February 8, 2014


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. When To Pause For Effectiveness

In our go-go-go world, pausing seems counterproductive. But Karin Hurt, an executive with a Fortune 15 company, lists the following instances when you should take a powerful pause:

  • Compliments: If someone gives you a compliment, pause to take it in. “Look them back in the eye, with a sincere thank you.  Pause amplifies appreciation,” she writes in her LetsGrowLeaders blog.
  • Sad news: When you encounter sad news, it can be shocking and certainly difficult to know what to say. Give your emotions time to adjust before speaking.
  • Your anger: As kids, we were told to take a time out when we got angry. That’s still solid advice. Think about what you are intending to say. If you really must say it, there will still be time. But after a breather you will likely find better words.
  • Someone else’s anger: You’re hearing wild accusations, exaggeration of facts, and misrepresented viewpoints. The temptation is to respond immediately, to clear everything up. Better to take a pause, which might induce them to stop and allow everything to be recalibrated. “They may even breathe in the process,” she says.
  • Ideas: If it’s your idea, remember it will still be there after people have a chance to talk. In fact, it might even be better if you build on what others say. If it’s their idea, let them keep going, building on their thinking, while you encourage with a nod or smile.

2. Meeting The Mobile Marketing Challenge

In a world of tablets and smartphones, common wisdom is that companies, social agencies and governments have to adjust their promotional email approaches for smaller screens.  Consultant Anthony Schneider suggests on RainToday.com that, to be successful, you need to ignore some mobile email myths:

  • Myth 1 – Smartphone penetration has peaked: In fact, more and more of us are getting smartphones, as sales continue to gallop ahead.
  • Myth 2 – I don’t need to format emails for mobile users: That’s dead wrong. Emails formatted for a 13-inch screen, let alone a bigger one, don’t render properly on a palm-sized device. In a world where mobile and social media are watchwords, emails must respond, and marketers must accept the challenge.
  • Myth 3 – Only teenagers read email on mobile devices: “Yeah, teenagers and around 500 million people around the world,” he writes sardonically. One study showed that 48 per cent of all email is opened on a mobile device and, perhaps more significantly, 31 per cent of all commercial email.
  • Myth 4 – Mobile is only for big company emails: Big corporations may have got there first, but small operations are starting to see and will continue to see their competitors focusing on mobile.
  • Myth 5 – I only have to worry about iPhone users: Android is popular as well, used by 52% of American smartphone subscribers. A study found that iPhone and Android account for about 93% of page views in the U.S. So those two platforms are your targets.

3. “Tell Me About The Last Person You Fired”

It’s a jarring interview question: “Tell me about the last person you fired.” But CEO Marc Barros says it’s an interview question that reveals whether the candidate is a leader. 

If the individual says he hasn’t fired anybody, be wary. You can’t build a great team without occasionally tweaking or rebuilding it. Every leader makes mistakes, including in hiring, and must be willing to admit and fix them.

If the candidate did fire someone, ask how it happened. “As the story unfolds you will learn something key: how well he or she communicates. If he says the candidate was surprised, find out why. More likely than not, he did a poor job of communicating where the employee stood,” he writes on Inc.com.

Tease out whether your candidate actively coached the person who was failing (and then fired). Find out why the person didn’t work out – were mistakes made in hiring? Also, ask what the candidate did after the firing, to gauge their empathy – great leaders try to help the terminated employee afterward. 

4. Understand vs. Like

Do your subordinates like your decisions? Do they understand your decisions?

Bryant University Professor Michael Roberto, on his blog, says nearly everyone will consider the first question. But it’s key that you ask them to reflect on the second question. 

Team members may not like your decisions, but you have failed if they don’t understand the decisions. So it’s important to get shared understanding – and to have an open discussion with your team, so they realize that unanimous approval of a decision is unlikely, but shared understanding critical.

