August 16, 2015



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1.  Guard Against Wasting Your Capacity

Waste comes in many forms, including events, behaviours, and activities that diminish our capacity to do what matters to us. “In the business world, waste kills productivity and profitability,” consultant Chris Majeur says on YourWorkplace.ca.

Here are six pitfalls to guard against:

  • Worship Of Information: By making information the workplace priority, we have lost sight of its purpose: To enable people to effectively address the concerns of their customers. “Rather than attempting to replace people, our IT systems, processes, and products should be aimed at enabling the human co-operation, collaboration and innovation that are essential to growing a business,” he says.
  • Degenerative Moods: Many workplaces feature distrust, resentment, cynicism and complacency. Such negativity can deeply dampen productivity. Soft skills to engage and manage moods are needed to deal with the situation — know how to listen for, design, and intervene in critical conversations.
  • Not Listening: This goes beyond not hearing or paying attention. Listening requires accurate interpretation to gain understanding. Get your colleagues to clarify what they believe they interpreted from conversations — which may be different from what they heard.
  • Bureaucratic Styles: Instead of dictating from above, executives should bring people together in what is known as commitment-based management (in contrast to activity-based management). Provide a platform to jointly develop clear commitments that will power the organization ahead in the future.
  • Modern Indentured Servitude: When overwhelmed and feeling they are selling themselves for a paycheque, people become resentful and cynical — a sure productivity killer.
  • Suppressing Innovation: Many workplaces stifle creativity and ingenuity. Encourage your team to be innovative in all aspects of your work, from customer service to organizational design.

Which of these six pitfalls might be your biggest waste of capacity?

2.   Questions To Ask After Setting Your Goals

Attaining our goals can be difficult, whether it’s personal change or implementing organizational strategy. On his blog, consultant Kevin Eikenberry offers these questions to ask after establishing the goal:

  • Why is achieving this goal important? This is the most important question, since you need a clear, compelling reason to maintain your impetus.
  • What will success look like? Think about what you will see, feel, and hear after you achieve the goal. That allows your brain to picture success in a richer way.
  • How will I benefit from reaching this goal? This connects the first two questions, helping you to see the value in the effort ahead.
  • What is the first step? Without taking your first step, small or large, you won’t go anywhere.
  • What step will take me the furthest, fastest? This is about gaining leverage, moving ahead intelligently.
  • Who can help me achieve it? What tools and resources can help propel you ahead?
  • Who will support me, and who won’t? It’s always helpful to share with those who want you to win. It’s important to know who the non-believers are, and skirt them if you can.
  • What will be my biggest barrier? He says that avoiding or denying the barrier exists won’t help. “Figure it out early and you are part-way to overcoming, reducing or sidestepping that barrier altogether.”
  • How will I stay focused during the process? Figure out how to maintain the energy and focus needed to attain your goal.

It’s easy to skim a list of questions like these without actually responding to their challenges — that takes time and reflection. For success in achieving your goal, though, you are well advised to make time to answer them, in writing if you can.

3.   You Can’t Copy Culture

When we read about other successful organizations, we want to be like them — that is, to copy their amazing culture. But HR consultant Tim Sackett says that even if you hired every single one of the favoured organization’s employees and moved them to your office, the transfused culture would be different.

He remembers when top companies were trying to hire staff away from Disney to inspire their own ranks with some of its customer service culture. That strategy didn’t work out because they weren’t Disney. “You are you. Stop trying to copy some other organization’s culture and just do you,” he writes on his blog.

4.   How To Improve Your Job Ads

“We have an immediate need for…”

That’s a typical opening for a job posting and it turns off recruiting specialist Liz Ryan. A potential candidate’s immediate reaction might well be: “What about me? Do my needs count?” An ad is a marketing vehicle, but on Forbes.com she says most employers write job ads in the most un-marketing-way imaginable.

Organizations may then fail to court potential hires effectively. “Once a person is in your interview pipeline, your job is to treat them like gold. If you have too many candidates to be able to do that, then your recruiting process is broken,” she insists.

Managers are also slow to select. “It is the height of arrogance, not to mention ignorance, to get people into your pipeline via a job ad and then leave them to languish. How can you call yourself a manager when you don’t have time to attend to the people side of your role — the most important side?” she adds.

Ryan suggests giving managers just 45 days to close a job offer; otherwise, she would close the competition until the following year.

