September 9, 2018


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this edition of the 8020Info Water Cooler we share ways to strengthen your decision making, save your organization money, discuss why social media background checks may come with risks, and how to alleviate hidden resistance to organizational transformation. Enjoy!


1.  Eight Ways To Save

Even if you’re not facing a financial crunch, it’s smart to periodically take a hard look at expenses and see where you can save money. Here are some ideas from consultant Donald Cooper in his newsletter:

  • List your top 20 budget expenses, since that’s where the likeliest opportunities exist.  “Ask suppliers what opportunities or special terms you’re missing out on, for whatever reason.  Ask them for their thoughts on how you can operate more efficiently,” he says.
  • Renegotiate every contract from maintenance to insurance, phone and office equipment. Be nice but firm.
  • Check with business or trade associations to see what special rates they may have negotiated on your behalf for things like insurance, car rentals, hotel rates and employee benefits.
  • Deal with non-performers still on staff. “How can you adjust staffing without hurting your service levels?” he says.
  • Study how you use space to see if it can be reduced to achieve savings, even if you are growing.
  • Learn about lean thinking, a disciplined approach to understanding the value added at each step of your production process and finding ways to become more effective. Be creative — Cooper notes that, by changing its cashew nut containers from round to square jars, Costco now fits 50% more jars on each pallet.
  • Make sure your customers pay on time. “Not managing cash flow is one of the biggest reasons for failure in small and medium size businesses,” he notes.
  • Embrace technology, where it can save money.

All these savings go straight to the bottom line.


2.  Why Social Media Background Checks Are Dumb

Recruiting expert John Sullivan believes social media background checks are dumb.

“Unlike most background checks, they don’t verify positive job-related information. Instead, they are used almost exclusively to reject candidates based on a subjective reaction to things that the candidate did while off the job.

If you are among the whopping 70% of employers that use social media background checks in order to screen new hires, take this as a wake-up call,” he writes on his website.

Social media checks don’t predict job performance. They are carried out in an ad-hoc fashion, not knowing which sites and what type of information are valid screening criteria.

Without a uniform process, legally your system may not be considered reliable. As well, discriminatory information will be seen and possibly used.

“It’s almost impossible to avoid viewing off-limit hiring information that covers factors like religion, sexual orientation, political affiliations, and family status. And if the candidate has not yet been interviewed, the screener will likely see gender, race, age, and disability. Once this type of information has been viewed, the firm will now have the burden of having to prove that it did not use this off-limits information to make its hiring decision,” he writes.

As well, outside-of-work activities will be seen that are perfectly legal – political comments or partying – that some screeners may object to for religious, moral or political reasons. Social media checks are tempting but he suggests resisting.


3.  Some Tips On Decision-Making

Knowing your goals is the key to making good decisions, according to Mike Whitaker, author of The Decision Makeover. On Eric Jacobson’s management blog, four tips are shared:

  • Keep a few key goals close: Choose five prime goals and stay focused on them.
  • Decide which goal is top priority and always give it favorable treatment when making decisions.
  • Know that when a decision involves a prime goal, that raises the importance of that issue — it becomes a prime decision. Prime decisions should be treated with more care because they can significantly affect your results.
  • Recognize momentum: Identify and appreciate the benefits of your good decisions since they can provide momentum.


4. Some Hot Sriracha Lessons

Next time you’re using a bottle of Sriracha hot sauce, look at the bottle closely. It has five different typefaces, breaking the rules of modern design. Worse, some of them repel rather than attract the eye.

That’s just one example where the hot-selling hot sauce “gets it wrong,” provocative blogger Seth Godin points out.

“The distribution method was sort of odd. The pricing is way too low. Trademark protection is non-existent. Line extensions were avoided. The market was crowded. And on and on,” he writes on his blog.

Sriracha does it completely and totally wrong. Yet it’s highly successful.

The lesson: It’s possible to do everything wrong and do very well. In fact, sometimes that’s the only way to do very well, Godin insists.


