June 2, 2019


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we explore questions to guide onboarding for new employees, probe reasons for procrastination, look at how stresses drive consumers to buy, and share warnings about collective decision-making. Enjoy!


1. Five Questions For Onboarding

When new employees join your organization, they need to shift from being a favoured outsider to becoming “one of us.”

“The goal of onboarding should be to introduce foundational elements that employees can build on throughout their career — those that influenced their behaviour over decades not quarters,” Gallup researchers Jim Clifton and Jim Harter write in their new book It’s the Manager.

They highlight five key questions to help guide the newcomer to answers:

  • What do we believe in around here? The individual needs to know your organization’s stated purpose. This will come not just by sharing policies but by how you act in the here-and-now.
  • What are my strengths? Your organization has a vested interest in employees using their strengths, which requires helping them to understand what those strengths are. “But organizations almost always overlook this crucial early step,” they note.
  • What is my role? Gallup research suggests only 50% of employees know what’s expected of them. You need to go beyond the conversations in the recruitment phase to make the role clear.
  • Who are my partners? New employees need to know their new colleagues accept them. But even deeper, they need to understand who they can count on to support them as they learn their new role. Help them develop a relationship map, distinguishing between the types of support different people can offer.
  • What does my future look like here? Employees need assurance they will continue to learn and grow. Otherwise, they leave.


2. Why People Buy

Much has been written about why people buy. Consultant Donald Cooper says it’s actually quite simple: People buy “stuff” in their business and personal lives for one reason only — to make some of their stress go away.

In our western society, he notes on his blog, people have less physical stress than ever before but more emotional stress. He suggests sitting down with your team, trying to think and feel like your potential clients, and answering three critical questions:

  • What are the physical and emotional stresses in our target customers’ lives that attract them to buy what we sell?
  • What physical or emotional stresses might be preventing them from buying what we sell, or from buying it specifically from us?
  • What physical or emotional stresses do we create for our customers when they do business with us that could prevent them from doing business with us again?

Those last two questions may come as a surprise but are important. After all, how often have you set out to buy something from an organization and found they cause you more stress in the purchase process than they relieve? Don’t be like those companies.

As for thinking about what prevents them from buying, he points to a travel agent who offers a twice yearly seminar on “how to overcome your fear of flying” with the help of a local psychologist.

So ponder stress, and how it explains why people buy.


3. Stop Collective Decision-Making

Meetings are important to bring people together and discuss issues. At the same time, they can be a trap.

Consultant Simon Terry notes on his blog that if your organizational design is right, somebody — not the collective staff — is responsible for every decision being made.

“That doesn’t mean that they have to make it alone, but they are responsible for the process reaching an outcome. Make sure that decisions are not constrained by group decision-making processes and the ambiguity that they create,” he writes.

He adds that whatever you do, do not try to make collective decisions by email.

He urges you not to abandon consultation, which is vital, but to hold people to account for making decisions after gathering the facts through research and experimentation and engaging with others.

“If you can’t trust people to make decisions, then get better people or change your processes to eliminate the decisions entirely,” he says.


4. Salespeople Don’t Need To Be Liked

Salespeople try to build bonds with customers so they will be liked. But research shows it’s not a necessity to be liked.

In Harvard Business Review, consultant J. Keenan notes an analysis of 450,000 salespeople found that, among those with the best records, 89% said they do not need to be liked.

On the other hand, the weakest 86% indicated they do need to be liked. And the weaker their sales records, the more likely they were to believe making friends is their greatest asset.

It’s better to demonstrate your expertise than be liked.


5. Zingers

  • Begin with the beginning: Exit interviews at Patagonia begin not with why the individual is leaving but why they originally signed on. Then chief human resources officer Dean Carter says he digs deep into whether the company deliver the expected experience that brought the person to the firm.
    “Sometimes,” he told reporter Lila MacLellan, “we’ll both be crying over where we both missed the experience [for] Patagonia.” (Source: Quartz)
  • Seek non-experts:  Building on a recent CEO’s comment about the value of stupid questions, Bryant University management professor Michael Robert says it’s important to bring non-experts into the decision-making process from time to time since they won’t be wedded to traditional thinking. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)
  • The cereal entrepreneur:  Entrepreneur Seth Godin says it’s tempting when starting a business to try to replace your previous paycheque but wiser to cut your expenses to the bone before you need to because every dollar not spent is a dollar you don’t have to raise. “Eat cereal, not sushi,” he advises. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • A key skill:  A skill that never comes up in lists of leadership behaviour but is very important, says coach Dan Rockwell, is the ability to accept help. (Source: LeadershipFreak)
  • Tell me about us:  When you ask job candidates to “tell me about yourself” freelance journalist Miranda Marquit says you should be looking for clues they understand your organization and how they can fit in with your goals. (Source: Due.com)


6. The List:  Making Leadership Training Stick   

When you or your company invest in leadership training, you want to make sure it has a positive impact on the organization. Here’s six ways consultants Karin Hurt and David Dye suggest to make it stick on their LetsGrowLeaders blog:

  • Focus on one behaviour change at a time rather than trying everything at once.
  • Find an accountability partner you trust to help you through the difficult, lonely period of change.
  • Invite your team on the journey by sharing what you have learned; what you have chosen to change; and asking for them to notice when it’s working and offer suggestions when it isn’t.
  • Teach what you have learned, since teaching helps you to understand.
  • Ask for feedback regularly on the impact of the changes.
  • If you mess up, apologize and try again.


7. Around Our Water Cooler:
    Procrastination Diagnostics

Do you often find yourself struggling with procrastination or forcing yourself to do things whenever they need to be done?

In Eliminate Procrastination By Asking Two Incredibly Simple Questions, Rosie Leizrowice says we put things off for two reasons:

  • A lack of a clear idea of what to do, and/or
  • A lack of a reason to do it.

We can reframe procrastination with two simple questions, she suggests:

  • What do I need to do? (Be specific and frame it in detail.)
  • Why do I need to do it? (Again, specific and in detail.)

If there’s no answer to those two questions, it could be a sign you feel the task isn’t really worth doing.

In contrast, as Marcus Aurelius put it in Meditations:

“People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practising their arts.”

Procrastination is an important warning sign, Leizrowice notes.

It can red flag an activity that doesn’t align with your longer-term aspirations. Perhaps that dream job is now proving to be unfulfilling, or putting things off may signal burnout or a deep sense of confusion.

In a society fixated on productivity and achievement, procrastination might seem illogical, self-defeating or something like a character flaw (e.g. laziness).

But if procrastination were embedded in character, we wouldn’t be able to conquer it when necessary or surf a sudden rush of motivation from a looming deadline.

Leizrowice notes Victor Hugo forced himself to finish The Hunchback of Notre Dame by instructing his maid to lock away all his clothes until he had completed the manuscript. He used a dramatic consequence in the present to drive himself towards a longer-term future goal. But tricks and discipline can take you only so far.

Procrastination may be rooted in negative emotion, not lack of self-discipline.

A relevant thread on the social news forum Reddit describes procrastination not as a time-management problem but as an issue of emotion regulation. We delay activities for reasons of boredom, fear of failure or embarrassment, low self-esteem or confidence, fear of judgment, feelings of incompetence and so on.

The proposed solution is learning how to regulate such emotions — bringing aversive and negative emotions and thoughts associated with the task into awareness and then learning to tolerate them. If you’d like to dig deeper into this theme, see an article by Aditya Shukla in Cognition Today.

And don’t put it off!


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8. Closing Thought 

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

— Pablo Picasso