August 5, 2019


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we focus on marketing to the primal brain, recruiting mistakes that leave you with second-best candidates, discovery questions to ask other leaders, and an approach to help teams that are stuck by creating psychological safety and focusing on workability. Enjoy!


1. Marketing To The Primal Brain

We call on our rational brain to devise marketing plans. But neuromarketing specialist Christophe Morin says we will be most effective when we reach out to the dominant primal brain, which controls attention and emotional resources below our level of consciousness — a result of evolutionary history and priority placed on survival.

To tap into that part of the brain effectively, he writes on Neurosciencemarketing Blog, you must use six persuasion biases that trigger instant primal responses:

  • Make your messages personal:  The primal brain is centred on “me”. It has no patience or empathy for anything that does not immediately concern its well-being.
  • Make your arguments contrastable:  Contrast allows quick, risk-free decisions. That might involve before/after, risky/safe, with/without, or slow/fast choices.
  • Make your proofs tangible: This brain instinctively seeks the familiar — what can be recognized quickly. “The primal brain cannot process complexity without a lot of effort and skepticism. It appreciates simple, easy-to-grasp, concrete ideas,” he writes.
  • Make your story memorable: The primal brain remembers little. Place your most important content at the start and repeat at the end. Keep what’s in the middle brief and convincing.
  • Make your points visual: Our default sensory channel is visual. He notes the optical nerve is physically connected to the primal brain and is at least 25 times faster than the auditory nerve.
  • Make your impact emotional: Your emotions create chemical brain activity that directly impacts how information is processed and remembered. “No emotion, no decisions!” he stresses.

Keep those six elements in mind when designing your marketing plans.


2. The Most Expensive Mistake In Recruiting

The most expensive mistake in recruiting is not landing your top candidate and being forced to settle for second best, according to recruiting expert John Sullivan.

He figures the difference is a loss in output of around 20%, with the minimum performance differential for professional jobs being 15%.

If that sounds extreme, on his blog he turns to sports as a comparator, noting that last year the second-best pitchers had an Earned Run Average (ERA) in each league that was 25% and 33% lower than the top hurlers.

In the NBA, the number two scorer was 22% below the best. It even applies beyond humans:  Second-ranked horses win 39% fewer races then top-ranked horses.

He adds that, in your workplace, if an innovator is the top candidate and the runner-up not, the performance differential is in triple digits. He advises you to:

  • Identify when top candidates drop out:  Note on a recruiting-step process map where each top candidate dropped out and strengthen how you treat them at that stage.
  • Speed up your hiring process: The primary reason why most organizations lose their top candidate is because of their slow hiring decisions.

“Top candidates have multiple choices. They will inevitably take a ‘bird in hand’ offer rather than waiting for yours. Many top candidates may be gone within 10 days. You can bet that you’ve already lost your top pick if it takes more than a month to hire someone,” he stresses

He warns you not to settle for “butts in the chair.” Get the best people.


3. Leaders And Followers, Differences And Similarities

Are organizations more successful when leaders and followers are similar or different?

It’s a bit of both, explain Kristen Gilson and Juleen Veneziano of the RHR International consultancy. Research shows many positive outcomes associated with diverse teams, including better decision-making effectiveness and innovation.

“Leaders of higher-performing teams intentionally seek out different perspectives, ways of thinking, and approaches,” they write on the company’s blog.

But the consultancy wondered if there were exceptions, and research uncovered one big item. It’s called “adjustment” and refers, at one end of the continuum, to whether people are calm and resilient under stress, or at the other, to being moody and volatile.

When leaders and followers were at the same end of the scale — either end, but together — it worked well. They give this example of why that makes sense: A direct report who is more sensitive and reactive might be put off if his leader is sunny and optimistic in a period of stress.

So seek diverse teams but with similar temperaments under stress.


4. Think Before You Respond

Often we respond in a conversation with words we later regret.

Here are five questions to think about in the moment before you open your mouth, courtesy of consultant Kevin Eikenberry on his blog. (The key words conveniently form the acronym THINK.)

  • Is it True?
  • Is it Helpful?
  • Is it Inspiring?
  • Is it Necessary?
  • Is it Kind?


