June 18, 2017



The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the Water Cooler we touch on team resilience, breaking down culture change to enable action, and lots of tips for planning and leadership. Enjoy.


1. Resilience Is A Team Sport

Most of our thinking on resilience revolves around the notion that it is an individual trait. But consultants Michael Papanek and Liz Alexander argue in Fast Company that it’s actually a team sport.

That means if you’re looking to build resilient teams or entire organizations, it’s the resilience of all the relationships within those units that may matter even more than individual resilience. You therefore must shift your focus from developing resilient leaders to developing collectively resilient groups.

The first step is to start thinking of resilience more as a process than as an attribute or an outcome.

“Instead of focusing just on each team member’s individual skills and qualities, it’s more helpful to pay attention to how much pressure the whole group is facing. Keep piling on ever bigger sales targets or changing mandates from on high, and eventually, even the most resilient individual is likely to break down,” they write.

To counter this tendency, have everyone get to know each other as individuals. If forming a new team, this should happen even before everyone starts working together.

The consultants have seen even the most combative groups achieve excellent performance when people share something personal and meaningful about themselves. “It’s amazing how simple and effective it can be to go one step beyond the usual icebreaker,” they note. As well, opt for transparency between team members, sharing openly.

Bottom line: Most of the time, we endure best when we endure together,” they say.


2. The Four Behaviours For Executive Success

In seeking successful leaders, Sandra Smith, director of the Executive Master in Science and Technology Leadership program at Brown University, says you can take guidance from a 10-year study that found the following four behaviours as critical:

  • Swift, confident decision-making: “A high IQ alone does not make for a high-performing leader. In fact, intellectuals sometimes suffer from indecisiveness. While baseless confidence isn’t a success factor, being able to analyze situations and act quickly is,” she writes on CIO.com.
  • Deft engagement of stakeholders: It’s vital to solicit input and get people on board for your initiatives without necessarily surrendering decision-making itself. Unfortunately, few leaders do this naturally.
  • Proactive adaptability: “Having a playbook is important. Being able to work without one, even more so. Our rapidly changing global marketplace and technology-driven society require preparation for situations for which you can’t truly prepare,” she says. When top executives fail, their growth mindset leads them to methodically evaluate what happened and adjust for next time.
  • Consistent reliability: Safe, consistent growth is a good goal since one-time blockbusters may not carry you far enough down the road.

“The vast majority of us, from programmer to CEO, are not born with these skills. It takes education to develop and hone such behaviors and habits. Organizations that attract, develop and retain talent with these skills follow a path of unflinching dedication to employee education across the organization, at all levels,” she says.


3. Stop Assumptions From Undermining Strategy

Strategies inevitably are based on a bundle of assumptions.

Steve Shapiro, an analyst at the CEB advisory firm, says it’s therefore imperative to weed out the bad ones. “Otherwise they will lead to blind spots, unrealistic targets, and missed opportunities,” he warns on CEB Blogs.

Assumptions that undermine strategy come in two forms:

  • Too vague: To ensure that your assumptions aren’t overly ambiguous, check that they are both specific and quantifiable. If an assumption is too broad rather than specific, it’s hard to know how to act upon it. If it’s not quantifiable, you can’t measure performance towards it.
  • Biased: He notes that biases are impossible to avoid as we all bring our different experiences and approaches to discussions. But you should consider asking for an alternative hypothesis to counter such bias. That means going through a list of biases you can spot and stating the implications of that bias. Ask whether or not an objective observer would apply those biases to the assumptions you are making.

It won’t be easy. But it’s important not to overlook assumptions leading you astray.


4. Rethinking Culture Fit

Organizations these days are very sensitive in hiring to ensure fit with their culture. But HR consultant Tim Sackett wonders if that’s the wrong approach. Instead of a focus on culture fit, what if we probed for culture contributions?

Hiring for culture fit can be a bundle of confusion and bias — difficult to pinpoint accurately. But on his blog he says you can easily interview someone and ask for concrete examples of the contributions they currently provide to the culture at their organization.

And after hiring, you can measure cultural contribution better than cultural fit.


