November 8, 2015


The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1. Three Hard-Earned Leadership Lessons

Lessons in leadership can be costly to learn, so it pays to consider what others have experienced. Here are some lessons writer Vivian Giang collected from executives for Fast Company:

  • Competition Kills Creativity: To succeed, you have to know the ins and outs of the landscape and understand how others in the field operate, yet stay true to your brand. The problem, warns Philippe von Borries, cofounder of Refinery 29, is that often somebody in a meeting will talk about a great new idea a competitor has unveiled and the room freezes, focused on comparing and contrasting it with their own efforts.
    “Once you follow the competition, you disconnect from what you’re actually great at. Being creative means creating something out of nothing. Never tolerate comparing and contrasting,” he says.
  • Think about important decisions for a day or two before acting: Chet Kapoor, CEO of Apigee, over the years has gained respect for the power of patience. “If I’m not comfortable with a big decision now, I wait a day or two. I don’t use this time to gather more data, a timeline, or create a list of pros and cons. I just give the decision the gift of time. Often, with a little time and patience, the decision will manifest itself clearly,” he says.
  • Don’t avoid bigger projects and goals: Andrea Cutright, COO of Ask.fm, notes that it’s too easy to get caught up in the day’s rush priorities. When making decisions, however, ensure they have a big impact.

2. The Most Powerful Motivator Of All

HR consultant Tim Sackett says the most powerful motivator is redemption. It shows itself particularly after somebody has been fired.

He knows first-hand.

“After being fired I could only think about one thing. It consumed me. I wanted to show whomever I went to work for how great I really was. I didn’t want the ‘fired’ label to follow me, even for a minute. I wasn’t ‘that’ person. I was better. I wanted… redemption!” he says on his blog.

That’s why he laughs when a manager says he’ll never hire somebody who has been fired from a previous post. “I actually only want people who have been fired from jobs! I want people who have failed, and have a giant chip on their shoulder to show the world they are better than that,” he responds.

Too many managers assume those fired were crappy at their jobs. But remember: Good people get fired every day. They get fired for making bad decisions, making somebody angry, or not fitting the culture. You may want to offer them an opportunity for redemption.

3. Some Daily Productivity Tweaks

You’re probably fairly comfortable with your current tactics for being productive. But, it’s always useful to consider adopting methods that have helped others. For example, could you benefit from a “silver page” or weekly to-do list?

Productivity blogger Sira Masetti recommends both as supplements to the heart of productivity management, the to-do List. A silver page is a tool for recording all the ideas and goals you harbour for the near future. You don’t need to be very specific — just write down ideas, and update the page frequently.

Those ideas start to come to reality when you produce a weekly to-do list of all the tasks you intend to complete during that week, although you don’t know exactly when.

“Every day you write your daily to-do list, you will refer to your weekly to do-list, in order to make sure to cross all the weekly tasks off the list. Remember to be specific on the weekly list too. For example instead of writing ‘Go to the gym,’ write ‘Go to the gym for 4 days,’” she advises on Lifehack.org.

Each day you should consider two other practices to support your to-do list. First, write your top three tasks for the day on three separate post-it notes, and place them on your computer, as reminders. Also, create an agenda that lists all your tasks and events for the day in chronological order.

Her final tip is to avoid procrastination. There is no list or easy technique for this. Just recognize the urge to delay, and avoid it.

4. Borrow From Google’s Onboarding Checklist

The Sunday before a new hire starts, Google sends a simple reminder alert to the supervisor, suggesting these five actions:

  • Have a role and responsibilities discussion.
  • Match your new hire with a peer buddy.
  • Help your new hire build a social network.
  • Set up onboarding check-ins once a month for your new hire’s first six months.
  • Encourage open dialogue.

HR specialist John Sullivan, on the ERE Media site, notes that action on this timely alert, even though voluntary, can get new hires up to speed 25% faster.

