January 1, 2018


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the 8020Info Water Cooler we focus on ways to prepare for 2018 — tips for reflecting on past performance, building new habits, and structuring new goals. Our team also put together some key “nuggets” of wisdom learned in 2017 that may help make your new year the best one yet. Enjoy!


1. Assess Your Leadership Competencies… To Improve

As the new year dawns, it’s a good time to reassess your performance and seek improvement. After studying the research, consultant Scott Eblin came up with 23 important leadership competencies:

  • Builds and leverages strong teams
  • Builds strong and healthy relationships
  • Champions change
  • Collaborates and promotes teamwork
  • Communicates clearly and openly
  • Demonstrates adaptability
  • Develops and shapes strategy
  • Develops others
  • Displays high integrity and honesty
  • Displays technical or professional expertise
  • Drives for results
  • Generates and pursues new ideas
  • Influences others
  • Inspires and motivates others
  • Learns continuously
  • Makes sound decisions
  • Makes the tough calls
  • Manages execution
  • Manages self effectively
  • Promotes and lives the culture
  • Shows self-awareness
  • Solves problems and analyzes issues
  • Takes initiative

Kick off your year with this self-assessment:  Review the list above and put a check mark beside your top 10 — the ones that are most important universally — and then ask yourself how you’re faring on each.

“What’s the evidence in terms of outcomes and observed behaviours that give you a sense of how you’ve done?” Eblin asks in his e-Zine.

Given what you want to accomplish in 2018 and in the years to come, which one or two of these competencies do you think you should focus on for your development?


2. How To Build New Habits

If you try to act on the self-assessment above — or any other goals for the new year — blogger James Clear offers help with a five-step guide to building new habits.

  • Start with an incredibly small habit: This argues for not starting off with the biggest, toughest challenge you face in reinventing yourself. Research shows willpower is like a muscle, becoming more fatigued through the day, with your motivation ebbing and flowing. So pick a new habit that is easy enough that you don’t need motivation to do it.
  • Increase your habit in very small ways: “One per cent improvements add up surprisingly fast. So do one per cent declines. Rather than trying to do something amazing from the beginning, start small and gradually improve,” he writes on his blog.
  • As you build up, break habits into chunks: Keep each challenge reasonable, so that you can maintain momentum and make the behaviour as easy as possible to accomplish. He cites as an example that if you are building up to 20 minutes of meditation you should split it into two segments of 10 minutes at first.
  • When you slip, get back on track quickly: Research has shown that missing your habit-building activity once has no measurable impact on your long-term progress. So don’t try for perfection; avoid an all-or-nothing mentality.
  • Be patient: Stick to a pace you can sustain. Indeed, he says patience is perhaps the most critical skill of all. You can make incredible progress if you are consistent and patient.


3. Make Commitments Specific

Too often as we gaze into the new year, we set out very general goals, in effect hedging our bets. Toronto-area consultant Donald Cooper urges the opposite in his e-Zine:

“The more clear and specific you get about your commitments, the better your results will be,” he says. For example, a social sector organization might want to increase the number of clients it serves by 20% while not increasing administrative expenses by more than 4%.

“For each commitment you make, determine what specific activities, actions, changes or initiatives you’ll implement to get you where you commit to be.  Then, determine specifically who will do what, by when, measured how… and rewarded how, to make that happen,” he writes.

That may sound like a lot of work but it’s what management — and planned success — is all about.


4. Follow Your Energy

The key to the coming year, leadership trainer Ken Rockwell believes, is energy.

“Goal setting is the last thing to do when planning 2018. What did you do in 2017 that lit you up? Think ROE — return on energy — more than ROI when planning 2018,” he writes on his Leadership Freak blog.

What projects jazzed you up? What personal values were in play when your energy went up? What do you learn about yourself when you consider the events, situations, or people that motivated you to change? And what might give you energy this year?

“Planning is safe when it focuses on changing others. Successful leaders focus on things within their control. Think about what you will do to produce the year you want. Forget about controlling others,” he says.

Specifically: What are you prepared to do — that you haven’t already done — to get where you haven’t been?


5. Zingers

  • Build traits for success: To be successful this year, consultant Kevin Eikenberry recommends being more focused and less distracted, more open to feedback and less selfish, more respectful and less judgmental. Take ownership more and blame less.  (Source: Leadership and Learning blog)
  • Five questions for 2018: Five questions to start the year off as a leader, from consultant Paul Cummings:  Do you know each individual team member’s most important dreams? Do you know your team member’s top three personal goals? Do you know what one individual has been the most positive center of influence in your team member’s life? Do you know your team member’s viewpoint on his or her greatest strength? Do you know your team member’s personal core values? (Source: GreatLeadershipByDan)
  • Try a reverse bucket list: As you contemplate all you must do this year and in future years, it might feel overwhelming. Consider starting the year with a reverse bucket list: Rather than writing down all of the things you hope to achieve, instead write down a list of all the things you’ve already accomplished, things that make you feel proud, explains writer Anna Meyer. (Source: Shine)
  • Tease out the “why” before rejecting a suggestion: Before responding to a suggestion you disagree with, separate the suggestion from the problem. Dig deeper to learn what the person is trying to achieve by suggesting the idea and how it might help. Keep asking “what” and “why” to better understand it. (Source: Nielsen Norman Group)
  • Ask for good referrals: Referrals can build your clientele. But keep in mind that bad referrals are your fault, says consultant Colleen Francis. If you ask your worst customers for referrals, they will give you more bad customers. Be as specific as you can about what a good referral should look like. (Source: Engage Selling)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:

    Stretch Goals or Strain Goals?