5. Zingers

  • Busy is no excuse:  Drop the word busy from your vocabulary. Consultant Kevin Eikenberry says we’re overeager to say how busy we are, but in effect we’re just giving ourselves an excuse to justify why we can’t do something. Worse, when we use it with others, they empathize and so we assume they are agreeing with our “woe is me excuse” but in fact we are telling them we can’t help them because other things are more important to us.
    Kevin Eikenberry’s Blog)
  • Pass your homework quiz:  Consultant Russell Bishop suggests that, when sending out materials prior to a meeting, you should tell participants they will be quizzed on their knowledge of the material just before the session starts — and if they don’t pass, they cannot speak at the meeting.
    The Organized Executive Blog)
  • Have three in your circle: Trainer Dan Rockwell says you need three key people in your inner circle: A visionary who is never satisfied, a tender-heart who nurtures people, and a doer who is fanatical about execution.
    Leadership Freak)
  • Make bigger promises: A $75 bottle of wine tastes better than a $14 bottle of wine, even if you switch the wine, observes marketing guru Seth Godin. The promise implied in the price will change how the product is experienced. We’re afraid of making big promises, however, as we’re afraid we might disappoint. Still, since people have better experiences when they expect to have a better experience, holding back on your promise deprives your clients of something valuable.
    Seth’s Blog)
  • Build winning teams:  Bum Phillips called another legendary football coach, Don Shula, the best he had seen, saying something like:  “He can take his guys and beat yours, and then take your guys and beat his.” That reasoning has stuck as a definition of leadership for Jeff Smulyan, chairman of Emmis Communications — a reminder that leadership is about getting the most out of your people and building a team that wins.
    Indianapolis Star)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Planning When You Can’t Predict

Question:  We’ve been trying to make plans for the year ahead, but get stuck in a couple key areas where we can’t predict what the future will bring. What can we do?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood replies:

We are always planning under some degree of uncertainty, but organizations can get stuck when a critical decision depends on a particularly unpredictable factor. Risk of a significant operational failure is a common concern, but you might also have to guess how clients/customers will respond to something new, how best to plan for a project that hinges on an external approval, or prepare for unexpected staff turnover/leadership succession.

Unpredictability may fog the landscape for decision-making, but you can still make plans. Here are some options to consider:

  • Wait:  Plan for some “biding time” — perhaps set aside a calculated period of time when you will simply stay your current course and use the time to build your capacity to take action when the way forward becomes clear.
  • Study: Undertake some research that will help you better understand the probability and nature of future developments and their associated risks.
  • Imagine: Work up scenarios to consider a range of possible events and explore their implications: you may find a strong strategy that works well across all potential situations. Scenarios often help you identify signals that will indicate whether the future is unfolding one way or another — then plan accordingly.
  • Build adaptive capacity: As a public sector client said recently in a planning session, “there’s no telling what the Ministry will decide… all we can do is prepare our organization to be as flexible as possible”.
  • Conditional strategies:  Another approach is to make certain plans conditional on an outcome: we’ll keep a reserve in the budget until we get a funding decision; we’ll keep an eye out for good talent until we know when the manager has decided to retire; we’ll pursue an active support program until the new technology becomes available and then buy a new system.
  • Limit the downside:  In many cases, your concern is about the potential loss or a failure, not the potential gain. You might look at ways to spread the risk or limit potential damage from a worst-case situation (like arranging for insurance against an unlikely but possible disaster). The upside will usually look after itself.
  • And if all else fails:  Consider the advice that when you can’t guess the future but must make a decision, focus on “just doing the next right thing”.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Is It A Season of Symposia?

This year it seems many of our clients are convening symposia-style, discussion-focused gatherings — bringing together a diverse range of participants around some common concern or purpose to learn from each other, exchange perspectives, develop relationships and establish consensus on a collaborative way forward.

Subjects have been varied: exploring improvements in how primary care providers work with hospitals and home care; options to manage storm water and nutrient run-off; innovation to provide public information services in a new communications environment; ways to better serve developmentally disabled individuals with complex/challenging behaviours; or discovering how community social programs and policies might be more efficiently and effectively coordinated.

Such events can drag on unless the day is designed for people — human beings who need interaction, inspiration, changes of pace, surprises, and ways to connect. They also need framing and structure for their day’s activities, opportunities to both learn and teach/share, a sense of identification with the cause, and a feeling that they have each been a player in a significant event.

It’s a challenge that goes well beyond forming tables of 10 and equipping them with markers and a flipchart for the day.

Take the time to consider the precise needs of your participants and all the tools available to meet them – perhaps a stimulating panel discussion or powerful success stories presented in short vignettes, interactive consensus “voting” or groups having fun “pitching” pros and cons, documentation using social media or participants acting as “buzz collectors”, or making important media announcements and booking TED-style presenters — match your tools and approach with their needs, and you’ll design their best day ever.

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

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

— Marthe Troly-Curtin