Vol.13 No.2 February-11-2013

February 11, 2013


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information
for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

Managers inevitably face tough moments when they feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to lead their organization forward. Michael Hyatt, chairman of Thomas Neilson Publishers, experienced that early in his career, convinced he was in over his head in his job, uncertain and afraid to act. When he approached an older, wiser colleague, the advice was memorable: “Mike, just do the next right thing.”

On his blog, he expands that message into three clear steps:

  • Forget about the ultimate outcome: You probably have less control over the outcome than you think. Yes, you can influence it, but you can’t control it — and besides, as you head towards the final destination, many variables will change. Problems will arise that you can’t see now, and resources will arrive that can help you.
  • Instead, focus on the next right action: If worrying about the final outcome is unproductive, and even foolish, focus instead on the next action steps that will move you forward in the right direction.
  • And do something now!: Get off the sidelines and into the fray. “This is key. Something is better than nothing. Too often, we think that we have to have clarity about how it will all turn out. In my experience, I rarely have this. But, as I move toward the destination, making course corrections as necessary, I experience clarity,” he concludes.

2. Being Easy

Staples created a marketing campaign around the notion of being easy — reinforced with a big red “easy” button and the slogan “That Was Easy”. Consultant Donald Cooper, in his company’s newsletter, suggests other organizations might do well to review their processes, and determine whether they are easy to deal with.

Here are some areas he suggests looking at, which apply to the non-profit and public sectors as well as business:

  • Are you easy to find wherever your target clients might be looking for you? That applies from the Internet to trade shows to just knowing the nearest cross street to your office.
  • If clients and customers come to visit you, is it easy and affordable to park?
  • Is it easy to understand everything you do and all the ways you can be helpful? “The quickest way to increase sales by 10­–15% in most businesses is to make sure our existing customers know about all the value we can deliver,” he notes.
  • Are you easy to communicate with? Is your contact information on all your emails and other communications? Is your voice mail system easy to navigate, or like wading through quicksand or a maze?
  • Are you easy to do business with? “What is it about doing business with us that infuriates people?” he suggests asking yourself. “Do we have processes that are inefficient, staff that are not trained, or policies that are annoying?”
  • Is it easy to trust you — and recommend you to others? Do you perform in a way that people feel safe recommending your services?

3. How Iteration-itis Kills Good Ideas

Many organizations feel that they never have good ideas. But innovation consultant Scott Anthony says on Harvard Business Review Blogs that’s often untrue: They may have had good ideas, but diluted or killed them through processes that put ideas through a gauntlet of critical evaluation by decision-makers.

Want to know if your organization falls into that camp? He suggests asking someone working on an idea to note in the file name of their presentation slides the number of meetings they have had to discuss and refine the idea. “That’s not to say that idea generators shouldn’t get feedback. They should. But too much feedback transforms formerly interesting ideas into well-documented bowls of mush,” he writes.

(In our practice, we have seen organizations that routinely take 8 or 9 iterations just to get a major memo, let alone a project, out the door.)

One solution is to take the pressure off of idea presentation. Instead of formal presentations, maybe have the ideas exposed more informally, in an atmosphere similar to a science fair, where leaders browse through embryonic possibilities.

4. World’s Simplest Management Secret

Inc.com columnist Geoffrey James calls it the world’s simplest management secret: You don’t manage people, you manage individuals. And because individuals differ from one another, what works with one person may not work for another.

He says the trick is to manage individuals the way they want to be managed, not the way you (or others) would prefer to be manage them.

And that means you need to ask. In your next meeting with each direct report, ask: How do you prefer to be managed? What can I do to help you excel? What types of management approaches annoy you?  Then listen carefully, and act on what you hear.

