August 20, 2017


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the Water Cooler we touch on resilience, building business, employee handbooks, procrastination, and teams that share air time. Enjoy!


1. Achieving Equal Air Time

When you think of the ingredients for success in your workplace, it’s unlikely that equal air time will come to mind. But consultant Kris Boesch notes on SmartBrief  that Google’s investigation into team success found psychological safety is key.

A group norm supporting psychological safety is equality in the distribution of conversational turn-taking. That means everyone has roughly equal air time. If one person or a small group dominated, the collective intelligence of the group declined.

She recommends taking a moment to evaluate your team’s collective conversational aptitude. If it’s weak, consider the reasons. It might be a matter of confidence; introverts versus extroverts; or competition between teammates. Is somebody consistently repetitive or overly descriptive?

“Perhaps those who are repetitive don’t feel heard. Perhaps those who are most vociferous are trying to prove their value to the team. Your over-describers likely want you to really know how hard they are working,” she says.

Have you addressed those steam rolling over others or pushed to expand the comfort zones of those not speaking much?

Start by touching base with each team member and let them know you want a more equal distribution of air time. Ask those who contribute more to sit back a bit and listen. Let those who speak less know you want to hear from them more and on occasion will call on them to share their thoughts.

It won’t magically change. But addressing the issue will be a step in a better direction.


2. Creating An Effective Employee Handbook

HR consultant Tim Sackett says most employee handbooks read like a welcome packet to prison. “If you forced candidates to read your employee handbook before actually accepting a position with your company, 99% would decline your offer!” he writes on his blog.

That’s undoubtedly an exaggeration. But his point is clear: If you have an employee handbook, it may be inadequate, and if you’re contemplating creating one you should get it right. Here’s how:

  • Tell your story: He recommends writing in story fashion, since people are much more likely to read it. That may take more creativity than you have. But someone in your organization is probably an effective storyteller and you can collaborate with them to pass along the details in a more interesting way.
  • Give the ‘why’: Rules in an employee handbook can often seem dumb. “Just give them the why,” he says. It might not make the rule any less dumb, but at least they’ll understand the reasoning.
  • Use a graphic designer: He believes colour and graphics help the handbook’s readability. Given all the boring stuff you are forced to share, even in more interesting story fashion, you want the handbook to look appealing and engaging.
  • Use your handbook to communicate your culture: Make sure the handbook echoes your culture. If you’re a staid organization, don’t opt for a funny handbook with cartoons.

With a little effort, you can improve your handbook so it doesn’t reflect badly on your organization on an employee’s first day at work.


3. Michael Jordan And Your Marketing

If you want to improve your marketing, start with Michael Jordan.

The basketball star wasn’t a perfectionist but an improvisationist, suggests advertising wizard Roy H. Williams. And that’s why he was hard to stop.

“A perfectionist knows exactly what he’s going to do. He plans his work and works his plan. The only problem is that because he knows, the defender knows, too. It’s easy to anticipate what a perfectionist is going to do. He’s predictable. But no one knew what Michael was going to do, because he didn’t know himself,” Williams writes in his Monday Morning Memo.

The best ad writers are also improvisationists, he says.

“Predictability is the curse of the perfectionist, and the silent assassin of advertising. When you say what people expect you to say, no matter how perfectly you say it, you bore them,” he says.

Try having someone who knows nothing of your intentions write the first sentence of your next ad. This technique —random entry— forces improvisation and creativity.

“Going up and down between these two buns is what creates the real magic,” he says.


4. In Praise Of Procrastination

Thinking expert Art Markman says it fine to procrastinate. But you have to pick the right time.

“Chipping away at tough problems is actually really taxing on your memory. You’ve got to pull information out of your recollection of past experiences in order to come up with a good solution. So chances are, if you’re not making much headway, you’re not actually retrieving anything that’s helpful,” he writes on Fast Company.

Notice when those moments are happening. Take a break — a walk, a nap, a night spent on other matters — while your mind works in the background to allow creative problem-solving room to bubble up.


