December 18, 2016


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


1. Our Assumptions About Old and Young Workers Are Wrong

We all harbour assumptions about the differences between young and old workers. But a survey by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, authors of The 100 Year Life, found far fewer differences than might have been imagined.

“In fact, many of the traits and desires commonly attributed to younger people are shared by the whole workforce,” they write in Harvard Business Review. Specifically:

  • It is not just young people who are investing in new skills — after the age of 30, many people are worried that their skills have plateaued. While the 18-30 group is the largest one actively investing in new skills, the majority of people in other age cohorts keep maintaining skills, and this does not significantly decline with age.
  • It is not just the young who are positive and excited by their work. About 50% of people at all ages felt positively about their work.
  • Older people are working to keep fit: Vitality is central to a long productive life and the researchers say it’s easy to imagine only the young really care about fitness. Yet it is the older folks who are working hardest to keep fit. About half of those under 45 are actively trying to keep fit, rising continuously with age until a peak of 71% for those over 70. They also found older people are not more exhausted and don’t want to slow down.

So banish those stereotypes. The generations in your workplace are more alike than you may have assumed.


2. Stop Wasting Your Employees’ Time

Managers get irritated when employees seem to be wasting time. But Jennifer Deal, a research scientist at the Centre for Creative Leadership, says in strategy+business that in fact managers too often are wasting their employees’ time.

First, in the eagerness to save money, they opt for a “do more with less” approach. That results in managers (or other staff) becoming overwhelmed as they try to handle the jobs of two or three other people after folks leave. Bottlenecks occur and time is wasted. In a survey, 83% of respondents reported their time is wasted by managers or colleagues with too much on their plate.

A second cause of wasted time involves overly cautious review processes, with many managers not making decisions pending substantial consultations with others. In the survey, 90% of respondents blamed their wasted time on too many people being involved in decisions, to the point where three approvals might be needed to order paper clips.

She calls this “pernicious, because it is so prevalent,” and warns it diffuses responsibility for decisions: “If a dozen people make a decision together, then no one is solely responsible if failure results.”

One step to combat this wastage, she suggests, would be to count time as carefully as money. Organizational initiatives should have time budgets as well as financial budgets, enabling managers to track overruns. As well, offer incentives for avoiding additional time costs.


3. How To Start Colouring Outside The Lines

From our earliest days, we are told to “colour inside the lines.” But consultant Art Petty, on his Leadership Caffeine blog, says a leader should also know when to colour outside the lines. For example:

  • Quit hiring clones. Hire people who are curious and let them experiment a lot.
  • In hiring, go for the person who has failed and learned along his journey, not the person who succeeded at everything.
  • Challenge conventional approaches and processes. Every day.
  • Quit worrying when great people leave your organization. Support their need to explore. Let them know they can come back and ask them to send other top people to you.
  • Never waste a meeting. “If people aren’t leaving your meetings better informed, motivated and excited about something, you are failing at running meetings,” he says.
  • Take a chance on someone every chance you get.

Push beyond boundaries. Colour outside the lines.


4. Questions to Kickstart Powerful Conversations

Work revolves around conversations. Trainer Dan Rockwell says a powerful conversation is “a thing of beauty” and on his Leadership Freak blog offers offers these 10 opening lines to kickstart such glorious moments:

  • What would make this conversation a success for you today?
  • What’s giving you the most energy these days? What does that say about you?
  • What’s on your mind?
  • What are you learning?
  • What crossroads are you at today?
  • What would you like to get out of this conversation?
  • How would you like to move the ball forward today?
  • Would you like me to listen, coach, or advise you today?
  • Where do you feel you are wasting energy?
  • How have you succeeded since our last conversation?


5. Zingers

  • On your toes or just showing up? In any given meeting or event, on any given day, most people are merely showing up, notes entrepreneur Seth Godin. This might be the 50th sonata a pianist has played or the 50th meeting of the month. But every once in a while, someone is on their toes, primed and eager. “What would happen if we all got on our toes, together? Just for a little while? That’s when big things happen,” he says. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Nurturing your client base: If your client base seems to be drying up, Ted Leonhardt, former global creative director of FITCH Worldwide, advises making a list of your current and past clients. Then determine precisely how you could help three of them in ways you haven’t already. Now call them — don’t email, but do it by phone. (Source: FastCompany)
  • Taking the long view: Work is a never-ending process, says recruitment specialist Andrew McGregor. We need to get used to that and stop managing our time with a focus just on one day or one week, planning instead for a career. (Source: LinkedIn)
  • Cutting through complexity: Ad agency executive Steve McKee says there are two kinds of people in business: Complexifiers, who let all the complications of an issue blur their vision, and simplifiers, who focus on cutting through complexity. Which are you? Keep in mind his contention that “complexity is the enemy of comprehension.” (Source: SmartBrief)
  • Bonding with a better process: Organizations try to get members of teams to bond together. And that has some impact on performance, albeit a modest one, according to a recent study. But a much more powerful effect comes during a bonding process when members also try to understand the goals and interests of their colleagues. Bryant University’s Michael Roberto sums up: “We succeed as a team if we can help individual members achieve their goals. We can’t simply ask members to put aside all personal goals for the sake of the team.” (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info: Don’t Stay Boxed In


