July 14, 2019


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we focus on making customer interactions easy, using experiments to introduce change, plus tips on delegation, standing behind staff, and why highly efficient leaders fail. Enjoy!


1. Make It Easy

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. But the reality is that year-round it should be easy to deal with your organization.

Here’s an audit from consultant Donald Cooper, offered on his blog:

  • Are you easy to find? It all begins with your target clients being able to find you in person or on the Internet. “If people can’t find you, you don’t exist,” he warns. When talking to others, do you habitually indicate a cross street that makes it clear where to find you?
  • If your client has to come to you, is parking and public transportation handy? Can you help on this score?
  • Is it easy to understand what you do and how you can help your target audience? “The quickest way to increase sales by 10% to 15% in most businesses is to make sure that your existing customers know about all the value you can deliver,” he says.

“So, what are five things you will do to make it easier for your target customers to understand what you do, and all the ways you can be helpful?”

  • Are you easy to communicate with? Review contact information on your web site, emails and marketing material. Does your voice mail help or hinder?
  • Are you easy to do business with (and to pay)? “What is it about doing business with you that drives customers nuts?” he asks. “How can you make it easier for your customers to buy… and to come back for more?”

Make it easy.


2. The Passion Pit For Social Agencies

Passion fuels great people and great organizations. But after Amnesty International lost five members from its leadership team because of the toxic workplace culture, consultant David Dye noted that passion can be a problem for social agencies.

He calls it The Passion Pit — a strange contradiction in organizations that do good work but have cultures that are caustic, toxic, and abusive.

“I’ve watched this same dynamic happen before. I’ve lived it as an employee and I’ve witnessed it as a leadership trainer and consultant,” he writes on his blog. “The Passion Pit happens when leaders use people’s passion and commitment as a substitute for sound leadership and management.”

Leaders of these Passion Pit organizations brush aside negative conditions in the workplace with these words: “If people really cared about what we’re doing there, they’d get it done.”

People are expected to tolerate an abusive colleague, sacrifice their health and family, and stop complaining about lack of clarity or other nuisances. They are expected to fight the problematic culture to do their best work.

Instead, Dye asks leaders in Passion Pit situations to change their language from “If they really cared, they would …” to “If we really care about our people successfully serving our customer, we would …”

Then build a culture worthy of your people’s passion, training leaders properly, structuring intense work in ways that motivated people can sustain over time, and eliminating harassment, bullying and other highly negative behaviours.


3. Why Highly Efficient Leaders Fail

Efficiency is prized. It’s the key to success in many organizations. But it can also bring a leader down, executive coach Rebecca Zucker writes in Harvard Business Review.

“The high levels of efficiency that allow highly task-focused leaders to be so productive often come at the expense of a more people-based focus. Things like building relationships, inspiring a team, developing others, and showing empathy can fall by the wayside,” she says.

Highly efficient leaders often lose their focus due to a limiting belief that activities focused more on people will slow them down and impede their ability to execute and, ultimately, to be successful.

They have tunnel vision that sees only results when they need to balance task focus with people focus.

“Leaders who balance task- and people-focus are equally driven, and also strive for results, but they keep the broader organizational needs in mind,” she notes. “They also recognize that it’s not just about being efficient — it’s about being effective.”

Take stock by getting feedback on your own behaviours. If the reports are negative, make changes after talking to others who are good at balancing task- and people-focus.


4. Stand With People When They Mess Up

When your subordinates mess up, don’t throw them under the bus. Leadership coach Dan Rockwell says on his blog you should stand with them, owning the failure even if you didn’t do it.

That doesn’t mean lying and saying you did it. But it does mean saying you are responsible and the only finger pointing should be at you.

It also doesn’t mean being casual about the failure. Study and learn from it.

Don’t punish people for responsible failure; have the courage to learn from it, he says.


