October 1, 2017


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the Water Cooler we touch on everyday decisions involving courage, how advertising may not always pay, standing desks, building trust in the workplace, and various leadership tips. Enjoy!


1. Small Acts Of Courage Create Big Results

Stories of courage usually describe towering acts in moments of crisis. But consultant Kevin Eikenberry says we should think as well of the everyday situations where we display —or could display— courage, with a big impact on our career and organizations.

“We must be courageous if we want to make an impact, and it doesn’t take a crisis to be courageous,” he writes on his Leadership & Learning blog.

He offers five suggestions:

  • Ask for feedback: The people who work for you can help you to improve but feedback can be hard to ask for and hear. “Hard or not, it is needed. Be willing to open yourself up enough to ask for feedback on how you are doing; then act on what you learn,” he says.
  • Apologize: Similarly, we avoid apologizing for fear it will weaken us. But colleagues appreciate someone who admits they did something wrong.
  • Share a mistake: He distinguishes this from apologizing. Try sharing mistakes, admitting mistakes, or talking about mistakes made in the past. “People don’t want a perfect leader, they want a real human being to follow. Beyond that, the sharing of mistakes helps us learn,” he says.
  • Delegate: It takes courage to let go of tasks you are responsible for, especially if you do them well.
  • Offer trust: If we want to build the amount of trust we have with others, we must extend trust to them.

Five everyday acts, but each requires courage.


2. The Myth Of Focus

We’re told that focus is the key to success. But serial entrepreneur James Altucher says that’s nonsense when you’re trying to start a new venture.

“If business was about focus, then almost every business we know would have failed in its first or second year,” he writes on his blog.

Amazon, he notes, started as “the world’s biggest bookstore.” These days it’s a large retail chain, even selling organic foods. They’re also the largest online seller of shoes. Founder Jeff Bezos is not focused solely on Amazon. He also owns The Washington Post and a company intending to send tourists into space.

And that’s not just one isolated example. Richard Branson started out focused on a music magazine and now owns 300 businesses. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns close to 100 companies in a variety of fields. Google organizes information and makes 99% cent of its revenue from advertising but also is making self-driving cars, glasses, and an operating system for mobiles.

What about small entrepreneurs?

“When I was running my first small business, a web services agency, every day we’d figure out what additional services we could offer. We expanded our offerings almost every week. This allowed us to charge more to our customers, and also to get new customers,” he says. When they stopped diversifying, they knew it was time to sell the business before competitors caught up.

So perhaps we should focus on being less focused.


3. Before Spending A Penny On Advertising

When it’s hard to find new clients or customers, thoughts inevitably turn to advertising. But consultant Donald Cooper warns on his blog: “Much of the money spent on advertising is wasted. Most of it is the wrong message, sent to the wrong people, in the wrong media.”

He describes advertising as “creative bragging.” But before you can brag, you need to be worth bragging about. So start by making your organization top notch.

“When you’re delivering compelling functional, emotional and/or financial value to well understood target customers, creating compelling advertising is easy,” he says.

Don’t go too far with your bragging, however. Don’t lie. And don’t focus on price, unless your strategy is to be the ultimate low-cost provider.

He says the cost of an ad makes it worth doing only when the experience you deliver is so compelling that every new customer attracted by the ad recommends you to at least four other people.

And don’t forget the Internet: It’s your friend. Create a customer database and use it to promote to the people who already trust you. Although that advertising is essentially free, don’t overdo it, or you’ll turn them off.


4. Three “Be’s” Of Leadership

Consultant Paul Larsen says on the Smart Briefs blog that successful leadership revolves around three “Be’s”:

  • Be present: You need to be keenly aware of each moment so you are actively attending to what is going on.
  • Be deliberate: Every action, decision and communication should be deliberate.
  • Be grateful: It’s not all about Everyone contributes. Acknowledge that reality.


