May 3, 2014


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. How Not To Choose A Manager

Managers matter. But often we mess up when promoting individuals to supervisory positions. On LinkedIn, industrial psychologist Marla Gottschalk warns against these mistakes:

  • Assuming they want the job: Often we don’t stop to ask if the individual truly wants to manage others at this stage in their career. This relates, of course, to your organizational culture, and whether managerial roles are considered more valuable than individual contributor spots and whether leadership experience is a requirement to progress.
  • Basing the decision on tenure alone:  Time doesn’t necessarily make a good manager. You need to identify current skills and potential for growth, such as whether they have the coaching and communication abilities the role will demand.
  • Overestimating the role of deep technical experience: The individual may have great technical skills but that isn’t necessarily what you need in a manager. “Although important, when ranking the ‘eight habits’ of highly effective managers, Google found that deep technical expertise came in dead last,” she writes.
  • Believing it’s the only path to compensate top talent: A management role should not be the only path to rewards in your organization. Consider rewarding them monetarily for other jobs, offering opportunities for intrapreneurship, broadening the scope of their current role, or addressing other aspects of work that have personal value to them.
  • Believing it’s the inevitable next step: This may only lead you to promote someone to a level at which they are not competent.

2. Welcoming New Workers

First impressions count. And for too many new employees, the first impression is of bureaucracy, filling out paperwork and being told about new procedures, rather than enjoying moments immersed in the new challenge. On her blog, consultant Julie Winkle Giulioni suggests you try these approaches used by the best organizations:

  • Ensure connections: A primary psychological need in the workplace is to engage in supportive relationships. “Engineer relationships consciously from the start to ensure that new employees have a ready-made network that will help them through the transition. This can be as simple as a lunch rotation and as choreographed as formal mentoring,” she advises. The specific method is less important than just ensuring connections are forged early.
  • Help others contribute quickly: She argues that protracted training programs, extensive shadowing, and extending the time before the new employee can feel productive is a recipe for disengagement. Instead, help the individual to quickly find a way to use their strengths and to feel competent and contributing. “Meaningful contribution builds a sense of commitment,” she notes.
  • Begin the career development conversation: Demonstrate your commitment to their growth and that will enhance their commitment to the organization. In effect, keep the initial employment interview going by continuing to learn about their strengths, interests, and goals.

“Onboarding for genuine, long-term results comes down to this: De-emphasize the process and paperwork that is normally the (less-than-warm) welcome to a new job. Focus on connections, contribution, and career development,” she concludes.

3.  Presentations May Not Be The Way To Communicate

Nancy Duarte is a presentations specialist, famous for developing Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth lecture, and on Harvard Business Review Blogs she observes that presentations can’t be the Swiss Army knife of communications. “Even the most carefully crafted talks won’t be effective if they’re not delivered in the right context. Sometimes, a conversation is much more appropriate and effective,” she writes.

But the best conversations happen after you have briefed everyone beforehand on the information you intend to discuss. She recommends sending out a visual document using presentation software but with far more information than the typical PowerPoint deck, so participants can delve into the material beforehand and be prepared for a rich discussion.

Build this document by dividing your message into key points and illustrating them with pictures or diagrams. She says studies show that concise text paired with visuals helps people understand and retain concepts more easily.

4.  The Power Of The First Offer

It’s usually considered unwise to make the first offer in negotiations. But Kellogg School of Management Professor Leigh Thompson says letting the other party go first can backfire.

First offers serve as an anchor, setting a powerful, psychological sense of where the final outcome may lie. They also influence the offers the other party makes. “If you open first, the other party’s counteroffer is influenced by your offer — not good for them,” she says on the Kellogg web site.

Don’t be too generous however in the first offer; leave manoeuvring room. And don’t make an outrageous bid, which can be chilling. Aim for near where you believe your opponent must settle rather than walk away.

