August 9, 2020


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we cover six barriers that hamper strategy implementation, trouble-causing leadership styles, premium pricing, remote work, the psychology of persuasion, and coping with uncertainty. Enjoy!


1. Why Your Strategy Isn’t Working

COVID-19 has added to the strategic challenges that organizations face. In addressing those challenges, Michael Beer, a consultant and emeritus professor at the Harvard Business School, says you must confront six barriers that can trip you up:

  • Conflicting priorities and values:  Often, the underlying problem is not the strategy but instead the process by which it was formed — or the lack of any such process. “If the whole team is not involved, clarity and commitment are not possible,” he writes in Harvard Business Review.
  • An ineffective senior team: This stems from the top team not speaking with a common voice on strategy and value, dampening trust and commitment from those they’re leading.
  • Ineffective leadership styles:  Leaders who dislike conflict (whether in top-down leaders or those who are laissez-faire) don’t learn what people are really thinking about the strategy.
  • Poor co-ordination:  Leaders defend their fiefdoms and create friction. That limits co-ordination and collaboration, making it painfully hard to execute on cross-functional, business, or geographic initiatives.
  • Inadequate leadership development:  Managers resist giving up their best people for challenging assignments that might help them develop further. Leadership growth is missing when you need it.
  • Inadequate vertical communication:  People are not communicating up and down the hierarchy, leading to confusion.

These barriers can show up in large organizations and small. Think through which of them may be getting in your way when implementing strategy.


2. Beware Of These Leadership Styles

Here are some leadership styles that can get you in trouble, consultant Lolly Daskal warns:

  • Know-it-all leadership:  Leaders who think they’re smarter than everyone else tend to isolate themselves and come to be resented by their peers and the people on their team.
  • Absent leadership:  These leaders are always away, in a meeting, at a conference, wandering elsewhere in the building or (before the pandemic) working at home. When needed, they are missing in action.
  • Inflexible leadership:  A leader who is inflexible and stubborn demotivates colleagues, leading to poor performance, frequent absences, and high turnover.
  • Micromanaging leadership:  Micromanagers also destroy morale and productivity. Part of the problem is they don’t see this characteristic in themselves. “Effective leadership means a commitment to focus on the big picture and on motivating employees, not standing over their shoulder,” she writes on her blog.
  • Self-serving leadership:  She says ego undermines leadership in two ways. First is false pride, as the individual focuses on self-promotion and trying to look good, especially at the expense of others. The second issue is self-doubt or fear, as you question your own abilities.
  • Leadership by intimidation:  Afraid of looking weak, these leaders try to look strong, threatening, complaining, placing blame, and bullying.

“At the end of the day, every leader has their own preferred style. The important thing is to be aware of what style you’re putting out there and to check in periodically to make sure it’s serving your team and yourself well,” she says.


3. Premium Pricing: The Right And Wrong Way

Whether purchasing goods or donating money, people are more willing to pay a premium price when the extra cost is expressed as an add-on rather than part of a package.

Researchers at UBC Sauder School of Business found that people were one third more likely to pay extra through that add-on approach. This applied whether participants were being asked to donate to a local food bank, buy a computer monitor, choose an external hard drive or even order breakfast.

They give as an example a $200 flight with a two-hour stop-over versus paying $250 for a direct flight. People resist the higher fee and accept the stop-over. If, however, the direct flight is sold as a regular flight plus $50, it is more tempting.

“When you see ‘$50 more’ as an add-on price, it’s a smaller number than the total, and we focus on that smaller number,” Dale Griffin, professor and advisory council chair in consumer behaviour at UBC Sauder, told UBC News.

Mathematically, the prices are the same, and on consideration we can see that, but intuitively add-on prices just feel less expensive.”


4. Remote vs. In-Office Work

As organizations struggle with when to return to the office, it’s worth paying attention to Gallup research reviewed on its web site two months before the lock-down hit.

Gallup discovered that engagement climbs when employees spend some time working remotely and some time working in a location with their coworkers. The optimal boost to engagement occurs when employees spend 60% to 80% of their time working off-site — three to four days in a five-day work week.

Interestingly, in 2012 the optimal engagement boost was experienced by workers who spent less than 20% of their time working remotely.


