March 15, 2020


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we we look at how expertise may derail your decision-making, using praise, managing marketing gambles, the rule of three, plus tips for podcasting and crisis communications. Enjoy!


1. Are You Blinded By Your Expertise?

Most of us want to become proficient – experts in our work. But Tuck School of Business Professor Sydney Finkelstein warns that, in a study of executives, he found expertise can sometimes severely impede performance.

First, it can lead to overconfidence and mistakes. Second, deep knowledge and experience can leave people incurious, blinkered, and vulnerable — even in their own fields.

“When we begin to identify as experts, our outlook can narrow, both in daily work and in times of crisis,” he writes in Harvard Business Review.

“We become reluctant to admit mistakes and failings, thus hindering our development. We distance ourselves from those ‘beneath’ us, making it harder to earn their affection and trust.”

Others might surpass you, if you fall into the expertise trap. Some preventive measures he recommends:

  • Challenge your own expertise: Untether yourself from your identity as smart or the best. Cultivate more modesty, and remind yourself of your intellectual limitations. Spend time listening to team members instead of telling them what to do. Test your ingrained assumptions when they surface.
  • Seek out fresh ideas: Look to teammates as teachers. Have them expound on ideas you may have little interest in but they believe to be important. Hire people with different functional, industry, or cultural backgrounds.
  • Embrace experimentalism: “Give yourself permission to set aside established rules and try different ways of accomplishing tasks,” he says. Challenge yourself with new pursuits outside work.

Become less of an expert to become more effective. Put on your learning cap again.


2. The Gambler And The Marketer

Investors don’t see themselves as gamblers. Neither do advertisers. They see themselves as quasi-scientists, following a rational path. But advertising guru Roy H. Williams says in his Monday Morning Memo they are all gamblers.

Investors fall in love with stocks, he says, just as advertisers fall in love with media. Gamblers love only the dance.

But a professional gambler determines the size of bet according to their calculated confidence in the probable outcome. Professional marketers gamble their client’s money on campaigns and should use reliable methods.

Here is some advice from Williams to increase your odds:

  • The choice of media doesn’t make your ad perform. Your ad makes your choice of media perform. “So be careful not to count on ‘reaching the right people.’ Instead, be careful to say the right things,” he advises.
  • If you win the heart, the mind will follow. The intellect justifies what the heart has already decided.
  • Don’t try to “educate the customer,” in the belief they will choose you once they understand reality. Instead, talk about something they already care about — a felt need.
  • If you try to reach the right person at the right time with the right message, you will get feast-and-famine results. Instead, go after the masses with a memorable message before they need you and continue to reach out until they do. Then they will think of you immediately.
  • Entertainment is the currency by which you can purchase the time and attention of a busy public.
  • Without the element of surprise, there can be no delight.

Finally: “Repetition is effective. Repetition is effective. Repetition is effective.”


3.Applying The Rule Of Three

Note the Rule of Three in these three famed quotations:

  • “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
  • “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
  •  “Ready, set, go.”

Former Schering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan says pairing ideas in threes helps the brain to process information through an easy-to-recognize pattern. Here are some examples from the world of work that he presents on ChiefExecutive.net:

  • In assessing priorities for a company: What are the three priorities that really matter, and how do we communicate those?
  • On a strategic plan: What are the three levers that will really move the needle? What are the three potential plan-busters? What contingency mitigators do we have in place?
  • The individual behaviours we value in this company are passion, courage and tenacity.
  • People can contribute positively to the culture by being mindful, likable and rooting for the person next door.
  • Senior executives need IQ, EQ and values.
  • In his family company, Caret Group, the three goals are profit, sales and values. In hiring people, they look for will, skill and fit.

Develop your own rules of three to clarify and communicate what’s important.


4. Praise Better Than Correcting Failures

Given the choice, should you praise people for their successes or call attention to their failures? Supposedly, we learn the most from failures. But Forbes reports that new research led by the University of Chicago’s Lauren Eskreis-Winkler found management by encouragement more effective.

“Our society celebrates failure as a teachable moment,” she and her team observe.  “Yet we find that failure does the opposite: It undermines learning. Failure feedback undermines learning motivation because it is ego-threatening. It causes participants to tune out and stop processing information.”


