June 27, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


1. Managing The Millennial Superstar

Every generation has its work superstars. But Cornell University organizational behaviour professor Samuel Bacharach believes there is a special superstar mentality amongst millennials.

“Your challenge in working with millennial superstars is to give them the space they need and to celebrate who they are without letting them become loose cannons,” he writes on Inc.com.

He warns that ego, one-upmanship, and turf paranoia can prevent a harmonious relationship, advising you specifically to:

  • Admit your limitations and avoid the ego game: Know what you can’t do well and don’t be afraid of those limitations. Watch that your confidence doesn’t tip into arrogance. If your ego takes up too much space, it kills objectivity and issues become muddled.
  • Be open to learning: Listen, reflect and learn from their experiences and opinions. “Working side-by-side with a millennial superstar with a great deal of education, creativity, or energy is an opportunity. If you make the effort to learn from your millennial superstar, you are engaging in a very important part of the collaborative process,” he says.
  • Embrace new ideas: Millennials will undoubtedly throw out many new, half-baked ideas, in an urge to be creative. Guard against immediate, reflexively negative reactions.
  • Show them appreciation: Millennials display bravado and panache. But beneath it, like everyone else, they crave appreciation.
  • Give them autonomy but define parameters: Define their objectives and goals while ensuring a degree of freedom. “People want autonomy, but they also need parameters and limits. Managerially competent leaders, who know how to sustain momentum, do both,” he says.


2.  Understanding Culture — And Your Role In It

“Culture” can seem amorphous, difficult to define and even comprehend. Essentially, it’s the unwritten rules and core values of your team. On his Three Star Leadership blog, consultant Wally Bock outlines these four vitally important truths:

  • Every team has a culture: You don’t have a choice in the matter, he stresses. The only choice is whether you will be intentional about shaping the culture.
  • Neither great teams nor great cultures happen by accident: If you leave the culture up to ad hoc group dynamics — or luck — you won’t get a great team culture and a great team. That requires thoughtful, diligent effort.
  • You have to decide what kind of culture you want: Before you can tell others what kind of culture you want, you have to know yourself. “How do you want people to act? What kind of behavior will you reward? You can’t create a culture you can’t imagine,” he writes.
  • If you’re the leader, everything you do matters: As a leader, culture is your responsibility. And it is conveyed not by memos but by what you say and everything you do. People are paying attention to those behaviours. “With every encounter and every communication, you have an opportunity to move closer to the culture you want. Or not,” he stresses.


3.  What To Do When Clients Cut A Meeting Short

One of the more frustrating moments for executives and salespeople occurs when a client cuts your face time in half — when a meeting in which you expected to have an hour to make your points, for example, is suddenly sliced to 30 minutes.

Consultant Charles Green says you should involve the client in responding to the impact, noting the individual’s day has probably been hectic and asking if rescheduling makes sense.  If the client prefers to push on, do so, trimming your presentation to 30 minutes rather than trying to talk at super speed or attempting to run overtime.

Also, involve the client in discovering the root of the problem, discussing why a previously scheduled meeting got cut so drastically.

“Is it because the client doesn’t particularly care about an update, and it’s really your need for approval that’s driving the meeting?” he writes on the TrustedAdvisor blog. “Is this a meeting that neither one of you really wants, resulting in joint procrastination — and if so, what’s that about?”

The answers may be innocuous, or may reveal a deeper issue.


4.  Over-led or Under-managed?

Organizations swing between being over-managed and over-led, says leadership blogger Dan Rockwell. One creates the need for the other.

Interlinked is the issue of leaders and managers. Leaders disrupt. Managers stabilize. Chaotic organizations are over-led while stagnant organizations are over-managed.

“Over-managed organizations have systems and processes with no passion. Over-led organizations have heart with instability and chaos,” he writes on his Leadership Freak blog.

If systems drain energy, procedures have turned into bureaucracy, and people go through the motions but have forgotten their purpose, you are probably over-managed. If leaders struggle to keep all the balls in the air, passion runs high (but processes run low) and no one is really sure who does what, you’re over-led.

Keep a wary watch on the balance.


