Vol.13 No.9 July-8-2013

July 7, 2013



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

 1. The Space Between Supervising Closely And Delegating

Delegating can be tricky, and business consultant Jesse Lyn Stoner helps clarify the reason by highlighting what she calls “the space between supervising closely and delegating.”

On her blog, she says that supervising closely involves setting goals, telling what needs to be done, explaining how to do it, setting timelines, checking progress, and providing frequent feedback. On the other hand, she defines delegating as leaving the other person alone and letting them do their job.

“If you want to be an effective leader, you need to be able to hang out in the space in the middle,” she says.

In this space, you listen, ask questions, reassure, encourage, ask their opinion, debrief and learn from mistakes, provide perspective, and appreciate what has been achieved.

When the individual is fully competent, then you can move on to what she describes as delegating. But if you do it too soon, you aren’t doing them a favour — you may be setting them up to fail. You also don’t do them any favours when you jump over the mid-space and switch from supervising closely to delegating or vice-versa. Expect actions you may detest by the person delegated to prematurely and grumbling if you tighten the reins suddenly.

“The space between supervising closely and delegating is where growth occurs and where relationships are forged,” she notes.

She stresses there’s a difference between delegating and abdicating. When you abdicate, you disappear. When you delegate, you still stay aware of major issues, remove roadblocks, and provide resources and opportunities.

2. Tips For Telling Your Brand’s Story

Telling your brand’s story involves more of a focus on doing than telling, says marketing consultant Bernadette Jiwa. Here are five tips she offers on her blog:

  • Review and rewrite your web site’s About page. The page may seem to be about you, but a successful one is about more than that. It needs to communicate how you can help – or better yet, delight – the reader. After all, that’s why they are poking around the web site and your About page.
  • Start telling people why you do what you do, rather than just focusing on what you do. “People buy products but they become loyal to brands that they can care about,” she writes.
  • Make a list of the reasons you are least like the competition, and share that story. She notes that great brands are often differentiated from others in the field by what they don’t do, which leaves them room to do what they do well.
  • Give your clients the opportunity to tell some of your story for you. If you ask, you’ll find clients generally happy to provide testimonials for your web site. You can also link to comments posted on social media outlets.
  • Do what you say you are going to do, so your brand image remains luminous. That means keeping promises, meeting deadlines, and returning emails. “Don’t be defined by the story you didn’t tell,” she warns.

3. Limiting How Much You Talk In Meetings

If you worry that you talk too much in meetings, consultant Alison Green suggests you should start by estimating what a reasonable percentage of time is for you to be talking. In a meeting of six people, you should be speaking about one-sixth of the time. If you’re junior, less time than that, given the culture in most offices.

To stay in listening mode, speak up only when you believe that what you have to say will truly advance the conversation in some way. “No more summarizing for others (let them ask if they don’t understand something), and no more speaking just to share your thoughts. The litmus test is this: Is what you’re about to say necessary for others to hear as part of this conversation? And are you the only one likely to say it?” she advises on her Ask A Manager blog

Finally, don’t interrupt. Cut that out, completely and immediately.

4. Some Key Exit Interview Questions

If you’re going to understand why people are leaving your organization, you might try asking these four questions Eric Jacobson shares on his blog from Richard Finnegan’s book, Rethinking Retention In Good Times And Bad:

  • Why did you decide to leave us?
  • Of all the things you’ve told me, what is the top thing that caused you to resign?
  • It’s great that you’ve found such a good opportunity, but why did you look in the first place?
  • What one thing could we have done that would have caused you to stay?

