May 25, 2018


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this issue of the 8020Info Water Cooler we’ve pulled together a variety of insights to help you improve your emotional intelligence, customer service practices, reference checking, and undercurrents that lead to strategic drift. Enjoy!


1. The 10 Commandments Of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify emotions in yourself and others, and use that to guide behaviour. It is prized these days, but how exactly do we improve? Here are 10 commandments served up in Inc. by consultant Justin Bariso:

  • Thou shalt ponder thy feelings:  Start by asking questions like, “What is my current mood, and how might that influence my decisions today?”
  • Thou shalt learn from other perspectives:  When listening to others, don’t focus on right or wrong; instead, try to understand how perceptions differ and the reasons behind that.
  • Thou shalt learn to pause:  Take a moment to stop and think before you speak.
  • Thou shalt practise empathy:  Instead of judging or labeling others, try to see things through their eyes.
  • Thou shalt praise others:  Finding the good in others — and sharing your appreciation — inspires them to be better.
  • Thou shalt apologize:  Acknowledging your mistakes helps to build humility and authenticity, which others will appreciate.
  • Thou shalt forgive:  “Refusing to forgive is like leaving a knife in a wound — you never give yourself the chance to heal,” he writes. Forgiving allows you to move on.
  • Thou shalt not freeze others in time:  Don’t judge others too quickly, without considering the context of past experiences and any extenuating circumstances.  Re-evaluate your relationships regularly.
  • Thou shalt control thy thoughts:  In negative situations you can’t control your feelings but you can control your reaction to those feelings.
  • Thou shalt not stop learning:  Emotional intelligence is not about mastering a certain level of proficiency but about continuous learning and growth.


2. Six Customer Service Practices To Reconsider

Customer service is vital for most organizations but some of the practices taught are ineffective at best, says Ottawa-based consultant Shaun Belding on his blog:

  • Treat customers the way you would like to be treated: But not all customers are like you. Better to treat them the way they want to be treated.
  • Don’t admit that you don’t know something: In fact, the opposite is true. There are few ways to earn a customer’s trust faster than to say they have a great question and you want to be sure to get the right answer.
  • Work faster: There may be an urge to rush if you are dealing with a long queue of customers or their paperwork. But the saying “too much hurry, not enough speed” is worth remembering. Get it right rather than rush.
  • In retail, greeting customers the moment they walk into the store: When customers first enter a store, they are acclimatizing to the space, and it’s unwise to jump all over them, creating discomfort and a defensive “just looking” response.
  • Begin a service call with “what seems to be the problem?”:  That may seem to be a sensible response when a customer says, “I have a problem.” But first show some empathy — perhaps say: “Oh no, let’s see what we can do to fix it,” showing you care, and then get to the substance.
  • Don’t take complaints personally:  We are emotional beings, so we have to manage our emotional response to someone who is upset . It’s also vital to care about and take ownership of customer issues.


3. The Beginner’s Bubble

Alexander Pope said a little learning is a dangerous thing. And a new study on overconfidence proves him right.

It’s common to think beginners are overconfident when starting a new task or job, unaware of their incompetence. But the laboratory study by Cornell University PhD student Carmen Sanchez and University of Michigan Psychology Professor David Dunning found beginners can be perfectly conscious and cautious about what they don’t know.

Unconscious incompetence is instead something they grow into.

“A little experience replaces their caution with a false sense of competence,” the duo report in Harvard Business Review blogs, calling it a beginner’s bubble of overconfidence.

Participants were asked to imagine they were medical residents. The study found they formed quick, self-assured ideas about how to approach an assigned  medical diagnosis task, even if based on the slimmest amount of data and subject to statistical noise or misleading signs.

In time, with more experience, their overconfidence often leveled off and slightly declined as they realized they needed to adjust their initial theories. But after that correction phase, self-confidence in their assessments began to rise again without sufficient accuracy to justify it — a cycle the researchers found occurring in the world at large.


4. Avoid Reminder Emails To Job Candidates

Should you send an email to remind a job candidate of an interview?

Absolutely not, consultant Alison Green writes in Inc.

If someone forgets to show up for the interview, that’s very important information you want to know about them. In the hiring process you want to go beyond their resume and references to also see whether they do what they say they are going to do (such as sending you an interesting article they mentioned), whether they meet their own deadlines, and how they treat people.


