November 9, 2014



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1.  Adopting A Growth Rather Than Fixed Mindset

For the past four decades, the past four decades, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck has been studying the power of a growth mindset for individuals instead of a fixed mindset.

Individuals with a growth mindset enjoy challenges, strive to learn, and are always interested in developing new skills. Those with a fixed mindset limit themselves, believing their abilities and skills are innate and can’t be significantly enhanced. Her studies show a great advantage for individuals with a growth mindset.

Now, Harvard Business Review reports, she has extended her work directly to organizations. Along with three colleagues, she surveyed employees at seven Fortune 1000 companies and found that in most there was a consensus on the organizational mindset – so it’s likely that there are growth- and fixed-mindset companies.

  • Fixed Profile: At fixed-mindset organizations, it appeared just a small handful of ‘stars’ were highly valued. “The employees who reported this were less committed than employees at growth-mindset companies and didn’t think the company had their back. They worried about failing and so pursued fewer innovative projects. They regularly kept secrets, cut corners, and cheated to try to get ahead,” the magazine says.
  •  Growth Profile: “Supervisors in growth-mindset companies expressed significantly more positive views about their employees than supervisors in fixed-mindset companies, rating them as more innovative, collaborative, and committed to learning and growing.”

The big question, of course, is does that mindset translate to the bottom line, the focus of the next stage of her research. But at a minimum, growth-mindset firms have happier employees and a more innovative, risk-taking culture.

2.  Tips For Delivering Excellent Customer Service

Handling complaints starts with respectful silence. “Remaining silent while your customers are talking is a basic courtesy, and nodding tells them you’re listening and understanding what you hear. An occasional ‘uh huh’ or ‘I see’ tells them you’re still listening without interrupting,” veteran executive Eric Jacobson writes on his blog, using ideas from Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service by Ann Thomas and Jill Applegate.

You can supplement that with a few soothing phrases, like “thanks for your patience” to defuse frustration. Beyond words, you want your customers to feel seen. Making eye contact acknowledges you are viewing the customer as an individual. Of course, too much eye contact can be uncomfortable, so be guided by their own behaviour, giving as much eye contact as you get.

Never deny a customer’s problem. It may not seem like a problem to you but if the customer believes there is an issue, you must accept that verdict. “You can’t wish a problem away because it is something no reasonable person would be upset about, because it’s not your fault, or even because the customer made a mistake,” he warns.

Fix the person before the problem, dealing with the emotional reaction, be it rage or an eerie calm. Probe for information. And – this is unusual – he suggests asking the customer for problem-solving help. That will generate solutions which might rebuild the relationship and gives them a sense your organization is interested in satisfying their needs.

 3.  Add Fun (But Not Fluff) To Your Meetings

A lot of managers try to add some fun to their meetings. And that’s a good idea, says consultant Wayne Turmel, as long as you steer clear of fluff.

Fun is taking a moment to ask colleagues what they did on the weekend. It builds bonds to allow an employee to talk about being sleep-deprived because of a new baby or to share the joy in another employee’s successful marathon run on Saturday.

But fluff is creating a rule that everyone at every meeting must relate something funny that happened on the weekend or take part in an ice-breaker exercise that has no bearing on your work.

“Fun is allowing people to make jokes or digress for short periods of time in the interest of helping people feel relaxed and comfortable with each other,” he writes on Management-Issues.com. “Fluff is letting those discussions drag on and eat up precious time, or not prioritizing those discussions so that truly critical work gets done in the time allotted.”

Seek fun. Shun fluff.

 4.  Former CEOs Behaving Badly

If one of the most important challenges for a CEO is finding a proper successor, often the next biggest challenge is supporting the successor rather than getting in the way.

Juleen Veneziano is director of Research and Development at RHR International LLP. On the consulting firm’s blog she suggests that if you’re on a board overseeing a transition, watch for these warning indicators that the ex-CEO is not “letting go”:

  • being too involved in business and key decisions;
  • exerting undue influence on the board behind the scenes;
  • opinions of the former CEO continuing to outweigh those of the incumbent.

All can point to a disastrous transition in the making.

