September 15, 2019


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we focus on getting your week off to a productive start, delegating to overloaded subordinates, digital design for seniors, thinking more, doing less, and campaigning to succeed with change initiatives. Enjoy!


1.  Making Mondays More Productive

It feels good when we soar on Monday — starting the week with a highly productive day.

For that to happen, journalist Gwen Moran says, after surveying productivity experts for Fast Company, you have to set the foundation on Sunday or even the previous Friday, by creating a priority list.

Productivity psychologist Melissa Gratius urges you to go a step further and treat every Monday like January 1.  Think about the goals you want to accomplish and use the momentum of a “new beginning” to help realize them.

“We attach meaning to beginnings,” she says. “If we can view Monday with that same degree of excitement and opportunity, then we can start the week off right.”

Managing Your Day:

Be strategic, as well, in what times of the day to attack the most challenging tasks, considering how your energy flows. For most people, that’s the morning, but whatever it is, time management expert Julie Morgenstern advises you to protect those moments fiercely.

Avoid email, meetings, and even co-worker chitchat. Email first thing Monday morning can be a particular danger, with the false urgency of the requests diverting you from your priorities.

The same advice goes for meetings. Yes, it’s nice to bring everyone together Monday morning — nice, but not productive.

Productivity coach Frank Buck says: “As an organization … come to an agreement that Monday morning is sacred. Hopefully, all of us have planned Monday and all of us are hitting the ground running on something that’s of real value.”


2.  Addressing Subordinate Overload

We’re always busy, busy. But usually our subordinates —those we like to delegate to, easing our load— are busy as well.

“Adding anything more to their bursting plate could prompt them to run screaming in the opposite direction,” productivity consultant Ann Gomez writes on her blog.

Begin by acknowledging their full schedule. She says if you don’t do this your team will feel isolated, frustrated and demotivated. Agree to work together to reconcile the excessive demands the subordinate faces.


Something has to give in that person’s schedule. Help him or her prioritize their work. What can be postponed? Don’t just do this once; keep coming back to the issue.

More broadly, what does your team do that can be simplified and scaled back?

“We —and our team— are not mere victims to heavy workloads,” she says. Are there reports nobody reads and meetings that no sane person should attend? What reports can be replaced by quick conversations?

Look for ways to automate and standardize, and to reduce the number of people involved in items.

“The more people we involve, the slower the progress. Enable your team to make decisions and own the process without consulting too many others,” she says.

Ask your team what can be done to manage the volume of work. They are closest to the work and will probably have ideas you haven’t considered. Also, develop your team so they have the resources, experience and training to do the job better.


3.  Do Less, Think More

Two of the most stubbornly erroneous assumptions consultant Doug Sundheim finds in organizations are the ideas that activity=productivity and thinking=daydreaming.

“We tend to pride ourselves on being busy as if it’s a proxy for adding value. It isn’t,” he writes on his blog. “Especially nowadays when it’s incredibly easy to be busy doing the wrong things.”

He advises you to:

  • Block off thinking time on your calendar.
  • Meet with peer groups, both inside and outside your industry to get ideas and know what’s happening.
  • Read voraciously, both about your industry and outside of it.
  • Regularly capture ideas your team can explore.
  • Encourage debate and discussion of the key ideas with your team and synthesize what comes out of that discussion.

He points to advice from biologist E. O. Wilson in the 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge:

“We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.”

Add that quote to your thinking time.


4.  Try Shadowing With Job Candidates

What’s the new “gold-standard” technique for hiring?

Job shadowing, according to careers site Monster.

Having potential employees spend time watching somebody doing the job they are applying for is a two-way street.

“Not only does the candidate get to feel the team dynamic firsthand and also ask questions, but the team also gets a sense of the candidate’s understanding of the work culture, if [the candidate is] excited by the environment, and if it seems like a good fit for both of them,” Rebecca Cenni-Leventhal, CEO of Atrium Staffing told SHRM.