5. Zingers

  • Money Vs. Mission: Conventional wisdom suggests that to attract the best talent, you should be offering high wages. But new research on health-worker positions showed that when jobs were advertised as high paying, they attracted fewer applicants committed to the organization’s social mission. (Source: Kellogg Insight)
  • Beware Of Culture Collapse: It can take years to build a great culture but you can tear it down in short order, says Greg Schott, chief executive of MuleSoft software. He compares it to a building that takes years to construct but can then collapse. (Source: New York Times)
  • The Don’t Do List: When an ambitious up-and-comer was asked about his priorities by legendary investor Warren Buffet, a list of about 25 poured out, leading to a request for the top five. “That’s great,” said Buffet when the five were named; then he asked what would happen to the other 20. The young man indicated he would work on them when he found the time. “Absolutely not. Those are on your avoid-at-all-costs list,” was the rejoinder. (Source: LinkedIn)
  • Contrast Helps The Eye: If you place text over a background image in your marketing content, make sure it’s legible and readable by providing adequate contrast. It can be helpful to link text to an image, since visuals grab the eye, but it will backfire if readers find reading a strain and skip over the words. (Source: Nielsen Norman Group)
  • Off-site But Seeking Energy: Research shows that at some point when too many people in an organization work off-site, a tipping point occurs — nobody wants to come to the office as it lacks the energy and social connections preferred. Even people who work off-site value the traditional office and the social and work benefits offered. (Source: Academy of Management)

6.  Q&A with 8020Info: Hope And Optimism In Marketing

Question: Hope and change seems to work in politics, given the recent federal election in Canada and Barack Obama’s 2008 victory. Is it a theme I need to harness for my own organization’s marketing?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

Elections are highly competitive zero-sum choices, with three or four main choices in Canada and two in the U.S. Voters may be running away from an alternative and the hope-change mantra becomes an accidental beneficiary, not a cause, so we need to be careful in reading too much into these victories.

Certainly you want to present an optimistic, cheerful opportunity for prospects — you can assuage their pain. Sunny ways with your product or service.

People are seeking solutions, positive solutions, and you must tap that desire with a mixture of fact, rhetoric, and flash to capture their fancy. Justin Trudeau chose a positive approach but he certainly reminded people of the pain he hoped they wanted to escape — what was wrong with the previous government. That’s a tricky balance, but one you have to consider.

Consultant Kevin Eikenberry argues that to earn people’s attention in your next presentation you should emphasize pain before pleasure.

“Study after study shows that people would rather avoid loss than hope for gain. We remember negative things longer than positive ones. We buy more aspirin than we do vitamins. So when people see how your message will remove pain, stress or frustration, they will be more attentive,” he writes in a recent blog post.

He adds this can be difficult to remember if you are a generally positive person, or if you are motivated by the possibility of gain. But the mantra should be: Remove pain first, then extol the positive possibilities.

By the way, in a just-published book, The Optimistic Workplace, consultant Shawn Murphy suggests you go further, offering an optimistic, energizing environment for your employees and being a steward for others.

Finally, Trudeau’s optimism extended to himself and his party’s brand-platform. Even when he was derided, viewed as a young pup out of his depth, he had the confidence that he could ably present his message. That’s not a bad takeaway from the election as well. Remain confident and optimistic that you will prevail — while, of course, setting the fundamentals in place to do just that.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler:  Tips for Project Management Focus

This week we noted an email from the Harvard Business Review promoting its Guide to Project Management Ebook. After framing project management around four phases   — planning, build-up, implementation and close-out  — they went on to mention this handy checklist of reminders about where you must focus for success:

  • Get your team on the same page before starting the project,
  • Break major objectives into manageable tasks,
  • Set a schedule that supports you in keeping all the “moving parts” under control,
  • Monitor and report on progress toward your goals,
  • Manage your stakeholders’ expectations,
  • Wrap up your project effectively; and
  • Evaluate its success so that future projects will go even more smoothly.

Perhaps, before starting your project, you need to concentrate on building a united team working from the same agenda. Or you may need to check that players and stakeholders already know how to break down big, ambitious goals into components that will interact and flow effectively. If you tend to overlook the need for a clear finish line, you may underperform at evaluating and celebrating the success and handing over the ongoing work to operations. It’s worth your while to reflect on any of these areas where you could be stronger.

8.  Closing Thought:

“I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.”