ceiling in your plan — the floor is the minimum amount of time you should allocate each week to marketing activities (even when busy) and the ceiling the maximum.
  • Identify the saboteurs: Figure out what derailed you from carrying out your plans, be it insufficient time or fears about self-promotion or a lack of the right tools. Identifying what’s pulling you off track may help you go further.
  • Take one step in the right direction: When you have some time available, pick some task that can be done in that time frame, and move ahead, even if only a bit.
  • Tackle what you’re resisting: If one item tends to always be on the top of the list, either knock it off or take at least some action immediately.

2. Caution: Hazards To Your Leadership

We’re all familiar with the warnings on cigarette packages that started in the mid-1960s: Caution – Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health. Consultant Kevin Eikenberry figures similar warnings may be helpful to leaders. On his blog, he offers these cautions:

  • Caution! Under-communication May be Hazardous to Productivity and Success: Of all the complaints employees have about their organization, at the top of the list is usually lack of communication by their bosses. “As a leader, regardless of our level in the organization, we can communicate more. Share what is going on — more often. And remember that communication isn’t just about talking, but about listening,” he writes.
  • Caution! Too Busy isn’t a Good Reason to be Unavailable to Your Team: Leaders are always busy, over-busy. Meetings and project deadlines beckon. But it’s important to make time for your team, supporting them, encouraging them, coaching them — and just plain listening to them. Those might be the most important activities you have as a leader, so make sure you’re not too busy for them.
  • Caution! Micromanagement May Cause Bigger Problems Than it Solves: You probably don’t like being micromanaged, so why would your staff? Sure, it’s important that duties be handled in the “right” fashion, but it’s also vital to empower your team members and prove your trust in them. So coach and prepare them to do the job “right” but don’t micromanage them.

3. Eliminate 75% Of The Numbers In Presentations

With information overload being the single biggest audience complaint about presentations, PowerPoint expert Dave Paradi recommends eliminating 75% of the numbers that you have likely planned for your upcoming presentations.

Excel is excellent for analysis, he notes in his blog, but it is too easy to copy the numbers from that analysis onto a presentation slide, leaving more numbers than needed to communicate the conclusion of the analysis.

Whether you’re looking at sales or an operational matter, an Excel spreadsheet for analysis typically has four columns:

—  the current measured results,
—  the standard you are comparing it with,
—  the absolute difference between the results and the standard, and
—  the relative difference expressed as a percentage.

Those first three columns (75% of the numbers) can be jettisoned for a presentation, however, since the audience is interested only in the percentage difference. You can spice that up with arrows or graphs to emphasize whether you are above or below the standard and whether that is a negative or positive result.

4. What Your Boss Is Thinking

While you are talking, management consultant Art Petty says in his Leadership Caffeine Newsletter, your boss is thinking:

  • Can I trust you to make a good decision
  • Do I have confidence in you?
  • How confident are you in yourself?
  • Do you have an agenda you are not sharing with me?
  • Does your “do match your tell”?
  • Do you tackle problems with the big picture in mind?
  • How strong are your problem-solving skills?
  • Are you creative?
  • Have you sought out others to evaluate your ideas and test assumptions?
  • Are you promotable?

5. Zingers

  • To stay action-oriented, don’t let ideas that come up during the day float away or get relegated to the backburner. If it costs less than $100 and you can take action in less than 10 minutes, try it now, suggests consultant Wally Bock. (Source: Three Star Leadership Blog)
  • Before launching a training program, sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer advises you to ask two questions: How positive are the attitudes of your people and how attitudinally receptive to the training will they be? (Source: Buy Gitomer)
  • If you want to be effective, pair up. Project manager J.D. Meir notes that when you pair up you create a team of capabilities and, if the task is something you don’t relish, find someone who might help you love what you hate — or at least help to make it fun. (Source: J . D. Meir’s Blog)
  • If visitors don’t stay on your web site, check if you have a clear message that answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” Every page on your site should have a single, concise message, says branding consultant Erika Napoletano. (Source: OpenForum.com)
  • Joyce Brown, president of the Fashion Institute of Technology, says her staff calls her Dr. Detail: “That doesn’t mean I micromanage, but I need to know the details. Things can come around and bite when you don’t pay attention to the real substance.” (Source: The New York Times)

6. Q&A with 8020Info: Staff Meeting Tune-up

Question: Our regular staff meeting is a lethargic waste of time. How can we fix it?

