vol-14-no-7-may-26-2014 ‎

May 24, 2014


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. How To Improve Workplace Teams

Too many work teams struggle, not attaining the level of productivity that might be expected given their prevalence and the current mythology about teams. In his Management Excellence blog, consultant Art Petty suggests these four reasons:

  • We’re naïve: We ignore the reality that groups of otherwise competent professionals don’t necessarily meld together and produce collectively. We believe 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 5 when it comes to teams, but that doesn’t happen automatically.
  • We don’t teach people how to work in groups: Working successfully in groups is a learned skill. It’s different from other skills required for leadership success, and must be taught.
  • We don’t coach our teams: We leave teams to their own travails, rather than providing coaching support.
  • We don’t walk the talk when it comes to teaming: We may wax eloquent about teams but, as well as not teaching the behaviours that make teams successful, we also don’t reward members for their team work.

He asks you to accept that cultivating high-performance teams is hard work. Extend professional development efforts in your organization to include training on the team aspect of work. Define behaviours that are critical for success, and openly discuss and debate those approaches with any new team you form.

“Codify these behaviours and strive to keep them visible in the process of group work. Individual team members must understand they are accountable to supporting and exhibiting the behaviours spelled out in the values,” he advises.

2.  Adopting Positive Words for Customers

When a customer opens an interaction with “Hi, how are you?” what is your typical response? If you’re like most people, you likely to default to something like, “I’m OK,” or “I’m fine.”

But that’s not good enough, Ottawa consultant Shaun Belding writes in his blog.  He asks you, instead, to try this experiment for a day: Use more positive phrasing in response to such seemingly innocuous questions. Instead of OK, try answering that you’re “great,” or “excellent,” or “terrific,” or “wonderful.”

“Watch how differently people respond to you. They will smile, raise their eyebrows a little, and you’ll feel a little more energy in them,” he notes.

And if somebody responds, tongue in cheek, “what pills are you on?” that’s fine. It indicates they are seeing a positive change. It shows that this simple language tweak can have a dramatic difference.

At the same time, you also have to be aware of a negative phrase that can spring out of you in customer interactions: “Like I told you before.” He says that’s equivalent to saying “idiot” out loud – certainly it’s what the customer hears.

“This phrase serves absolutely no purpose other than to make you feel a little superior to your stupid customer. Don’t ever say this  — unless, of course, you’re trying to provoke a fight,” he warns.

3.  It Takes Commitment to Win

The key to achieving any goal, according to Boise State University’s Heidi Reeder, is more than willpower, self-discipline, motivation, or determination. It’s commitment.

“While willpower refers to practising self-control in the moment, commitment consists of being psychologically attached to your goal and intending to stay with it over the long haul. When you are truly committed, you stick with your goal even when you fail and have to go back to ‘square one,’” she writes in Psychology Today.

Willpower and commitment actually work together. For example, willpower gets you to the gym during the first week or month of a physical exercise effort while commitment allows you to sustain your effort to integrate exercise into your life.

In her book Commit To Win, she says commitment is a product of four variables:

  • Treasures: The benefits we get from working toward a goal.
  • Troubles: The difficulties we have to deal with.
  • Contributions: The time, money, and effort we invest.
  • Choices: The number of good alternatives we have.

4. Interview Twist: Let Them Drive You Around Town

In interviews, Ron Kaplan, CEO of Trex, a manufacturer of outdoor decks, will often ask candidates to talk about their family, to see what enthusiasm or sense of happiness is displayed, and to reflect upon a difficult time in their career.

But his most unusual gambit is to ask someone who has come from a different city whether they want to go out for lunch. Then he hands them his car keys and watches their reaction to driving in a strange city.

“I’ll be giving them directions and asking them questions while we’re driving to see if they can multitask. Some people can handle it with aplomb, and others can’t,” he says in The New York Times.

It all helps him to make the most important judgment on a candidate: Their character.

