July 26, 2015



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1.  Diseases of Leadership, According To The Pope

Last year, just before Christmas, Pope Francis warned the Papal Curia about the diseases of leadership that, if untreated, leave an organization enfeebled. In Harvard Business Review, management guru Gary Hamel translated the talk into something closer to corporate speak, and came up with 15 diseases, of which these top the list:

  • Thinking we are immortal, immune, or downright indispensable: We neglect regular check-ups. A superiority complex grows. Narcissism reigns. “A leadership team which is not self-critical, which does not keep up with things, which does not seek to be more fit, is a sick body. A simple visit to the cemetery might help us see the names of many people who thought they were immortal, immune, and indispensable!” writes Mr. Hamel. As you might expect from this Pope, the recommended antidote is humility.
  • Excessive busyness: Having so much to do, we neglect resting. That just leads to stress and agitation. Make sure you take time with family and use holidays to recharge.
  • Mental and emotional petrification: This is found in leaders who have hearts of stone. They hide behind papers, stiff-necked and unmoving. “It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity that enables us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice!” Mr. Hamel writes.
  • Excessive planning and functionalism: When you plan everything down to the last detail, you eliminate spontaneity and serendipity, which is vital for flexibility and success.

 2.  Be Alert To Opportunity Cost Trade-offs

One of the most important concepts in business —but one that is often ignored— is opportunity cost. Since we have limited resources, every opportunity we pounce on means giving up some other opportunity. But such trade-offs should not be an excuse for inaction.

On the Life Optimizer blog, Donald Latumahina notes that many people make decisions without being aware of what they are giving up — they may be following the crowd or their own impulses. But this can waste resources on something that fails to give you the best return.

So before deciding to pursue an opportunity, identify what is being given up. This applies not just at work, but in all areas of your life. Once the trade-offs have been illuminated, determine whether the opportunity is truly worth it. Is this the best way to use your resources?

One factor he suggests considering is the “window of opportunity.” Sometimes an opportunity arises for just a limited time, as when Bill Gates and Paul Allen had a chance to start a computer company at the start of the microcomputer revolution. Hesitate, and you lose out.

Finally, he suggests recognizing that when taking an opportunity, diminishing returns apply. “Beyond a certain point, further investment in that opportunity will give you less and less return,” he notes. “You need to assess your opportunity cost every now and then. Who knows? It might be time for you to move on to another opportunity.

3.   Healing A Dysfunctional Team

Sometimes we’re flummoxed when faced with a dysfunctional team, unsure of how to try to straighten things out. Consultant Cheri Baker, on her Emergence Consulting Newsletter, says you need to expose the difficult truths that must be faced and have a courageous discussion about how to fix what’s broken. This will be hard on the team and the facilitator, but she says most of the time it works and the team soon finds its groove again.

After the teambuilding discussion, don’t dig up the bodies. Treat it as ancient history. Inevitably somebody will try to dredge up past sins — instead, she urges you to double down on appreciation. Be particularly supportive of those who create a positive work environment.

The teambuilding process will have led to new norms or ground rules. “When you see someone ignoring a ground rule, coach them back towards it. New habits will take time, but the team needs to know that management is taking the new norms seriously. Slippage will occur if you’re not watchful,” she says.

4. Questions To Ask (And Not Ask) Customers

Instead of asking your customers stale questions that elicit little more than one-word answers — like “How was everything?”, “Did you find everything you need?”, or “Was everything satisfactory?” — consultant Paul Timm recommends these five open-ended questions to invite customers or clients to express their ideas, opinions and needs:

  • What else can I do for you?
  • What else can I get for you?
  • What else can I help you with?
  • What else could we do to better serve you?
  • How else can we be of help?