5. Zingers

  • Set up teams for success: Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, shadowed other top leaders to learn from them, coming up with three big findings. First: Use small teams —no bigger than two pizzas can feed— that are cross-functional in nature. Second: The customer breaks all ties. Third: Speed and quality are not tradeoffs. Speed forces you to focus. (Source: Forbes.com)
  • Hire for long-term qualities: When hiring people for critical leadership roles, hire for character and potential, says consultant Art Petty. (Source: ArtPetty.com)
  • Step back and focus: Some key questions to answer, from consultant Sam Geist: How do you exemplify in a few words what your organization stands for? What’s your biggest obstacle as an organization today and how are you overcoming it? How do you compete today? Tomorrow? (Source: QuickBites newsletter)
  • Prepare for trouble: Author and speaker Bob Burg says the advice he would give to his 20-year-old self is: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” (Source: Burg.com)
  • Build your network: Shepa Learning Company’s networking specialists recommend giving Shapr a try, an app that is a blend of LinkedIn and Tinder. It’s free, using your interests, location and professional experience to match you with up to 15 profiles a day of people you might want to connect with to build your network. Like Tinder, you swipe left or right to indicate if you want to connect, and it’s all done anonymously until you are notified of a match. (Source: Shepa Learning Company’s Positive Networking Tip)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:
Reigniting Your Drive For Goals

Question:  Summer seems to have drained our energy for meeting annual goals. How can we recover our stride in the last four months of the year?


8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

You’re undoubtedly not alone in this challenge, although perhaps somewhat unique in recognizing it.

  • Start by highlighting that the remaining four months are a good unit of time for the organization to make progress and improve.
  • Then ask everyone to think about the most important goal for that period and to write it down. Give them time. Prod them to think deeper.
  • Have them discuss it in groups of two or three, to refine their idea. Then, have each one present their top idea to the group, noting it on a whiteboard.
  • Discuss whether some of the ideas can be combined, but don’t force it. Also ask if any goals developed at the outset of 2017 are missing from the list and need to be added — a chance to see if they even remember!
  • Then give everyone two votes and have them check off their top two goals.

Two options for picking your top goal for action this fall:

  • The first is to just pick the top goal —the one with most checkmarks— perhaps amending it somewhat if it seems a bit off, and go with that. That approach helps you focus on one big thing, rather than scattering your forces. Even if it’s not the goal you may have in mind, progress towards it will help the organization.
  • The second alternative at this stage is to throw in your own top goal, if it’s not on the list, saying, “This is what I think is most urgent.” Then add to it the top two items in the employee vote, stressing you now have three goals, reducing any concern about your personal intervention. (If yours is already in the top three voter-getters, let democracy have its day.)

Some would argue three goals are too many. But perhaps three goals will draw more people in, because they strongly believe in one of the goals on the agenda. Progress on three may also be as good, or better, than more progress on just one.

Now ask everyone to write down what they will do to help in the effort to achieve the goal(s). Don’t let anyone leave until they have done this, but stress they will have three days to amend their commitment if they wish — but only three days.

Now nudge, nudge, nudge. Consider sending each person an email on Oct. 1, Nov. 1, and Dec. 1, reminding them what he/she promised to do.

It’s a simple, quick process but it will help you regain energy for action this fall.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:
Seven Trends For Business

Last week our team tuned into a webinar called Seven Secret Shifts, presented by Kathryn Wood, the designer of a new Business Builder Toolbox.

She talked about evolving trends that all organizations should focus on, including leading with purpose and passion; visualizing your goals; positioning to be different while aiming for your ‘sweet spot’; focusing on your ideal customer using personas; optimizing the value you offer your customer; and development through iteration.

A seventh trend was of particular interest to us, because it is relatively new and often overlooked — creating strategies to become more resilient. And we should be careful not to think of resilience as being nothing more than traditional risk management.

  • Businesses must build capacity to minimize their fragility when hit with unexpected disruptions — be well prepared to carry on or recover quickly from difficulties.
  • Resilience may also mean being able to find innovative solutions when a crisis can’t be resolved using your old standard methods.
  • Another common tactic to build resilience is through diversification. Although it may be easier to have a few large customers providing most of your business, relying on too few can leave your organization prone to significant hardship if one leaves.

As the webinar suggests, it’s important for small businesses to think about the right resilience strategies for their circumstances.


 ● § ●

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

“The only place where success comes before work is the dictionary.”

Vidal Sassoon