 5.  Zingers

  • Good managers delegate. But leadership development expert Dan McCarthy says they never should delegate vision, hiring decisions, onboarding of the new employee, discipline, praise and recognition, and leading transformational change. (Source: About.com)
  • Psychopaths exist. They might even be applying for work in your organization, and be attractive because they can seem so smooth. Indeed, often their references are dazzling because they can charm people. Writer Kathryn Tuggle’s interviews suggest you should be wary of someone who has a pattern of job hopping, with no respect for the investment companies made in them. Also, if a candidate can’t stop talking about themselves be careful – you may have a narcissist on your hands. (Source: Mainstreet.com)
  • Take a break with values: Red Door Interactive, a San Diego company, takes a break at 3:30pm every Wednesday to celebrate an employee who exemplifies one of their five core values. The employee shares a story that has inspired them in a ritual that combines celebration and reaffirmation of the desired corporate culture. (Source: Humor At Work Newsletter)
  • Keep up with pay equity: Have you given your pay equity plan all the attention it deserves over the past few years? Many employers created or negotiated their pay equity plan in the early 1990s when the legislation was new and may not have treated it as a priority since. But the law requires that pay equity be maintained once it has been established. Vanishing male comparators, changes in gender predominance and new job classes are but a few of the many incidents that may have turned your perfect plan into what could be a significant financial liability. (Source: Fasken Martineau)
  • Work from a script: Consultant Randy Mayeux notes that The Gettysburg Address, John Kennedy’s Inaugural speech, and Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream spellbinder were all scripted. He recommends speaking from a manuscript —writing the presentation out word for word and going over it a number of times— to prevent rambling and make sure your ideas flow smoothly. (Source: First Friday Book Synopsis)

 6.  Q&A with 8020Info:  When Consensus Is (Too) Easy

Question: Our management team easily comes to consensus. But I’m concerned it may be a false consensus, and quick, because people are afraid to disagree with one another. What shall I do?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

That’s an astute, if obviously troubling, observation. And the place to start may be with you, not the group: Is it likely that you are too overpowering in discussion and people don’t want to disagree with what they assume you want? If so, you may have to temper your approach and even accept losing a few “votes,” agreeing to support another viewpoint. Beyond that:

  • Signal: Presumably you tried to hire capable people who are clear, independent thinkers. If so, perhaps you need to signal occasionally that groupthink is not desired. Legendary GM CEO Alfred Sloan would postpone discussion for a week when everyone quickly agreed, since that was evidence they hadn’t properly thought out the issue.
  • Invite all: Going around the room and asking for everyone’s opinion individually may also be helpful. Sometimes consensus merely seems apparent when only a few people have spoken, and this may tease out differing thoughts.
  • Use grades: Asking team members to grade their support of a proposal on some scale may also allow them to indicate their support for the option is tepid. Sure, everyone may agree, but everyone rating it as an unenthusiastic three out of ten should open up deeper discussion because you are on precarious footing.
  • Consider pros and cons: Invite debate more formally by asking one person to present the case for the proposal and one to offer the case against. That may make voicing opposition more acceptable, and certainly should get a wider range of thoughts on the table.
  • Talk one-on-one: On major issues, you may want to talk individually with people beforehand. Indicate some indecision, and see whether that invites unexpected comments. Listen, rather than debate.

Groupthink can be the source of major decision-making errors. You are right to be worried. Perhaps some of these ideas can stir up more discussion.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler:  Micro-habits Add Up To Big Decisions

We spend our days helping teams and boards to research, develop, confirm and then communicate their strategic plans. These activities often focus on making “big” decisions.

But we remain mindful of some advice from David Freemantle, author of How To Choose: many major choices tend to flow automatically from daily microbehaviours, which over time have settled into unconscious habits, standard perspectives and routine ways of deciding big issues. That’s why some strategic decisions seem self-evident — from an autopilot point of view.

Freemantle offers a number of practical suggestions to challenge your ingrained, automatic mindset:

  • Assumptions: How might tacit assumptions bias your decision-making towards a particular type of strategic choice? Situations and processes can change.
  • Emotions: How do you typically choose to respond to successes or failures? How do you manage anger, pride or joy? Feeling relief, being inspired or challenged?
  • Relationships: How do you tend to initiate and cultivate relationships? Are they strong or weak? How do you invest in or sustain them? Which ones are priorities? Our relationship habits tend to frame our options and their potential for success.
  • Values: How do you interpret and apply your values in daily practice? Do they enliven the values you have declared as organizational priorities? What are your hallway maxims (e.g. performance before publicity; the customer is always right; never stop learning; face-to-face is better than email, and so on)?
  • What you choose to see in people: As the saying goes: “When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are the pockets.”
  • Stimulus: How do you choose to stimulate your own thinking as well as help your team break out of boredom and automatic mental routines?

All the daily choices we make, reflected in real culture, unwittingly roll up to determine our approach to making “big” decisions.

 Closing Thought

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
— Lady Dorothy Nevill