Question:  I want to set ambitious “stretch” goals for my team in 2018. Any tips?

8020Info President and CEO Rob Wood responds:

Unachievable goals can do more harm than good, but ambitious, specific goals will certainly help improve your organization’s performance. You want to stretch beyond your comfort zone with just the right level of challenge for your team.

Ryan Davies, Hugues Lavandier and Ken Schwartz from McKinsey detail several key considerations in their recent article In Search of a Better Stretch Target. For example, they describe what unhealthy targets and behaviours look like:

  • Unhealthy stretch targets may be formulaic (e.g. mindlessly adding a flat percentage on top of last year’s goal). Or they may be excessive, overly broad or opaque. The result — your team is not clear on how your targets are to be met.
  • Poorly designed goals may lead to unhealthy behaviours, such as manipulation or “gaming the system”; misplaced priorities; nasty surprises (when actual performance routinely misses forecasts); or hedging behaviours — providing low estimates or “hiding” an opportunity in reserve so that a lower target will be set.

When setting your stretch goals, also consider these points:

  • Calibrate your targets with a “big picture” perspective: Targets that disregard the effect on performance elsewhere in the organization can be counter-productive. An ambitious goal for sales, for example, may incent approaches that exceed operational capacity or inspire rosy financial projections. When designing metrics, consider trade-offs and impacts on the other business functions in your organization.
  • Build trust and verify success: “Stretch targets succeed only when employees believe they can meet their goals if they try hard enough, and that they will be rewarded if they do,” the authors say. Unrealistic targets and endless rounds of ever-harder-to-meet targets lead team members to give up.
  • Make it safe to share bad news: “When everyone is striving to reach a stretch target, it’s hard to admit you’re the one falling behind.” With a series of interim milestones and safe workplace culture, you can avoid last-minute surprises and encourage your team to flag emerging problems while there’s still time to take corrective action.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler:

    Our Team’s Tips for 2018

For this issue, we asked 8020Info’s associates for nuggets of wisdom they encountered last year that could help you succeed in 2018. Here are a few thoughts for reflection:

  • We can, if: Instead of thinking “we can’t, because…” use constraints to stimulate innovative, even transformative approaches. Take the perspective “we can, if…” and imagine your situation from a fresh perspective. Introduce or mix elements together in a new way. Change the steps of a process or even remove some. And look at how you might engage partners to leverage or tap into new resources.  Rob Wood, 8020Info President/CEO.  (Source: A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages)
  • Change is a social process: If your organizational change goals require people to develop new roles, capabilities, mindsets and relationships, don’t assume you can direct your way to transformation. Instead, take a lesson from Kurt Lewin, the father of change management, and involve your gatekeepers in a learning journey. Give them an opportunity to learn together and develop a deep sense of why change is needed, to what, and how. Gatekeepers will then be well positioned to create the conditions necessary for the change effort to succeed.  Brenda Barker Scott, 8020Info Associate and instructor at Queen’s IRC (Source: Change Management, Kurt Lewin And Beyond)
  • Go for a walk: If you are trying to solve a problem, don’t chain yourself to your computer. Go for a walk instead. A little exercise and a new environment helps to clear your head and stimulate your brain. As Einstein said about the theory of relativity: “I thought of that while riding my bicycle.” Doug Ronson, 8020Info Associate (Source: Four Things To Do Outside The Office To Boost Your Creativity)
  • Look within: Having engaged employees who not only know your vision but also buy into it can be one of the most effective brand-building strategies. What can you do in 2018 to create brand advocates? Ensure your brand vision is clear and authentic, thus inspiring and empowering those that have to live it. Implement culture-changing training programs to ensure the vision’s success; align evaluation and reward around the vision; and assign brand champions.  Kathleen Vollebregt, Founder, Avenue Communications and collaborative 8020Info Associate (Source: Build Your Brand From the Inside Out)
  • Get it done: Developing strategy is one thing. But for success in 2018, focus on four key disciplines of strategy execution:  Narrow your effort to focus only on what’s essential and “wildly important”; look at what will drive success and take on those battles that will win the war; keep a compelling “player’s scoreboard” so your team always knows how it is doing; and create a cadence of accountability for your team (such as through weekly stand-up meetings).  Janet Lee, 8020Info Director  (Source: The Four Disciplines of Execution)
  • Challenge decisions: Improve your decision-making in 2018 by actively seeking out opposite possibilities — finding something that contradicts your initial intention — and combining these opposites into a great solution. Similarly, consider adopting the Devil’s Advocacy approach at the heart of the new red teaming movement. Harvey Schachter, 8020Info Associate (Sources: Creating Great Choices and Red Teaming)
  • Take time for introspection: It’s easy to get too focused on only one segment of your life — making it tough to live a balanced, healthy life. To maintain balance, periodically allocate time to assess where you are, and what your goals are in various areas (mental, social, family, career, etc). That could mean taking 10 minutes a day before bed or on your commute home from work, or setting aside an hour a week for introspection, but it’s something we should all remember to do. Matt Wood, 8020Info Associate (Source: Mind Tools)

● § ●

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 

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.”

— Neil Gaiman