August 25, 2019


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at finding the balance between challenging and supporting your team, the 10 stories leaders tell, a case for consistency, how marketing aligns with sensitivity to time and money, and usability rules to help improve customer interactions. . Enjoy!


1. The Challenge-To-Support Ratio

Leaders must both challenge and support their team members. It can be a difficult balance.

“Support too little and challenge too much — you kick butt. People are stressed and discouraged. Challenge too little and support too much — you coddle. People are comfortable and sleepy,” executive coach Dan Rockwell writes on his blog.

“The secret to bringing out the best in others is finding the ‘right’ ratio of challenge to support.”

Draw a line to represent the continuum between support on one end and challenge on the other. Mark on the continuum where you would prefer to be — the middle, perhaps, or closer to one end or the other. (He stresses there is no right answer.)

Then explore the tension with team members. Find out where they would place you on the continuum, and where they would want you to be.


  • What am I doing to help you feel challenged?
  • What am I doing to help you feel supported?

Consider the behaviours that might help you move toward a better ratio of challenge-to-support. That could be done openly in discussion, or first by giving people a sheet of paper and having them, in private, fill out where they would place you in the continuum.

After collecting all the secret evaluations, you could move to team discussion.

It’s a simple but obvious (and powerful) idea. It hits at your daily interaction with staff members, and two key roles you must balance.


2. How People Decide To Purchase

It’s easy in marketing to assume that people are like you. That’s always faulty thinking. Instead, you need to understand people come in many dimensions and you must connect to what they want.

Ad consultant Roy H. Williams says people make decisions to purchase based on a variety of criteria, but two of the big ones are time and money.

Plot those on a quadrant and you get four dimensions. Consciously or unconsciously, every promotional pitch — in business, or other organizations — is framed to speak to one of those four perspectives:

  • A person who feels they have no money and no time is buried in financial and relational obligations.
  • A person who believes they have more time than money is a bargain hunter.
  • A person who has more money than time is overworked and highly paid.
  • A person with lots of money and time is looking for something to do.

“It isn’t really about whether we can afford to spend the money. It’s about whether we feel we can afford to spend it,” he writes in his Monday Morning Memo.

“A person may feel they have the time, but not the money, to purchase a product in one category, but later that day feel they have the money, but not the time, to purchase a different product in a different category.”

He adds that a surprisingly high percentage of purchases are about self-expression: “We bond with organizations that show us a reflection of our best self-image.”


3. Consistently Be Consistent

In an era of change, we all are trained to break patterns and try new things. Ralph Waldo Emerson warned that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Indeed, consultant Steve McKee says that a dramatic change in direction can feel poetic.

But also, deceptive. His firm’s research found that consistency is one of four internal dynamics correlating highly with sustained growth.

“When organizations persevere in pursuing their core competencies, they get increasingly better at what they do, steadily build reputational equity, and little by little, bit by bit make their value propositions increasingly unassailable. The same goes for the leaders that run them,” he writes on Smart Blog.

The Strugglers:

“Those that struggle, by contrast, often find themselves casting about in search of silver bullet solutions,” he says.

“They waste resources, confuse their customers, discourage their employees and have no chance of achieving sustained momentum. More opportunistic than strategic, they’re easily tempted by the false promise of the next thing.”

He says you never know when perseverance will pay off — but it will: “Change may appear romantic, but persistence is usually right.”


4. Tips For Remote Teams

Icebreakers should break some ice. Consultant Claire Lew says they are helpful for remote teams to get to know one another better and ease into meetings, but you can do better than “how was your weekend?”

On her company blog, she suggests, “What’s the one song you can’t stand right now?” Or: “What was your first job?” Or: “If you could pick up a skill in an instant, what could it be?”

If you can’t talk to colleagues face-to-face, chat over video. Consider coffee breaks together or chats on themes such as food and music. Remote teams don’t have to be isolated.


