March 2, 2014


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. How To Manage Someone You Don’t Like

You can’t like everyone. And sometimes the person you don’t like is a subordinate. Moreover, the problem might not be a performance issue – which has a clear, if not always easy path to follow – but an interpersonal matter.

In Harvard Business Review Blogs contributing editor Amy Gallo canvasses some experts and starts with a warning from Stanford University Professor Robert Sutton to not assume it’s a bad thing: “You need people who have different points of view and aren’t afraid to argue. They are the kind of people who stop the organization from doing stupid things.”

Beyond that, the issue may be you, advises organizational psychologist Ben Dattner. Consider whether the individual may simply be reminding you of someone you don’t like, such as an unkind aunt. Or perhaps they remind you of your own failings – you share the same personality or behavioural characteristics. “They didn’t create the button, they’re just pushing it,” said Dattner.

After those considerations, put on a good face. The person will be attuned to your attitudes towards them, and being positive is important. Keep your bias out of your reviews of the individual’s work. And spend more time together, which may ease the tensions. Consider assigning the individual to your toughest project, or asking him to serve as your right-hand person on an important initiative. “Over time, if you work together closely you may come to appreciate them,” Sutton said.

Above all, keep an open mind.

2. How Not To End A Meeting

You can run an excellent meeting and still blow it at the end, warns Vancouver consultant Bruna Martinuzzi. On the Open Forum blog, she shares these failings:

  • Not paying attention to the “meeting after the meeting”: Often people will gather after the meeting to discuss what happened, and a dissenter who held back during the original session can ruin productivity by railing against the key decision. She suggests ending the meeting with a closing round to give everyone a chance to comment on the meeting in the open since that might unveil issues you can address then to prevent them surfacing subterraneously later.
  • Not delegating responsibility and following up: Everything can fizzle if you don’t assign clear accountability: who will do what on any action items. And you also need a system to follow up on those items, making sure people do what they say they will. She recommends Outlook’s Meeting Workplace Site to track tasks.
  • Taking too long to share notes after the meeting: The session’s notes are critical to gaining momentum afterwards and not veering off track. But too often they arrive late, reminders of something in the distant past that no longer seems vital. Again she has a tool to help: Minutes.io.
  • Not evaluating the meeting: “You show respect for people’s time and efforts when you take a moment at the end of each meeting to check in on how people feel about the meeting,” she says.

3. The Three Critical Tasks Of A Leader

On his blog, executive coach Ed Batista boils the work of a leader down to three essential tasks:

  • Set priorities: To avoid priorities being set by circumstance, the almighty inbox, or other people, leaders must determine and share priorities with their subordinates.
  • Focus the team’s attention: He calls focused attention a leader’s most important resource, not only because it’s powerful but also because it’s finite – attention is neurologically limited, even when we work longer and harder. Leaders must establish boundaries to protect their subordinates’ attention, developing habits to help them maintain focus, and help them to switch off the false alarms – digital and emotional – that constantly interrupt throughout the day.
  • Manage their emotions: Leaders must manage – but not suppress – the emotions of followers. Emotions are essential to effective influencing and decision-making, he notes, and must be harnessed to serve our needs. But they can also hijack us. So manage emotions – and not just the big, dramatic ones but the small, subtle emotions than can draw people off course.

4. The Three Mistakes Marketers Make

Entrepreneur Seth Godin on his blog highlights three mistakes that marketers make:

  • Assuming people are rational.
  • Assuming people are eager for change.
  • Assuming that once someone knows things the way you know them, they will choose what you choose.

5. Zingers

  • Audiences of one: Who was the better communicator: John F. Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson? If you picked the charismatic, eloquent speechmaker Kennedy, consultant Randy Mayeux says you’re wrong, arguing Johnson gave his “speeches” one at a time, highly effectively, on the telephone with others whose help he needed: “He cultivated relationships, he gave voice to his arguments, he appealed, he cajoled, he arm-twisted.  One person at a time, phone call after phone call.” (Source: First Friday Book Synopsis
  • Seize the lead:Leadership guru Tom Peters says each day offers up on a silver platter a dozen leadership opportunities, regardless of your age, experience, or rank. So grab one. (Source: Tom Peters.com)
  • Selling the boss: If you’re trying to persuade your boss to say yes to something, HR consultant Alison Green advises you to get the timing right (don’t ask for more resources during cost-cutting, for example), show you have thought through the pros and cons, pre-emptively offer solutions to the downsides, and ask for an experiment, not a lifetime commitment. (Source: USNews.net)
  • Relax–Aim–Decide: Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino says her research on anxiety and decision-making suggests you should refrain from making major decisions until you are in a relaxed state and can clearly reflect on the matter at hand. Also, like a golfer, rather than obsessing on the endless details of the perfect shot focus instead on the more important outcome: Where you want the shot to land. (Source: Harvard Business Review Blogs)
  • Assessing leaders:  Veteran executive Eric Jacobson suggests asking job candidates for leadership roles: “What personal qualities define you as a leader?  Describe a situation when these qualities helped you lead others.” (Source: Eric Jacobson On Management)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Timing Your Marketing

