January 21, 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 on lots of tips — to defuse a tense meeting, onboard a new employee, consider what works in marketing, avoid “I Told You So” and increase your productivity to reduce stress. Enjoy!


1. How To Save A Meeting That Becomes Tense

Sometimes a meeting goes off the rails. Perhaps not as badly as a public meeting, when ratepayers clash, but even in non-profits, internal government gatherings, and businesses, you can find yourself faced with mutual monologues, hidden agendas, lack of order verging on pandemonium, and wounded participants.

In Harvard Business Review Blogs, consultant Joseph Grenny points out that regardless of what’s happening in your particular meeting, the principal cause of most conflicts is a struggle for validation.

“This means that most conflict is not intractable because the root cause is not irreconcilable differences, but a basic unmet need,” he says.

To respond:

  • Interrupt the chaos: All emotions have a tempo. Emotions of arousal like hostility and defensiveness are fast and confused. One of the best ways to change the emotion of a group is to change its tempo, decelerating the pace of speech.
  • Shift to process: Call attention to what is happening. This gives egos a chance to cool by changing the subject of discussion from the immediate problem to the problem-solving process. It also helps the group soften their judgements of one another by giving them a common enemy, the ineffective process, while inviting them to take responsibility for inventing a more effective approach.
  • Propose a structure: Offer a process that ensures all will be heard and slows the pace in order to quell the emotions. Then ask for commitment to it.

When a meeting becomes tense, remember this approach.


2. Three Tips For Onboarding

Hiring does not end when you make a job offer. It’s vital that you make it comfortable for the new person to come on board and be successful.

Towards that end, Courtney Bigony, director of people science at 15Five, offers three tips backed by research on Udemy on Business:

  • Make Day 1 about your new hire: Too often Day 1 is about us — our own organizational needs. But research by Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino and colleagues shows the benefits of an employee-centric onboarding program focusing not just on the organization but also on the employee. It results in greater employee retention and customer satisfaction.
  • Help new hires develop social connections to the company and their local community: Social embeddedness also helps to reduce turnover, according to Cornell University’s Christopher Collins. But there are two parts to the social connection formula. First you must help them connect socially to their coworkers, through happy hours and buddy programs. Second and equally important is to help them and their families develop strong social ties to their local community.
  • Commit to your new hire by offering learning and development opportunities from Day 1: Learning and development plays a key role in retaining an employee. It’s important to find out immediately your new hire’s career development goals and show how you’re committed to their growth. You also want to provide any training needed to fill gaps your new hire may have in their skill set.

Review your onboarding process with those three tips in mind.


3. How To Avoid “I Told You So”

We always hate it when somebody points out we could have avoided a mistake if we had listened to them. The best way to avoid such “I told you so” comments is to view the initial advice as a gift, former CEO Penny Herscher writes on her blog:

  • Learn to listen to business advice from people who have done it before.
  • Pay attention when somebody is sharing a personal story with you. “A story which is painful to tell probably has a strong lesson in it,” she notes.
  • When someone tells you something you don’t agree with and your first reaction is to disagree, stop and ask questions. This fits Stephen Covey’s famed habit: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
  • Pay attention when somebody is angry with you. You can’t take on everyone else’s issues but intense emotion or stress is a guide often worth following.
  • Don’t be so wrapped up in negatives that you miss the positives of how you can be happy at work. Follow the joy.


4. Remember The Other Side Of The Coin

We spend a lot of time at work trying to improve things for others, be it colleagues or customers. But as entrepreneur Seth Godin observes on his blog, when you’re trying to create change it’s almost certain you’ll be creating discomfort as well.

“Usually, when we’re ready to launch something, we say, ‘this is going to help people, this is well crafted, I’m proud of it.’ What’s a lot more difficult (but useful) is to say all of that plus, ‘and this is going to make (some) people uncomfortable.’”


