May 24, 2015



The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1.  Seven Things Bosses Never Ask Employees To Do

Bosses have a lot of power. The wise ones, Inc.com contributing editor Jeff Haden says, limit themselves, never asking employees to do these seven things:

  • Never pressure to attend social events: Some people don’t want to socialize outside of work. And that’s their choice, unless you devise something they truly want to attend. “Never try to force togetherness or camaraderie. It doesn’t work,” he writes.
  • Never pressure to donate to a charity: Sure, make it easy to donate to a charity like the United Way. Match their contributions if possible. But don’t, even implicitly, pressure.
  • Never make employees go without food: If you plan a lunchtime meeting, feed everyone.
  • Never ask employees to evaluate themselves: Self-evaluations may seem empowering but good employees wonder why you don’t already know how wonderful they are and employees who only do a fair job rarely rate themselves low.
  • Never ask employees to evaluate peers: The word “peer” denotes working together. And people don’t want to criticize folks they have to work with afterwards.
  • Never ask people to reveal personal information for team building: “You don’t need to know your employees’ innermost thoughts and feelings. Even if you think you do, you have no right to their thoughts and feelings,” he says. “Talk about performance, and leave all the deep dark secrets where they belong.”
  • Never ask employees to do things you won’t do: Great leaders lead by example. They help out with the worst tasks.

2. Don’t Forget The Marketing Basics

Consultant Drew McLellan says it’s easy to be mesmerized by the new marketing technology around us and forget the marketing basics. When cooking, his Italian grandmother used to tell him as she reached again for her huge jar of oregano that no matter how fancy you’re getting, the basics matter. Here’s your marketing oregano:

  • A single message in an ad: Too often we want to shove as many messages as we can into an ad, to “get our money’s worth” or hope something will get through. But that just makes the ad confusing. “Regardless of what marketing tactic you’re using, ask yourself this question: If someone could remember only one thing from this, what would I want them to retain?” he advises in Drew’s Marketing Minute.
  • You can’t time marketing: Just as you can’t time your investments effectively, no organization knows when somebody is going to become a client. As with dollar cost-averaging in investing, you need to make regular, consistent marketing deposits so that you’re top of mind at the appropriate moment.
  • You need a plan and a budget: Don’t leave marketing to happenstance. And when you are crazy busy, you should still be marketing, so ensure the plan involves that.
  • Your current clients need to be a primary audience: It’s nice to chase new clients and the new dollars and energy they bring. But a good chunk of revenue will always come from existing clients wanting more.

3. Don’t Discount Your Employees

You may say that you prize your employees, but HR consultant Tim Sackett warns on his blog that you also likely discount them. It happens in a number of ways:

  • Experience: Seduced by a new employee’s freshness, we may think less of an existing employee with ten years’ experience than the newcomer with ten.
  • Opinions: Similarly, the long-term employee’s voice is valued less than a new employee’s ideas because we’ve heard the old employee’s opinions before.
  • Value: It’s common to pay internal employees less than we pay someone coming from the outside with the same experience or education. He calls it the “home town” discount. “They’ve been here forever. They aren’t going anywhere. Why pay them more competitively?” he says.

There’s much ado these days in HR about improving the “candidate experience,” making the selection process for newcomers more pleasant. But he suggests you focus instead on improving employee engagement so you won’t need new hires. The place to start: employee discounting.

4. Before You Reach For Your Smartphone

Your smartphone may seem like a lifeline to all that’s important. A Time magazine report suggested people check their phone on average 110 times a day. But consultant Greg McKeown says on his blog that checking your phone forces you to be reactive rather than proactive, creating pressure to respond frenetically to emails and texts when other people want you rather than when it’s convenient for you.

Replace that habit by reaching for a notebook that serves as your journal, thinking and reflecting as the day swirls along. If that seems formidable, he suggests writing one sentence every day, capturing the essential issue impacting you.