5. Zingers

  • Declare the Consequences:  Consultant Wally Bock says people perceive a workplace as fair when consequences match performance — good performance or behaviour rewarded and poor performance drawing negative consequences. Let your team members know the consequences of both good and bad behaviour and performance in advance. (Source: Three Star Leadership)
  • Interrogator or Explorer:  Do you use questions as an interrogator or explorer, asks consultant Art Petty. (Source: Art Petty.com)
  • Behavioural Beware:  Jeff Kreisler, editor-in-chief of peoplescience.com says behavioural interview questions benefit those who are good at storytelling. He notes that may be important in sales roles but not other positions. (Source: Fast Company)
  • Bias Tip:  HR consultant Suzanne Lucas offers this advice for your diversity training:  When it comes to bias, stop trying to change the way people think and instead focus on how they should act towards clients and one another. (Source: CornerstoneOnDemand)
  • Bite-sized Delegation:  If a project involves many steps and you are unsure whether the person you want to delegate it to is able to complete the entire task, HR consultant Diana Peterson-More advises assigning it in portions. (Source: Julie Winkle Giulioni’s Blog).


6. The List: The Business Podcast Primer

Veteran broadcast journalist Peter Altschuler says that, despite their current popularity, far too many podcasts are more appalling than appealing.

In today’s hyper-communications environment, marketers adore opportunities to have the ear of a current or potential client for 20 minutes or more, but it’s easy to blow the opportunity.

In Business Podcast Primer: The Right Way to Do What Is So Often Wrong, Altschuler offers three specific critiques on where many podcasts flounder:

  • They rarely get to the point with any reasonable speed (and sometimes leave the listener to guess what it is)
  • They lack guidance from a competent moderator, whose role is to evoke the most useful and informative responses to questions they should already know the answers to.
  • They substitute production values for journalistic merit, taking pride in the form (musical intros, segues and “ear candy”) instead of content.

He suggests it’s time to rethink their purpose, the process, and the payoff of podcasts for business (vs. consumer) audiences.

Altschuler’s Tips to Help Your Podcast be Brilliant, Beguiling, and Brief:

  • Open with a crystal-clear statement about what listeners will hear, why it’s important, and how they’ll benefit.
  • Know the answers to the questions that you plan to ask your guests. Do your research and interview the guest in advance.
  • Keep guests on track if they wander.
  • Do not reference visuals — podcasts, like radio, are TV for the blind.
  • Edit the discussion for clarity (and brevity) and use narration to bridge any gaps.
  • Provide a really simple URL for people who want links to more details.
  • Do IDs throughout. (For example: “You’re listening to Kelly K, Pat Knowitall, and Lee Howitzdun on the answer to everything, and we’re talking about…”
  • If you’re running audio ads, work them in as opening and closing “bookends”.
  • After all that is achieved, then (and only then) you can tack on any music-backed opening —and keep it to the length of a radio station ID, not Mahler’s Ninth.

He says the goal is simple (and it isn’t to sell stuff): provide busy people with useful, beneficial, easy-to-understand information they associate with you and/or your organization in a positive way.


7. Around Our Water Cooler:  Crisis Communications

We’ve been encouraged by the thoughtful, responsible leadership of so many organizations as they respond, in both action and communications, to the current COVID-19 coronavirus risks challenging societies around the world.

Since we’ve had some enquiries about how to manage crisis communications, here are some tips we shared two years ago, and which still hold up today.

Your organization may not face a direct crisis now, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for one.

To start your crisis communications planning, identify all types of significant risks you may face — not just operational breakdowns or financial losses. Consider potential impacts on your staff, brand/reputation, partnerships, legal threats, or crises that could emerge via IT/security.

Building on your contingency plans for management’s response and actions you will take during a crisis, consider how you will need to communicate:

  • Prepare the ground in advance — build relationships and establish credibility before any crisis hits.
  • Take responsibility and stay credible:  Be honest, open and authentic.
  • Use a single spokesperson, get on social media, and work with the media. Communicate early, often and regularly.
  • Be sure you know the basic facts:  what, who, when, how, and (maybe) why.
  • Know which audiences are the priority.
  • Anticipate all the bad news and get it all out early, and at once. Get out ahead of the story.
  • It’s okay to display emotions:  Be quick to demonstrate empathy in both words and action.
  • Don’t wait until it’s too late. Nothing beats having a crisis plan in place — and practising it — before a crisis strikes.


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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 

“The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.”

— Thomas Paine