June 28, 2020


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we focus on the journey involved in learning about racism, improving how your organization listens, employee burnout, the case for content marketing, and recovering your momentum. Enjoy!


1. Racism: The Learning Journey

Consultant Scott Eblin says many of his conversations with corporate leaders in recent weeks have revolved around the issue of racism.

Like a lot of other white people, he has learned more about racism in this period than the rest of his life — something he is not proud of since the lessons were there if he had paid attention.

Like him, you may feel uncertain, on a learning journey. He maps out on his blog the four stages of increasing competence:

  • Unconscious Incompetence:  Before George Floyd was killed, he was in that stage. You may have been as well, not knowing what you didn’t know.
  • Conscious Incompetence: The protests and conversations since — and Canada has had its own racial incidents — helped him recognize and understand what he didn’t know. “The supersaturated learning of the past few weeks has opened a lot of eyes, including mine, to the necessity of being engaged in ensuring true liberty and justice for all,” he writes.
  • Conscious Competence:  In the third stage, he expects to move on to learn from his mistakes and become more effective, step by step, at being an advocate for anti-racist policies, practices and ways of living.
  • Unconscious Competence:  In time, the new knowledge and skills developed in a learning journey become almost second nature.

But he adds: “I don’t think I want to reach that stage in this case because I don’t want to ever assume that I know enough about how to make society more just.”


2. How An Organization Listens

Organizations are expected to listen to stakeholders, whether their concerns are about racism, dealing with the coronavirus, or service quality.

Jim Macnamara, a professor at the University of Technology Sydney, in 2015 issued these eight requirements for “an architecture of listening”:

  • A culture of listening:  The organizational culture must be open and inclined to listen to the needs of employees, stakeholders, and even “stakeseekers” — groups seeking recognition and a stake in the organization’s decision-making.
  • Addressing the politics of listening:  Not listening to someone, he stresses, is a political act. Too often organizations listen and respond to a narrow group of key stakeholders while ignoring others.
  • Policies for listening:  You must move beyond philosophical statements to specific rules and guidelines applicable to relevant departments and individuals.
  • Structures and processes for listening:  Listening is often delegated, so that means messages must be captured, analyzed, and conveyed to decision-makers. Job descriptions should explicitly state that listening in various forms is a requirement of certain roles.
  • Technologies for listening:  Technologies can play an important role but are not the answer. “Humans determine whether voice matters,” he stresses.
  • Resources for listening:  Organizations need to make listening a priority, allocating time, money and people to support it.
  • Skills for listening:  People will need to be trained. Traditional competencies will not be enough for organizations transitioning to two-way engagement and dialogue to create stakeholder satisfaction and trust.
  • Accountability — from listening to decision-making and policy-making:  An organization must have reporting policies and structures in place to act appropriately on what it hears.


3. The Costs Of Being A Caring Manager

For managers, helping others with personal problems is a key aspect of the job. It can involve problems with marriages, mental health, or childcare — and, of course these days, concerns about the coronavirus and resulting turmoil.

Khlodiana Lanaj, a professor at the University of Florida, and doctoral student Remy Jennings studied managers over a three-week period, looking at how they responded to work and personal problems.

They found that the leaders had an increase in negative mood on days when they helped direct reports with personal problems.

“This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help, of course, but you need to be aware of the potential impact on your performance and emotions. And because negative emotions are sticky, the impact may not be limited to work but could bleed into your personal life as well,” they write in Harvard Business Review.

They point out one way to possibly lessen that impact is to ask if your help was beneficial. The knowledge that you helped may protect and even improve your mood.


4. The Biggest Myth About Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is assumed to come from long hours. But Gallup research found the top five factors that correlate most highly with employee burnout are:

  • Unfair treatment at work
  • Unmanageable workload
  • Unclear communication from managers
  • Lack of manager support
  • Unreasonable time pressure

Two of those have a connection to hours worked — unmanageable workload and unreasonable time pressure — but are better understood as their own issues. The other three have little to do with overly long workdays and everything to do with retaining your employees.