5. Zingers

  • Teams Or Stars: It’s great to develop your people, but executive Karin Hurt points out a trap: A team of superstars who don’t know how to work as a team won’t win. So treat them and develop them as a team. (Source: Let’s Grow Leaders Blog)
  • Not “Feedback”:  When developing people or your teams, don’t call it “feedback.” Consultant Wally Bock says when most people hear the word feedback, they throw up their defensive shields – and don’t hear what you’re saying. (Source: Three Star Leadership)
  • Rudemail: Psychologist Travis Bradberry says very brief emails —“got it!” or “noted”— can be perceived as rude because of assumptions about your intent and tone. Instead, share your intent. Also rude: Emails with “urgent” subject lines, which implicitly shows disregard for the recipient. If it’s truly urgent, pick up the phone and call. (Source: Forbes.com)
  • Recruiting Misses: Here are some common recruiting problems identified by professional development writer Sarah Landrum: Failing to explain the company’s culture; taking too long to reach a decision; and discussing the position solely from your perspective and needs (e.g. the job description) rather than what’s in it for the candidate. (Source: WomenonBusiness)
  • Reflection Questions: Consultant Jesse Lyn Stoner recommends beginning your day with three questions: What will give me joy today, what am I excited about accomplishing today, and who needs my help today? You can end the day as well with three questions: What am I proud of, who do I love, and what am I grateful for? (Source: Jesse Lyn Stoner’s Blog)

6.  Q&A with 8020Info:  Appealing with Surprise & Emotion

Question:  In your Q&A on the most important thing in marketing (Vol.15 No. 5), you focused on positioning but also mentioned gaining attention for your message. Could you expand on how best to accentuate key messages? 

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

The first point is that they are related. The word “sex” in big letters usually draws attention. But unless you’re marketing romantic wares or 50 Shades of Gray, it won’t get you all that far. You must gain attention in an appropriate way.

With people so busy and distracted, you must be brief, focused and (ideally) unusual. You are undoubtedly offering a worthwhile service or product. But that may not make a difference if your presentation is boring – dull in content or style, or telling them what they already know or think they know.

If you have developed a positioning strategy, you know the kernel of your appeal. It may need to be tweaked, of course, for different target markets. But at this stage, you need to figure out how to jazz it up.

  • Surprise: Keeping to the essential elements of your positioning and offering, what don’t they know that would pleasantly surprise them? What’s truly unique? What’s new? What might capture their emotions, again in a positive way? What might appeal to the senses? What fits neatly with today’s zeitgeist — the trends and buzz that are on people’s minds? Is there somebody special who uses your offering and would offer a testimonial?
  • Emotion: That’s a starting point. Play with it. Don’t latch onto the first idea but try out a number of them. That can be done simply by mentioning your ideas to neighbours and people you meet; watch their eyes, and see what creates a glimmer of interest. Or even test it in marketing promotions, if you can.
  • Senses: Once you have the attention-grabber, see if you can turn it into a catchy phrase. Then work out how to transition from it to the deeper message you want to present (concisely, of course). What supporting materials can you use — photos, illustrations, or videos?

In some sense, it’s not that simple:  Capturing attention in our world of message clutter is very complex. It’s also ultimately an art. But in other ways, it is that simple: You need to get out of your own head and into the heads of your audience, and figure out what would appeal to them — often that starts with surprise, emotions, and appeals to the senses.

7.  News From Our Water Cooler:  Engaging Front-Line Staff

At this time of year, many organizations gather all their staff for a day of off-site planning. A common activity involves getting input from “the front-line”. But sometimes the selection or design of questions for discussion aren’t given all that much attention — they may make sense to managers who are immersed in planning every day, but not so much sometimes to front-line employees. Here are three tips for your pre-retreat checklist:

  • Are you asking in good faith? Are you truly open to front-line staff input — prepared to listen, duly consider and respond to their ideas? And are your discussion questions framed to reflect that? If you’re just going through the motions to get “buy-in”, everyone will know it and respond accordingly. Or you may be stuck on issues of responsibility:  If you feel your managers should be the ones to decide “what” to do, re-frame your question and shift the focus — ask staff for their input on “how best” to implement those plans.
  • Can they answer? Front-line staff have lots of expertise, experience and insight from their own perspective, but it’s not always the same knowledge base that senior management might have. Don’t assume they know what you know — you have different jobs. Frame your questions accordingly so they can contribute meaningfully from what they see, know or have learned from their front-line experience. That could include insights into your clients, operational processes or performance roadblocks.
  • Are you perfectly clear on what you’re asking? Managers who have already spent a lot of time discussing a topic are often familiar with the importance, challenges, opportunities and options at hand. But front-line staff coming to an issue cold may not know where to start. Your questions should make the focus explicit and be crystal clear on what you want to know from your participants.

If your discussion questions meet these three criteria, your engagement of front-line staff will yield a more productive dialogue, understanding and commitment across the organization.

8.  Closing Thought:

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.”

— Richard Bach