September 19, 2020


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we focus on recovering from the hit on fundraising, selling in a difficult economy, leadership on equity issues, tips on dealing with big new problems, and how we tend to react to expectations (plus a bonus item on what we’re reading). Enjoy!


1. Non-Profit Fundraising Steps for 2020

This has been a rough year for non-profit fundraising. With that in mind, Alyssa Conrardy and Walker Post, consultants who specialize in non-profits, developed a calendar for closing the year with oomph:

  • September — Rethink Messaging: “Goal number one to be successful in your end-of-year campaign: Don’t sound like a broken record. At this point, donors have heard it all. They know how hard non-profits are being hit by the COVID-19 crisis, and they know their support is important to your future,” the consultants write in Fast Company. Look for additional appeals, which includes tying yourself, if possible, to separate hot button issues.
  • October — Build Trust with Donors: Use the month to introduce or reintroduce potential donors to your organization. Discuss your goals as they apply through the end of the year and beyond, and thank them.
  • November — Inspire Donors: They call this month “showtime”. Tell stories of how you’ve spent the year adapting and overcoming obstacles to continue to deliver your services. Then tie those stories to a direct ask to give. “Step out of your comfort zone: Use GIFs, memes, photos, and videos to pull out all of the stops,” they add.
  • December — Convert Donors to Dollars: Giving Tuesday, which falls on December 1, should be the focal point for engaging with potential donors. The consultants recommend being very active around that time but slowing down the cadence of communications closer to the holidays.

The specifics will depend on your situation, but that’s a handy roadmap for planning.


2. Sales in a Difficult Economy

These days many organizations are struggling with deals stalled in what seems like perpetual limbo. A recent LinkedIn study found 60% of sellers anticipate closing fewer new deals.

“However, just because you have a troublesome trend on your hands doesn’t mean you’re absolved of responsibility,” consultant Colleen Francis writes on her blog.

“If you’re a seller —even working in these current market conditions— it’s your job to anticipate delayed deals and prevent them from becoming major problems.”

Here’s her advice:

  • Clean up your pipeline now:  It can be comforting not to know what is happening with some potential buyers as that keeps hope alive. Initiate a frank conversation with each of your prospects to find out where the deal-in-progress really stands.
  • Get multiple perspectives: It’s not sufficient to rely just on your existing contact; it’s crucial to reach out to new people in the organization to be fully informed. Ask all these contacts pointedly: “Why is this deal stuck?”
  • Find the need and money: Yes, budgets are constrained but if the business is solvent, the money is always there. “What changes are priorities? That’s why you must work doubly hard at gaining multiple perspectives and building deeper rapport with your customer,” she says. Refocus your message as needed.
  • Break it down: In uncertain times, it will be harder to get bigger ticket items approved. See if you can divide your proposal into smaller pieces.

Those efforts can get deals approved.


3. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Bold on Equity

Leaders who act to make their organizations more inclusive are likely to meet some resistance. Don’t let that deter you, says an assistant professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

“Leaders should be prepared for criticism and should not apologize for taking a stand,” Stephanie Creary writes in strategy + business.

“This doesn’t mean acting unilaterally or closing themselves off to others’ perspective, but rather being unwavering on committing to the company’s stated goal even when it becomes challenging to do so, which it often will.”

She notes employees and customers are expecting leaders to speak with conviction about a zero-tolerance policy for racism and injustice. And, of course, to back that up with resources. You’ll want to fund evidence-based training, courses, and events with experts in the field.

Psychologist Carole Dweck popularized the notion of growth mindset, and Creary suggests applying that to equity. Don’t just select people for promotion based on a fixed set of characteristics such as education and pedigree but also look at strengths and growth-oriented criteria such as potential, capacity, and passion for learning.


4. Three Conversations to Have with your Team

Consultant Art Petty says on his blog there are three conversations that most managers don’t have with their team, but should:

  • What role do we play in the bigger picture?  It’s a missed opportunity when you don’t help people connect their efforts to something bigger than themselves.
  • What problems are keeping the boss awake at night? Your team sees your struggles. Don’t hide the reasons from them.
  • What are your aspirations?  Your team should know what makes you tick — your drive to grow. But make sure they also know you will support their success.


