October 16, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


1.  Brainstorming In Negotiations

Negotiations are about understanding options and positions, which would seem ripe for brainstorming. But few of us consider formally using that as part of our negotiating strategy.

Horacio Falcao, a professor at INSEAD business school, warns that brainstorming with the other side during negotiations could be risky. “The lack of filters and rapid fire approach of brainstorming could reveal too much about the parties’ limits or possibilities.”

As a result, they may end up giving the counterparty a potential information advantage when it comes to dividing up the pie. “The fact that an idea is brainstormed hints to the counterparty that the originator of the idea can and probably has the resources to make the idea happen,” he writes on the university’s blog.

As well, the other party may pretend to collaborate but play it safe and divulge just enough to keep you excited to continue brainstorming and thereby reveal more information.

If the other party raises unexpected options, respond: “I will be glad to share my opinion once I see the full picture and all the other possible options side by side. Why don’t we continue with our process and see what else we can come up with?”

But he does feel you should freely brainstorm with trusted colleagues before negotiations begin. Focus on structural options, not numbers, exploring possibilities — feasibility can come later. “Go as wild and as far as you can, since you will be in a safe environment,” he says.


2.  The Fresh-Start Effect

When the New Year approaches, people reflect on their lives and often resolve to make improvements. Katie Sherwin, a user experience specialist with the Nielsen Norman Group, says your organization should pay attention to this fresh-start effect, which can be triggered by special occasions or temporal landmarks like the start of a school semester, a birthday or taking a new job.

Researchers have found that as so-called nine-enders (age 29, 39, 49, etc.) approach a new decade in their age, they are more likely to examine their lives for meaning. Psychologists say that highlighting meaningful occasions can create a clean slate to help people make better decisions.

If a website knows its users’ birth dates, Sherwin says, it can capitalize on the extra motivation of nine-enders.

“Fresh starts are a good opportunity to nudge users in a direction that is beneficial either for them or for the site: They may finally get to learn that foreign language, or sign up for that continuing education course, or hire a financial advisor,” she writes on the NNGroup site.

This involves understanding what motivates your users. How do they want to improve themselves? Do their aspirations change at this time of the year?

Connect your users’ motivations to what your company offers, highlighting how your organization helps them pursue goals. Mention the milestone in your message.

“Highlighting a new beginning reminds people that time has passed; they can start fresh and work towards their goals,” she advises.


3.  Try These Meeting Tips

Your next meeting may be time for a fresh start, using some of these ideas from the General Leadership Blog:

  • Develop a meeting culture that stresses focus, urgency, and results. Your current culture may, on the other hand, stress collegiality or relaxation.
  • Set expectations.
  • Limit meeting time to three minutes per attendee — so a 10-person meeting will be no more than 30 minutes.
  • Don’t sit. That’s too comfy and elongates the session. Stand.
  • In meetings where people are sharing what they are doing, each attendee should be limited to three narrow areas of focus – no more.
  • They also should state their weekly objective, outcome, and actions needed. Keep focused on those items.
  • Appoint a scribe who records everyone’s actions needed and due date.

Return to work when that’s done. “No feelings. No complaining. No wandering. No distraction. No waste. No fat,” the site advises.


4.  Nourishing Friendships In Your Workplace

Gallup research shows that having a best friend at work is an anchor that lengthens a person’s tenure with an organization. HR consultant Tim Sackett says that developing friendships is not as easy as it seems and if you value retention, you may want to offer a helping hand.

Provide real-life interactions where your employees can build “real” friendships, not just social network friendships. That should include giving employees the opportunity to work with employees of their choosing on projects. You might give an employee a project and let them pick their team to work on it.

“Don’t ignore those employees who don’t interact with anyone. This is usually the first red flag you’ll get that a person is unhappy at work and more likely to turnover,” he adds in his blog.


