July 6, 2014


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Five Mistakes Smart People Make

If you’re smart, you’ll watch out for these five mistakes smart people make, according to consultant Alison Green:

  • Not understanding what your boss values most: It doesn’t matter how great you are at certain activities if your boss’s priorities lies elsewhere. If you’re out of synch with your boss, you will sink.
  • Shutting down the first time you fail: To build your organization and career you will continually face new challenges, some quite tough. “But if you’re used to being ‘the smart one’ and things have always come easily to you, you might not have built up the skills you need for when things are hard, like persevering in the face of obstacles and working hard to master something,” she writes on the US News site.
  • Taking feedback badly: One of the things you may not have practice in, having always been successful, is taking criticism. When it hits, you may get unduly rattled, and colleagues may avoid offering you useful feedback later.
  • Underestimating the importance of relationships with co-workers: If you’re good at your own work, it’s easy to think that’s sufficient. But relationships also matter. If you might need last-minute help from others down the road or candid feedback on a proposal, take time to build relationships now.
  • Thinking that doing a good job trumps decency and politeness:  If you succumb to temper tantrums or alienate colleagues, you will ultimately pay a price no matter how good your work.

2. Finding Value In Exit Interviews

When an employee leaves, it can depress managers, forcing them to worry about finding a suitable replacement — sometimes to the point that the once valuable staff member becomes an after thought. But much can be garnered from paying attention to that departing employee, and conducting an exit interview to gain feedback on how your organization is faring.

Here are some potential insights that blogger Eric Jacobson shares from The Essential HR Handbook by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell:

  • Why they are leaving.
  • What they liked about their job.
  • What they would have changed about their job.
  • How they felt about the cooperation level among co-workers.
  • How they felt about communication and interaction with co-workers.
  • Whether they received the necessary training to do their job.
  • Whether they received frequent coaching and balanced feedback from their supervisor.
  • Whether they would recommend that a friend apply for work at your organization.
  • How they felt about their pay.
  • How they would describe the morale in the organization and in their department.
  • What they would change about their department and the organization.
  • Whether they received the necessary information to perform their job effectively.

Investing time in relationships with departing staffers can have another effect: Boomerang employees – those who later return to the fold – are an increasing, positive phenomenon, bringing you people familiar with your culture and whose strengths and weaknesses are known.

And strategy + business reports that former staff can increase knowledge and other linkages with organizations and regions, with the departed employees serving as a bridge.

3. Do You Love Your Customers?

If asked whether you love your customers, you would probably respond yes. But entrepreneur Seth Godin goes deeper, asking which of the following two attitudes of love you exemplify:

  • We love our customers because they pay us money.
  • We love our customers, and sometimes there’s a transaction.

“In the first case, customers are the means to an end, profit. In the second, the organization exists to serve customers, and profit is both an enabler and a possible side effect,” he writes on Seth’s Blog.

He notes that some of the most successful organizations were built by focusing obsessively on service, with compensation considered an afterthought or side effect.

“As marketing gets more and more expensive, it turns out that caring for people is a useful shortcut to trust, which leads to all the other things that a growing organization seeks,” he says.

4. A Better Way To Take Notes

If you take notes at presentations or in meetings, the question these days is whether to use a laptop or pen-and-paper. The choice usually reflects ease and comfort with the two approaches. But when it comes to recall, the advantage goes to old technology.

The PsyBlog reports that an experiment with college students watching TED talks found that there was little difference in factual recall, but the pen-and-paper note takers retained a significantly larger proportion of conceptual information. That may come because they engage in more processing of what they are hearing rather than just transcribing verbatim.