5. Zingers

  • Feel Free to Flip-Flop:  Amazing leaders change their minds, says entrepreneur Shane Snow. He notes that Apple CEO Tim Cook called founder Steve Jobs “a notorious, but deliberate, flip-flopper” and he did so not just occasionally but on a daily basis. (Source: Thrive Global)
  • Avoid Generational Profiling:  The latest trend in recruiting is generational profiling, says HR consultant Tim Sackett. It’s prominent at many tech firms but not all — some successful tech firms emphasize age diversity. It’s not more acceptable to discriminate over age than gender, he stresses. (Source: Tim Sackett.com)
  • Go Out Through Your Open Door:  The phrase “I have an open door policy” makes consultant Art Petty cringe. There’s an implied royal message — “you can enter my kingdom”. But more significantly, he says, it’s a passive, reactive approach. Get out of your office and find a way to make yourself useful by supporting, observing and coaching your team. (Source: ArtPetty.com)
  • Not So Tight May Be Better:  Since the dawn of the industrial age, entrepreneur Seth Godin notes tighter has been the goal, from plastic surgeons delivering tighter skin to tighter systems in organizations. But he says many things in our lives need to be looser — some slack is needed — for innovation, peace of mind, and surprise (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Delay Your First Coffee:  If the first thing you do in the morning is reach for a cup of coffee, you aren’t helping yourself. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you are naturally alert at that point from the body’s cortisol, so drinking coffee only makes the drop in sharpness greater a few hours later. Instead, dietitian Laura Cipullo says, you should have that first cup four hours after you wake up. (Source:  The Ladders)


6. The List:
    The 10 Stories Leaders Tell

Consultant Paul Smith, author of the new book The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell, interviewed more than 300 CEOs, leaders and executives in 25 countries about their use of storytelling in business. On ThoughtLeadersLLC blog he says they talk about:

  • Where we come from (the founding story)
  • Why we can’t stay here (the case for change story)
  • Where we’re going (a vision story)
  • How we’re going to get there (a strategy story)
  • What we believe (a corporate values story)
  • Who we serve (the customer story)
  • What we do for our customers (a sales story)
  • How we’re different from our competitors (a marketing story)
  • Why I lead the way I do ( a leadership-philosophy story)
  • Why you should want to work here (a recruiting story)


7. Around Our Water Cooler:
    Check Your Client Interactions

Sometimes it pays to revisit the classics. This week we took another look at 10 general rules of thumb to improve user interactions. They were first developed 25 years ago by web usability expert Jakob Nielsen after analysis of 249 human interaction factors, and they still stand up today.

Many of these usability rules apply equally to other customer service channels — whether your clients call or visit in person, as well as online.

Consider these rules, for example:

  • Visibility of Status:  Keep users (customers) informed about what is going on during their interaction, through appropriate feedback within a reasonable time.
  • Match the Real World:  Your system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. And be consistent: They should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing.
  • User Control and Freedom:  Users often make mistakes in their choices and need a clear “emergency exit” they can use without having to go through an extended interaction. Support undo and redo.
  • Error Prevention:  Careful design prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and confirm before clients commit to the action.
  • Recognition Rather Than Recall:  Minimize the load on the user’s memory by making options available, visible and easy to recognize. Clients should not have to remember information to succeed in their interactions.
  • Flexibility and Efficiency of Use:  Speed up interactions for experienced customers (using accelerators) while still catering to inexperienced clients.
  • Help and Information:  Even though it is better if your system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and information — it should be easy to search, focused on the client’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and be concise.

It might be time to look again at your customer interactions, keeping this checklist in mind to see where you might save your clients a headache and improve their experiences when interacting with your organization.


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8020Info helps senior leadership teams and boards develop, clarify and build consensus behind strategic priorities. Our services support strategic planning and change processes, marketing communications, and research / stakeholder consultations. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


8. Closing Thought 

“Sometimes you think of things to say and you don’t say them and you think, ‘What a good decision!’”

— Jeffrey Toobin