5. Zingers

  • No Cheese Panini:  Consultant Scott Eblin says middle managers often feel like the meat in a sandwich, adding a lot of nutritional value while being squeezed by the bread from above and below. He urges you to try to focus on the things that only you can do, which will not come from subject matter expertise but leadership actions. (Source: Eblin Group)
  • Protect Your Best: Protect your top performers from burnout, says leadership coach Matt Plummer. Guard against placing them only on the hardest projects or using them to compensate for weaker team members. Let them occasionally pick their own projects. Keep track of demands on their time for non-core work. Create high-performing pairs, which can energize them rather than sap morale. (Source: Harvard Business Review Blogs)
  • Small Talk:  If you’re nervous about making small talk with new acquaintances at a business gathering, reduce the pressure on yourself. You don’t have to be particularly witty, advise the relationship experts at Shepa Learning Company; you just need to be interested in the other party, investing the effort to jump-start an actual conversation. (Source: Free Weekly Tip)
  • The Value Of A Watch:  Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp project management software, says it makes sense to wear a watch rather than use a phone to check the time — a phone tempts with too many other possibilities. “When I look at my watch, it gives me the time. It asks nothing in return. It’s a loyal companion without demands,” he says. (Source: Signal Vs. Noise)
  • One-On-One Questions:  Next time you’re chatting with a subordinate, ask, “Imagine your best day at work. What are you doing? What are you not doing?” (Source: LeadershipFreak)


6. The List:
    Questions To Ask Other Leaders  

Leadership expert Michael Hyatt recently posted a set of 20 stimulating questions you might ask other leaders as a way of discovering tips, pitfalls and new/best ways of leading — here’s a sampler:

  • What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
  • Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
  •  How do you encourage others in your organization to communicate your “core values”?  How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with them?
  • How do you help a new employee understand the culture of your organization?
  • When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
  • What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?
  • What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?


7. Around Our Water Cooler:
    Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

In our strategic planning practice, we work a lot with teams — boards, management teams, departments — and some of these teams find themselves stuck. That why we took note when Queen’s IRC recently posted an insightful article about it by Ronald Pizzo, a mediator and labour lawyer with Pink Larkin.

Pizzo refers to a Google project earlier this decade called “Aristotle”. They undertook a multi-year initiative to answer one question:  What makes some workplace teams soar while others fail miserably?

Of all the factors influencing success, ‘psychological safety’ was found to be the most important. Teammates don’t have to be friends for it to emerge in a group. They do, however, need to be socially sensitive and ensure everyone feels heard.

Teams also need ‘psychological flexibility’, a concept based on choices and values.

Criteria for Moving Past Being Stuck in Dysfunction:

In his practice, whenever Pizzo works with teams that are stuck in conflict or dysfunction, he follows these five criteria:

  • Establish the conditions for psychological safety:  Guide team members to choose ground rules necessary for creating a safe space for their work. Confidentiality is one such necessary rule.
  • Never talk about the problem directly:  This is the first commandment of ‘psychologically safety’ and ‘psychological flexibility’. The team is stuck place because of the problem. Talking about it keeps the team focused on why they are stuck.
  • To build psychological flexibility, focus on workability: Assessing right/wrong —that is, focusing on blame — makes resolution more difficult. A focus on workability engages a flexible perspective to generate options by looking at what the team may do to achieve important goals and objectives.

An action is workable if it moves the team toward shared purposes and goals. Instead of trying to fix what is broken, the team’s attention is shifted to what it needs to do to achieve the desired outcome.

  • Confirm each team member’s right to choose:  Team members can choose whether or not to do what is workable. With the power of choice, however, comes responsibility for the consequence of one’s choices. (For example, choosing to do nothing is actually a choice to remain stuck.)
  • Ensure that everyone speaks at least once, and that each person is heard:   Generally speaking, people do not want to stay stuck in conflict. They prefer to move forward. Pizzo has found that creating a safe space and a way to generate options for moving forward (not dependent on affixing blame) is an effective approach to solving the ‘Humpty Dumpty’ problem.


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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