5. Zingers

  • Schedule Time To Think:  Put thinking time in your calendar. There’s a much greater chance that you’ll actually do it if you mark it on your calendar. (Source: TheSweetSetup.com)
  • Don’t Mind Mistakes:  Consultant Wally Bock says most people, including you, will make mistakes and most of the mistakes won’t need your attention. Most mistakes are small, evident to the person who made them, and he or she will correct and learn from the experience. You can observe but usually don’t need to comment, document or worry. (Source: Three Star Leadership)
  • Get Their Feedback First:  When giving guidance remotely to team members, consider this tip from Jan Hase, CEO of WunderFlats, Germany’s top marketplace for temporary, furnished housing.  He starts every meeting by asking for some feedback first from the others, levelling the playing field.  (Source: Bunch Blog)
  • Picky vs. Difficult:  Picky people have consistent preferences and standards. Difficult people, on the other hand, change their preferences frequently, often in response to who is presenting to them or their mood. “It’s easy to see which makes for a better client or colleague,” says entrepreneur Seth Godin. (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Yes vs. No:  Each day is a new battle to say yes to what matters and say no to what doesn’t. (Source: JamesClear.com)


6. The List:

    Psychology Of Influence and Persuasion

Robert Cialdini’s Influence remains one of the defining texts on the psychology of persuasion. He maps out several triggers for automatic patterns of behaviour and the mechanistic, unthinking manner in which they occur.

Here is his list of six major principles of persuasion — use them to enhance your ability to change other people’s minds or be mindful of your own vulnerabilities to the psychology of influence.

  • Reciprocity:  If you give someone something or do something nice for them, they are more likely to return the favour. The key is to go first and go positive. (Size doesn’t matter — something as small as a pen has been shown to influence people well beyond its monetary value.)
  • Scarcity:  If you offer people something rare or scarce, they are more likely to want it. (Notice the effect when you’re buying a book on Amazon and the listing says, “Only two left in stock”.)
  • Authority:  We tend to be persuaded by authority figures — people who demonstrate knowledge, confidence, and credibility on an issue. (Informing your audience of your credentials before you speak, for example, increases the odds you will persuade the audience.)
  • Consistency:  Once we make a choice or take a stand, we feel a psychological pressure to behave consistently with that commitment. It’s easier to get people to comply with requests they see as aligned with their identity or what they’ve already said.
  • Liking:  We prefer to comply with requests from people we like more than from people we don’t like. (One way to get people to like you is to establish quick rapport, often by identifying interests you have in common.)
  • Social Proof:  We look to others for cues on what to do. Their actions help us decide on proper behaviour for ourselves. People will more likely agree to something when they see others doing it too, especially in situations of uncertainty. (If you’re in a restaurant in a foreign city, you’re more likely to order something on the menu when it’s labelled as one of the “most popular dishes”.)

For a more detailed overview, in addition to the author’s site, see the Farnam Street Blog.


7. Around Our Water Cooler:

    Flying In The Face of Uncertainty

One of the delights on our summer reading list is Ozan Varol’s Think Like a Rocket Scientist. His wisdom is especially valuable in these times when we need to imagine the unimaginable and solve the unsolvable.

The first chapter, Flying in the Face of Uncertainty, particularly resonated with us — the question we hear from clients most often during the pandemic is, “How do you plan when everything about the future is so uncertain?”

Humans, by nature, dislike ambiguous and uncertain futures. For answers, we turn back to the familiar, the simple and what we know. We tend to over-simplify, make up and live by stories that console us, and we worry.

Some options:

It helps to place boundaries on the uncertainty — focusing on what remains within those limits will make it seem more manageable.

Write down your concerns together with what you know and what you don’t know. If you’re not clear on what to be alarmed about, everything will seem alarming.

Varol suggests asking yourself: “What’s the worst-case scenario? And how likely is that scenario, given what I know?” And, since negatives stick to our brain like Velcro, pair that with positives: “What’s the best that can happen?”

It also helps to know that many of our walks into the dark are reversible.

As Richard Branson writes, “You can walk through [to the unknown side], see how it feels and walk back…if it isn’t working. You just have to leave the door unlocked.”

Some other rocket science approaches you might find useful, particularly when stakes are high and your decisions cannot be easily reversed:

  • Redundancies — creating backups to avoid single points of failure that could compromise your entire mission. These are your spare tires or emergency hand brakes.
  • Margins of Safety — over-building things (e.g. capacities, structures or processes), making them stronger, thicker, deeper or faster than what you imagine might be needed.
  • Building a Swiss Army Knife — facing tremendous uncertainties, the missions to explore Mars used rovers loaded with a variety of tools and made them as flexible and capable as possible to respond to whatever might be encountered.

Personally, one of our own favourite strategies in high-risk, high-uncertainty situations is to “look after the downside and let the upside look after itself” (but that may not be rocket science).

Varol cautions us not to let uncertainty become an excuse for not getting started. His ideas will help you get started walking even before you see a clear path.


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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 

“Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.”

— Jim Collins