6. Zingers

  • Find time in pockets:  Productivity coach Celestine Chua urges you to optimize the “time pockets” in your day – the intervals that arise when commuting, waiting for people or meetings to start, or walking from one place to another. Study your schedule, anticipate the time pockets that will arise, and plan activities to make better use of this spare time.  (Source: Lifehack.org)
  • Avoid faulty assumptions:  Here are two common project leadership mistakes to avoid, according to consultant Art Petty: Don’t assume your team knows how to talk with each other. Don’t assume the team knows how to make decisions together. (Source: Management Excellence By Art Petty)
  • Reward ethics over sales:  Stanford University Business Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer advises you to measure and reward ethical behaviour, since it’s even more important to your success than measuring sales and rewarding employee performance. (Source: Inc.)
  • Praise helps memory:  Japanese researchers found that when subjects were asked to learn a task involving motor skills, praise for their performance afterwards resulted in remembering the task better than control groups who received no praise.
    Consultant Robert Dooley suggests salespeople might make their sales pitch more memorable with some selective flattery at the end, and educators, trainers, and coaches might also be able to use strategic compliments to make their lessons more memorable. (Source: Neuromarketing Blog)
  • Protection from idiocies:  Caring for people is part of a leader’s job, says consultant Wally Bock. Protect your people from the idiocies that rain down upon them from above… from each other… and occasionally, when required, from themselves. Also: Avoid creating the need for anyone to protect them from you. (Source: Three Star Leadership Blog)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Making The Most Of Summer

Summer seems such a slack period, two months when not much is achieved. What can I do to be more productive, other than working on my golf game?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

In a world where everything is go-go-go, having a short period in which the pace is more relaxed may not be such a bad idea.  Perhaps you should, as the saying goes, just chill.

But here are three ideas to make the most of summer:

  • We often talk of FTE, our full staff when everyone is there. But they aren’t — or rarely are. Inevitably, some are away. Summer, when the absences are constant and the pressures perhaps somewhat reduced, may be an ideal time for cross-training, so that your back-ups are more facile at the fill-in jobs they are asked to do throughout the year and newbies are trained as back-ups. This summer, instead of treating such replacements as routine, ask yourself in each instance how you can gain the most from the selection and training of fill-ins, and the opportunities such rotations allow.
  • Innovation is top of mind, and one of the best notions seems to be the practice where employees are encouraged to spend 15% of their time as they wish on organizational initiatives they feel would be worthwhile. The summer, two months of twelve, is actually about 16 per cent of the year, so maybe you should let them do what they want for the period. More realistically, why not, in this slack period, give them 15% of their time (or more, if it is a very slack period in your field) to work on ventures of their own choosing?
  • Ask everyone to write a list of the things they could do better if only they had the time. Then point out they now have the time. Ask for a report at the end of summer on how they fared (and keep the original list for next summer). One big opportunity is to spend time with your clients and suppliers — leisurely time, over lunch, coffee, or a beer, with no agenda other than to solidify relationships and see where that might lead.

Obviously in some organizations — tourism and recreation, for example — the summer is a busy period. And the combination of people taking vacation can make it a hectic period in other fields as well. But if there’s some slack and loss of momentum in your own organization, perhaps these three ideas can help.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Drop Presentations At Meetings

When designing a strategic planning session, it is rare for us to schedule any presentations. Sometimes they are necessary when advance material can’t be shared (as in planning that involves public consultations with a large group), or when a speaker is appropriate for inspiration, such as a hospital patient telling a foundation board how their fundraising has had a life-saving impact. But presentations would be included as part of our meeting agenda only once in maybe 50 times.

So we found it made a lot of sense last week when LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner blogged that the social media giant has “essentially eliminated the presentation” (A Simple Rule to Eliminate Useless Meetings – July 1, 2013). He says that with presentations eliminated, the meeting can then be exclusively focused on generating a valuable discussion – “providing shared context, diving deeper on particularly cogent data and insights, and perhaps most importantly, having a meaningful debate.”

Advance materials are sent to participants at least 24 hours in advance. Meeting participants are given 5-10 minutes at the beginning of the session to review the material, refresh their memories or note points for discussion. Close discipline is maintained to avoid having the authors present the same points all over again, and a well-prepared brief keeps clarifying questions to a minimum.

Weiner says its not unusual for the length of LinkedIn meetings to be cut almost in half using this approach. Our experience is that a full-day strategic planning session can be cut by at least two hours or more by soliciting and sharing advance input and preparing a solid agenda package. You may want to try it; and for more on running effective meetings, check out his article at http://linkd.in/13tX6ZD .

8. Closing Thought

“The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable.”

— Paul Broca