April 13, 2014


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Dealing With Employees Who Don’t Buy In

As organizations and teams change, some individuals will resist. “It doesn’t take a lot of people — sometimes only one — to derail an entire initiative,” Ottawa-based consultant Shaun Belding notes on his web site. He divides those resistors into four categories:

  • Pushcarts: They will come along for the ride but you have to push them every inch of the way.
  • Judges: They look for reasons to criticize new directions.
  • Anchors: They dig their heels in and won’t budge.
  • Saboteurs: They will actively try to prevent the change from happening.

Unfortunately, with those two last groups — the anchors and saboteurs — there is usually little you can do to bring them along. You need to set them free so they can find another organization where they will be more comfortable.

But with the first two groups, you can lead them on the journey. With pushcarts, fear is their prime issue. They are unsure of what is around the next corner, so they hesitate to take any forward motion that might make them vulnerable. You must therefore give clear, explicit direction — a vivid picture of what lies ahead and what life will be like.

To engage the judges, you must leverage their innate desire to think things through. Ask their opinions on the ultimate outcome of the initiative and the processes that are being put in place. They might never become champions, but can become positive influencers.

2. How To Embrace Feedback

Consultant Mary-Jo Asmus coaches leaders on asking for feedback. But she finds it difficult herself to listen to critical feedback. “I don’t really want to hear the bad things about myself. When it comes, I fool myself into thinking it might be better to ignore it. Or to blame the messenger. It hurts sometimes, and it isn’t always true (so I tell myself),” she writes on her blog.

If you share her hesitation, she recommends asking yourself these questions after feedback:

  • Is there any truth to this? We can choose our response to learning about our failings, and the best way is to allow critical comments to nudge you into thinking a little deeper about what is true in this aspect of your life.
  • Does it matter if someone else sees this darkness in me – and if so, why? Consider whether the behaviour cited matters to you and others. “I like to think that most of the time my less-than-ideal behaviours matter to me … but they might also matter because I’ve inadvertently hurt someone else,” she states.
  • Am I willing to take any responsibly for this? If you’re not inclined to take responsibility, she recommends further consideration of why the behaviour might matter. And don’t be surprised if the feedback reappears in future.
  • What do I do about it? This is the ultimate question if you take responsibility. When stuck, seek assistance from a friend, manager or coach.

3. Beware Of Cultural Fit

It’s common to hear the importance of hiring people for attitude and cultural fit. But consultant Ian Welsh warns on the Toolbox.com blog that much of the hiring based on cultural fit is subjective and based on who the manager would like to work with rather than skill level.

Moreover, the manager and the new hire may not work together very long – the manager could leave, be promoted or transferred, or be fired soon after. With change so persistent in organizations, the new employee may not fit well with the next boss.

Beyond that, he argues that “hiring for fit, based on personal preference, makes little sense.  The employer is a corporate entity. A corporate entity is not a person. The corporation does not care about the manager’s personal preferences.  The corporation does not care if he/she likes to be surrounded by cute young things or colleagues who share similar passions.  The organization needs the job to be done and in a sustainable way, regardless of incumbents.”

4. Do You Succumb To Stranger Danger?

As youngsters, we were taught to beware of strangers. And that may carry into our work life, to our detriment, says operations manager James Lawther. The result is we stay confined, within our teams or mixing only with people in our industry.

Instead, on his blog, he urges you to look outside your immediate circle for solutions to problems you face, since the solutions might be unique. Visit the other employers in town. Have coffee with somebody new. Find the world expert in your problem and email him or her. Meet some strangers.

