September 25, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


1.  Take Advantage Of SCARF Social Behaviour

For strategies to better manage groups and improve co-operation, you might find it helpful to pay attention to the SCARF model, which is based on five factors driving social behaviour:

  • [S] Status: This relates to an individual’s sense of worth. The perception of a threat or actual reduction in status tends to generate a strong reaction. “This means things such as performance feedback can cause an avoid-response. Talking about feedback (not even the act of giving it, but talking about it) can create a feeling that perceived social status is at risk, which causes the negative behaviour,” a report on the Cleverism web site notes.
  • [C] Certainty: This provides security to people. Uncertainty can hinder the ability to make effective and balanced decisions. It is crucial at work to ensure clarity and certainty prevail.
  • [A] Autonomy: This provides a sense of control for staff. Group collaboration often challenges autonomy, as hierarchical structures are put in place. Offer choices if you can. A person has a better sense of autonomy if presented with a choice to either do option X or Y, rather than told to do a specific option.
  • [R] Relatedness: How connected we feel to others improves our decision-making. You should aim to build groups that rely on mutual trust and work together against uncertainty.
  • [F] Fairness: When a person thinks something is unfair, the brain automatically becomes defensive. “People don’t relate to or empathize with people who they think are acting unfairly,” the report stresses.


2.  The Secret To Good Listening

Good listening involves more than merely not talking when others are speaking. Research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman’s consultancy found people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight — gently challenging old assumptions in a constructive way.

“Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening, but asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehended it well enough to want additional information,” they advise in Harvard Business Review.

“Good listening was consistently seen as a two-way dialogue, rather than a one-way ‘speaker vs. hearer’ interaction. The best conversations were active.”

The best listeners made the conversation a positive experience for the other party, boosting self-esteem. Being critical doesn’t accomplish that, obviously, nor does being passive. “Good listeners made the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them,” the consultants say.

Good listening was co-operative conversation, with feedback flowing in both directions without defensiveness. Good listeners usually make suggestions.

“This finding somewhat surprised us,” they reveal, “since it’s not uncommon to hear complaints that ‘so-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.’ Perhaps what the data is telling us is that making suggestions is not itself the problem; it may be the skill with which those suggestions are made.”

Want an image of good listening? They suggest a trampoline – a good listener is someone others bounce ideas off.


3.  Improving Your Virtual Meetings

Virtual meetings are commonplace these days. They save time and money, and make it simple to gather. But are the ones you attend effective? Here are some tips to improve them, from consultant Randall Craig’s Make It Happen Tipsheet:

  • Put the meeting log-in information within the calendar and your meeting request.
  • If a person is unfamiliar with the meeting technology platform, use it beforehand for a one-on-one meeting with them, ensuring they are ready.
  • If you aren’t that familiar with the technology yourself, try a dry run.
  • If it’s a training session, you may want to record it. But recording other types of meetings could have a “chill” effect and stifle conversation.
  • Send out an agenda that requires each attendee to “own” a section.
  • Require participants to do some preparation.
  • Let participants know what materials they should have with them during the meeting.
  • Speak to key participants about your expectations regarding participation.
  • Open the meeting early to iron out any technology glitches and allow pre-meeting conversations to take place.


4.  Say No To No — Try Yes Instead

Consultant Tim Sackett observes that HR officials tend to be known as the “No Police.” When people seek their advice, invariably the answer is no or a variation of no, such as “I need to check.”

Of course, this can be true of other cautious managers, so his advice transcends HR and it’s simple:  Say “Yes” to everything and everyone!

Instead of fussing about documentation or legal issues, just agree. After that initial support, the conversation will inevitably steer to the complications in going ahead, but the colleague will feel supported rather than rejected as you explore possibilities without jeopardizing the matter at stake.