5. Zingers

  • I see what you mean:  Elevator pitches should be brief and memorable. So why not draw them? Deborah Mills-Scofield, a mentor to start-ups, and Liza Donnelly, a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker, say the cartoons will force you to distil your value proposition to its simple essence and offer a powerful message. (Source: Harvard Business Review Blogs)
  • Taking the easy way out?  Bryant University Management Professor Michael Roberto says recent research on umpires shows that, with two strikes against the batter, they tend to shrink the strike zone in their mind so it is harder for a third strike to be called; they also do the reverse, increasing the strike zone when there are three balls and another bad pitch would lead to a walk. The managerial lesson he draws: Decision-makers in high-stakes situations may be biased toward “punting” — taking the path of least resistance rather than triggering more substantial consequences. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)
  • Track what they do:  Entrepreneur Seth Godin says there are two ways to listen. One is to listen to what people say. But a more effective way is to listen to what they do. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Resign… sort of:  Wellness coach Louise Thompson suggests resigning from your job without really resigning. Resign from the role of keeping everyone happy, always staying late, being overwhelmed by saying “yes” too much, never taking a lunch break, trying to complete everything perfectly, and worrying about work outside of the work hours. (Source: Positive Balance)
  • There’s more to the story:  In presentations, stories help. Anecdotes usually don’t. Presentations coach Nick Morgan says stories have a hero (not you!), conflict, struggle, difficulties, trouble and failures, a low point, a climax, and a resolution. Anecdotes, on the other hand, essentially say something happened and that’s not interesting unless it pertains to your audience’s life right now. (Source: Public Words)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Intelligent … In Different Ways

Question:  I’m familiar with IQ and emotional intelligence. But I’ve read about the Theory of Multiple Intelligences and I wonder what else might apply specifically to leaders?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

You are right to look beyond just those two intelligences. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences expanded our understanding of abilities, suggesting we be sensitive to different intelligences — spatial, linguistic, mathematical, kinaesthetic, and rhythmic.

All play a role in success, but unless you’re running a musical group, rhythmic intelligence may not be that vital and unless you’re planning a chain of yoga or dance studios, kinaesthetic intelligence might be set aside.

Various authors have tried to parlay on the success of Daniel Goleman’s book on emotional intelligence by offering their own frameworks of intelligence geared more to leadership today. These include:

  • Executive intelligence: This focuses on business-oriented cognitive ability, revolving around the three essential aspects of work — accomplishment of tasks; working with and through other people; and judging oneself, adapting one’s behaviour accordingly.
  • Ethical intelligence: The capacity to discover the right answer in a difficult ethical situation; acting upon what you discover; and the commitment to make this exploration a lifelong journey.
  • Appreciative intelligence: The ability to perceive the positive, inherent and generative potential in the present, endowing every day with a sense of purpose.
  • Innovative intelligence: The capability of gaining insights into complex problems or opportunities, and discovering new and unforeseen implementable solutions.
  • Cultural intelligence: Your ability to function effectively across national, ethnic and organizational cultures.
  • Social intelligence: The ability to get along well with others and to get them to co-operate with you.
  • Positive intelligence: This measures the percentage of time your mind works as your friend, positively, and the amount of time it is a saboteur, flooding you with negative thoughts.

No doubt there are more. I’d add humour immediately to the list. And common sense is also crucial. But the list does show capacities you might need to improve or ones you believe can be the key to a better leadership style.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler:
What’s In (Remembering) A Name?

When facilitating focus group sessions, we make a point of meeting participants before we begin.  And we find they are almost always surprised, pleased, and usually a bit impressed when we remember their names as we call on them to participate in the discussion.

“I can never remember names,” they say. “How do you do that?”

There’s no one special trick.

But first consider this: If you don’t actually care about remembering names, no tricks will help you overcome the challenge. (To encourage you, we point to Dale Carnegie’s wisdom in the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) — that a person’s name, to him or her, “is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”)

This week a great summary of tips came to our attention in The PR Daily. You will find it easier to remember names if you:

  • Pay attention to the person’s name when it’s said. Ask them to repeat it if you didn’t hear it clearly the first time.
  • Say the name aloud as soon as possible. Repeat the name to yourself and then use it — perhaps in a pleasantry like “It’s nice to meet you, Cindy,” or include their name as you ask a question: “Hi, Cindy. Where are you from?”
  • Comment on the name.  Maybe something like “Oh, I have a cousin named Cindy” or “Do you spell Cindy with a ‘y’ or an ‘i’?”
  • Associate their name with something meaningful and memorable,  perhaps some personal detail you’ve learned about them (just back from a safari?) or something important from your own life (reminds me of my first date).
  • Form a visual association between the name and face, especially mental images of key features you can associate with the name (what green eyes!).
  • Don’t just glance at the person’s name tag or business card — keep looking long enough to associate and lock in the memory of their name in print.

You can usually apply almost all of these tips in just a few seconds of introduction. We recognize them as habits we’ve developed over the years and, based on that experience, recommend them.

8. Closing Thought

“You are remembered for the rules you break.”
— Douglas MacArthur