5. Zingers

  • Idea Fest:  Consultant Donald Cooper recommends organizing an Idea Fest for your team three times a year. Each team member must come with at least one idea to operate more effectively, work more safely, create a better culture, serve customers more wonderfully, save money or be more environmentally friendly. The team selects the best idea, with the winner receiving a modest prize (e.g. $50 or $100). (Source: DonaldCooper.com)
  • Incremental Progress:  Consultant Josh Linkner says “incremental” is often scorned as a notion, something like the Diet Coke of innovation. But micro-improvements can add up to massive progress. (Source: Josh Linkner.com)
  • Lifestyle Focus:  In the long run, the people who succeed are those who aim to live the lifestyle that precedes the results, says author James Clear. So stop asking “what results do I want to have?” and instead ask “what lifestyle do I have to live?”. (Source: JamesClear.com)
  • Negativity Bias:  When evaluating early-stage scientific or technological innovation, evaluators on panels are more likely to lower their scores after seeing critical scores from colleagues than raise them after seeing better scores . (Source: Harvard Business School Working Knowledge)
  • The Memorized Speech Quandary:  To memorize a speech beforehand or not, that is the question. The advice generally is not, for fear you’ll end up sounding like you’re reading a script. But presentations coach Gary Genard has changed his mind recently — he argues you should memorize if, like an actor, you can then focus on delivering those words naturally, so they don’t sound canned.  (Source: The Genard Method)


6. The Model: The Four Tendencies  

Author Gretchen Rubin, who rose to fame with her wildly successful The Happiness Project, followed that up in 2017 with The Four Tendencies.

She probed how people respond to expectations — external expectations and norms as well as their own internal intentions — which in turn explain why we act, don’t act, or develop certain habits of behaviour.

Her framework identifies four tendencies:

  • Upholders tend to do what others expect of them — but in balance with what they expect of themselves. Before acting, they want to know “what should be done”.
  • Questioners do what they think is best according to their own north star. If an ask doesn’t make sense to them personally, they probably won’t oblige. They first consider, from their own perspective, whether or not the external expectation is justified.
  • Obligers respond more to external expectations than to what they may expect of themselves. They do what they have to do and don’t want to let others down (but in turn may let themselves down).
  • Rebels want freedom to do something their own way. (Getting a teenager to do homework might illustrate the type. 🙂 ) They resist all expectations to act in a certain way. “I do what I want, in my own way. If you try to make me do something — even if I try to make myself do something— I’m less likely to do it.”

Most people tend to be obligers or questioners, Rubin says. If you’re curious about which type you are, here’s where you’ll find the online quiz.


7. Around Our Water Cooler

Don’t Get Stuck on Change:

It’s not a time to get stuck when you need to change fast.

As management teams and boards grapple with new choices and decisions on how best to adapt during the COVID era, we see them in search of new ways to frame and focus their thinking.

Here are three ways to look at novel problems and respond to them more quickly:

  • Microsoft Founder Bill Gates says that ever since he was a teenager, he’s tackled every big new problem the same way — by asking two questions:  “Who has dealt with this problem well?  And what can we learn from them?”
  • In The Catalyst: How To Change Anyone’s Mind, Jonah Berger notes that successful change agents know their secret sauce is not about pushing harder or providing more information. It’s about being a catalyst — removing roadblocks and reducing the barriers to change.

Instead of asking, “How could I change someone’s mind?” they ask a different question: “Why haven’t they changed already? What’s stopping them?”.

  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos reinforces a culture of continually moving forward, which means not getting stuck. For teams in a stalemate, he uses a technique that welcomes disagreement paired with sincere commitments to support a final decision. He calls it Disagree and Commit.

If you feel strongly about pursuing a particular direction even though there’s no consensus, you’re at a point where no one can know the answer for sure. Bezos suggests it’s helpful to say, “Look, I know we disagree on this, but will you gamble with me on it? Disagree and commit?”

When faced with a big new problem, it helps to learn from others, work around barriers blocking change, and make commitments to move forward together even when not everyone is convinced.

What We’re Reading: 

The entrepreneur and author shows in some depth the difficulty of predicting the future and then moves on to how to shape your organization’s future through experiments, scenario planning, citizen assemblies, general preparation and adopting the habits of authors — rich, absorbing storytelling.


Although this book came out in 2012, it seems appropriate in times when it feels impossible to predict, plan or perfect strategies to deal with complex challenges. Fortunately, teachers are at hand— biological organisms that have been living, adapting and thriving on a risk-filled planet for billions of years.

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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 

“An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion.”

— Nassim Nicholas Taleb