5.  Zingers

  • Don’t be a bottleneck:  Entrepreneur Seth Godin asks, “Are you a bottleneck?” If the project is sitting on your desk waiting for approval and your team is waiting, no value is being created. He advises you to figure out which parts of the approval process truly benefit from your judgment and skills and which parts are just your fear at work.  (Source: Seth’s Blog).
  • Captivating Ads:  To engage your reader, listener or customer you need to make your words about something bigger than you and your product or service, says advertising guru Roy H. Williams. Try to put the prospect into your story or ad, and raise some questions for them to ponder. (Source: Monday Morning Memo).
  • Greater Courage:  The greatest courage isn’t the courage to tell other people what to do, says leadership coach Dan Rockwell. It takes more courage to tell yourself what to do. (Source: Leadership Freak).
  • Improving Hiring:  Research found outside hires take three years to perform as well as internal hires in the same job (while internal hires take seven years to earn as much as outside hires are paid). Unless you’re a tech gazelle, hiring at a furious clip, Wharton professor Peter Cappelli says you should ask yourself some serious questions if most of your openings are being filled from outside. (Source: Harvard Business Review).
  • Post-Mortem Questions:  Consultant Karin Hurt recommends starting after-action reviews by asking participants three questions: What are you most proud of? Who was helpful to you? What was your biggest lesson learned? (Source: Let’s Grow Leaders).


6.  The List: Designing Digital for Seniors 

People over 65 years of age make up one of the fastest growing demographic groups and most are connected to the internet (the Pew Research Institute puts it at 73% this year).

And yet, as usability experts at the Nielsen Norman Group point out, discouraging digital design abounds for this age group — they struggle with features ill-suited to their online interactions.

Here’s a list of design issues to consider if you have significant online interactions with older clients, customers, members or supporters:

  • Consider age-related barriers (declining vision, hearing and manual dexterity). For example, seniors typically need better colour contrast, larger text and larger interactive targets such as clickable buttons/images.
  • Improve readability for seniors online — design should avoid text, links and dropdown menus that are tiny, making them difficult to read or tap. A similar design issue involves lightly coloured text in apps.
  • Provide options for input or interaction:  For example, forms provided online can be difficult for seniors to use. Offer them other ways to enter input or interact with your website, app or organization.
  • Allow for errors:  Older users make more mistakes than younger users do (think spelling mistakes, or entering a phone number with parentheses or hyphens). When they do, ensure they focus on the error and make it simple — seniors tend to overlook error messages or be confused by jargon.
  • Check your content and voice:  Seniors sense when websites and apps were not designed to meet their needs and interests. It leaves them feeling left out when a site was created “with someone very different than me in mind”.

Seniors are no longer a niche group: They are a large and growing population. They use the internet and social media. They use smart phones. With accessible design and inclusive content, you can serve them better.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler: 

     Plan For Resistance To Change

Innovation expert Greg Satell writes in DigitalTonto this month that organizational transformations fail because they don’t take into account those who oppose change.

You may already be familiar with John Kotter’s traditional 8-step model for implementing change. But he found that most change projects fail, and in 2015, McKinsey found that only a quarter of organizational transformations succeed.

In researching his new book, Cascades, Satell found that change can succeed when you identify resistance from the start and effectively plan to overcome opposition. Instead of assuming the change will be embraced, expect resistance.

He recommends looking at three key dynamics when planning for change (approaches that may look familiar to people involved in community development or politics):

  • Mapping the Terrain: The first step is to plan — map the terrain upon which the battle for change will be fought. Traditional models (e.g. Kotter’s) launch by communicating a sense of urgency and the need for change;  Satell says that can backfire by stimulating those opposed to it.

You might develop a strategy to shift the Spectrum of Allies:  Identify people who are active or passive supporters of the change and mobilize their enthusiasm to influence others. With a Pillars of Support method, focus on structure, identify stakeholder groups and engage their help.

  • The Myth of a Quick Win:  Seeking a “quick win” to build momentum can provoke the opposition. Instead, start with a “keystone change” that will be meaningful to most stakeholders and pave the way for greater change down the road.
  • Every Revolution Inspires Its Own Counter-Revolution:  A major communications kick-off often prompts those opposed to your project to begin undermining your efforts. Satell advises: “Set out from the beginning to survive victory and you do that by rooting your efforts not in specific goals and objectives, but in common values.”


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P.S.     8020Info Water Cooler readers who also subscribe to the Globe and Mail may want to check out Harvey Schachter’s recent column on a trend that adds an extra layer of complexity to leadership — to achieve their strategic goals, managers are finding they must lead outside as well as inside their own organizations.


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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

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

— Carl Jung