September 7, 2015



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1.  Hiring Mistakes To Avoid

Management consultant Art Petty is proud of his hiring record, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t made mistakes. Each mistake provided a painful and much needed lesson, which he shared on his Management Excellence Blog:

  • Haste always makes waste: His critical need for immediate help twice led to hirings where he failed to properly assess character. Both individuals seemed to have strong credentials and performed well in the interviews, but not on the job.
  • If you have to talk yourself into hiring the person, you’re probably making a mistake: In two other cases an initial good interview was followed by a series of discussions where he began to doubt those first impressions. Despite his gut, he hired – one individual lasted 48 days, the other a painful eight months.
  • Intelligence doesn’t always translate into action: He likes working with people who are strong critical thinkers. But he tends to assume that intelligence equates to ability, which of course is not always so. Assess their track record and ability to turn those great insights into actions.
  • Misjudging the stretch: People can grow and it’s nice to hire for “stretch” positions. But people develop on their own timetable, not yours, and the hiring can fall apart.
  • Don’t ignore reality: When you have goofed in a hiring, don’t hide from your mistake. “No one will be happy with a lousy hire that turns into a long-term problem employee,” he observes. Acknowledge the mistake and deal with it.

2. Five Wrong Ways To Respond To Criticism

If you are acting to improve your organization, expect criticism. But even when that criticism is anticipated, you must still respond to it properly. Here’s where leaders go wrong, Ron Edmondson writes on his blog:

  • Finding fault with the critic: Instead of admitting the criticism has some validity, the tendency can be to discredit the person offering the advice. It never helps to start by attacking or belittling the other individual.
  • Blaming others: Many leaders will realize the criticism is correct, but aren’t willing to take personal responsibility. So they blame it on other people. “This is dangerous on so many levels and is truly poor leadership,” he writes.
  • Returning criticism: Instead of analyzing whether the criticism has any validity, the leader might criticize other organizations or leaders. He says this is very immature, like the elementary school kid who says, “I know I am, but what are you?”
  • Ignoring an opportunity to learn: Criticism can be a great teaching tool. There is a chance to learn something about yourself and the organization if you can get past your defensiveness and other emotions.
  • Appeasing: Some leaders are so fearful of conflict they want to satisfy all their critics. To appease, they say what the critic wants to hear, even if they don’t mean it or don’t intend to follow through. “If there is no merit to criticism, then don’t act like there is merit. Be kind, but not accommodating,” he concludes.

3. Limits For Better Presentations

Increasingly presentations expert Dave Paradi is seeing executives place limits on presentations, usually holding their staff to five slides (or even less) in briefings. But to the dismay of these leaders, the resulting five slides are jammed with twenty slides worth of data – and incomprehensible.

Instead, he says, executives should ask for a maximum of five actions or insights that should be considered after the staff’s analysis of a situation. Each action or insight should be backed by a few key facts and tied to one of the organization’s goals for the year.

“To create these actions and insights, the staff has to go beyond the typical data dump. They have to consider the data in the context of the overall situation, look at interactions between areas, and consider how the action will help a goal be reached. The presentation is no longer focused on the data, but what the data means to the organization. That is what the executives really need to know,” he says in his Presentation Insights Newsletter.

4. Reward Best Teams As Well As Best Players

There is an “I” in team, says MIT research fellow Michael Schrage. It stands for incentives. People respond to incentives, and organizations can’t just use those for individuals but must also apply incentives to team building.

On Harvard Business Review Blogs, he suggests a 50/50 split in recognition, rewards and bonuses — between individuals and teams. “For every executive utterance praising a high-impact individual, there should be an equally emphatic expression of support for a high-achieving team. For every ‘above and beyond’ award given to a dedicated individual, there better be a comparable honour given to a team that delivered,” he writes.

Teams, not just individuals, should also get their fair share of bonus pools.

