October 10, 2020


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we cover myths and barriers to change, a creative “chaotic marketing” technique, the power of belonging, attention and focus, and eight archetypes of tension-suffused dilemmas.  Enjoy!


1. Four Myths about Change Initiatives

Many transformation initiatives fail. Here are four myths that consultant Greg Satell says must be avoided to be successful:

  • You need to get off to a fast start: Usually, we want to start big — with a bang. But for major transformation efforts, he says that will just provoke fear and resistance among those who aren’t yet on board. It’s more effective to start with a keystone change that is concrete and significant, involves multiple stakeholders, and paves the way for future change by building credibility and momentum.
  • You need to demand early commitment: Leaders usually want everyone on board and view doubts as disloyalty. “This is silly. If an initiative really is transformational, then by definition it’s very different than what the rank and file have come to accept. If people don’t have any questions or doubts, then that means they never really believed in the organization before the transformation. They were just keeping their heads down and playing along,” he writes on his blog.
  • You need a unique value proposition that differentiates your organization: That’s vital for external marketing but boomerangs with internal change since it adds to the discomfort people feel. Instead present change in the context of shared values.
  • You have to engage your fiercest critics: If the idea is valuable it will inevitably have tough, unbending critics. “You will not convince them, and you shouldn’t even try. You will just be wasting time and energy,” he insists.


2. Molokai Advertising

Molokai is a Hawaiian island. It is also the source of a marketing lesson from radio ad veteran Roy H. Williams.

He invited readers of his Monday Morning Memo to send him the name of a product or service for which an ad could not possibly begin with the word “Molokai.” He would then prove them wrong.

In the end, he took the first five challenges — a warm water bidet, back pain solutions, a custom home, dog goggles, and data science recruiting. He pulled it off in each case with his “chaotic marketing” technique.

For example:

“Molokai is the island where everything is simple… straightforward… uncomplicated. If you’re looking for a simple, straightforward, uncomplicated way to find the data scientists your company needs, visit data science talent dot co dot uk, the Molokai of data science. Last year we filled 91.6% of all requests with the picture-perfect candidate. Simple, straightforward, uncomplicated.”

The technique, which he says is essential to learn, has three principles:

  • Approach your subject from an unexpected angle. Here he forces it on himself with the straitjacket of Molokai as the first word, but you can be easier on yourself.
  • Tell two stories at once, using the relationship between two things as a pattern to reveal the relationship between two other things.
  • Allow the listener to arrive at their own conclusion.

The word Molokai isn’t magic, he stresses. The magic is in using the imagination to find links and language to expand and enliven them.


3. The Power of Belonging

Many organizations these days are focused on diversity and inclusion. But Michael Slepian, a professor at Columbia Business School, says research shows what people crave is belonging. Without that, they won’t feel included.

In Harvard Business Review, he warns that a multicultural approach that focuses on emphasizing and celebrating people’s differences “can too easily slide into unintentional endorsement of stereotypes and expectancies for specific differences between groups.”

Focus instead on creating a workplace that demonstrates a value for individuals from underrepresented backgrounds and demographics.

A survey he conducted found that employees regarded organizational inclusion efforts as more surface than real when they did not feel respected, valued, or supported by the organization.

“Leaders must create environments where employees feel comfortable speaking up when they see something that does not seem inclusive,” he writes. “Employees need their concerns to feel heard, rather than dismissed or diminished.”

Finally, while inclusion strategies inevitably focus on groups for the effort to be viewed as sincere, day-to-day they must be centred more on the individual than the group.


4. A Secret to Leading Work-From-Home Teams

As we move to remote work, consultant Shaun Belding says, you need to view your team as a jigsaw puzzle — individual pieces with unique shapes that, when assembled correctly, create a cohesive picture.

That means digging deep to learn more about each person’s home situation and all the little things they have to navigate to do their job.

As well, make sure each one understands your expectations, and then work together to establish how to meet those standards in this unusual environment.

“It’s also important to remember that all of your team – all of them – are experiencing some degree of emotional exhaustion right now,” he writes on his blog.


