October 21, 2013


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. The Biggest Lessons After 20 Years

After 20 years as a consultant, Kevin Eikenberry has some thought-provoking lessons that he shared in his blog:

  • Human beings are learning beings: We are built to learn, but we don’t spend enough time learning intentionally. “From hundreds of conversations I have learned that people are at their best when they are learning. When we are learning we feel alive, we feel meaning, we feel purposeful. Learning quenches the human drive of curiosity and when we do this intentionally we feel better, and perform better too,” he writes.
  • Understanding change changes everything: Change is all around us, and so time spent understanding how it happens and how we choose it will improve our ability to succeed.
  • The paradox of personal accountability: We control little, but can influence almost everything. “When we take personal responsibility for what we can control – our choices, our reactions, our emotions, our actions – we are more effective people. When we deny our ability to influence our world and other people by the choices we make, we become victims,” he warns.
  • Development is development: Instead of viewing personal and professional development as separate, accept that every development opportunity is both personal and professional.
  • Everything is about choices: Life abounds with choice. Although some routine choices become habit, they are choices and could be changed. It is often the smaller ones, such as watching mindless TV instead of reading a good book, that change our lives.

2. Four Things Your Customers And Clients Don’t Want

Understanding your prospects, customers and clients will help you to land and keep them connected to your organization. But it’s important to understand their mindset — and four things Inc.com columnist Geoffrey James says they definitely don’t want from you:

  • Customers don’t want more information: Your customers already know more about your service or product than they want to – they are probably drowning in a sea of information. “What do customers want instead?  Simplicity rather than more complexity,” he writes.
  • Customers don’t want to be challenged: Customers already face plenty of challenges in their life, and don’t appreciate you creating new ones. Instead, they want your help rather than more things to worry about.
  • Customers don’t want your opinions: You undoubtedly believe that what you offer is fabulous, and will benefit prospects tremendously. But your customers actually don’t care about what you feel. Instead, they want real proof rather than opinions or, worse, empty promises.
  • Customers don’t want you to sell to them: While your customers recognize that you want to promote your offering, they resent when it appears you are trying to sell them something. Indeed, they will stop listening when you enter that mode. They want to buy rather than be sold to.

3. Don’t Hire A Team of Terrific Point Guards

Generally in hiring we seek the best person for the job. But that’s the wrong approach, according to Sallie Krawcheck, who has held a variety of senior investment banking posts. “That’s not how I hire. I don’t look to put the best person in the job. Instead I look to put the best team together … and that can be a very different exercise,” she writes on LinkedIn.

You would never win a basketball championship with a team composed only of point guards – even if they were excellent ones. You need a better-rounded group. Similarly, in hiring a management team, she looks for diversity of thought, perspective and background.

She also looks for people who make her somewhat uncomfortable — people who hold different views than she does and have different areas of expertise. If she can learn something from them in the interview, that’s a positive sign. She wants people who can add to the team already in place.

“Hiring in this way may make the workplace less ‘comfortable’ for the team, but that is exactly the point,” she concludes.

4. The Mistake Of Knowing

Trainer Dan Rockwell says his biggest mistake is thinking he knows something when he doesn’t. Knowing is fine when he’s right. And usually he believes he is right. But when he’s wrong, yet thinks he knows what’s right, he creates an environment in which others must help him unlearn.

So he urges you to reject the need to arrogantly look like you always know. Ask questions of others, opening the door to other options. Aggressively seek feedback during and after projects. And withhold judgment, since a decision is the end of a thought.

“Looking back over the years, things would have gone much better if I hadn’t known as much as I thought,” he writes in his Leadership Freak blog.