5. Zingers

  • Go for clues, not points: When in conversation, think Sherlock Holmes or Colombo rather than Roger Federer or Serena Williams. Too many people view conversations as a volleying match, in which each scores points. Instead, blogger Eric Barker advises considering yourself a detective in which your goal is to learn as much about the other person as possible. (Source: Barking Up The Wrong Tree Blog)
  • Focus on a daily lesson: Home care administrator Page Cole says that, in an age of information overload, the most important lesson you can learn today is: Each day learn one lesson and learn it well. (Source: LeadChangeGroup Blog)
  • No explanation necessary: “I’m either on the phone or away from my desk…” Skip that banal beginning to your voice mail message, says customer service consultant Jeff Mowatt. Callers know it’s not you they have reached and don’t need an explanation unless you’re away for an extended period. Just state, “you have reached the voice mail of X. Please leave a message.” Source: Jeff Mowatt.com)
  • Dispatch your unpleasant tasks: CEO Todd McKinnon says it adds mental fatigue and unneeded stress when you procrastinate on items you don’t feel like doing. Learning to complete unpleasant tasks efficiently will free up time to focus on what really matters. (Source: Fortune)
  • Make three lists before your project: When considering a new project, entrepreneur Seth Godin recommends developing three lists — write down a) everything that has to be true for this to be a good project (things you must research or prove); b) all the skills you don’t have that would be important to make the project work (things you must learn or hire); c) everything you are afraid of, or essential things that are out of your control. (Source: Seth’s Blog)

6.  Q&A with 8020Info:  What’s in a Question?

Question:  Recently I presented in a public forum and the questions I got afterwards were strange — they didn’t seem to focus on the information I presented. What could have been going on?


8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

Many of us have been there: appearing in a public forum to present to a governing or decision-making body like a council, board, or senior management team. You’ve carefully prepared your pitch, presented it effectively, and then you come to the Q&A.

It’s easy to misread the intent behind the questions that follow, especially if they seem critical of your request, argument or case for support. Behind those questions there may well be motives other than trying to clarify or understand the actual content of your presentation. Here are some examples:

  • Seeking attention: Someone asks a question to grab the spotlight and show their peers or the audience how smart they are.
  • Demonstrating due diligence: They ask a question to demonstrate that they are conscientious about their responsibilities, fair-minded, and consider all sides of a question.
  • Speaking indirectly to a hidden issue: The question may seem out of place to you because it speaks to some confidential issue that you’re unaware of — an issue that’s hidden from you, but relevant and known to those in the group.
  • Speaking indirectly to another audience: The question is asked to make a statement to some other audience (for example, politicians often make comments or pose questions to the presenter but the audience they are actually speaking to is the media or concerned electors in their home constituency). Often there’s a lot of preamble or commentary before they get to this type of question.
  • Representing those without a voice: They may be raising a question not because of their own interest, but because they want to represent the voice of someone not at the table — perhaps their staff, a district office, some marginalized population, or an outside interest group.
  • Signalling to a colleague: Sometimes a question is asked as a favour to a friend, to show loyalty or to signal their support to another colleague around the voting table.
  • Hiding their own position: Sometimes a questioner may support your position, but doesn’t want to show their hand initially. They want you to make (or repeat) the argument for them. This is particularly true when there is tension in the room. By asking a question, they get their side’s message out indirectly — your replies make the key points on their behalf. (And if it goes over badly, then you’re on the hot seat, not them.)

Of course, sometimes members of your audience do oppose your point of view and attack with questions, trying to defeat your case. And sometimes they just want more information. The trick is to read the difference in motive and respond accordingly.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler:
     Adjusting To Millennial Workplace Dynamics

In planning discussions, many of our clients make passing mention (often with a tacit query embedded in their tone) about the impact millennials, aged 20-35, are having on workplace norms and how best to manage a new type of employee in a new type of workplace.

They would benefit from nicely summarized insights developed at the recent Workplace In Motion Summit, hosted by Queen’s University and chaired by Queen’s IRC Facilitator Brenda Barker Scott. For example:

  • Millennials define work broadly, as a changing series of purposeful assignments rather than a job description.
  • Being hyperconnected, they are accustomed to working in collaborative networks and resist rigid corporate structures and information silos.
  • Millennials expect the digital technologies that empower their personal lives to be available in the workplace.
  • They could also be called the learning generation, given the importance they place on continuous development. They also value frequent feedback and want a developmental relationship with a coaching boss.
  • Work/life balance seems an odd concept for millennials who see work as part of life (and vice versa). What’s important is flexibility.

Barker points out that millennials will form 50% of the global workforce by 2020. It’s time to prepare for how they will transform the core dynamics of your workplace, its culture, work styles and tools, rewards and opportunities

8.  Closing Thought:  Duty vs. Fear

“You always have two choices: Your commitment versus your fear.”

Sammy Davis Jr.