July 29, 2018


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we share tips on strategy development along with ways to prevent collaborative burnout, maximize your networking efforts, stay connected to promising job applicants, and define your identity through narrative. Enjoy!


1. Let Your Strategy Grow Like Weeds

Most strategy formulation is conceived like a hothouse, according to McGill University Management Professor Henry Mintzberg. There is one prime strategist, the chief executive officer, who plants all the strategies, although other executives can fertilize them.

Staff analyze the appropriate data so the CEO can formulate the strategy through a carefully controlled process of conscious thought, much as tomatoes are cultivated in a hothouse. The strategy comes out of this process immaculately conceived, much as ripe tomatoes are picked and sent to market.

Fostering Emergent Strategies

But he suggests another, grassroots model of strategy formulation exists. Strategies grow initially like weeds in a garden. “They can form, rather than having to be formulated, as decisions and actions taken one-by-one amalgamate into a consistent pattern. In other words, strategies can emerge, gradually, through a process of learning,” he writes on his blog.

These strategies can take root in all kinds of strange places, wherever people in the organization have the capacity to learn and the resources to support that capacity.

Anybody in touch with an opportunity can come up with an idea that can evolve into a strategy. Others see what has happened and can follow suit. Individual ideas become organizational strategies when they pervade the organization. Once an emerging strategy is recognized as valuable, this process of proliferation can sometimes be consciously managed.

“Hence, to manage this process is not to plan strategies, but to recognize their emergence and intervene when appropriate,” says the long-time advocate of such emergent, rather than top-down, strategy.


2. Preventing Collaborative Burnout

With collaboration in the workplace comes burnout, as demands increase with the need to satisfy others. A recent study found it comes in two forms: surge or slow burn.

A surge in burnout can result from a promotion, request from a boss or colleague to take on or help with a project, or the desire to jump into an “extracurricular” work activity because you feel obligated or don’t want to miss out.

A slow burn is more insidious, occurring through incremental increases in the volume and pace of collaborative demands over time, as your effectiveness leads to larger networks and greater responsibilities.

On Harvard Business Review Blogs, Rob Cross and Scott Taylor, Babson College professors, and consultant Deb Zehner say organizational solutions are helpful, but you can also act on your own in three ways:

  • Identify the cause:  Recognize how much of the pressure is driven by your own desire to maintain a reputation as a helpful, knowledgeable, or influential colleague or to avoid the anxiety that stems from ceding control over or not participating in group work.
  • Eliminate the unnecessary:  Change your role, schedule, and network to avoid the triggers you’ve identified and reduce or eliminate unnecessary collaboration. Identify your key objectives and hew to those.
  • Keep it productive:  Enhance the value of the collaboration you’ve chosen to participate in. That begins with trying to improve the value of meetings you attend.

The pressures of collaboration are increasing. Be alert, and act to protect yourself.


3. The Value Of A Buyer’s Map

When you’re courting a deal — selling your services, or perhaps applying for a grant — it helps to have what consultant Colleen Francis calls a buyer’s map.

“A buyer’s map is like an organizational chart on steroids. It details not only the buyers and the influencers inside the organization, but it forces you to rank them in terms of your rapport with someone, how much you trust them, and their level of influence within the buying process,” she explains on her blog.

In short: Who has clout, what kind of influence, and how good is your relationship with them?

Too often, when pitching our services, we limit our communication to a single person. Understanding the broader picture can help you identify where the process is getting bogged down and get things moving again.


4. Maximizing Your Networking

When you’re attending a business event where you’ll be sharing a meal with people you don’t know, the networking experts at Shepa Learning Company recommend a technique to make a better connection.

When you arrive, walk around the table and introduce yourself to everyone (obviously before the MC starts). If appropriate, exchange business cards.

“We know there will be people who think this is too uncomfortable to do, but when you think about it, it seems really strange to sit at a table, break bread together, and never know who that person is across the table from you,” they write in their Weekly Positive Networking Tip.


