August 29, 2020


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we focus on exploring more “why” questions, making it easy to follow your presentations, supporting your sales team, 11 paradoxes that managers must balance, and how COVID can change senior leadership dynamics. Enjoy!


1. The Eight “Whys”

The Five “Whys” is a well-known, iterative technique used to drill down and understand a situation better — after each response to a “why” question, you ask why again, to dig deeper.

In his newsletter, consultant Donald Cooper offers a similar sounding but different approach —The Eight Whys— to reassess and understand your operation more broadly.

  • Why are we in business, and why in this particular business?  What’s your clear purpose? Even for social agencies, sometimes that gets muddied over time.
  • Why are we located where we are?  Is it to optimize growth or for lifestyle reasons — or did it just happen? Are we in the right part of town,  or even the right town?
  • Why do we have the business model we have?  Will it be relevant in future? What new or different approach might dislodge us from it?
  • Why do we define our target market the way we do?  Technology allows us to reach out further than in the past, to serve new people or existing clients in more ways.
  • Why do our target customers buy what we sell?  What are they really trying to do? What do they want or need to know? How do they want to feel?
  • Why should people want to buy it specifically from us?  What compelling value and experience differentiates us from others?
  • For each process, policy, or rule in our business, why do we do it that way?  Is it delivering compelling client value? Is it even working?
  • Why would top performers want to work for us? They have choices. Are we a talent magnet?

Ask why – and adjust accordingly.


2. Four Tips For Easy-To-Follow Presentations

No matter how brilliant your thoughts, if the people you are communicating with can’t follow them, you won’t succeed.

In Inc, author Scott Mautz shares four insights from a TED Talk by Dominic Walliman, physicist who overcomes that challenge when tackling complex topics like quantum physics and nanotechnology in his books and videos for children.

Here are his secrets.

  • Start by meeting your audience where they’re at:  When communicating, you must consider different knowledge levels and backgrounds and set the pace accordingly.  If you’re not sure what your audience knows, Walliman says to ask — with questions like: “Do you already get this?” or “Does this make sense?”
  • Don’t lose the plot:  Walliman warns against going “too far down the rabbit hole” — getting into excessive detail, particularly stuff tangential to the main point. Say what’s needed to communicate your point clearly, memorably, and with emotion, but don’t get caught up with add-on thoughts that don’t add much value.
  • Go for clarity over accuracy:  When we’re knowledgeable about a topic, Walliman says, we can fuss over getting every fact explained perfectly. That can impede comprehension. “It’s better to come up with a simpler explanation that maybe isn’t completely technically correct, but it gets the point across,” he says.
  • Explain why you’re passionate: If your audience understands why you are fascinated with the idea or topic, they may join in.

You may not be explaining quantum physics, but the approach can still help whatever your topic.


3. Aiding The Sales Team

Your sales and customer service representatives are the face of your company, interacting with prospects and customers. So it’s vital —particularly in a recession— to ensure they are well-armed with information, says Simki Dutta, a content marketer at Venngage.

Sales scripts are one tool to help them, she writes in MarketingProfs.com.

“Writing a sales script is about putting together key talking points. The idea is to give them pointers, so they know what needs to be covered to convince prospects and take them closer to conversion during sales calls. However, they shouldn’t simply memorize the script; that would just make them sound robotic.”

The script should also include draft responses for some commonly asked questions.

Email templates can also come in handy. Prepare standard replies for various situations instead of having staff waste their time repeatedly drafting emails and responses that are essentially similar in content.

A third assist is the use of  case studies, demonstrating your value and expertise.

“Case studies act as social proof and can be used by the sales team to give prospects that extra push, taking them to the next stage. They work well both to nurture leads and to convert them,” she advises.


4. Two Questions To Improve Decision-Making

In times of uncertainty, it’s important to reach out beyond your organization to be sure you know what’s happening.

In Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, Boris Groysberg, a professor at the school, and researcher Sarah Abbot share this technique used by a CEO they interviewed to build in multiple perspectives to his decision-making.

At bi-weekly meetings, his team focuses on two questions:

  • What do we know now that we didn’t know before?
  • How can we use that information to make decisions?

Each team member is responsible for research within their area, talking to outsiders, from suppliers to top customers.