5. Zingers

  • Sobering Figures:  Here are some scary figures from Gallup: Only 22% of employees strongly agree their leaders have a clear direction for their organization. Only 26% of employees believe their organization always delivers on its promises to employees. How would your workplace fare in such a survey? (Source: Gallup)
  • Use All Talent:  N.Y.U Langone hospital paired janitors with infection-control specialists to improve patient protection by making sure all high-touch surfaces were thoroughly sanitized. Bryant University Management Professor Michael Roberto says it’s a reminder to respect the knowledge of often-neglected front-line workers. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)
  • Call Dilemma:  If you’re waiting for an associate or client to show up for an appointment and your phone rings, what should you do?  If it will be hard to reconnect with the caller, networking experts at Shepa Learning say to pick up the phone, explain the situation, and use the call only to reschedule another conversation. This closes the call gracefully without keeping the person with the appointment waiting. (Source: Shepa Learning – Weekly Tip)
  • Ending Well:  Too many presentations end vaguely. End yours strongly: Express gratitude, and then concisely state what you want your audience to know, feel and do as a result of your talk. (Source: Stanford Business)
  • Learning Pause: Resting after you learn new information seems to improve memory of that information, research shows. Sleep also helps consolidate what we have learned. (Source: Research Digest)


6. The List: Five Delegation Tips

Consultant Diana Peterson-More says delegation is a fine art, in which these five ideas are crucial.

  • Delegate to results, not process – determine the end result and communicate it clearly.
  • Delegate in bite-sized pieces – if the project involves many steps and you’re unsure the person can complete the entire task, ladle out the work in stages.
  • Provide the tools to get the job done such as time, budget, knowledge, or equipment.
  • Check in without hovering since nobody does their best work in that situation
  • Resist the temptation to substitute your excellent solution if the delegatee has accomplished the desired results in a different way.

From a guest post on Julie Winkle Giulioni’s blog


7. Around Our Water Cooler: Approach Change With An Experimental Mindset

Here’s an interesting idea from Michael Hyatt for any of us contemplating change projects this summer — whether you are trying to pitch an idea, a new initiative, or a program, it’s often best to approach it as an experiment.

“Don’t ask people to commit to something forever,” he says. “Instead, invite them to commit for a week, or the next 21 days, or some other defined period of time. If it doesn’t work, you can discard it and go back to what you were doing before.”

When Does It Make Sense To Experiment?

  • If you’re dealing with a reluctant audience, experimentation offers a low-risk way for others to give new ideas a try — it’s easier to say yes to a trial than to a major, permanent change.

Hyatt points to a study that estimated the average person will not place a bet unless the potential gain is at least twice the potential loss. And scepticism has its place when you consider the cautionary statistic that as many as 70% of change initiatives fail.

  • If you find yourself procrastinating, experimenting may be a solution. Experimentation keeps you from thinking you have to get it perfect before you commit. It supports a growth and learning mindset.
  • Consider using experimentation when you need real life data to get it right. If your project will take you into uncharted territory, you may first need to build experience and gather data by actually doing the thing you are proposing. With an experiment, you can see it in action before you commit more deeply.
  • Finally, experimentation allows you to change your mind. It keeps your options open. It sets the stage for future fine-tuning or course corrections.

“If the experiment works, great. You have achieved the change you wanted to make,” Hyatt says. “If it doesn’t work, you still win. You mitigated the risk of full adoption and now you have more information than when you began.”

If an experimental mindset might help your projects succeed, Hyatt offers these three tips:

  • Be alert to resistance — it may indicate an opportunity for an experiment.
  • Emphasize the low risk.
  • Set a specific time frame — long enough to make an honest effort to achieve success, but short enough to sidestep resistance to the project.

You may want to hire an outside service in a 90-day experiment, try journaling for 21 days, or ask your team to test Slack collaboration software for just one day. You can tell yourself: “I’m not committing to this for life; it’s just an experiment.”

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8020Info helps senior leadership teams and boards develop, clarify and build consensus behind 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 

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

— Ernest Hemingway