5. Zingers

  • Colour-coded Calendars:  To minimize time spent in unproductive meetings, productivity coach Alexis Haselberger offers this tip: Colour-code each session on your calendar afterwards to indicate whether it was a good or bad use of your time. After a few weeks, you can scan back and recognize which recurring meetings should be cancelled or reduced in frequency. (Source: ThriveGlobal)
  • Powerful Pauses:  Entrepreneur Sara Canaday urges you to encourage your team to pause — make sure they have time in their schedules to stop and think. “As hard as it is for us doers to believe, all the evidence says that maximum effectiveness and innovation start with… STOPPING,” she says (Source: LeadershipNow).
  • Human Firewalls:  With 94% of malicious links sent through email, it’s important for your employees to know how to recognize threats. Before you click, watch for warning signs in the From, To and Subject lines as well as in the date, hyperlinks, content and attachments. (Source: MicroAge)
  • Return-to-work Safety:  Mediator Gary Furlong notes that an employer has a legal obligation to make the workplace “reasonably safe” and to reduce risk as “low as reasonably possible.” When a decision is made to have staff return to the office during a pandemic —or to continue in the office, if the situation worsens— the employer must effectively communicate to staff the steps taken to reduce the risk as low as reasonably possible. (Source: Queen’s University IRC)
  • Is It Talent?  What looks like talent is often careful preparation, says author James Clear. What looks like skill is often persistent revision. (Source: JamesClear.com)


6. The List: Eight Archetypes of Dilemmas

In their book The Power of the 2×2 Matrix, consultants Alex Lowy and Phil Hood offer a barrage of matrices that can help us to think through the tensions and contradictions we face.

They boil these dilemmas down to eight archetypes, each with a key question to resolve:

  • Head and Heart: How can I choose between what makes sense and what feels right?
  • Inside and Outside: How do we meet the demands placed on us externally as well as internally with structure, competencies and culture?
  • Cost-Benefit: What is the price of getting what we want?
  • Product-Market: What are our options to change the essential offering or modify how, where or when it is presented?
  • Change versus Stability: How much change is actually healthy?
  • Know-Don’t Know: What is known, what is not, and what is known about what is or isn’t known?
  • Competing priorities: What should we do first? What’s really important?
  • Content versus process: Are content and process healthy and aligned??


7. Around Our Water Cooler  

Focus as Strategy:

Clients are spending plenty of energy these days retooling their organizational focus. They’re asking themselves:

  • How has the operating landscape changed in these pandemic times?
  • What’s happening internally with the organization?
  • How does the system work now, with so much uncertainty, new behaviours emerging, and norms turned upside down?

In Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, Daniel Goleman offers an excellent chapter on how leaders use focus as strategy — to direct the attention of their teams and clients to focus on priorities.

Here are some highlights we like to share in our practice:

  • Strategy involves making choices about what to ignore and what matters. Deciding what not to do now is just as important as deciding what to do. Help each unit or person on your team to focus their attention on the organization’s key priorities.
  • To simplify effectively, you first need to understand the complexity that you’re reducing. As you narrow your focus, don’t miss key underlying factors driving the process, relationship or outcome.
  • Attention is attracted to what has meaning — what matters. The “why” that drives you, your team or your customers/clients has probably shifted these past several months. Is what they find important different now? Should your focus change?
  • Decision-making will be flawed when you suffer from “organizational attention deficit disorder”.  Has your focus been skewed because of missing data, not taking time for reflection and learning, or change overwhelming your ability to determine what or when something matters?
  • Storytelling is a good way for leaders to influence focus — an approach for managing where your own attention flows, holding the focus of your employees, and getting noticed by clients/customers.
  • Searching for new alternatives demands intentional focus — it takes cognitive effort for the mental switch needed to explore new options, escaping the orbit of old ruts and comfortable routines.

What We’re Reading:

  • Rob’s Pick:  The Catalyst — How To Change Anyone’s Mind  by Jonah Berger. This fresh strategic approach focuses less on persuasion and more on removing roadblocks and reducing barriers to change. Berger identifies five key barriers: reactance (when pushed, people push back), endowment (hanging on to the status quo), distance (persuading with information people can’t accept), uncertainty (which translates as risk), and corroborating evidence (lack of proof).
  • Harvey’s Pick:  Time Smart by Harvard Business School professor Ashley Whillans. We actually have more leisure time than a few decades ago but feel time poor. The book looks at the relationship of time to career and finances —time is money, after all— and how you might change in the short- and long-term so time stress is reduced. It also urges managers to reward employees with time.


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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 

“One of the hardest things in life to learn are which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.”

— Oprah Winfrey