5. Zingers

  • Schedule group work after the AM: Schedule meetings for the afternoon. Since your concentration is likely best in the morning, take advantage of that for individual work, and use the afternoon lull for group work. (Source: The Sweeney Agency Newsletter)
  • High performers make positive comments:  A study of executive teams found that the highest performing groups routinely made positive statements to each other, such as expressing appreciation, support and helpfulness. Their ratio of positive to negative statements was more than five times (5.6 to one), while for ordinary teams it was 1.85 to one and the lowest-performing groups just 0.36 to one. (Source: GeneralLeadership.com)
  • Find a meeting mentor: Could you benefit from someone who understands the etiquette in your organization and knows how to successfully lead and participate in meetings? (Source: The Muse)
  • When in doubt, just decide:  If fear of making a wrong decision stymies you, try this advice from marketing company president Rob Gough, channelled from his grandfather: “Decisions are going to be tough. You don’t know which is the right one. But just make a decision. If you’re right 51 percent of the time, you’re right a majority of the time. That’s all you can ask for.” (Source: New York Times)
  • Focus on your message to reduce fear factor:  If you experience stage fright before a presentation, get out of yourself. Clinical psychologist David Carbonell, an expert in anxiety, says one of the keys to mastering stage fright is to become truly involved in, and focused on, your material. (Source: Monday Morning Memo)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Is My Advertising Working?

Question:  What should we do if our advertising doesn’t seem to be working?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

The first issue, and tougher question, may be: how do you know?

Former New York Nets President Jon Spoelstra, in his 2001 book Marketing Outrageously, offers some useful advice with this conundrum.

Conventional measures when buying advertising involve the effectiveness of reach and frequency – how much of the target audience do you reach, and how often? He felt these measures may work when you have a big budget. But if you feel strapped,  as he did with the basketball team, consider what he dubs The Ratio: For every dollar spent on an ad, how much is coming back?

Spoelstra aimed to have $4 returned for every $1 he spent on ads for his teams. He avoided advertising on Sunday – the day of largest reach – because the ads cost more, and his ratio of revenue-to-cost declined. He once ran the same ad 17 straight times. The team got bored with it, but it kept on pulling in revenue. And when it fell below the target of $4 returned for each $1 spent, he started a new ad.

When an ad didn’t go above $4 to $1 the first time it was run, he felt it wouldn’t in any future attempts. So he replaced it.

What’s the context?

One of the issues when a campaign seems to be flagging – or never gets off the ground – is to consider your strategy, goals and the nature of the industry. Spoestra’s focus was the next game, and a stimulus-response model of evaluation worked vividly for him.

But maybe your strategy is to establish your name in the marketplace or deepen a brand image, and the response to stimulus won’t be as immediate or obvious. Perhaps you sell items bought infrequently, such as a fridge or therapy services, and you need a longer time to judge the results (unless you have an ample budget to survey the market).

I think of the current federal Conservative ads about Justin Trudeau, intended to brand him as a lightweight. The media has judged them to be ineffective, because the poll ratings of Trudeau are currently so high. But perhaps seeds are being planted that can be harvested in future, at election time. Similarly, you may be preparing the ground for your own future, according to a strategic plan, and need to give some investments time to ripen.

At the same time, you need to be realistic – tough-minded. You can’t be a slave to your own current advertising ideas or captivated by the messages themselves. Probe both the strategy and the mechanics to see whether they are working. And if not, evaluate which parts are not, why, and how best to move on.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Getting to No

In conversation with leaders and managers these days, we hear a common theme about them feeling overwhelmed — too much to do, too many priorities, too many options crying out for decision.

We’re not immune ourselves, which is why we enjoyed the advice Greg McKeown advances in Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

A pivotal idea involves “the power of extreme criteria”. Anything less than a total and utter conviction to do something should get a thumbs down. “If the answer isn’t a definite yes, then it should be a no.”

But, like us, you may find it hard to actually say no. McKeown offers some tips, starting with the importance of being perfectly clear with yourself about what is essential. Focus on what you’d have to trade off, and then if you dare to say no, here are some ways to avoid the social awkwardness and gracefully decline:

  • “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” This gives you time to pause, reflect and ultimately reply with regrets to non-essential requests.
  • The soft “no” (or the “no, but”): “I would love to, but can’t until/because … could we look at this towards the end of the summer?”
  • “Yes, and what should I take off my priority list”.  When you can’t say no to a senior leader making a new request, you can share the trade-offs that would have to be made, such as dropping or postponing another top project.
  • Say it with humour.  A self-deprecating style can put a smile on “no” — e.g.  joking as you point out you’re absolutely terrible at something you’ve been invited to do.
  • Use the words “You are welcome to do X. I am willing to do Y.”  You’re welcome to use my car for your errand. I’ll leave my keys in the mailbox.
  • Refer the request:  “I can’t do it, but X might be interested.”

 8. Closing Thought

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
— John Quincy Adams