March 4, 2018


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the 8020Info Water Cooler we look at the SAUCE method for creating sharper marketing messages, questions for a non-profit organizational assessment, areas of focus for successful strategy execution, the tendency to lead while distracted — and the need to resist that. Enjoy!


1. Questions To Ask A Non-Profit Board

At some point, you might be asked to serve on the board of a non-profit. “Whatever the board, it’s an opportunity to make a difference, provided you’re prepared,” two professors write in the McKinsey Quarterly.

William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker, who both lecture at Stanford Graduate School of Business, say directors need to probe, nudge, and prod to make sure the organization achieves its full potential. And here are four questions they offer to assist:

  • Are we succumbing to mission creep?  Non-profits lack the focus businesses have on shareholder value, and therefore need a crystal-clear mission statement that can unite stakeholders who hold different if not competing expectations. But make sure it’s not vague or too lofty, a common non-profit failing.
  • How is our theory of change informing our strategy?  A theory of change is a rigorous description of exactly how an organization’s initiatives will achieve the mission and related goals. It should be a step-by-step outline that, ideally, is informed by empirical evidence. Make sure there is such a theory and judge ideas accordingly.
  • How are we evaluating our impact?  Corporate boards have a range of financial metrics. Meehan and Jonker say you need to ensure the non-profit has “regular impact measurement, not as a pro forma obligation but as part of a dynamic feedback loop that helps drive organizational strategy.”
  • Do we have the right “fuel” to drive our organization?  That means ensuring you have the right people and resources to achieve the mission.


2. Avoid Leading While Distracted

We are increasingly aware of the dangers of driving while distracted. But leadership coach Susan Mazza warns there are also perils to leading while distracted. It can be dangerous to morale, progress, and ultimately your success as a leader.

Test yourself with these signs of distracted leadership from her Random Acts of Leadership blog. Do you:

  • Engage half-heartedly in a conversation you have no bandwidth for or interest in at the moment.
  • Listen to the conversation in your head rather than what the other person is saying, including that little voice that keeps repeating, “I hope they will be done soon?”
  • Get on a conference call and answer e-mails thinking that, since people can’t see you, they won’t know and it doesn’t matter anyway.
  • Allow a conversation to be interrupted by an electronic device.

She says the truth is that we have all engaged in something like those behaviours and you can probably even think of other distractions to add to the list.

“We can justify these and other distracted behaviors with ‘everyone else does it’ or ‘there just aren’t enough hours in a day’ or ‘I’m trying my best.’ Unfortunately, those reasons may get us off the hook in our own minds, but there is still a cost to the person/people on the other end,” she notes.

She urges you to challenge yourself in the next 21 days to be fully present with those you lead. Don’t expect to be perfect. But improve.


3. How To Avoid Unwanted Meetings

It is too easy these days for people to invite you to meetings, notes consultant Dorie Clark. So they do. And the meetings pile up.

If a meeting seems unnecessary, she suggests that you make the meeting requester do some work to gain your attendance. That might deter them now or in future. In Harvard Business Review Blogs, she shares these questions you can ask:

  • What is the exact topic?
  • What is the timing and location?
  • What is the duration?
  • Who else will be in attendance?
  • What decision needs to be made at the meeting? (This helps you to determine the meeting’s value.)
  • Why, specifically, do you need me to be there? (“This forces them to articulate a clear reason. If they say ‘to keep you updated,’ then you can simply tell them to do this post facto by sharing the minutes with you,” she writes.)

If that doesn’t work, see if the meeting organizer would compromise for a short phone call beforehand to get your input or by sending you an email update afterwards.


4. Handling Sales Objections

When objections arise from a prospect as you are promoting your product or service, consultant Colleen Francis urges you to keep in mind that prospects have a right to ask questions about your work.

“The more you thank them for asking questions or acknowledge that they have the right to ask questions, the more open they are to dialogue,” she writes on her Engage Selling blog.

So when you find yourself irritated by an objection, pause and count to three, remember their right to raise issues, and include in your answer the story of a customer’s success in handling that problem.


