July 27, 2014


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Six Limits Leaders Must Challenge

“Safety first” was an admonition driven into us as youngsters that lingers in our work lives. But leaders sometimes need to take chances and transcend limits. On his blog, consultant Kevin Eikenberry sets out six limits to push beyond:

  • The goal limit: Goals take us forward, but sometimes we set safe goals that are easy to hit, at which point we stop. Instead, set big goals that might not be achieved but challenge your thinking.
  • The openness limit: People want to follow leaders who are open and honest. “But that is a safe limit. Push that limit by sharing your concerns and worries, your weaknesses and your mistakes,” he writes. “The best leaders are open and willing to grow and learn.”
  • The ideas limit: In brainstorming, often we work up five to eight ideas to pursue. That’s too safe. Don’t stop until you identify 20 or 30 (or even more) options.
  • The effort limit: Occasionally you must give more than 100% for some period of time, leading others by example through those challenging periods.
  • The energy limit: Positive energy must be injected into teams and situations. When you’re adding more encouragement and positive support than seems necessary, you are probably getting close to what is needed.
  • The belief limit: Your level of faith in your team will have a huge impact on their productivity and success. “Little belief, little success; bigger belief, more success,” he concludes. “What is your limit?”

2. Four Tips For Managing Virtual Workers

Increasingly these days workers don’t report for duty every day at the same office. Sometimes they rarely go to the main office – or there might not even be one. Inc.com asked James DeJulio, the president of Tongal, a crowdsourcing platform that relies on thousands of virtual workers, for some secrets to managing staff from afar:

  • Make the work enjoyable: Working remotely requires self-motivation. So it’s crucial to encourage employees to work by giving them enjoyable tasks. “If you can capture the magic that makes work feel more like play, you can ensure that you’ll get a great effort whatever area code your staff is in,” he says.
  • Provide latitude and structure: He views remote work like a Montessori school, where people work when they feel like tackling tasks. Such latitude is fine, if accompanied by structure and deadlines. With those ingredients, staff will thrive.
  • Hire people who have successfully worked remotely in the past: When recruiting, look for candidates who have excelled at working remotely previously, since that’s a sign of the discipline and work ethic you need. Another route is choosing individuals who are inclined to do their job unconventionally – motivated not by economics but by developing a new product, fixing a problem, or disrupting the way things have been done in the past.
  • Reward overall results: Through words and remuneration, show their work is appreciated and contributing to a larger vision or plan.

3. Marketing: The Importance Of Identity

A grandmother adores her grandchildren in part because they give her a sense of identity, purpose and adventure. Rock collectors get purpose and identity from their hobby. Sports fans are effectively a member of a club, given identity, purpose and adventure by their favourite team.

“People will direct their attention to whatever gives them a sense of identity, purpose and adventure,” advertising guru Roy H. Williams writes in his Monday Morning Memo. “Each of us – every one of us – is on a treasure hunt.”

Organizations that can satisfy that quest will benefit. The specifics will vary by individuals, but he notes psychologist Abraham Maslow found that two-thirds of us are motivated by identity. That means they buy to remind themselves, and the world around them, who they are — and they are spending money to discover who they are. Help them.

4. Don’t Wait Until You Feel Like Working

Sometimes we put off projects or calls to important contacts without quite knowing why. It just doesn’t feel right.

One reason, psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson says on Harvard Business Review Blogs, is that we’re worried we’ll mess up. Another factor can be that we just don’t feel like it. But that reflects a widespread, mistaken belief that to be motivated and effective we must feel like we want to take action. She says that’s nonsense. Yes, you must be committed to the work, but you don’t have to feel like doing it. She points to renowned artist Chuck Close’s comment: “Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

So she suggests you make like Spock and set aside your feelings. They’re getting in your way.