5. Zingers

  • Mention payoff when delegating: You will be more effective in delegating if you explain to the other person what’s in it for them, says consultant Ann Gomez. (Source: Clear Concept Inc.)
  • Solvable problem or on-going tension? When you decide to tackle a crisis that has landed on your desk, decide if it’s a problem that can be solved or instead something that you can’t actually solve but is a tension to be managed.  (Source: ScottCochrane.com)
  • Will loyal clients do what they say? Loyalty researcher Jeff Berry says there’s a flaw with the now-popular net promoter score, which uses a 10-point scale to indicate the likelihood a client would recommend a brand to somebody else — only 13% go on to make a recommendation after they say they would. It’s therefore essential to ask pointed follow-up questions such as, “When will you make a recommendation,” accompanied by a Nike-like encouragement, “Let’s do this!”. (Source: RetailWire.com )
  • Go for systems, not goals? Forget about goals, says blogger James Clear. Instead, focus on systems. If you’re a coach, for example, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day. Goals reduce your current happiness as they suggest you are not yet good enough. Goals are often so far in the distance it’s hard to sustain momentum. They also imply you have control of the future, which you don’t. But systems are immediate, controllable, bring satisfaction as you follow them, and help you to improve. (Source: JamesClear.com)
  • This day needs 15 minutes: To build your leadership capacity, carve out 15 minutes to think deeply every day, advises consultant Art Petty. (Source: ArtPetty.com)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:

     Changing The Web of Culture

Question:  We want to change our culture, but that goal seems too vague, with no specific focus for action. How do we break down this challenge?


8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

There are many different layers and dimensions involved in changing your culture, some of which we’ve mentioned here before, such as The Cultural Cycle. But another useful framework, summarized on the MindTools website, involves The Cultural Web, developed by Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes.

The Cultural Web sets out six key elements you might study to identify the pattern or model of culture in your organization. They are:

  • Stories – Look at the past events and people talked about inside and outside your organization. Who and what you choose to celebrate says a great deal about what you value, and perceive as the right kind of behavior.
  • Rituals and Routines – Daily behaviours and routine actions signal what kind of behaviours are acceptable in your culture. These expectations shape what happens in given situations, and what is valued.
  • Symbols – Visual representations of your organization are part of culture. That includes logos, how plush the offices are, and the formal or informal dress codes.
  • Organizational Structure – Your culture aligns both with the structure defined by the organization chart, and also with the unwritten lines of power and influence that validate values, behaviours and contributions.
  • Control Systems – Practices reflect and shape culture, with one key area being how your organization is controlled. Consider your financial systems, quality systems, and rewards (including the way they are measured and distributed).
  • Power Structures – Where are the pockets of real power in your culture. This may involve one or two key senior executives, a whole group, or even a department. Your culture is shaped daily by those people who have the greatest amount of influence on decisions, operations, and strategic direction.

To get started, analyze your culture as it is now in each of these six interrelated areas, consider the future state you’d like to develop for your culture, and then build action plans around your priorities to bridge the gaps.


7.  From Our Water Cooler: Quick Tips

On Fridays, we regularly go through an “after action” review of the week, debriefing on what went well and what could be improved next time. Here are some quick tips learned from our experiences this past week:

  • When a team is reviewing a long list of strategic objectives, there’s a tendency to give each item only light inspection on the way through. Important underlying issues can be missed. As an alternative, first organize the team into a few small “buzz” groups and give them 15 minutes to drill down on individual sections of your list, then report back to the full team as you work through them. The deeper review surfaces more ideas, choices and concerns you will want to address, not skip over.
  • Rich discussions are possible in a stakeholder consultation even when you have only a couple participants. When considering the implications of a new vision or policy, you can often have a richer discussion with just two or three people compared to canvassing stakeholders in a larger group or town-hall format, with no time to explore nuances, new ideas or hidden implications of a new strategy.
  • Adapting old to make new again. This week a veteran marketing team was squeezing out its creative juices to invent a new promotional event. It was tough going. Then someone remembered a festival event —once wildly popular as a non-profit fundraiser— that had faded from memory over the past 15 years. Adapting an old but proven concept for a new decade, sector and format was the freshest idea of the session.
  • First, take three minutes. It’s not a new technique, but it works. Before launching a group discussion, ask participants first to reflect quietly on the issue on their own, writing down their thoughts. This will help ensure the team doesn’t get overly focused on whatever idea gets mentioned first in the group discussion; it sets you up with a stock of ideas you can reference to ensure a full range of perspectives and ideas are considered.

● § ●

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

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”

John W. Gardner