5. Zingers

  • What-How-Do:  Trainer Dan Rockwell says a leader’s job is defining “what.” Subordinates’ job is finding “how.” (Source: Leadership Freak)
  • Got More Than A Minute?  A classic mistake in designing teams is having too many members who don’t have a clear commitment to making the team’s work a high priority. Bryant University Management Professor Michael Roberto says individuals often are serving on multiple committees or task forces at work, so any one activity is done in what they consider their spare time. But if too many members of the team fall into this category the group will flag. When selecting your team, make sure that you take this into account, especially with star performers who often are called upon too often. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)
  • Notable Details:  When you learn things about your colleagues — such as their favourite restaurant, the name of their new grandchild, or whether they eat vegetarian or gluten free — don’t assume you will remember. Write it down, since those details can pay off when you are dealing with them later or looking to offer them a reward for their work. (Source: OCTanner.com)
  • Stressing In/Out:  When men are stressed they become more self-centred and less able to read the emotions and intentions of others, new research shows. Under stress, women become less self-centered. (Source: PsyBlog)
  • Get What You Give:  The fastest way to gain respect, says coach Robin Sharma, is to give respect. (Source: The Wisdom Newsletter)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  What We Teach Our Summer Students

Question: We employ university students during the summer. What can we do to make their time with us more effective for us and them?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

The question brings to mind a summer when I was working for an auditing firm as a university student. One day the accountant who oversaw my work arrived late at the client’s office. I had already called in to our main office saying both of us were present — I had been schooled in lying my very first day at the firm — as the client would say all of us were there.

The accountant arrived at about 10:00 a.m. while I was buried in a novel, unable to start without him. We chatted for a few moments, primarily about his hangover, and I then opened one of the ledgers I had gathered to begin our work of checking entries to original sources. “Don’t do that!” he said. “What?” I asked. “Don’t open that book again today.” And he meant it: We did no work that day.

Look at what your practices teach:

So don’t assume that you will be showing young people how to apply themselves and learn proper work practices, which many organizations do these days, convinced that millennials have poor work practices. Look at your own work practices with a jaundiced eye.

There may be unethical activities, as well as inefficiencies or sloth. (I was startled and depressed at how much inefficiency I saw those summers, as we visited different companies and mingled with their employees.)  Students may also learn the opposite: Work imbalances that are in fact unhealthy, and not worth young people emulating.

I was never challenged in that summer job. Given the school and accounting tax schedules, I usually started a few days after tax season ended. Everyone in our firm had been on overdrive for two months, and now wanted a breather. I was full of eagerness and energy, and they deflated me. Don’t deflate your summer employees. Give them challenges, even some independence to run with the ball. Sure they may fumble or stumble. But they may also score a touchdown, or at least move you closer to the goal post.

Learn and help learn:

My second memory is of the joy I had supervising students later in my career. They can be a delight to work with — willing to learn and often with questions or instincts that challenged my own, sometimes for the better. So consider carefully who can benefit from that collaboration. Maybe rotate the students around, so many employees – including the summer ones – benefit from intermingling.

Be careful with judgements:

Finally, I remember my English teacher in high school, who told me never to take English again. It was a blow, leaving me confused, but I later became a newspaper writer, and her words seem silly today.

I can remember times when I worked with young people and, like my English teacher, could have fallen into the trap of issuing tough, bottom-line pronouncements that could have scarred them for life – and been dead wrong. I hope I never did that; I hope you don’t as well. Coach, intensively, but don’t judge harshly — they are young, and hopefully anything is possible, if you help them.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler:  Connecting with Arts and Culture

The role of arts, culture, and creativity and how they integrate with other sectors have been hot topics around our own water cooler lately.

Some of it has been sparked since our hometown, Kingston, placed in the Top 7 of the 2014 Intelligent Communities of the Year ranking. It is now putting its best foot forward in combining innovation, technology and creativity to compete for the top Intelligent Communities Forum award this June in New York. Last year’s winner was Taichung City (Taiwan) in a tradition that has recognized Stockholm, Eindhoven, Seoul, Glasgow and New York among others.

We’ve also been working with St. Lawrence College to advance its vision and planning for future academic arts programming at its Brockville campus, with a keen eye on the business of the arts and how best to prepare graduates for their future careers and workplaces.

At the same time, we have a new collaborative project engaging local arts associations, the city’s culture department, and groups representing business, economic development and sustainability. That assignment aims to bring business and the arts together — what can the cultural community learn about the art of doing business, and how can businesses incorporate the arts and creativity into their strategies and operations?

Perhaps you’re connecting with new sectors, types of expertise and approaches too. If we might be of some assistance, we would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries at (613) 542-8020, or by email ator by email at watercooler@8020info.com.



8. Closing Thought

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.”
— George Eliot