October 19, 2014



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1. Dealing With Toxic Teammates

Occasionally we find ourselves working with somebody toxic, a person who makes life miserable for everyone around them. You may hope they will be turfed, but find that doesn’t happen.

“Bad is stronger than good,” warns trainer Dan Rockwell. “One toxic person has more power to do damage than several healthy people have to do good.” On his Leadership Freak  blog, he offers these palliatives:

  • Respect their power to destroy: A toxic person can pollute teams, sabotage projects, and hinder careers. That means, counter-intuitively, you must stay close to them, befriending them.
  • Move them to the sidelines as much as possible: You’ll want to keep toxic people busy with things on the periphery so they won’t damage others. Don’t put them on teams or assign them to projects that really matter.
  • Corral toxic people: If you’re saddled with several toxic people, cage their toxicity by putting them all on the same team. Or team them with somebody who compensates for their weaknesses.
  • Ignore them: Warn everyone of the dangers and try to ignore them. At most, listen to input from a toxic person but don’t give them decision-making power, except on insignificant matters.
  • Don’t fear them: Keep delivering strong results. Don’t let them be the reason you hold back. Spend most of your time with people who are engaged and committed.

2. The Power Of Advertising Why

If you want to waste a lot of money on advertising, target the right audience but then make an offer that fails to move them. “Targeting isn’t the answer. Having the right message is the answer,” says consultant Roy H. Williams, on his Monday Morning Memo.

Selling products and services, he says, is the selling of ideas. Most ads underperform because, in effect, they say, “Here’s what we do and here’s how we do it. You should buy it.” Instead, you need to engage the imagination, changing hearts and minds by explaining why you do what you do.

In a TED talk, author Simon Sinek elaborated: “If you don’t know why you do what you do, and people respond to why you do what you do, then how will you ever get people to vote for you, or buy something from you, or, more importantly, be loyal and want to be a part of what it is that you do? Again, the goal is not just to sell to people who need what you have; the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.”

3. Some Rules For Texting

As texting becomes more commonplace in the world of work, it’s important to know the unwritten rules.

Blogger Sammy Nickalls, on Lifehack.org, advises that when you don’t get an immediate reply, just wait for a while rather than texting continuously until the other person responds — he or she is probably busy and won’t appreciate it.

At your end, always respond, but keep the other person’s schedule in mind – so no texting at 4am. And don’t text a novel; instead, respond proportionately to what has been sent. If you have an impulse to move from texting to a phone call, remember that can be challenging for introverts. If they texted you, that may mean they don’t want to talk on the phone.

4. What To Do First After A Vacation

Returning from a vacation can be a moment of great leadership opportunity, says consultant Peter Bregman. But too many of us blow it as we hunker down during the first few days back, attacking our backlog of email.

The most important role of a leader is focus, not email. And on Harvard Business Review blogs, he argues that your first days back from vacation is a time when people will be more open to communications if they focus on priorities.

“You’ve gotten some space from the day to day. People haven’t heard from you in a while. Maybe they’ve been on vacation too. They’re waiting. They’re more influenceable than usual. Don’t squander this opportunity by trying to efficiently wrangle your own inbox and to-do list,” he writes.

Be clear on your focus:  Instead, figure out what is your top imperative for the organization at this juncture. What will make the most difference to company results? It’s probably more than one priority, but no more than five. Write them down for clarity, choosing your words carefully. Do they seem articulate, succinct, clear, and useful?

Once you have identified the few things that will pay the greatest dividends, you want to start communicating them – and keep communicating them. He says you should be spending 95 per cent of your energy moving them forward.

“Coming back from vacation isn’t simply about catching up. “It’s about getting ahead.”