5. Zingers

  • End with a Recap:  End your meetings on a high note, reviewing the action items so people feel a sense of momentum and energy. (Source: Humor At Work Newsletter)
  • 20-Second Buffers:  Twenty seconds can determine whether we do something or not. When the instinct arises to check your email or social media, Lifehack founder Leon Ho recommends creating a 20-second buffer before completing the act. Waiting 20 seconds might help you avoid becoming otherwise absorbed. (Source: Lifehack)
  • Offer Seating Options:  Introverts are even less likely to speak up if put in an awkward seat, such as the front row or middle of a crowded room. So keep your introverts in mind when arranging seating. Give them space, maybe even a corner. Or let them choose. (Source: Ron Edmondson.com)
  • Rituals to Build Culture: Here are two weekly rituals to improve your organizational culture: Make the beginning of the week special, perhaps with a breakfast when they arrive on Monday morning, and celebrate the end of the week by expressing gratitude for their work. (Source: WomenOnBusiness.com)
  • Learn Through Impossible Goals:  Consultant Wally Bock wanted to be an opera singer, so he worked hard with a voice coach for several years until over a beer that coach leveled with him: “You know, you are very, very, very, very bad.” But he was a better singer than when he started and learned a lot about opera, which he still loves. The lesson he took away is that the effort that makes you excellent at one thing may not be enough at something else, no matter how much you love it. You won’t be able to reach every goal. But everything you study and everything you learn enriches your life. (Source: Three Star Leadership)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:
    Retaining good candidates

Question:   I face a tough decision: I have two great candidates for an opening, but can only hire one. How can I keep the second-place candidate interested in case something comes up down the line?


8020Info Associate Matthew Wood responds:

Emily Moore, from Glassdoor blog, writes on fastcompany that there are three general steps to keep a second-place candidate interested in your organization:

  • Let them down gently:  Keeping them interested starts from the first interaction you have after choosing to hire someone else — let them know what went into your decision and why they weren’t selected. It was likely a hard decision to make, so tell them that. Offer to reach out to them in the future when another role that fits their experience and skills opens up.
  • Keep ongoing communication:  After the first communication — whether you email or call to let them know that they didn’t get the job — you shouldn’t forget about them. Reach out to them every few weeks or months. Check in to follow up on something you discussed at the interview, or find some way of showing you are still interested in them. This builds a relationship that will support your case when trying to hire them in the future.
  • Be truthful with timing:  If you don’t have a job opening in the next couple of months, let them know that. Don’t string them along or give them false hope. They may be great candidates you want to hire eventually, but don’t hold them back from making progress in their careers.

There may be few employers following these practices now:  set yourself apart in a tough employer market with ongoing communication with strong candidates.


7. Around Our Water Cooler:
    The Story-Identity Equation

We’ve been reflecting this week on the idea that “identity is built by narrative” a point made in a recent Brainpickings post by Maria Popova.

Identity is a strategic dimension implicit in most organizational planning, and our clients typically spend time discussing their service values, guiding principles or beliefs — not so much their “life story”.

A Matter of Identity: 

Popova quoted the 1985 classic The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks. The neurologist recounts the case of a patient with a memory disorder that rendered him unable to remember autobiographical facts. To compensate, the patient unconsciously invented countless narratives about who he was and what he had done in his life, filling the void of his identity with an explanation of imagined selves and experiences.

Sacks examined further how narrative becomes the pillar of our identity: We have, each of us, a life-story or inner narrative we construct and live daily. “This narrative is us, our identities,” he says.

An organization’s “life story” explains its identity:

In a similar way, the story-identity equation could apply to a company, non-profit agency or even a community.

Your narrative might start with how your organization came to be: how and why it was founded. Consider how the origin stories of Apple and Microsoft (or Steve Jobs and Bill Gates) suffuse their corporate cultures.

Here’s a local example in healthcare: In 1861, four young Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul established what came to be a hospital and long-term care home. Their founding story drives fidelity to the original mission — to meet the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients with respect, dignity and compassion. The “spirit of the Sisters” continues to shape planning and strategy after more than 150 years.

The middle and end of your narrative might feature other elements: What were the significant experiences, turning points, deep insights and celebrated achievements that define how you are today, and will be tomorrow?

And what will be the future climax of your story?

Michael Hyatt’s Platform University promotes a model with three narrative-identity options: Are you The Sherpa? (Have you “climbed the mountain” and come back to help/teach others?)  The Struggler: does your story suggest “we’re in this together” as you describe your own path forward?  Or is yours the story of The Sage, presenting as an established expert in your field?

For your next values discussion at a strategy development session, you might consider how your identity is defined by the ongoing life story you tell.


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8020Info helps senior teams develop, clarify and build consensus behind their strategic priorities. Our services support research / stakeholder consultations, strategic planning processes, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


8. Closing Thought 

“Storytelling is the sugar-coating that helps people swallow the facts.”

— Nancy Duarte