5.  Zingers

  • Questions to set up for strategy implementation: Executive coach Bob McCulloch offers some hard, helpful questions to ask before implementing your strategy: What talents do we not yet have, or not have in enough depth, to accomplish what we’ve set out to do?  Why is this initiative not getting the widespread support it requires? What can we do to modify the initiative or the plan of action to remove a roadblock and gain support? (Source: LinkedIn)
  • Look in the mirror: Continuing with questions, two from psychologist Travis Bradberry about your own behaviour: How do people see me differently than I see myself? What/whom did I make better today? (Source: LinkedIn)
  • Consider the value of flexibility: Here’s the number one benefit your employees want that won’t cost you any money, according to HR consultant Tim Sackett: Flexible work schedules. (Source: TimSackett.com)
  • And the winning is easy: Consumers prefer to enter contests and sweepstakes in which the prizes don’t require a lot of effort from the winner, recent research shows. Their preferred prize is cash. Also highly enticing: Open airline tickets, retailer gift cards, and physical products. (Source: MarketingProfs.com)
  • Maintain focus for productivity: Focused work beats work plagued by disruptions. If you have employees whose work will inevitably be disrupted because they are expected to complete their regular work while also attending to incoming customer requests or other intrusions, consider decoupling the work both physically and procedurally. (Source: Deloitte University Press)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:  Applying Cost-Benefit Analysis

Question:  Will cost-benefit analysis be sufficient to help me determine the best strategic decision?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

Cost-benefit analysis attempts to identify the option with the best expected net benefit — the estimated payoff minus the cost of obtaining it. Comparing costs and benefits will make sense where your goal is maximizing net value (usually monetary) and you can quantify your options fairly accurately with a reasonable amount of effort.

In his book Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking (2015), Professor Richard E. Nisbett from the University of Michigan describes the basic steps:

  • List the alternative actions and identify the affected parties.
  • Identify costs and benefits for each party.
  • Pick your form of measurement/comparison (usually money).
  • Calculate your expected net value (estimated benefits minus costs)
  • Consider the impact of time on how you value the benefits, and check the sensitivity of your analysis to errors or changes in your estimates.

What’s your situation?  When the probable benefits and costs of an option are pretty clear, this method can be fairly straightforward.  But as Professor Nisbett notes, the method becomes more challenging when options have multiple costs and benefits, probabilities are hard to estimate, and/or there’s no end to how much research you might need to make an informed decision.

When there are so many imponderables, the real value of cost-benefit analysis may be that it forces you to think through your options and avoid making a rash decision. Some people list all the pros and cons only to find themselves pulling for the option they “want”. And sometimes heart should overrule the head.

Here are some further cautions about relying solely on cost-benefit analysis:

  • The cost to others: Your method may not take into account the costs your strategy inflicts on others (e.g. costs for staff, suppliers, partners, other stakeholders and community).
  • Non-monetary terms of success: Often cost-benefit methods do not account very well for non-monetary factors that may be important measures of success. (What price do you place on a saving a life?)
  • Thinking bias: Our judgment can be warped by what’s already been invested in a strategy (known as a “sunk cost” bias) — be careful not to throw good money after bad. Only future costs and benefits should figure in your choices.
  • Choice involves “cost”: When you can take just one action, be careful not to ignore the “opportunity cost” — consider the money, time and/or pleasure benefits of your “next best” option that are lost when you choose some other course of action.

If cost-benefit analysis fits your situation, use it by all means. But keep an eye out for these other concerns that can compromise your analysis.

8020Info helps strategy teams think better together as they develop and effectively implement research / stakeholder consultations, strategic plans, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:

     Talent For Jobs Of The Future

At the moment we are deep into a strategy development project focused on workforce development and in-migration. For communities across North America, impending shortages of skilled workers create a complex, multi-dimensional challenge, not the least of which involves imagining what the jobs of the future will be. Consider this:

  • The World Economic Forum report on The Future of Jobs projects that two-thirds of job losses through 2020 will be in routine white collar office functions and various types of administrative jobs. Meanwhile growth is expected in Computer and Mathematical and Architecture and Engineering related fields.
  • By one popular estimate, the report says, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.
  • Jobs (new and coming soon) include: Rewilders (farmers who undo damage done to the environment), robotic instrumentationists (to support telesurgery), nostalgialists (who recreate period interiors of spaces for the elderly), cognitive systems engineers (self driving cars), augmented reality architects (for therapy or immersive experiences), blended trades (green, connected home construction), air traffic controllers/drone dispatchers, and carbon accountants.
  • In an innovation-driven world, employees will also have to develop new skills, even without changing jobs. “Churn in place” will require relentless training and retraining to help them keep up with new advances in their fields.

These labour force changes are tides affecting younger workers planning their education and careers, as well as workplaces plotting strategy to secure the talent needed to succeed in the 21st century.  Approaches for competing successfully in an era of skill scarcity will soon stale-date the techniques of “commodity hiring” from an industrial era.  How quickly will we be ready to change?


8.  Closing Thought:  When Decisions Are Tough

“The black-and-white, right-or-wrong decisions happen before they reach the CEO’s office. The gray area is where the CEO lives and proves his or her worth.”

— Doug Conant