5. Zingers

  • When to go slow:  Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster, says consultant Art Petty. Slow down when hiring key talent. Slow down to learn more about your clients and prospects. Slow down when figuring out a response to competitor moves. And slow down when restructuring your team or organization. (Source: ArtPetty.com)
  • Beware of going sideways:  Horizontal swiping may seem natural on a tablet but beware of applying it to your web site. “Horizontal scrolling on the desktop is one of the few interactions that consistently generate negative responses from users,” observes user experience specialist Katie Sherwin. And always let people know when scrolling how much content is left. (Source: Nielsen Norman Group)
  • Strategy trumps copy:  Advertising wizard Roy H. Wilson says the impact of advertising is 80% strategy and 20% copy. That makes it nearly impossible for good copy to compensate for weak strategy. (Source: Monday Morning Memo)
  • Don’t wait to the end:  Here’s a lesson from a summer intern who told his father after his last day at work that he wished every day had been like his last. Why? Because they told him how much they liked him working there.  Try to recognize each employee once a week – rather than on their last day. (Source: OCTanner.com)
  • Do it, or not:  Research shows that giving people the option of doing nothing will actually make them more persistent – and likely to achieve their goals. Choosing to do something, rather than nothing, allows them to learn about their true preferences and reinforces commitment. So whether in selling or management, suggest the individual can choose not to take the route you are proposing and you may increase their chances of success. (Source: Knowledge@Wharton)

6. Q&A With 8020Info:  Cues For Revising Your Mission:

Question:  Is it time to change our mission statement?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood replies:

You should ask this question whenever you start a cycle of strategic planning. What is your fundamental purpose or mission?  Planning teams often answer that question quickly, confirming the current mission statement with a quick check-off since core purpose tends to be stable over time.

But there are turning points when you need to review your purpose as an organization or team. The forces for change in your mission may be internal or external; here are some signs that it may be time to do a close review:

  • A change in “why”:  Perhaps your original purpose has lost its relevance, eclipsed by changes in your market, client group, technology or service model. Or perhaps a more pressing mission has emerged as an opportunity.
  • A change in “what”:  Emerging trends may force you to change how you make a difference in the world (for example, libraries once were primarily lenders of books, but have reinterpreted their core purpose as they adapt to the impact of digital technologies, community spaces and various kinds of literacy).
  • A change in “who”:  A defining part of your mission involves who you serve, and when that changes, your purpose will probably evolve in tandem. (We recall a healthcare network’s spirited debate to determine whether their purpose was to serve patients directly, or indirectly through the clinicians treating them).
  • A change in “where”:  Your mission may be affected by where you serve customers or clients, whether you redefine geography (e.g. expanded scale or reduced service area) or model (operating from centralized or distributed locations, online/virtual or face-to-face).
  • A change in resources:  You may be persuaded to refocus your mission by declining markets or funding cuts, new grant programs or business opportunities, recruitment success or a chronic lack of crucial expertise.
  • A change in internal culture: When an inspiring founder retires or there’s substantial turnover on a team bringing in new values, passions and motivations, it may be time to ask whether the old mission statement reflects the fresh, driving sense of purpose within the new culture.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler:  Examples Enrich Strategy

This past week we were working with a group of senior leaders striving for clarity on how best to tell their community’s story. The main elements of the high-level narrative were clear, but not how they might be delivered through stories.

Content strategist Tamsen Webster says “stories should hang on the brand, like hangers in a closet”. If “the Canadian Dream” is our country’s narrative, then stories of immigration, building the railroad, Sir John A. Macdonald/confederation, and the Montreal Canadiens (or Maple Leafs) are the stories that help illustrate it.

In this case, we prepared more than 20 real examples — just headlines and lead paragraphs — and asked participants to rate each one anonymously using “clicker” response technology. The group voted on whether they felt each story was exemplary at defining the community brand, strongly supported the narrative, was just another story, or should not be promoted at all.

It quickly became clear that the best stories reflected just four main brand themes; and more importantly, the exercise clarified the mechanics of how specific, carefully selected stories would bring high-level concepts to life in every day practice. Sometimes working up “from the bottom” connects with top-down thinking to develop a rich understanding of a strategy, without slipping into tactics – all in an engaging exercise!

Perhaps you face similar challenges in translating high-level strategies and concepts into effective, concrete direction for action. 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 at watercooler@8020info.com.

8. Closing Thought

“I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”
— Winston Churchill