Vol.13 No.4 March-25-2013

March 25, 2013


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Do You Play To Win – Or Not To Lose?

In understanding personality, the Meyer-Briggs test is the most common assessment tool. But the problem is that it’s not effective at predicting performance, psychologists Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins explain on Harvard Business Review Blogs. Instead, they recommend dividing people according to a personality attribute that does predict performance: promotion focus or prevention focus.

  • Promotion-focused individuals are eager and play to win. They are comfortable taking chances, dream big, and think creatively. “Unfortunately, all that chance taking, speedy working, and positive thinking makes these individuals more prone to error, less likely to think things through, and usually unprepared with a plan B if things go wrong. That’s a price they are willing to pay, because for the promotion-focused, the worst thing is a chance not taken, a reward unearned, a failure to advance,” they write.
  • Prevention-focused people, however, are fixated by responsibility, and intent on playing it safe. They worry about (and are motivated by) what might go wrong if they don’t work hard enough or aren’t careful enough. They play not to lose, rather than to win.
  • “Although everyone is concerned at various times with both promotion and prevention, most of us have a dominant motivational focus. It affects what we pay attention to, what we value, and how we feel when we succeed or fail. It determines our strengths and weaknesses, both personally and professionally. And it’s why the decisions and preferences of our differently focused colleagues can seem so odd at times,” the psychologists observe.

This finding may be particularly valuable in the way you choose to motivate members of your team. Stressing opportunity works better for the promotion-focused; emphasis on potential risks, problems or errors might be more effective in motivating the prevention-focused.

2. Communication Myths To Avoid

If you’re struggling with communication, perhaps it’s because you have succumbed to some myths about communications that are not true. On his blog, leadership coach Tim Milburn highlights the following misconceptions:

  • We can take someone else’s message and simply pass it on: That’s just like painting by numbers. If you want others to hear your message, you must communicate it with passion and belief. In short, you must own it.
  • The message is more important than the people we’re talking to: If you treat people without respect — with indifference — you will only alienate them. You must communicate a belief in them as part of your message.
  • People will know how to respond to our message: When you communicate, you must clarify the appropriate response and should help audiences to know how they should respond to your communication. “Clearly spell out what kind of action steps they need to know. Give appropriate deadlines and guidelines if necessary,” he says.
  • We only have to say it once: Many times it is not enough to simply say something in order for audiences to get it; you must use technology to demonstrate and visualize it as well.
  • People want to hear every detail: The best communicators take something complex and offer it in simple terms. Don’t try to impress; just express your message in a concise, focused manner.

3. For Change, Don’t Try Monetary Incentives First

Paul Hebert makes his money helping organizations with their incentive programs. But he warns on his blog that monetary incentives should not be the first tool you reach for when trying to change organizational behaviour.

He points to the results of a long-term study: a program that paid bonuses to hospitals for hitting key performance measures, or docked them if they missed, failed to improve the health outcomes of patients. He’s not surprised, because doctors and nurses don’t provide care for others because of the money. They chose their careers for other reasons.

“Incentives have kryptonite.  Incentives will be ineffective when the reason people do something is bigger than money,” he notes. “Creating an incentive on these behaviours actually cheapens the behaviour.”

So think through whether incentives can help, and if so, what kind — especially those incentives that may be more powerful than money.

4. View Activities As A Gift Not An Obligation

Consultant Michael Hyatt caught himself telling a friend that he was heading out of town because he had to speak at a conference. After hanging up he realized he didn’t have to speak; in fact, he would get to speak and was lucky to have that opportunity.

On his blog, he notes that the expression he used — I have to do — is the language of duty. It’s valuable, since it stresses responsibility. But the reworked version — I get to do, or have the opportunity to do — is the language of privilege, and we should adopt it for more of our activities, at work and in life. “It is as if we have been given a gift, and are relishing the opportunity,” he declares.