5. Zingers

  • Keep it together:  Keep one binder for every regular meeting you attend, placing all the necessary paperwork inside. That allows you to refer back to items covered in the past. (Source: The Organized Executive’s Blog)
  • Invest your time:  The most important decision you have to make if you want to be successful, says journalist Paul B. Brown, is where do you want to spend your time? (Source: Forbes.com)
  • Change the setting:  Veteran manager Eric Jacobson says you should interview job candidates in three different places.  They will likely be at their best in the first interview, usually held in your office. If they are trying to fake it, the veneer might come off in other settings, such as lunch at a restaurant and then a group setting with a variety of your employees invited. (Source: Eric Jacobson On Management And Leadership)
  • Work with a happy heart:  Recently facilitating a session with managers, consultant Cheri Baker noted their shoulders slumped and eyes downcast, as if they had spent the week dragging sacks of gravel through a swamp. She urges you, instead, to cultivate happiness: “We can choose to do our work with a song in our heart, or with a fifty pound weight on our back. It’s more about our perspective than it is about external events.” (Related Source: The Enlightened Manager’s Toolbox)
  • Use just three letters:  Venture capitalist Fred Wilson says the best web domains have just three letters. He estimates there are only 15,600 possibilities – and he has one: USV.com, which has become better known than the actual name, Union Square Ventures.  (Source: Musings Of A Venture Capitalist)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Researching Communications Impact

Question:  How should I approach research to track the impact of my marketing communications campaign?

8020Info CEO and President Rob Wood replies:

When planning any type of research project, we recommend that you start by determining what information you really need to make key decisions. For example:

—  Do you need to evaluate the impact of particular types of content or format?

—  Are you assessing the efficiency of one communications channel over another?

—  Are you trying to reduce calls, enquiries or emails asking for information?

—  Do you need to track the difference you’re making in perceptions of your brand?

Answering the “what you need to know” question often leads to making some other choices:

  • Should you measure the process or the outcome?  It’s usually easier to measure process – what you do. Did you send out the media releases? Did you complete the website makeover?  You may be more interested, however, in outcome indicators: Did attitudes change? Did enquiries go down? Do audiences have a better understanding?  A related question: whether to look at direct indicators of communications impact (e.g. response to a direct mail offer or RSVPs to an event invitation) vs. indirect contribution to other measures (such as higher client volumes/sales)
  • Are you measuring the right thing? For example, will you measure how many times you tweeted? How engaging the content was? Or what impact it had on public perceptions?
  • Are you concerned about change? If so, you will need to establish initial benchmarks to assess progress. Be careful to avoid an “apples and oranges” problem, which can result from changing questions, sampling approach or methods of data collection in mid-stream.
  • Are you testing a hypothesis?  Do you need to test your assumptions or current theory about what works? For example, that social media works best with younger audiences? That a new logo or slogan will be interpreted in a particular way? Or that certain types of content are highly relevant to your audience?
  • Should your research focus on a general audience or specific segments? Strategically, you may be mostly concerned with the impact of communications only on core audiences, prime customers or particular types of clients.

You choice of research technique – how to gather information – will depend on your specific circumstances, needs, timeline and budget. Choosing the best data-gathering methods or survey tools will come later, however, after you’ve framed the focus and purpose for your research.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Using World Café Engagement

This past week we had the pleasure of working with a team from CAMH (the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) to present a World Café workshop. The three-hour event engaged more than 50 front-line staff from a couple dozen agencies in their field.

The name for this type of stakeholder consultation comes from its café style — small groups of 4 or 5 participants meeting for about 20 minutes to discuss a key question, then moving on to other tables in subsequent rounds to meet new participants and discuss more questions. Each table has a host, and discussion highlights are captured in diverse  ways — text notes, bullet points, post-its, and graphics or sketches on flipchart paper. The final step, typically called the “harvest”, brings all participants together to share and compare highlights with the entire group.

As this session proved, the key to success is having clear, stimulating questions — and they must be well-designed so small groups can respond effectively on their own, without outside facilitation. The discussions must also be focused, but not discourage different points of view that participants may bring.

When well designed, a World Café is a great approach for fostering interaction, building relationships and freely exploring questions of common interest. It’s also flexible enough that strengths from other approaches can be incorporated: in this case, the CAMH group used appreciative enquiry techniques in the design of the questions as well as a “fishbowl” seating arrangement for sharing in the harvest discussion.

When engagement is important to your project, a World Café format is well worth considering. We tip our hats to CAMH and its planning partners from Providence Care, Frontenac Community Mental Health and Addictions Services, and Pathways for Children and Youth — a great job in “showing how it’s done”!

8020Info helps teams develop and implement their strategic plans, stakeholder consultations and marketing communications and 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

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

— Ernest Hemingway