5. Zingers

  • Use 2×2 Perspective: When you’re a boss, consultant Wally Bock says, you have two objectives: Accomplish the mission and care for the people. In doing that, you have two timeframes: the present and the future. (Source: Three Star Leadership)
  • Breathe Inspiration: Advertising consultant Roy H. Williams says you can’t instruct anyone to have enthusiasm any more than you can instruct them to have a red-headed child. The person must first be inspired. In return, they give you enthusiasm. “People inhale inspiration and exhale enthusiasm. They cannot give you enthusiasm until you give them inspiration. Neither is a product of instruction,” he advises. (Source: The Monday Morning Memo)
  • Risk The Goat To Be The Hero: You can’t be a hero without taking a chance of being the goat, says Jake Wobbrock, founding chief executive of AnswerDash. So don’t fear being the goat because that hesitation will prevent you from being a hero. (Source: New York Times)
  • Play Clean Power Politics: Don’t want to play politics to get ahead in your office? Consultant Art Petty says all human groups are political. Your focus should be on cultivating “clean power, with no backs stabbed and no games played. Resolve the thorny issues that exist in the gray areas between functions, helping others to succeed.” (Source: Management Excellence)
  • Spend Time With B-Players: HR executive Tom Gimbell says you are probably spending too much time with your top people —the so-called A-players— and not enough with those who, with your help, could be as effective. Spend 10% of your time with A-players; 10–20% with the lowest ranked C-players, dealing with problems; and the remaining 70–80% developing the B-players so they may become stars. (Source: Fast Company).

6.  Q&A with 8020Info: Career Blowouts

Question: What things can derail a career — beyond the obvious such as slugging the boss or sexually harassing somebody?


8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

Beware of your strengths. Carried too far, they can sink you.

That’s a common theme of the literature on failed executives. The prime culprit can be ego and confidence. You need them to succeed. But carried too far they can become ugly.

In Why CEOs Fail, a 2003 book, consultants David Dotlich and Peter Cairo outlined 11 behaviours that derail many executives. They started with arrogance. Yes you need confidence, but if you have a blinding belief in your own opinions —that you’re always right and everybody else is wrong— arrogance could lead to your fall.

Leaders need showmanship and a sense of charisma. But it could tip into melodrama if they aren’t careful. Wild mood swings are also a danger.

You need to be prudent and cautious. But too much —excessive caution— can derail you and your company. You need to find the right balance.

Some of the others they listed:

  • Being aloof: Some aloofness can be fine, but becoming withdrawn and isolated under stress deprives colleagues of the guidance they need.
  • Perfectionism: Obsessing over getting the little things right can lead to the big things going wrong.
  • Eagerness to Please: Anticipating and meeting expectations can be valuable but leadership is not a popularity contest and being overly eager to please can lead to obeisance to the conventional wisdom.

So remember what you think is a virtue may be interpreted by others as a vice. What are your strengths? Would others agree those are your strengths — and that the impact is purely, or even primarily, positive?

7.  News From Our Water Cooler: Headings Are Pick-Up Lines

Headlines have always mattered. They’ve sold newspapers for decades. In subject lines they get emails opened. They stop and intrigue users scanning web pages. On blogs or social media posts, they persuade friends to click links to more detailed content. And if you’re just sitting down to write some content, having a sharp headline in mind will help anchor and focus your flow of words.

We all tend to spend too little time on our headlines, but that’s a false saving of effort. When a heading is weak, no reader ever gets to the content we slaved over. But a great headline helps the reader get into the story and also recall the essence of what you had to say.

For all these reasons, we were delighted by the wise counsel in Hoa Loranger’s piece on the Nielsen Norman Group’s website: Headings Are Pick-Up Lines: 5 Tips for Writing Headlines That Convert.

  • Make sure the headline works out of context. Headlines and subject lines are seen first, before they gain meaning from your content, and they often stand alone in search results, social media, and email inboxes. Give the reader cues to your content; don’t make them have to guess or work to assess its relevance.
  • Tell readers something useful. Headlines pique interest, help the reader navigate or both. Avoid broad, generic headlines. Be concrete and specific, using reader language.
  • Don’t succumb to cute or faddish vocabulary. Minimize hype, idioms (expressions) and overly informal language. Aim for clarity and authenticity so readers get your meaning. And, other than for communications with specialized audiences who use insider language, treat jargon with caution.
  • Omit non-essential words. Short, clear headlines are faster and easier to scan. They are also more likely to survive intact when translated into other formats such as mobile or social media. Cut the minor details and make the main point(s) obvious in your headline.
  • Front-load headings with strong keywords. Moving key words to the beginning of a headline increases the likelihood they will be scanned and noticed. The Nielsen Norman Group’s eye-tracking studies show that readers pay most attention to the first few words.

Loranger points out that a headline is often the first piece of content people read — and often the only thing they read. Make yours more engaging with short, keyword-leading headings that have an authentic ring, contain useful information and make sense regardless of context.

8.  Closing Thought: It’s not over yet!

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.”

Charles M. Schulz