5.  Zingers

  • Buffer distractions with meaningful goals: If you want employees to not be distracted in their work —losing time to the Internet, text messaging, and gossipy chats— give them a goal that matters. Consultant Tanveer Naseer draws that lesson from Olympic rowers who ignore rain or strong winds, insisting “that’s outside my boat.” They are focused on what they can control and their ultimate goal. (Source: TanveerNaseer.com)
  • Encounters of four kinds: Here are four end-of-day questions worth considering: “What encounter did I handle particularly well today and why?”; “What encounter do I believe the other person in the exchange thinks I handled well and why?”; “What encounter did I handle poorly today and why?”; “What encounter do I believe the other person in the exchange thinks I handled poorly and why?” (Source: strategy + business)
  • Spend it building assets: Entrepreneur Seth Godin says it’s fine to raise money from investors to build an asset — machines, patents, a solid brand, or a significant real estate presence. But too often small business owners eager to delight their customers raise money merely to cover their short-term expenses in meeting those needs — costs that should be covered by customers, not investors. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Share your precious presentation time: Minutes are important in presentations, says public speaking coach Nick Morgan, so give some back to your audience, ending early, rather than late. And if minutes are important, so are seconds. Use them wisely, not just jamming them up with words but using pauses, gestures, and silence. (Source: Public Words)
  • From whoops to creativity: Organizational retreats tend to be celebratory, with lots of talk about how great the team is. But if you’re starting to plan next year’s, give some thought to vulnerability. A study found that teams where members shared embarrassing moments displayed more creativity and teamwork afterwards than groups that shared accomplishments. (Source: KelloggInsight)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:  Mental Effects That Undercut Decision-Making

Question:  You have written before about Processes For Better Decisions, and I’ve read that having too many options available can lead to indecision or reduced satisfaction with your final choice. Are there other similar psychological issues to watch for when making decisions?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

Several months ago on Buffer, Kevan Lee wrote about various psychological effects of interest on this point.

In addition to the paradox of choice (having more choices is not always better), he identifies five other significant influences:

  • The Focusing Effect: People place too much importance on one aspect of an event and fail to recognize other factors relevant to their decision. Marketers, of course, often use the “focusing illusion” to persuade consumers by putting a spotlight on certain positive features while downplaying other less attractive aspects. As Lee points out, politicians also use focusing to exaggerate the importance of particular issues.

Bottom line: Avoid tunnel vision by remembering to keep perspective, look at problems from many angles, and weigh several factors before making a decision.

  •  The Bystander Effect: Researchers call it a “confusion of responsibility,” where individuals feel less responsible for an outcome when others are available to step in. In one study where a nearby student appeared to be choking, 85% of test subjects rushed to help when they felt they were the only person there. When one other person was available to help, only 65% responded. When four other people were available to help, the percentage dropped to just 31%.

Bottom line: Be specific when you need help, picking out just one person each time.

  • The Spotlight Effect: A sense of being under constant scrutiny, and the paranoia and self-doubt we feel whenever we make a mistake, does not truly reflect reality — people aren’t paying attention at moments of failure nearly so much as we think.

Bottom line: When you do make a mistake, you can rest easy knowing that its impact is far less than you think.

  • The Pratfall Effect: Admit your failures; your human mistakes will charm and endear yourself to others.  Those who never make mistakes are perceived as less likeable than those who commit the occasional faux pas. Messing up draws people closer to you.

Bottom line: It’s okay to be fallible from time to time. Occasional non-critical mistakes are not only acceptable, they may have benefits.

  • The Pygmalion Effect: Expectations tend to create reality. If you believe something is true of yourself, eventually it will be. What one person expects of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Bottom line: Challenge yourself with more difficult goals and tasks in an effort to rise to meet the challenge. As a leader, expect great things of your team.

A little self-awareness of these psychological tendencies can help you make strategic course corrections when making decisions.

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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:  Thinking About How To Disrupt HR

We’re looking forward to speaking at DisruptHR Kingston on Oct. 6. The event is an information exchange designed to help the human resources and business community shake things up and think differently — and in a way that leaves you inspired.

In something akin to a rapid-fire series of mini-TED talks (20 slides x 15 seconds each), a dozen experienced thought leaders will have five minutes each to present ideas and concepts that challenge the ways we go about attracting, motivating and developing our talent pool. Sounds like fun.

The event has a standard format taking place in many communities across North America, from Austin to Boston and LA to New York. More information on our hometown event is available at: http://disrupthrkingston.com. We’d love to see you there.


8.  Closing Thought:

“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.”

— Paulo Coelho