5. Zingers

  • Inspire With Quotes:  John Petrucci, an insurance industry executive, suggests sending out a weekly inspirational quote to staff, perhaps tied to some theme about the past week’s activities or forthcoming week’s activities that you want to highlight. (Source: Thoughtleadersllc.com)
  • Pause To Think:  If you’re put on the spot by an unexpected question or proposal from a boss, client, or member of the public, executive coach Jeremy Kourdi recommends asking, “Can I take a moment to think about this?” rather than blasting ahead with a quick, initial response. It’s a flattering response, indicating the other person’s comment is important. And owning up to gaps in your knowledge is better than faking it. (Source: Management Today)
  • Break from Facebook:  A recent survey by Pew Research found that 61% of current Facebook users admitted they had voluntarily taken breaks from the site, many for several weeks at a time. Reasons included an overall decrease in their interest in the site and a general sentiment that Facebook is a major waste of time. (Source: New York Times)
  • Does Maybe Mean No?  Corporate director Nilofer Merchant says when we’re afraid to say no to people, we often reply maybe. But that’s squishy – and a purgatory that ties up energy or ideas. Instead, respond yes or no, or explain when you will take on the new request in the future. (Source: NiloferMerchant.com)
  • Napkin Feedback:  Human resources consultant Jane Perdue says the most effective performance feedback she ever received occurred at lunch with a boss who wrote a few developmental notes on a napkin. It was a simple, practical and effective approach, compared to many cumbersome, bureaucratic performance management systems that have been devised. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Using LinkedIn More Effectively

Question: I’m new to LinkedIn – how can I use it more effectively?

8020Info Senior Associate Consultant Karen Humphreys Blake responds:

Reaching 200 million registered users as of January, LinkedIn is a worldwide leader for professional online networking. Beyond just replacing the Rolodex of old, LinkedIn offers many features that help professionals connect, find and fill positions, tap into specialized information and broaden horizons. It’s a place to see and be seen in the virtual work world.

You are not alone if you’re looking for ways to be more effective on LinkedIn. How you should do this depends on your needs. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Build a meaningful profile and stay active: Your LinkedIn profile and activity allows you to let your personality and expertise shine. Be active. Update your status, share and comment. Constantly seek out new people who might be good connections. Be personable!
  • Join LinkedIn groups: There are well over a million LinkedIn discussion groups, most of which are related to career and professional issues. Join, watch and then get active in the ones that make most sense for you. You’ll find local associations and organizations adding to their in-person interactions by launching LinkedIn groups, providing greater opportunities to connect.
  • Follow good leaders: Checking your LinkedIn “home” on a regular basis will provide updates about those in your network. See what they’re up to and learn. In addition, LinkedIn’s editors make suggestions for you from the LinkedIn Today feed with news tailored to your profile. It’s a good place to find leaders who interest you. You can simply click to follow them.
  • Support others through endorsements and recommendations: Doing something nice for someone feels good and creates a bond. That’s the basis of good relationships. Reach out first and endorse the skills and expertise of those in your network. Provide thoughtful recommendations when people ask.
  • Learn more about LinkedIn: Like all social media, there’s a lot more to LinkedIn than is immediately visible. And, things are always changing. Luckily, LinkedIn has a Help Centre that allows you to explore offerings and changes. Go there to find links to resources such as blogs, FAQs, tips for jobseekers and ways to get in touch.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Generative Governance

In our practice with non-profit boards, we continue to note increasing interest in an idea known as “generative governance”.  Those who serve on boards are often familiar with a fiduciary/trusteeship role (focused on identifying and fixing problems) and strategic leadership (focused on developing plans), but less so with a generative role.

Generative debate may identify new mindsets, frame or reframe how an organization should approach its mission, and spark fundamental leadership discussion (vs. supervising or doing management work).  Often it involves reworking a model or identifying the culture and values that should be driving strategy and tactics.

Policing, for example, has moved beyond a traditional focus on law enforcement and responding to crimes — the model now incorporates more preventive community policing strategies, creating conditions for neighbourhood safety, and building community partnerships. At some point, police reframed the “what” of their mission to extend well beyond “chasing the bad guys”. That evolved from some generative thinking.

Generative questions ask:  What should we be focused on here?  Has there been a change in “the way things work”?  How do we make sense of this ambiguous or evolving situation?  What does this event or development mean? Should we look at our role a different way? What might a better model look like for the future? How should our values be reflected in what we do and the way we work?

With forecasts pointing to tough funding constraints for non-profits, municipalities, educational, social service and health care organizations, we see many boards are revisiting the fundamentals of their business. On the other hand, we also work with boards that are challenging themselves to best a long track record of success. Generative discussions could be a way for them to discover new paradigms that will take their organizations to new, more meaningful levels of achievement.

 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

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

— Anais Nin