5. Zingers

  • Before the plunge:  Too many of us make fast choices or leap into how to do something before deciding first whether to do it or not, observes consultant Alan Weiss. Just plunging in can leave you with a troublesome hire, a bad vacation or an aggravating relationship. (Source: Contrarian Consulting)
  • Self-imposed urgency:  Give yourself unrealistic deadlines — aggressive ones, although not outrageous — to boost productivity, says Todd Krizelman, CEO of MediaRadar, an advertising intelligence company. (Source: ThriveGlobal)
  • Cut your screen time:  Activities that don’t involve a screen are linked to happiness while activities involving screens are associated with lower levels of happiness. And a growing number of studies suggest that screen use causes the unhappiness, not the other way around. (Source: QZ.Com)
  • Hire boomerang candidates or strangers?  Most companies hire “stranger” candidates (people unknown to the firm before they applied for the position), notes recruiting specialist John Sullivan. But those strangers can fool you with appearances, whereas boomerang candidates — people who have worked with you before — are known quantities. (Source: DrJohnSullivan.com)
  • Invent the future:  The most common way we deal with the future is to try to predict it. A better approach, says entrepreneur Seth Godin, is to invent the future — just a little part of it, perhaps, but enough to make a difference. (Source: Seth’s Blog)


6. Q&A With 8020Info:
    Questions for Reference Checks

Question:   How can I improve my reference checking?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

First, just do it! Too many organizations don’t, convinced they won’t learn anything useful because the reference will probably be a friend of the candidate, eager to help, or someone leery of the legal consequences of saying anything negative. Such reticence is a mistake.

At the same time, remember the person acting as a reference is not your friend — probably somebody you never spoke to before — so you are unlikely to build a rapport that will overcome their ties to the candidate.

But you can ask questions that are a little unexpected, which by their nature may reveal useful information. Here are some from Toronto entrepreneur and strategy consultant Albert Lee, in his book How To Meet The Queen:

  • Is the candidate an introvert or an extrovert?
  • Describe a situation where he was in conflict with a colleague or a business contact, and how the conflict played out?
  • Describe a pressure-packed situation that you observed the candidate in and what you think his comfort zone is?
  • What is his leadership style?  His communication style?
  • How does he like to learn — by reading, watching, doing, or through examples?
  • What tasks did the candidate like doing most and least, and how did he approach the extremes in both those situations?
  • Over time, what did you learn about the candidate that you wish you had known at the beginning, when you first interviewed him?

Here are three more, from entrepreneur Laura Smoliar, shared in Inc:  What kind of schedule does the candidate keep, and did co-workers have trouble working with her because of schedule issues? Tell me about a time when the individual surprised you. If you were to hire the candidate again, what role would be ideal?

Finally, when the person you interviewed was a stranger, why not close by asking if you can keep in contact? Might prove useful in the future.


7. Around Our Water Cooler:
    Drifting Off Strategy

We bumped into a CEO recently and asked how implementation of her organization’s new strategic plan was going.

“The strategies are great, and so critical to our future success,” she said. “But we seem to keep drifting away from them —we struggle in daily practice and constantly have to remind ourselves to keep them in focus.”

There are many reasons why strategy can bog down during the implementation stage:

  • Have we clearly explained what the strategy means in practice?
  • Are incentives aligned with old approaches, not the new strategy?
  • Are your strategies being dragged off course by long-standing corporate habits, routines or culture?
  • Do those leading your strategic initiative lack the expertise, mental models or tools needed to bring it to life? (And so, being at a loss, they focus instead on something else they can do.)
  • Is your strategy roll-out sagging for a lack of champions at all levels of your organization?
  • Does implementing the strategy conflict with personal values held by the individuals involved? (For example, a new focus on improving financial results might be at odds with the inclination of staff to prefer stability, popular decisions and interpersonal harmony.)
  • Have you clearly established a team scoreboard, so all the players remain continually aware of whether the team is winning or losing?

Such factors can have an impact like a flywheel, exerting a gravitation-like pull on your most promising strategies and causing implementation to slow or drift off course. Check these seven influences to stay on track.

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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 

“Most of our so-called reasoning consists of finding arguments for going on believing as we do.”

— James Harvey Robinson