Question:  Our organization is always on the alert for new ideas in marketing. Anything to suggest?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

I am increasingly aware of the importance of time in our lives. We all seem to be frantic about time and making proper use of it as we face more and more demands. But marketers often don’t talk much about time. They obsess over demographics,  psychographics, and personas. But taking time to think about time… that’s rarely on the agenda.

A few years ago John Rosen and AnnaMaria Turano wrote a book Stopwatch Marketing that increasingly comes back to me as I think about marketing challenges.

They argued that consumers have an internal stopwatch that is ticking when they consider your products or services. In some cases, the purchase decision may be quick, as when a tire blows and a replacement is needed. In others it may be slow and lengthy, as when a high school student and his or her parents are contemplating which university the student should attend.

Your challenge is to understand the prime stopwatch used by your customers, and then move to manage it, by timing your approach to the customer accordingly and even nudging the consumer to change his or her pattern in beneficial ways for your firm.

And it isn’t easy, since marketers have to enter the consciousness of the customer at precisely the right time. “They have to make sure that they can deliver what their customers want before those customers glance at their metaphorical watches and decide either not to buy or – even worse – leave for another, competing, line. They have to time their selling messages to be no longer than the amount of time that buyers have allocated for hearing them,” the authors declared.

Their focus was on the consumer arena. But it goes well beyond that. In every field, in every product or service, a stopwatch is ticking as people consider your wares. Are you aware of that stopwatch and how it will influence the buying decision? Do you make things easier for your buyers, easing the burden of time on them, or do you make it worse?

How much time do people require to fully utilize your product or service? In the 1980s, William Thorsell, editor of the Globe and Mail, identified that his newspaper was more demanding of readers’ time than their money and had to be acutely conscious of that. If you’re demanding too much time, can you improve the rewards as Thorsell aimed to do or shorten that time? Can your product or service save people time? If so, are you promoting that fact?

You’re already thinking about time. Now think about how it applies to your marketing.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  What is an Entrepreneur?

We’ve been working on a couple of economic development projects lately, and wistful complaints have surfaced about “entrepreneur” having lost its meaning. They reflect a concern that the term has been misappropriated for any type of work involving initiative, whether it involves game-changing innovation or simply adaptive business as usual. It has also escaped its traditional domain in the private sector and is blithely used in social service, cultural and some government organizations.

Recently a Feb. 16th column in The Economist raises the same question. 

One view sees “entrepreneurs” as people who run their own companies, the self-employed, or small-business people. They’re the type we cherish and welcome as good neighbours and community stalwarts. Three-quarters of people who start companies say that they want to keep their companies small enough to manage themselves.

Another view sees entrepreneurs as heroes — innovators who first come up with paradigm-changing ideas and then embody those ideas in high-growth companies. They upset and disorganize the existing way of doing things. In this harder, more ambitious version of entrepreneurship, other businesses are often casualties as entrepreneurs turn their small start-ups into big companies. Think of the impact of an Amazon or Walmart on many small mom-and-pop businesses.

Both types of entrepreneurship also exist in the public sector, where small community-based agencies quietly and creatively seek to meet needs on a smaller scale, while others are leading innovations that redesign the fundamental shape of our social, health, culture, research and education systems.

Each of these types of “entrepreneurship” are valuable to our communities, but they each have their own dynamics and rules for success. If your team is wrestling with a confusion in the language, take care to sort out what you mean — and ensure it doesn’t cloud your strategic thinking.


8020Info helps teams develop effective strategic plans, research and marketing communications, and implement them with success. 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

“A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.”
— Jean de la Fontaine