8020Info Inc. Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

I always want to fight back when people say a meeting is a waste of time because some of the seemingly most wasteful meetings I’ve attended have, over time, produced the most important ideas.

A meeting will never feel as efficient as sitting at your desk and working on a project, but that’s not a fair comparison. When we surf the web looking for important information, it can be slow, but we don’t call that wasteful, usually because we can more obviously and more quickly hit the jackpot than in a meeting.

That being said, maybe your staff meeting needs to be shaken up. Some organizations are cancelling them, and that is worth considering, but here are some suggestions for change to consider:

  • Vary the length of time the meetings take: Maybe instead of an hour-long ritual every week, you can have two 20-minute meetings, a 45-minute meeting, and a 90-minute meeting over the course of a month. That’s an example — the precise formula can be contoured to what you cover (and accomplish) in your meetings — but there can be value in not always repeating the same agenda, having some meetings with very tight focus and time limits, and the occasional meeting with ample time for full discussion on pre-selected topics.
  • Vary when the meeting is held: Always the same day, always the same time? Maybe that creates ennui even before you enter the room. Can some meetings be morning and some afternoon? Can some be just before lunch break or closing time, to create a sense of urgency for finishing promptly?
  • Place an action item atop the agenda: For each meeting, outline an action item that will be discussed — a very important topic, known in advance, that people can tackle when they are energized and maybe add vigour, by extension, to the rest of the meeting. At worst, you will have accomplished one big thing early in your session.
  • Vary the meeting chair: Perhaps the boss is choking off discussion. Give someone else responsibility for making your meeting a success.
  • Appoint a devil’s advocate for the meeting: If people aren’t speaking up and ideas are flying through without sufficient attention, name someone who will critique ideas, to keep things lively and focused on improvements.
  • Hand out “Get Out Of Jail Cards” to staff members, entitling them to skip a staff meeting when they are extremely busy: That does relieve them of being in some meetings where they absolutely feel they should be somewhere else. It makes meeting attendance seem a little more voluntary —less like conscription— and may make people somewhat more disposed to being there. And when they’re away, they may worry about what’s happening while they’re not there, which is not a bad thing, actually.


7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Change opinion through personal interaction

Perhaps we never stop thinking about communications strategy, even when enjoying an entertaining new movie.

In a scene from Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a civil rights drama which opened Friday night, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. points out to a group of rights activists that ”the black domestic defies racial stereotyping by being hardworking and trustworthy … though subservient, they are subversive without even knowing it.”

His point was that changes in opinion are seeded on many levels.

One influence is the media we consume, by what we see and hear reported, analysed, framed, simplified and juiced up to motivate our interest. Another is our social ecology — what our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours say. Our deeply felt personal values provide another important pivot point.

The most powerful influence of all, though, may be our own personal experience. The Butler contrasted provocative civil rights actions on the street with intimate, personal interactions (in this case, a likeable black butler serving decades of white presidents and first ladies with grace and character).  Both approaches can influence opinion movement and decisions.

Our takeaway from the scene was that it’s important for leaders to spend time up close with those affected by their decisions — whether they be employees, volunteers, patients, clients, customers, members or voters.

And non-profits and community groups focused on bringing about social change would do well to remember that, to move the opinions of a society, its thought-leaders and decision-makers, it helps to operate up-close-and-personal as well as at the media/street level.

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

“Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.”
– Louis L’Amour