5. Zingers

  • Do unto yourself:  To be a golden leader, says trainer Dan Rockwell, invert the Golden Rule by making sure you don’t give yourself any special exemptions. Treat yourself like you treat others. The rules that apply to others apply to you. (Source: Leadership Freak)
  • Friendly seating:  The geometrical shape of seating arrangements can affect how we act. If people are sitting in a circle they’re more apt to cooperate, while if they’re arranged into rows they’ll become more independent and cutthroat. (Source: Fast Company)
  • It’s not about me:  Don’t frame your request for feedback around how it helps you, advises Douglas Stone, co-author of Thanks For The Feedback. Base it on how improvements can help the organization or team: “I want feedback because it will help me run these meetings more efficiently and use people’s time better.” (Source: Forbes.com)
  • Speaking louder for all:  Leaders should consider the possibility that loudmouths on their team aren’t wildly out-of-synch with everyone else but, in fact, are speaking for everyone else. Rod Miller, head of New Program Development of Corporate Award Source, says they are often bringing up criticism that everyone else considers a valid concern but are too nervous to express. (Source: ThoughtLeadersLLC)
  • Smart moves on dumb policies:  Consultant Chris Edmonds suggests establishing a Stupid Policies Team to identify and then either refine or eliminate dumb policies in your organization. (Source: Smart Blogs)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:
Where To Focus on Becoming More Flexible

Question:  We need to become more flexible as an organization, but where do we start?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard University, recently emphasized this point in a FastCompany magazine interview: “People need to have the skills and adaptability that will make them flexible enough to be successful in a world we can’t predict.”  So you’re on the right track.

Her theme is one we hear a lot in strategy development conversations these days, and it has several dimensions:

  • Mission/Goals: Are you prepared to be flexible if future events should jar your purpose or reshape the risks and cost-benefit payoffs of pursuing current goals?
  • Values:  What impact might fast-evolving trends have on your identity and values?
  • Audiences:  For planning, do you use rigid definitions of target audiences, core markets or clientele you serve? Are you prepared to adapt focus as they change?
  • Interactions:  What would happen with a switch in channel or content of your primary interactions — off-line or on-line, local vs national, or with new audiences?
  • Ideas:  Are you open to innovation, new ideas and experimenting to learn more about new approaches that might soon become critical core competencies?
  • Action Options:  Have you mapped out alternative paths and methods you might trigger depending on new conditions or surprising developments in the future?
  • Authorities:  Have you built in flexibility or redundancy as to who (or what level of staff) can make decisions, and under what conditions or level of risk?
  • Timing Options:  Consider flexibility as to time — can you take action sooner or later, accelerate or decelerate timelines, or perhaps pause and bide your time?
  • Readiness for Change:  Have you strengthened your capability to cope with change, with trusting relationships, effective communications practices and training?

Developing flexibility involves finding the right balance among many considerations of strategy, risk management, best use of resources, organizational development and accountabilities. These nine dimensions might be good places to start.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:
Who Should Be In Focus Groups?

This is one of the first issues to come up when you’re planning a research focus group or putting staff together in small groups for a planning retreat: it’s a key decision. Here are two guiding principles:

  • The Jelly Bean Rule:  It may seem obvious, but the feedback from a focus group discussion is always a function of the knowledge, experiences and perspectives of the participants. So it’s often important for the group to be representative: If you dip into a bowl filled only with purple jelly beans, your results will inevitably be purple. When you dip into a bowl of mixed jelly beans, you’ll get a wider range of flavours. Perhaps purple is your focus; if not, look at improving the mix.
  • Common Denominators:  In our experience facilitating scores of focus groups, discussion typically settles at whatever level the participants have in common.  If everyone is from just one department — accounting, say, or operations or marketing — the departmental perspective they have in common will tend to dominate the dialogue. If there’s a mix, though, the discussion will tend to be framed by a broader, organization-wide perspective. There are similar effects if you mix participants from same or different locations, disciplines, ages or levels of experience.

You may be considering a mix of staff members with board members; insiders with external partners or the public; current customers with future prospects or disaffected past clients; funders with staff or those you serve. When you’re choosing whether to mix them up or not, keep these guiding principles in mind.

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

“Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.”
— Erica Jong