5. Zingers

  • Responsibility Creep:  HR expert John Sullivan warns about the tendency to pile new responsibilities on top performers, with the resulting creep in workload leading them to spend as much as 60% of their time on work they don’t like. Survey those top performers periodically and ask how much time they spend “doing my best work.” (Source: Dr. John Sullivan.com)
  • Unforced Errors:  Research has found that established sports players tend to make mistakes when faced with opponents rising rapidly in the rankings. Presumably, they are intimidated by the opponent’s surge. Niro Sivanathan, a professor at the London Business School, argues that market leaders are vulnerable to the same dynamic. (Source: Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog)
  • Checking In:  Consultant David Gillian says that, in these unsettling times, you shouldn’t check in on work in progress — check in on people, instead. If you focus on your people, the work will take care of itself. (Source: LinkedIn).
  • Gen Z:  Generation Z (individuals born between 1995 and 2015) are expected to comprise more than a third of the workforce by the end of this year. A survey suggests the appeal of a company’s mission can’t replace the importance of money for them. They also care a lot about their work environment, and women of that generation care more about immediate benefits than long-term ones. (Source: Fairygodboss).
  • Paid to Learn:  Paying employees to learn is a bargain, says entrepreneur Seth Godin. An inspired and insightful employee is going to produce far more value than one who’s simply being ignored. Employees left stuck are far more expensive than educated ones.  (Source: Seth’s Blog)


6. The List:
    Making A Case For Content Marketing

Unlike advertising, content marketing makes use of material that does not explicitly promote a brand but indirectly stimulates interest in its products or services. Content marketing also builds brand awareness and loyalty.

Beyond social media posts, typical content includes blogs, videos, interactive online content, infographics, photos, feature articles and excerpts from long-form content.

The List:  Dawn Papandrea, writing on Newscred Insights, raises these eight points in making a case for investing time and money in a content marketing program:

  • Customers want content, not ads.  According to the Economist Group’s “Missing the Mark” report,  71% of readers say they were turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch.
  • People don’t want constant email promotions.  Adobe’s 2017 Consumer Email Survey found that 40% of respondents want marketing emails to be less promotional and more informative.
  • Younger generations are wary of advertising. A McCarthy Group study revealed that 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional ads.
  • Ad blocking is the norm.  All generations, but especially millennials (67% in one study) install ad blockers.
  • There’s no guarantee that people will notice your digital ads.  For 91% of the total ad spend in 2017, the ad was viewed for less than a second.
  • Customers read a lot before they buy.  According to a Forrester study, the average person consumes 11.4 pieces of content before making a purchase decision.
  • Content builds credibility.  According to DemandGen, 95% of business-to-business (B2B) buyers trust this type of content when they are evaluating an organization and what it has to offer.
  • Content influences purchase decisions. Three-quarters of B2B buyers said in a DemandGen survey that the content shared by potential vendors had a “significant impact” on which one they chose to buy from.

When people are looking for informative content presented in credible formats to guide their decisions, content marketing could give you the edge.


7. Around Our Water Cooler:
    Recovering Your Momentum

In these disorienting times we hear many clients mentioning a sense of ‘drag’ — of feeling bogged down, struggling to get traction and build momentum to get projects done.

In part, the “mired in mud” feeling may be a result of rejigged operational routines, working from home, change fatigue and other consequences of a disrupted work environment.

But it can also be caused by the need to recover from setbacks (common during the pandemic) or a habit of procrastinating.

Our friends at MarketingProfs.com pointed us to a handy infographic resource, compiled by MBA Central, that offers these tips.


If you have suffered a setback and need to rebuild momentum:

  • Acknowledge what went wrong.  Recognize the reality of your situation and look at how it happened.
  • Reset your outlook. View setbacks as a lesson and use them as motivation — transform the stress into a positive force that energizes.
  • Take baby steps. Start with one thing you want to get better at and do it every day.


If the problem is procrastination:

  • Look at why you put things off. Is it a habitual response to stress? At first, procrastination may reduce stress and free up time for more enjoyable activities, but later it leads to more stress and lower quality of work.
  • Avoid paralysis by analysis. When working on tasks we’ve never done before, it may take longer and feel harder, but the longer you delay in making a decision, the harder it will be to start.
  • Be proactive. A challenge involved in recovering from a setback may seem harder to solve than it actually is, but setting problems aside only means they pile up, becoming even bigger issues.
  • Live in the present. You shape your future by the steps you take now.

It takes time to rebuild personal habits and organizational routines in pandemic circumstances. If you’re losing momentum to setbacks or procrastination, these tips might help you get back up to speed.


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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 

Only the shallow know themselves.”

— Oscar Wilde