5. Zingers

  • Training for Retention:  Instead of worrying about people leaving your team, invest in their development in a personalized and meaningful way, says public relations agency CEO Lee Caraher. She adds that the day we hire someone, we know they are going to leave — what we really don’t want is for someone to leave before we want them to. Stop worrying about good people leaving “early” and start worrying about mediocre performers staying. If you train your lowest performers better, higher performers will stay as the workplace becomes better. (Source: ThoughtLeaders Blog)
  • Limiting Habits:  Two habits that could be holding you back, according to marketing director Helen Tupper: Not asking for help, and saying sorry a lot. (Source: Marketing Week)
  • Don’t Dwell on the Negatives:  New research shows that when weighing the pros and cons of a decision, we tend to dwell on the negative. Bryant University Management Professor Michael Roberto says that may lead to considerable indecision, yet the inability to take action can itself be a problem in many situations.  As well, dwelling on the negative might lead us to lose confidence in our ability to make the right call in tough circumstances. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)
  • Consider the Survey Experience: Psychological assessments have entered the “Experience Economy,” with survey developers concerned about how people feel when taking the assessments. Latest trend: gamification, where the assessment is designed to feel more like a game than a test. (Source: RHR International)
  • Culture Fit Pitfalls:  In hiring, culture fit is prized. But recruiter Ciara Trinidad warns that this approach can lead to a lack of diversity. Applicants will also try to fit in, at the expense of innovation and creative thinking, adds Chris Nicholson, CEO of artificial intelligence company Skymind. (Source: CIO.com)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:
    From Dull to Crisp Marketing

Question:  How can we sharpen our marketing?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

The first step is to get out of your own head and into the head of the recipient of the message. If that seems vague, think of how you would catch the attention of your neighbour for the product or service you want to promote. Your first sentence will be critical, and that’s your headline. Is it catchy? Compelling? Surprising?

Advertising consultant Roy H. Williams recently has been talking about banter and dialogue as helpful approaches for radio ads. It breaks with what he calls “ad-speak,” the way most advertising is written, and not just for radio. So get out of your head and avoid ad-speak. Speak in short, sharp words that don’t sound carefully hedged, highfalutin, and deadly dull.

In Secret Sauce, New Zealand marketing consultant Harry Mills presents some helpful ideas to help sharpen your message using the acronym SAUCE:

  • Simple: One central truth, easy to grasp and picture.
  • Appealing: Different, valuable and personalized.
  • Unexpected: Surprising, intriguing and seductive.
  • Credible: Trusted, transparent and verifiable in a skeptical era.
  • Emotional: Warm, amusing and plot-driven, with a narrative that leads to action.

The hardest part can be the first since coming up with a simple truth is difficult. You probably have several things you want to pitch, and sacrificing any can be difficult. Fail at simplicity and you may not get the emotional response you want — and emotional is probably the second most important ingredient for his sauce.

Those ideas may help you to revive your marketing.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler:
     Executing Strategy

After a successful strategy development process, our clients often need to focus on a plan for effective implementation of their strategies. A strategic plan can point you in the right direction, but you also need to make sure you execute it properly.

Gary Neilson, Karla Martin and Elizabeth Powers, experts in the field, provide pointers in a classic Harvard Business Review article, based on their research and studies.

They point out that restructuring is typically the first thing managers do when a company fails to execute strategy. But their research showed that structure isn’t as fundamental to successful execution as clarifying decision rights and making sure information flows where it needs to go.

Managers are prone to several mistakes or oversights when trying to translate strategy into action. The three experts analyzed more than 15 organizational traits that influence execution to determine which had the strongest effect. A few of the top success factors were:

  • Everyone has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which they are responsible. As companies mature and employees come and go, bringing along different workstyles and expectations, the organizational understanding of who is responsible for what roles becomes blurred. Keeping these roles clear is the factor linked most highly to successful execution.
  • Decisions should be well informed or delegated. Be wary of allowing upper management to determine all decisions if they don’t have accurate and up-to-date market intelligence. Deferring some decision making to operations (who are much closer to the customer) discourages management from imposing its own agenda and policies on execution.
  • Information flows freely across organizational boundaries. This is an issue most companies can work on — silos exist in all types of organizations, and horizontal communication networks need active attention to break them down.

Consider reading the rest of the list, which includes a focus on intelligence about the competitive environment, the flow of information for day-to-day choices, and upper level management involvement in operating decisions.

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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 

“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.”

— Leo Baubata