5. Zingers

  • Hold Back:  Stop interrupting people when they are solving their own problem, advises trainer Dan Rockwell. (Source: Leadership Freak).
  • Be Virtually Engaging:  If participants are unresponsive in your virtual meetings, consultant Kevin Eikenberry suggests asking for opinions — people may not be able to offer “the answer” to what’s under consideration but they may have an opinion. Also, ask for data and relevant previous experiences to unlock helpful information. (Source: Leadership & Learning).
  • Help Employees Seek Happiness:  It’s not your job to make someone who works for you happy, says consultant Tim Sackett. It is your job to help them decide to find happiness. Either they are mostly happy working in the job they have, or they need to go find out where they can be happy. (Source: TimSackett.com)
  • Make It Easy To Remember:  Don’t require special characters (such as !) in passwords for your web site or app, argues entrepreneur Seth Godin. It means people will write them down and store them in an unsafe location. Instead, ask for long passwords. If you use serial numbers for your product, make them more readable and easier to communicate to others — he suggests using three words mushed together, like hey-zebra-fun. (Source: Seth’s Blog).
  • A Mentoring Surprise:  The best mentors don’t try to mould their protégé to be like them, new research finds. A study of scientists found successful protégés often make their mark in subject areas distinct from those in which their mentors earned their reputations. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog).


6. The List:
    11 Paradoxes Of Management  

LEGO has posted 11 paradoxes on its walls for more than a generation to remind managers of the tightrope they walk:

  • To be able to establish close relationships with your employees – and to keep a proper distance.
  • To take the lead – and to recede into the background.
  • To show the employee your confidence in them – and to be aware of their doings.
  • To be tolerant – and to know how you want things done.
  • To be concerned about your own field of responsibility – and at the same time to be loyal to the overall goals of the company.
  • To plan your working-day carefully – and to be flexible with your schedule.
  • To express your opinion – and to be diplomatic.
  • To be visionary – and to keep both feet firmly on the ground.
  • To aim at consensus – and to be able to cut through [stalemates].
  • To be dynamic – but also thoughtful.
  • To be self-confident – and humble.

(Source:  The Project Management In Action Blog)


7. Around Our Water Cooler: 
    How COVID Creates Cracks In Boards

As we observe boards and senior management making decisions, and work with many of them in our consulting practice, it is clear the pandemic can cause some cracks to open in senior leadership dynamics.

Teams that functioned smoothly until COVID disrupted the world as we knew it are now finding their rhythm is out of whack. Strains and shear come from different assumptions, ways of thinking and responding to pandemic pressures.

Five Challenges To Dynamics In Senior Leadership:

  • Escaping Status Quo:  Some leaders are finding it difficult to emerge from their long-familiar pre-COVID ways of thinking; others have a sharp sense of urgency about the need to adopt new goals, unconventional strategies and tactics. As they grow frustrated with each other, differences can spiral into attack and defend dynamics.
  • Dealing with Risks:  Some decision-makers are habitually risk-averse or have trouble seeing the payoff from taking new types of risks. Others see a bigger risk in maintaining the status quo.
  • Uncharted vs Tried-and-True:  Some leaders relish creative thinking, innovative experiments and entrepreneurial approaches. But they can clash with managers who have been stars in predictable environments using proven tools to produce successful outcomes. If leaders lock into a mental model of how things worked in the past, they can draw a blank or stutter when asked to imagine a whole new way forward.
  • Interpersonal Dynamics:  Most boards and senior management teams have tacit hierarchies with their own social and interpersonal dynamics.  Now COVID has upset the old order — the skills, perspectives and approaches most influential in decision-making have probably shifted.
  • Personal Emotions:  Finally, there is the emotional component, whether it comes from conflict in the boardroom or pressures from outside. In these times, it is easy for people to become defensive, passive, aggressive, personal, frustrated or suspicious — psychological safety takes a hit.

Developing a new dynamic for teams in this COVID era requires time, shared goals, clear communication and trust — that precious commodity built up and maintained step-by-step through repeated exchanges and decisions over time.

And we need to appreciate different perspectives to find the right balance. Stephen Covey’s advice was never more relevant:  “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

In many cases, boards and senior leadership teams now need to “go back to basics” and rebuild from the ground up, testing and updating their planning assumptions, and developing new and more creative ways to work together as a group.

●  §  ●

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 

If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

— Dolly Parton