5. Zingers

  • Co-recruiting with competitors: What if you and your competitors recruited talent together? People looking for jobs in new communities want to know that if one job doesn’t work out, other openings are available. HR consultant Tim Sackett suggests considering holding career fairs with other organizations in your community and perhaps even sharing your talent database with others. (Source: The Tim Sackett Project)
  • Better to be calm: Good leaders radiate calmness, says consultant Jon Mertz. We don’t need leaders who create chaos. (Source: Thin Difference)
  • Ad blocking is growing exponentially — having risen by 30% in 2016, driven by increasing usage on desktops and mobile. (Source: Business Insider)
  • How much is too much? Start-up founder Ajay Yadav, of Roomi, a roommate sharing service, found it helpful to ditch this habit: asking staff to give 110%. He says they probably hear it something like this: “I want everyone to spend lots of time away from friends and family, abandon your hobbies, deprive yourself of sleep, and get some results! Pronto!” And that’s not fair to ask. (Source: Fast Company)
  • Set up a walking club at work: You may be surprised at how many employees would come in early to walk together, says author Ivan Misner. It builds community and is an invigorating way to start the work day. (Source: http://ivanmisner.com)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:
    Should I Get A Standing Desk?

Question:  I spend much of the day sitting — should I get a standing desk?


8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

It has become clichéd to say that sitting is the new smoking but I like clichés — they usually speak an important truth.

Research shows that sitting for long periods is detrimental to our health. Even if you work out for an hour or two in the morning, unless you break up the rest of the day with periods of not sitting, you are at risk.

Some research suggests that after two hours of sitting, your good cholesterol drops by 20%. Sitting leads to higher blood pressure and cholesterol and increased weight, as well as decreased energy.

A good rhythm for sitting and standing seems to be 20 minutes — after that period, you want to move.

Leon DesRoches, who studied the mechanics of the spine for his doctorate in physiotherapy, developed Smartpods that go beyond up and down in encouraging movement, nudging you sideways.

The rule of thumb is that your next position is your best position,” he told me. “The more you move your positions, the better. Your spine and quads and glutes are all changing and moving.”

Before investing in a standing desk, consider some other possibilities. First, assess your day and determine when your sitting occurs. For most people, it would be driving the car, meetings, reading, and working on a computer.

  • In meetings, can you get up occasionally to refresh your water or coffee? (Increased visits to the washroom are beneficial, since it gets you up from your desk.) Will others agree to breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to stand in place and do a mild exercise? Can you substitute walking meetings — if not for groups of 20, then for the colleague who drops in for a chat?
  • Can you read standing up? Is there is a countertop handy, or can you buy an economically-priced pulpit or sturdy music stand? When I interviewed Tom Rath on his excellent book Eat Move Sleep he was seated at his FitDesk, a stationary cycle with a multi-purpose desk.

Standing desks were the original alternative to sitting desks but now sit-stand desks are also commonplace, offering some choice between standing and seated activities. With choice, it’s easy to overdo the sitting part. And overdoing the standing part can also have health consequences, notably varicose veins, and can be tiring.

There are lots of alternatives, some surprisingly cheap. But if your office is open to others, you may have to meet a higher aesthetic standard.

My own experience and those of others I have talked to is that adaptation to standing work is not as hard as we expect. Consider investing in something soft to have under your feet. And with a sit-stand desk, make sure you have a timer that prods you to stand (you won’t need prods to sit, if my experience is relevant). You need to keep monitoring and encouraging yourself.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:
     The Chemistry of Trust

Trust is essential for strong relationships, and Paul Zak has found that high-trust workplaces have many other benefits. Through his research on oxytocin (a brain chemical associated with trust), he found that higher levels of trust lead to higher productivity, more energy at work, better collaborations, and an increase in employee retention.

In his workplace studies, Zak identified the value of practices like recognizing excellence and several other approaches that can build trust among employees:

  • Enable job crafting: Giving employees some freedom over what projects they’ll work on allows them to focus their energy on projects they are most passionate about, boosting their energy and focus.
  • Give people more discretion in how they do their work: Having autonomy and being trusted to figure things out on your own is an important factor.
  • Facilitate whole-person growth: Help develop employees personally as well as professionally.
  • Share information broadly: “Only 40% of employees report that they are well informed about their company’s goals, strategies and tactics,” Zak says. Uncertainty about where the organization is headed can lead to chronic stress — and erosion of trust.

His research identified other activities that improve trust: recognizing excellence, inducing ‘challenge stress’, intentionally building relationships during work, and showing vulnerability.

These results shouldn’t be overlooked: Compared with low-trust companies, people at high-trust workplaces reported 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 13% fewer sick days, and 40% less burnout.

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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

“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, ‘What else could this mean?’”

Shannon L. Alder