5. Zingers

  • Plan like a GPS:  Most executives begin work on a presentation by copying slides from previous talks. Instead, presentations expert Dave Paradi says you should think like a GPS when planning a presentation: start by determining, specifically, where your audience needs to end up. Then consider where they are now, and choose the best route for the trip. Now you can select appropriate slides or make new ones. (Source: ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com)
  • Squeeze yourself for time:  Purposely allow less time than normal for projects you work on, suggests Inc. columnist Jeff Haden. It will encourage you to be more focused and motivated, your energy level will be higher, and you’ll get more done. (Source: Inc.com)
  • Pay for jargon:  Consultant Michael Kerr recommends creating a jargon jar, where everyone puts a quarter in for charity every time they use a certain buzzword or acronym. (Source: Humor At Work Newsletter)
  • Ask for help:  Quintig, a software company, has a five-minute rule: If you’re at your desk and can’t figure out whatever you are working on within five minutes, find somebody who can help you. They may have dealt with the issue before or at least can act as a sounding board for your further exploration. (Source: New York Times)
  • Check in regularly:  Hold a weekly one-on-one with people who report to you – or if that’s too often, every second week or once a month. Keep a folder for each individual and between meetings drop in items that need to be discussed. Don’t treat it as social time; develop an agenda, and make sure you hit the important points. (Source: The Organized Executive)

6. Q&A with 8020Info: Do Your Slides Pass the Glance Test?

Question:  Is there a checklist we could use to improve the quality of our slide presentations?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood responds:

If great slide presentations were easy, we wouldn’t see so many bad ones! That said,  our top gripe involves presenters who pack a slide with multiple lines of tiny text – if an audience needs that much detail, just give them your “book”. And if you are the one who needs the detail, put it in your speaking notes rather than on the slide.

One of the best experts on visual presentation is Nancy Duarte, author of Slide:ology and Resonate, and the designer behind Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. She recommends that you keep your visuals simple, stripped of extraneous words, graphics, animation and/or sounds.

Rather than distracting your audience with detailed, text-heavy slides, she recommends designing slides that pass the “glance test”: people should be able to comprehend each slide in about three seconds.

On the HBR Blog Network (Structure Your Presentation Like a Story), she offers five design principles to help you simplify and focus your slides:

  • Visual Flow: Compose your slide (in terms of content, colour, placement etc) in a way that guides the viewer’s attention through or to the important points.
  • Contrast: Designers use the effect of contrast to focus attention — contrast in size, shape, colour, and/or how visual elements are arranged on the slide.
  • White Space: A healthy amount of surrounding white space isolates an element and focuses the viewer’s attention. You don’t have to fill every bit of the slide.
  • Hierarchy:  Your viewer should be able to quickly identify a slide’s most important elements (for example, a key statistic presented in much larger type).
  • Unity:  Your presentation should look as though the same person created all your slides, and with a cohesive message in mind. Throughout your slide deck, use consistent type styles, colours, layout and treatment of images.

Less is often more, and if you clean up your presentation using this checklist, your audiences will really start to hear, and adopt, your ideas.

7. News From Our Water Cooler: Anchor Your Strategy With Action

This year we’ve noticed a number of clients shifting their strategic planning focus — instead of working up new strategies, they’re designing strong tactical objectives and action plans to deliver more effectively on their existing strategies.

It may signal a growing recognition that the failure of a strategy often occurs as organizations cross the “think-do” gap. Strategies aren’t translated into action. Or it may reflect the uneven impact of a fast-evolving world where tactics on the ground must be updated or changed faster than fundamental long-term strategic priorities.

In the end, a strategy is nothing without strong execution. A disconnect often results when managers fail to refocus their mindset after looking at the “what” of strategic thinking, which involves making choices and determining priorities or direction.

As the complement of strategy, tactical objectives and action plans must spell out “how” each strategy will be implemented and the specific outcomes to be achieved. Good objectives aren’t just mini-strategies but specific, concrete marching orders. Action plans define who will deliver what results by when, and frame how those responsible for implementation will go about it.

Action without a strategic focus just squanders your resources. But strategic goals that aren’t anchored by marching orders for their implementation — that’s little more than talk.

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

“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument an exchange of ignorance.”

— Robert Quillen