April 5, 2020


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we focus on making decisions in turbulent times, using simple rules and triage approaches for fast action, facilitating online video conferences, and classifying opponents to change. Enjoy!


1. Rules for Making Decisions In These Times

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing even more critical decisions on managers than before, here are some handy decision-making tips from Charles Foster’s aptly titled, What Do I Do Now?

  • Focus on the most important thing:  Of all the things you’re judging, one factor is the most important and must be given greater weight than anything else.
  • Don’t decide until you’re ready:  Don’t act on impulse or succumb to decision panic. Give yourself time to see. Yes, even now. Above all, now.
  • Turn big decisions into a series of little decisions:  Figure out what small step you can make first, allowing those small decisions to teach you what the big decision should ultimately be. Instead of doing something because you guess it’s the best thing to do, take small steps, get more information, and then finally decide.
  • You always have better options:  Unearth them, rather than simply accepting the options at hand.
  • Get what you need to feel safe:  This rule was not intended for now but will have extra resonance in a period of instability. For some people, safety means knowing the worst that can happen; or needing to know they can back out at the last moment; or needing to know everyone they care about agrees with the decision. Identify your safety needs related to the decision at hand.
  • If it ain’t simple, it ain’t going to work:  Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be.
  • Never let a lower priority outweigh a higher priority:  This sounds obvious, but it’s the decision-making guideline he says is broken most often. Make sure your priorities are clear and act accordingly.
  • Know your Achilles Heel:  Bad habits can surface under stress so know which ones give you trouble, such as biting off more than you can chew; detail mania; fear; losing touch with yourself; acting without thinking; dithering; or habitually taking the path of least resistance.


2. Understanding Your Opponents To Change

In leading change, it helps to know who is with you and who is against you.

Normally, consultant Edmond Mellina says on his blog, we divide people involved in change into three categories: Supporters, Fence Sitters and Opponents.

But he feels those broad conceptions should be replaced by six subgroups he places on a Ladder of Commitment and Resistance:

  • At the top of the ladder are Helpers and Campaigners – both supporters.
  • In the middle are Skeptics and Wind Watchers.
  • At the bottom are Foot Draggers and Torpedoes.

Consultant John Maxwell prefers a three-part division: Typically, 25% of people will support you; 50% will remain uncommitted or uncertain; and 25% will resist.

“Your job as a leader is to get the people in that 50% group to join the 25% that are all-in,” he writes on his blog.

His tips:

  • Accept that the people who resist aren’t going to change. You also won’t make them happy.
  • Don’t give the bottom 25% a platform or credibility. “Doing so doesn’t give you credibility as much as it gives them the opportunity to undermine you,” he warns.
  • Create opportunities for the middle 50% to spend time with the top 25% — attitudes can be contagious.
  • Ask the 25% who support you to influence the 50% who are uncommitted or uncertain.

Change is more than a vision. It requires dealing strategically with the affected people.


3. How To Be At Peace With Your Work

As he neared 80, Augusto Levi was teaching in two universities, a financial expert at a major bank and a chairman or member of over two dozen boards.

Consultant Nathan Zeldes wondered how his grandfather managed all that and shared the secret on his blog, found in an old newspaper interview:

“One needs to calmly consider the data, and to analyze the elements without prejudice, and to treat all people without bias, and when all these considerations have led you to a certain conclusion, to implement it with a clear mind without letting secondary factors derail the main line of action.

“One should also know how to treat people with forgiveness, not always be their teacher and not give them orders sharply and not interfere in minor matters; and if you want to reserve to yourself the right to err, you must recognize that others may err too, and then you work without stress.

“And when you finish one task, forget it and approach the next one and don’t allow an earlier matter to harry the one following it; and then it is possible to get by very nicely in life, without hurry and without irritation.”


4. Recognition AND Appreciation

We use the terms recognition and appreciation interchangeably. But there is a big difference between them, consultant Mike Robbins notes on Harvard Business Review Blogs.

Recognition is about giving positive feedback based on results — an informal note, award, or raise. But there are some limits to recognition: It is performance-based, backward-looking, and scarce.

So, it must be supplemented regularly by appreciation, which acknowledges a person’s inherent value. “The point isn’t their accomplishments,” he says. “It’s their worth as a colleague and human being.”


5. Zingers

  • Feedback Tip:  The point of feedback is not to change the other person, says leadership consultant Dan Oestreich, but to create understanding: “If understanding can be created, it’s like lighting a candle — maybe a dim one, but a candle nevertheless.” (Source: Unfolding Leadership)
  • First Discuss Commitments:  Don’t make new commitments without discussing your current load with the colleague asking you to take on something more, says executive coach Dan Rockwell.  For example: “I have these five commitments. Where [in terms of priority] would you want me to place the new commitment? (Source: LeadershipFreak).
  • Hiring Warning:  Recruiting specialist John Sullivan says that hiring interviews are at best a coin flip — inaccurate predictors of performance in an era where questions can be anticipated and prepared for.