5. Zingers

  • Goal+Goal+Goal=Vision: There’s a big difference between a vision and a goal. Vision is your destination; goals are milestones that mark your journey. Don’t get so focused on your goals that you forget your vision. (Source: Jesse Lyn Stoner’s Blog)
  • Reject the notion that you have wisdom. You do need enough wisdom to know that you need wisdom. Those who think they have achieved wisdom, haven’t, says trainer Dan Rockwell. (Source: Leadership Freak)
  • Decide your next action and use reminders: From the time you woke up until this moment, have you been distracted by the thought of something you need to do that you still haven’t done? Productivity expert David Allen says you don’t have to finish the task to get it off your mind. Just clarify what the successful outcome would be; decide what the very next action would be to move towards that outcome; and put reminders of the outcome and next action in a system you trust. (Source: Productive Living Newsletter)
  • CEOs need split personalities according to Tae Hea Nahm, who heads a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley: “On the one hand, you have to appear like Moses, so that people believe that you’re going to take them to the Promised Land. And you have to present a very simple, clear path to success. On the other hand, if you just believe all of that, you can easily run the company off a cliff. Being a CEO requires a lot of faith and passion, but for making decisions, sometimes truth and faith are different.” (Source: New York Times)
  • Skip to the same rhythm: When a new boss arrives, it can be like skipping rope, suggests executive Karin Hurt. Don’t think that you’re the one with the well-cadenced jump rope and that the boss should adapt. At the same time, bosses make a big mistake when they ignore the value of the existing pace and rhythms. Treat it like double Dutch jump rope, finding a new cadence that works both ways. (Source: Let’s Grow Leaders blog)

6.  Q&A with 8020Info:  Is it time to jump into video?

Question:  We’re uncomfortable with jumping into video, but should we be using it in our marketing mix?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

Use of video is exploding because it’s proving to be online marketing’s most engaging and effective content type, employable in many types of media channels. At the same time, technical production has never been easier.

Video is widely preferred: A how-to guide by MarketingProfs.com quotes research revealing that, when offered as a content choice, video is preferred over scores of other options — white papers, case studies, demos, webinars, and e-books. The data in recent research argues persuasively that video does the best job of converting a digital viewer/reader into a user who clicks or takes some kind of action. For example, testing shows it makes shoppers more likely to make a purchase.

And it’s popular: You might already know that the video-hosting site YouTube is the third-most-trafficked website. It’s home to the second-largest search engine, and reaches more adults than any cable network.

Human faces are appealing: The MarketingProfs guide also quotes Susan Weinshenk, a leading consultant to numerous big brands. In The Team W Blog, she explains the psychology behind video’s appeal — especially when a clip features an on-camera spokesperson. She says our brains are hard-wired to tune in closely to the human face to gather information. Eye contact enhances believability. Body language conveys emotion, which increases appeal. The human voice is perceived as highly meaningful, and movement grabs attention.

It drives results: It has been shown that adding video to a website landing page will help drive your page towards the top of search engine result listings. Video increases user engagement and “stickiness”, keeping viewers on your page longer. It makes emails more effective. It works well on mobile, smartphones and tablets, which are rapidly becoming dominant platforms. Plus social media and video play really well together.

So if your organization hasn’t yet tried video marketing, it’s probably time to begin. Don’t strive for “perfect”. There are an abundance of situations where splashy, super-polished productions aren’t necessary. Start small. Track results. Learn and get better. Bake it into your ongoing communications production routine. With practice, working with video may turn out to be easier than you think, and pay off big.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler: The Odds Of An Outcome

Sometimes an idea gets in your head and just keeps its itch. Here’s one we like from high-flying entrepreneur Elon Musk, which points out the role that uncertainty plays in outcomes.

  • Broaden your view by thinking in probabilities: Musk says, “Outcomes are usually not deterministic, they’re probabilistic. But we don’t think that way. The popular definition of insanity —doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result— that’s only true in a highly deterministic situation. If you have a probabilistic situation, which most situations are, then if you do the same thing twice, it can be quite reasonable to expect a different result.”

So when making decisions, it pays to look again at the full range of possible outcomes. A doesn’t always lead to B and therefore C every time or even like the last time you faced a similar decision.

  • Rely on fundamental truths: Musk also advises that people “will do things because others are doing them, because there is a trend, because they see everyone moving in one direction and decide that’s the best direction to go. Sometimes this is correct, but sometimes this will take you right off a cliff. Thinking in [fundamental truths] protects you from these errors.”

Some other insights and advice:

  • Our philosophy is that the things that people use often are really important to them. (Google co-founder Larry Page)
  • Entrepreneurs have a high tolerance for risk. But one of the most important phrases in my life is ‘protect the downside’. (Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson)
  • Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional… we understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos)
  • Customer-centric … is about getting every little detail right. It is running your airline like you would an upscale restaurant – the kind where the owner is there every day. (Sir Richard Branson)

(You’ll find these in Steven Kotler’s presentation on Slideshare: Billionaire Wisdom – 8 Insights From The World’s Most Effective Entrepreneurs).

8.  Closing Thought: The Shearing Stress of Change

“When the rate of change inside an organization is slower than the rate of change outside an organization, the end is in sight.”

Jack Welch