5. Zingers

  • Want to develop charisma to win others to your side? Australian entrepreneur Siimon Reynolds suggests it’s simply a matter of enthusiasm for your work, demonstrating expertise, and an attitude of certainty that isn’t bombastic or carried to the extreme. Example: Steve Jobs. He exuded enthusiasm, expertise, and confident certainty. (Source: SiimonReynoldsCoaching.com)
  • Try a gratitude day, in which you pay special attention to showing gratitude to colleagues and clients, advise life coaches Bob and Megan Tschannen-Moran. (Source: Peer Bulletin 211)
  • If you use a written schedule planner and can’t find it in a sea of paper on your desk, try elevating it with a planner stand says productivity blogger Jeff Doubek. (Source: Daytimer Blog)
  • If you want your advertising to be successful, consultant Roy H Williams says you must gain attention, speak with impact, and prove what you say in the fewest possible words. “Clarity is the new creativity,” he stresses. (Source: Monday Morning Memo)
  • Management blogger Ron Edmondson remembers a critical error he made in one of his first leadership positions, which any of us could succumb to as well: Everyone he was hearing from did not include everyone who was talking. He was relying on input from a small, closely associated group of people who didn’t necessarily speak for the majority. (Source: RonEdmondson.com)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Favourite Productivity Apps

Question:  What’s on your iPad main screen?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

That’s a popular question these days, as people seek better productivity apps that friends or colleagues find helpful. It applies, of course, to Android and Kindle devices, but probably more importantly to our desk computer, for those of us who get most of our key work done on that.

So let me start the sharing with some free apps I have found useful, and perhaps you can reciprocate by sending some of yours to us at 8020Info to pass along to readers.

  • To-Do Lists:  For me, it starts with a To-Do list. I was quite happy for many years with a system of coloured menu cards, writing out the day’s To-Dos every morning and hoping I could pick out the menu card when needed from the mess on my desk. But I decided to experiment with various web-based alternatives, finally settling on a download, Gee Tee Dee, which is light-weight, pops up on my screen when needed, allows a main and supplementary lists for projects, and cleans up easily.But it doesn’t synch with mobile devices, and so recently I have been experimenting with Wunderlist, which is quite handsome, with alternative backgrounds. It doesn’t allow shifting tasks around as easily and, since I also don’t absolutely need synching, might eventually be dropped.
  • PDFs:  I used Sumatra for many years as it opened PDFs so speedily. But I am currently enamoured with PDF X-Change Viewer, which although more complex and slower allows me to annotate PDFs other people send me. I can underline text, highlight text, add sticky notes in key places — and much more.
    To create PDFs, I use PDF Creator, which inserts itself into the print dialogue box for documents. I choose PDF creator as my “printer,” and then a document in PDF style gets created.
  • Document Search:  Everything is a marvellous tool, speedy beyond belief as it searches your hard drive for documents by name. Download and it works automatically, without having to set up an archive. It won’t search within a document, however.
  • Reading Online:  When reading web pages, it can be helpful to style them for easier reading. My current favourite is MagicScroll, which can turn a webpage into the equivalent of an eBook, and so you avoid scrolling. The creator of the tool believes scrolling tires us, and I suspect he is right.
    Before that, I was using Make Readable, and when I wanted to print a page, Print Friendly, which can also prepare a web page to be turned into a PDF. (I have never embraced Evernote, despite its many fans, and still prefer to print out pages I want to save.)
  • Routine Writing:  QuickPhrase allows me to keep a series of routine phrases for emails and letters that I can generate by just pressing a combination of shortcut keys. There are other alternatives available that may well be better; this one has been with me so long it would seem disloyal to abandon it — it is still free for me as a long-time user, but may cost you to install for the long term.
  • Uninstallers:  I have tried a variety of uninstallers over the years. Right now, Geek Uninstaller has me enthralled. It seems to do the job quickly and thoroughly.
  • Time:  I’ll hold myself to just one more, a longtime favourite, TClock, which installs itself on my quick launch bar with a handsome clock showing date and time, as well as timers.

Next issue 8020Info CEO Rob Wood will share some of his productivity tips, along with some of your favourites if you’d like to share them with us: help@8020info.com.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Strategic Leadership

Already this year we’ve been pleased to welcome opportunities to work with several new clients:  Rural Kingston Family Health Organization; KFL&A Health Eating Working Group; McMaster Alumni Association; Queen’s ITServices; Tett Centre for Creativity & Learning; CanPlace/Limestone Community Education; United Way and the groups working on Kingston’s Poverty Reduction Plan.

Their responses to a wide range of strategic issues once again remind us of the great pro-active leadership shown at so many levels in our region. We appreciate the opportunity to contribute our expertise in support of their projects.

8. Closing Thought

“When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.”

— Winston Churchill