“Because interviews are ‘the final decider’ on whether you will hire a turkey or a star, you can’t afford in a rapidly changing world not to continually challenge every aspect of your firm’s interview process,” he warns. (Source: DrJohnSullivan.com).

  • Unqualified Candidates:  In hiring interviews, we seek out highly qualified candidates. But tech CEO John DiLullo has been more successful hiring less qualified people with a burning desire to prove something to the world. His formula: Hire people 70% qualified and 30% terrified.  (Source: Fast Company).
  • Delegating Properly:  If you delegate tasks, you get followers. If you delegate authority, you get leaders, says Craig Groeschel, co-founder of Life Covenant Church. (Source: CoachStation).


6. Q&A With 8020Info:

    Triage In Turbulent Times

Question:  I have so much coming at me so fast during this pandemic crisis, it’s overwhelming — I can’t seem to stay focused, let alone make good decisions quickly enough to keep up.

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

Aside from the emotional components that are likely involved, you probably need to change your planning and decision-making style to develop more focus, flexibility and faster choices:

For focus and speed, attend to your few top priorities:

  • These mission-critical priorities may apply to goals, process and action.
  • Develop a crystalline clarity about ‘What’s Important Now’ (WIN). Also consider how you need to position your organization and processes to achieve your core goals over the longer term. Look at how decisions you must make immediately will build towards your end-state goals.
  • You may also find it helpful to develop or define: boundary rules (for deciding between two choices), prioritizing rules (for sorting, ranking or matching up options for action) and stopping rules, which dictate when to reverse a decision, cancel a project or drop certain functions or roles.

For flexibility, make more provisional or conditional decisions.

  • Choices can be experimental or provisional for now. They might also be part of a framework of contingent decisions — plans to be triggered in the future as circumstances change or ambiguity clears.

For example, you might develop two or three options for holding on to your workforce while waiting for government guidelines to be announced on unemployment benefits during COVID-19 — your best decision may change, depending on the government’s direction.

Move faster using simple rules and the methods of triage.

In our current topsy-turvy pandemic world, you may be feeling like a medic on the battlefield, with scores of casualties in urgent need of attention.

In Simple Rules: How to Thrive In A Complex World, Donald Tull notes “you might think medics use complicated algorithms to classify the wounded.

They don’t. Instead they rely on a handful of simple rules to quickly sort injured patients into three or four categories for action.

“When performing frontline triage, medics will typically spend less than a minute with each patient,” he says.

“Simple guidelines, such as whether the patient can follow instructions, has a pulse rate below 120, or a respiratory rate between 10 and 30 breaths per minute, allow medics to quickly evaluate the wounded.”

  • This approach to decision-making works best when flexibility and speed matter more than consistency. And to be effective, simple rules must fit the task at hand. He says: “A hammer is just the thing for nails, but useless when sawing a plank.”

The times we’re in require decision-making approaches based on clear focus and priorities, more contingent decision making, and simple rules to help you triage the blizzard of new issues you face.

(For more insights on simple rules, see the Farnam Street Blog.)


7. Around Our Water Cooler: 

    Online Facilitation Tips

Since the announcement of social distancing measures and a state of emergency due to COVID-19, we’ve been facilitating twice-weekly video conference calls with up to 65 community leaders sharing perspectives and flagging new issues.

Here are some facilitation tips we have found helpful, which lead to more effective moderation of video conference calls of any size.

  • Be clear, to a fault, about the purpose of the discussion. It’s always important for any meeting to be on task, but online it’s easier to lose focus. The moderator or chair must clearly communicate a purpose that is sharp.
  • Provide succinct but complete materials in advance, rather than just talking your way through the topic. Participants will be better prepared, oriented to the agenda, and have easy reference during the call to important material and proposals for action.
  • Take extra care to monitor how consensus is developing and invite people explicitly to interact, confirming their positions on the issue(s). The interpersonal cues of expression, tone and body language are more muted online compared to being present in a room face-to-face.
  • Learn and make use of the tools available for virtual conferencing — consider engaging participants with slides, video clips, polling, whiteboards and even virtual breakout rooms.
  • Recap, recap and follow up with notes. After a couple of days pass, we tend to remember a small fraction of what was said or decided in the session.

For other facilitation tips, one of the better articles we’ve seen recently is Virtual Meetings Don’t Have to Be a Bore by Andy Molinsky on HBR.org.


●  §  ●

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 

“Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

— Robert Schuller