5. Zingers

  • Lose-Lose Arguments: The only way to win an argument is to avoid it, says consultant Shaun Belding. While you might be tempted to argue with someone, it is unlikely to accomplish anything more than creating ill-will between you and that other party. (Source: Winning At Work)
  • Reframe the meaning of stressors: We tend to believe that stress can come from many different sources. But blogger Donald Latumahina says stress comes from the meaning you attach to a specific event. So instead of blaming something or someone, ask what you can do to change the situation or change what it means to you. (Source: Life Optimizer)
  • Get some sleep: If everyone around you is working around the clock, don’t consider that an unalloyed positive. Research shows that sleep deprivation increases deviant behaviour in organizations. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)
  • Stay IN the box: The secret to high performance is to stay in your box, not get out of it, argues consultant Tim Sackett. People perform better when they know their boundaries — their box. There is comfort in knowing what to expect, and with comfort comes sustained performance long-term. A very small percentage of your employees will actually perform above their average when “out of the box.” (Source: The Tim Sackett Project)
  • Avoid decision fatigue: Avoid needless decisions, since they just tire you out. When dining with someone, neuroscientist Moran Cerf leaves the choice of a restaurant to the other person. And he picks the second special for his meal. Thus, the only decision is who to eat with. (Source: Business Insider)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:  Finding What Works In Marketing

Question:  It seems nothing we try in marketing works these days. The social media options that were supposed to offer new opportunities are being questioned. What should we do??

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

Skepticism is always helpful. Pessimism can be dangerous, however, if it shuts you down.

First, although your focus is on media channels, the message is still all-important. Do you have the right message for the right market? That’s still where most organizations go awry. In particular, is the message attention-grabbing in a world where everyone is overwhelmed with messages?

One thing we have learned in the past decade is the importance of testing our messages. Some organizations can do that very easily and for others it is harder. Have you done any testing? Can you? Try two messages, junk the one that performs the worst, and then try another possibility. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Second, it’s the rare organization where word of mouth doesn’t work. But too often we leave word of mouth to chance. Instead, we can be more activist.

The most obvious step is to improve your operations so people will be awed by your offering, and share with others. And that’s worth doing. But also, how can you help or make it easy for current customers to spread the word? What would a “spread the word” campaign look like for your organization?

Third, can you find an arena where you can get some dominance for your message? Most organizations have a pitiful marketing budget and then they allocate it amongst too many channels, with little impact. How can you concentrate your efforts so you get more attention, even if from a smaller audience or group of message recipients?

Fourth, get numbers. Test new ideas, and see what works or doesn’t work. Check the return on your spending. This is not new. But it remains vital.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler:

     Increasing Productivity To Reduce Stress

Employee stress, burnout and mental health have been growing areas of concern in our workplaces and they will continue to be until we address the problem and reach a solution. Even six years ago, a poll revealed that 40% of workers were burned out from stress, and 70% of phone-counselling lines were being used to address stress and anxiety.

If you can’t (or shouldn’t) add more hours to the day to handle your workload, or remove tasks to reduce it, the best thing is to work on systematically improving your productivity to help create a lower-stress work environment.

In his article on Harvard Business Review, Matt Plummer, founder of Zarvana (an online productivity company), talks about methods he and a co-worker took to reduce working hours by improving their productivity. Initially, they found that simply tracking hours and discussing them bi-weekly led to more than a 15% reduction in hours while not decreasing production.

In his article, Plummer discusses the general outline that he presents to clients:

  • Be strategic and define a metric: Set productivity goals and make a plan for achieving them. You can do this by choosing a metric to track (Plummer tracks hours worked) and setting goals for improvement.
  • Focus on one change at a time: Don’t get swamped trying to apply 10 new tricks or resolutions to increase productivity. Instead, focus on one improvement at a time. For some, it helps to cut out social media while at work.
  • Change your behaviour and find someone to hold you accountable:  Plummer points out that your aim is not an immediate change but a gradual improvement — something you need to put effort into continually. Follow-through on these objectives is tough, so team with a co-worker or manager to hold yourself accountable.

Your time is valuable; don’t throw away hours and hours each week through low productivity — you can get started with these three tips immediately.


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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 

“Email is simply a database of other people’s agendas.”

— Benjamin P. Hardy