We have a well-defined and wildly important goal to achieve in 2017, but we’re feeling boxed in by constraints and limitations — how can we push through them?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

Your first step might be to reframe those constraints as a stimulus to find a better way of achieving your goal. Adam Morgan and Mark Barden offer some excellent approaches in A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages. For example:

  • Review your attitude: Are you still in a “victim” stage (passively accepting those constraints)? Try neutralizing limitations by responding with workarounds and creative new solutions; or proactively transforming your operation using those constraints to stimulate different, potentially breakthrough new approaches?The authors offer a great example in Audi’s effort to engineer a new race car for the 2006 Le Mans. When limited in building a car faster than their competitors (a serious constraint!), they focused instead on the fuel efficiency of diesel technology and making fewer pit stops during the race. They went on to place first for the next three years.
  • Reconsider your path dependencies: Today’s path is really yesterday’s path, and “locked-in” practices can create pitfalls on the way to success, especially if the “box” you’re in begs you to frame and analyze problems in new ways, solve them with updated processes and monitor more relevant metrics. Review your assumptions, mindset, motivations and methods.
  • Focus on propelling questions: Your planning focus should, the authors suggest, combine bold ambition with significant constraint — and with some degree of unreasonable scale to jolt your thinking. (For instance, IKEA once took on a project to produce a well-designed, durable table that could be made and sold profitably for just 5 Euros!) Your ambitions may relate to growth, quality, superiority, experience or impact. The constraints may involve resources, methods, time or essential foundations for success in your business.
  • Focus on “we can, if … ” rather than on “can’t because”: Perhaps your thinking has been derailed by focus on constraints rather than on a solution. Instead, align your conversation around the right question about how something could be possible  — “we can, if …”For example, the new citizenM hotel chain had minimal resources available to create stylish hotel experiences. So they narrowed scope. Their can-if statement was: “We can offer a uniquely hip hotel experience for a low price if we do just four things flawlessly.” (The four involved the bed, the shower, technology and great design.)

The authors clearly outline several other key tools you may want to explore: changing mindsets and culture, being resourceful and finding abundance, activating emotions, and providing leadership in a future of constraints.

Clients often find it refreshing and productive to use a few of these techniques, such as pairing goals with constraints to propel their thinking into a “We can, if …” context.  May they help you leapfrog over those barriers to achieve great goals in 2017!


7.  From Our Water Cooler: Our 2016 Shout Out

At 8020Info, it’s been another year loaded with meaningful projects, and we’d like to say thanks to all those special people we collaborate with and serve — our clients.

Again this year we facilitated strategy development and planning sessions, stakeholder consultations and research, and designed communications approaches to help their organizations move forward.

Best wishes of the season from our team to:

  • Brockville District Hospital Foundation
  • City of Belleville (Recreation, Culture & Community Services)
  • City of Kingston (Workforce Development & In-migration Project)
  • City of Kingston (Interconnected Community Communications)
  • Community Living North Frontenac
  • Cushman & Wakefield Kingston (formerly DTZ Eastern Ontario)
  • Downtown Kingston BIA
  • Employment & Education Centre Brockville
  • Events & Management Plus (Canadian Society of Clinical Chemists)
  • Extend-A-Family (Kingston & the Southeast Region)
  • Grand Theatre Foundation
  • Habitat for Humanity Kingston (Limestone Region)
  • Hospice Kingston
  • Hospice Palliative Care Network (Southeast Region)
  • Kingston Arts Council
  • Kingston Canadian Film Festival
  • Kingston Economic Development Organization
  • Kingston Family Health Team
  • KFL&A Public Health
  • Limestone Advisory for Child Care Programs
  • Providence Care
  • Providence Manor
  • Queen’s Department of Family Medicine
  • Queen’s Distributed Medical Education
  • Queen’s University Library
  • St. Lawrence College (Brockville)
  • St. Lawrence Youth Association
  • Southeast LHIN Health Links (Leads Retreat)
  • Theatre Kingston
  • University Hospitals Kingston Foundation
  • United Ways of Ontario
  • Viner, Kennedy, Frederick, Allan & Tobias LLP
  • Youth Employment Strategy (City of Kingston & United Way)

We were also proud to contribute this year as supporters and volunteers for the Queen’s Family Health Team Advisory Board, Imagine Kingston Roundtable, Kingston’s Residential Hospice Campaign, various arts organizations and Innovate Kingston. Happy holidays and best wishes for 2017!


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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.


8.  Closing Thought

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.”

— Neil Gaiman