5.  Zingers

  • Save Energy For Big Decisions:  Here’s another decision-making tip – ask yourself how much a decision is worth agonizing over. Shaun Francis, CEO of Medcan, says you should reserve your energy for consequential decisions. (Source: Eat, Move, Think)
  • Make Active Statements:  In presentations, avoid saying “I think.” Substitute a more powerful statement. Similarly, don’t say, “I don’t know.” Instead, respond “I can get the data” or “the team can explore the question and get you an answer following the meeting.” (Source: The Ladders)
  • Perform Self-Assessments:  Only one in seven salespeople conducts a self-assessment after a sales meeting. (Source: JillKonrath.com)
  • Improve Your Observation Skills: Leonardo da Vinci was very smart, but his success came from more than that. Consultant Wally Bock, who read Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography, points out that Leonardo was an acute observer who carried a notebook with him to jot down ideas and even trained himself to become better at observation. (Source: Three Star Leadership)
  • Diversify Your Revenue:  Never allow one client to be responsible for more than 20% of your revenues, advises consultant Allan Weiss. Any client relationship can vanish overnight. (Source: Contrarian Consulting)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:

     Mindsets Underpin Transformation

Question:   We’ve tried to transform our business model, but performance hasn’t improved much. Any insights as to why?

8020Info Associate Matt Wood responds:

75% of significant business transformations fail to improve performance. Why?

Tony Schwartz writes in Harvard Business Review that most organizations pay far more attention to strategy and execution than they do to what their people are feeling and thinking throughout the transformation.

Leaders typically aim to transform their organizations by changing policies, processes and technology, but they rarely focus on changing the corresponding behaviours and mindsets of their employees.

Ignoring reactions and not taking time to respond to your employees’ feelings can often lead to resistance (even if it’s passive, invisible, or unconscious). This resistance arises either cognitively — because of fixed beliefs, assumptions, and blind spots — or emotionally, due to fear and insecurity.

As leaders, what should we do about it?

Successful and effective transformations begin with what’s going on inside people — especially senior leaders. Schwartz says a crucial step in transforming the culture begins with the most senior leaders and influencers — because of their disproportionate authority and influence.

He suggests that one of the most effective tools for this involves answering a series of questions such as:

  • What am I not seeing?
  • What else is true?
  • What is my responsibility in this situation?
  • How is my perspective being influenced by my fears?

This doesn’t mean great strategy and planning isn’t needed. But for successful execution and transformation, you will also need to spend time addressing some of the invisible factors that lead to resistance.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler: 

    Communication Arch-Enemies

Consider this challenge:  Whenever you introduce yourself, you have about seven seconds to engage your listener or reader.

You need to get to the point right away, advises award-winning copywriter Sally Hogshead, author of Fascinate. You need to keep your message “short and sweet”. She also identifies three arch-enemies that further undermine your best efforts to communicate effectively:

  • Distraction creates an additional barrier. Your listener/reader attends to your message in a distracting environment of emails, texts, voicemails, pings, beeps and buzzes. MRI scans show a distracted brain is more likely to experience confusion or doubt about your communication. To connect effectively through this haze of distraction, you need to communicate authentically and purposefully, with emphasis on how you deliver unique and relevant value.
  • Competition entices us to focus on being better, even if the advantage is only temporary until the next “better” thing comes along. In such environments, strengths tend to become a baseline standard, and they matter less than offering a “go-to” option for some unique, valuable and special reason. In a highly competitive marketplace, Hogshead points out, “different is better than better”.
  • Finally, commodification presents you in a framework that is generic and bland, threatening your relationships and sapping the loyalty from your priority audiences. If you become a commodity in the eyes of your customers, you can easily be replaced.

You don’t want to lock into working the same way as your competitors, communicating a message that is indistinguishable from all the others. When everyone offers more or less the same product or service, focus on how your offer, positioning or message is different. And make that perfectly clear in your first seven seconds.

 ● § ●

8020Info helps boards and senior leadership 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 

“Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.”

— Antoine de Saint Exupery