5.  Zingers

  • Use a different lens: Go to a store that sells magazines and buy three that you would never think to read — perhaps Monster Trucking, some specialty professional magazine, or another publication that lacks appeal. Then read them cover to cover. Lars Bastholm, global chief compliance officer for Google, recommends that, after buying those magazines, you should look at how an issue you face can be reframed to appeal to readers of that publication. Unfamiliarity can encourage creativity. (Source: HBR.com)
  • Taking stock: As we approach the end of the year, reconsider things you are doing that are no longer appropriate because circumstances have changed. (Source: Jason Womack’s blog)
  • Trusting your gut can be bad advice: Consultant Joellyn Sargent says your gut keeps you in the comfort zone; steers you to supportive friends and family rather than other advisors who might provide a jolt; and avoids risk, rarely leading you to the edge where major gains can occur. (Source: Joellyn Sargent)
  • Avoid autopilot: Reactions to customers become so routine after awhile that they feel processed rather than served, notes consultant Jeff Mowatt. How many of your recent transactions closed with “have a nice day,” for example? That’s why he was impressed when, after buying a new coat, the salesman looked him in the eye and said, “Thank you for your business.” He felt appreciated, and will happily go back. (Source: JeffMowatt.com)
  • Autonomy is a driver: Ben Chestnut, CEO of MailChimp, says his company’s managers struggled when they identified independence as an important value —their job is to manage a team. But creativity requires individuality, so even if it’s complicated to balance management and independence, it’s vital to address that issue. (Source: New York Times)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:  Powerful Conversations

Question:  How can I improve my leadership?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

There is so much that can be suggested but I often turn to improving conversations. A manager’s day is suffused with conversations. So we have to think carefully about their role in leadership.

Often they occur spontaneously and are over in a flicker. It’s vital, therefore, to focus on the importance of the moment — it’s not just a casual encounter — and what is at stake, for you and the other party.

Dee Hock, the founder of VISA International, loved the way his one-time boss, Maxwell Carlson, closed meetings. He would lean back in his chair and ask: “Did this meeting serve your purpose?”

I recently looked at Phil Harkins’ Powerful Conversations, while recommending it to somebody taking a new senior post. It came out in 1999 and much has been written about conversations since. But he did an excellent job of outlining three stages for what he labels “powerful conversations” — everyday chats to further your agenda.

  • At the outset you should set up your agenda with a sincere expression of need. Make an emotional connection with the other person so that he or she will open up, share an unexpressed dialogue, and reveal undiscussables. To gain support, he says, it’s crucial to indicate your need for help.

This stage can be hard since leaders don’t like admitting they need help or that they don’t have all the answers. But Harkins feels it’s vital to ask for assistance. “Exhibiting honest vulnerability is the key to making connection with other people,” he stresses.

  • That leads into the second phase, where the leader must find out what the subordinate’s own goals and hidden feelings are, so the two individuals’ agendas can be meshed.

“High-impact leaders know that in order to advance their own agendas, they must also advance the agendas of others,” Harkins stresses.

  • When that is done, the closing phase is a summary. You want to make sure you both have agreed on the next steps and understand how to proceed. In that regard, it is also vital to check that the other person’s goals have truly been achieved, as Hock’s mentor did.

Powerful conversations may not be the only way to improve your leadership, but their impact can be marked.

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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:  Communities of Practice

We’ve noticed a trend that more and more of the deep challenges we face today can’t be solved alone, inside our own organizations. Solutions require working with others, and breaking down “silos” — a term we hear frequently from clients.

One silo-bridging solution might be to establish a community of practice. Educational theorist Etienne Wenger explains that these are structures involving “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”.

On his website, he notes communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of purposeful collective learning:

  • a tribe learning to survive,
  • a band of artists seeking new forms of expression,
  • a group of engineers working on similar problems,
  • a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, or
  • a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope.

Three characteristics are crucial to success:

  • The domain: A community of practice is not merely a club of friends or a network of connections between people. Members define their identity around a shared, purposeful interest and their commitment to practice in that area.
  • The community: Members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other. A website in itself is not a community of practice. And having the same job or title does not define a community of practice unless members interact and learn together. Impressionists, for instance, used to meet in cafes and studios to discuss the style of painting they were inventing together, even though they were all painters and often painted alone.
  • The practice: Wenger notes a community of practice is not merely a community of interest: people who like certain kinds of movies, for instance. Members are practitioners. Over time and sustained interaction, they develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems — in short, a shared practice.

It is the combination of these three elements that drives a community of practice. Consider it as an option if you need to bridge silos, align practices, and learn what works in a fast-changing world.


8.  Closing Thought

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”

— Saadi