August 7, 2021


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at the counterintuitive role of solitude in leadership, the top dozen satisfactions people seek in their workplaces, five essential points to consider if you’re rebranding, and tips on managing procrastinators. Enjoy!


1. Solitude and Leadership

Many studies have shown that multitasking is ineffective, yet many of us continue the practice. We may assume the opposite of multi-tasking is single tasking, but critic and writer William Deresiewicz makes the case that it’s solitude.

“Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking; it impairs your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it,” he said in a West Point Academy lecture reprinted in The American Scholar.

Solitude allows us to concentrate — to think without distractions, without peer pressure, about an important issue. It might involve focused work. It might involve introspection. It might involve reading a book.

“Sometimes, you need to put down your book, if only to think about what you’re reading, what you think about what you’re reading,” he says.

“But a book has two advantages over a tweet. First, the person who wrote it thought about it a lot more carefully. The book is the result of his solitude, his attempt to think for himself,” he says.

Solitude, counter-intuitively, can also be valuable when it involves friendship.

“I’m talking about one kind of friendship in particular, the deep friendship of intimate conversation. Long, uninterrupted talk with one other person,” he says.

“Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person.”

Solitude allows you to take counsel from yourself in a busy world. Let it propel you and your organization forward.

2. Tips for Managing Procrastinators

Managing procrastinators can be extremely frustrating.

With one-in-five people identifying as chronic procrastinators, strategy + business contributing editor Theodore Kinni (a procrastinator himself) says managers need a gentle way to nudge them along:

  • Know your procrastinators: If your team is missing deadlines, identify the member who is the perpetual brake.
  • Keep deadlines short and hard: A distant or nebulous deadline enables procrastination. Break long tasks into small pieces, each with a deadline.
  • Don’t pile on the work: “It sounds counterintuitive, but procrastinators can, in fact, handle lots of work. Just give it to us sequentially, with one assignment or task following another,” he writes.
  • Remove distractions: Distractions are the fuel of procrastination, from an in-office television to coffee breaks. Do your best to isolate procrastinators from distraction.
  • Impose structure and accountability: Procrastinators will seek camouflage and excuses. So he advises making it clear who is doing what and track accountability in the most public way.
  • Play to strengths: Procrastinators can shy away from challenges. So assign them tasks they know they can do or, if not, explain why you are confident in their abilities.
  • Ask for help: Like all humans, procrastinators want to help others. “When you’ve got a job that absolutely, positively has to be done, ask for our help. Sometimes that’s all we’ll need to muster enough motivation to overcome our natural inertia,” he says..

Procrastination is a psychological glitch that can’t be cured by intimidation. Try these softer approaches.

3. Sharpening Your Website Message

Home-page headlines often fail to say what the business does, notes website consultant Andy Crestodina. Instead, they offer general statements about quality or value.

When a new customer comes to your site, the question on their mind is: “Am I in the right place?” He argues that should be answered immediately in headlines.

Ironically the “what we do” information is usually just below the headline in smaller text, he notes on the Orbit Media site. So pull that material into the headline, making it descriptive, so every visitor can tell at a glance what you do.

He also warns us to be wary of placing social media icons in your header atop the page, as is commonplace. That’s just an invitation for visitors to go elsewhere. Put icons at the bottom of the page and change their colour to make them less visually prominent.

And remember: Link only to social networks where you are active, sharing content and interacting with followers.

4. Test Your Meetings

Entrepreneur Seth Godin urges you to test your meetings this week using two policies:

  • Meeting Abstention Policy: Anyone invited to an internal meeting can opt out and ask for a summary. If someone abstains, they give up their ability to have a say in the meeting (but, he warns, most meetings don’t offer much of a platform anyway).
  • Meeting Nullification Policy: If anyone in an internal meeting announces the meeting is a waste of time, it’s over. The organizer must send everyone the memo that probably should have been sent instead of a meeting in the first place.

“Does your organization have the guts to try this out? Do you, as an attendee, care enough to abstain?” he asks on his blog.

5. Zingers

  • The Kill Metric: Mona Vernon, senior vice-president of Fidelity Investments, says what’s commonly missing with innovation is a kill metric. That’s a measurable, well-defined failure point such as: “If we don’t deliver three paying clients at the end of this nine-month pilot test, we don’t move it forward.”  (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Sources of Strength: Executive coach Dan Rockwell offers these four unexpected levers of resilience for tired leaders — struggle strengthens, vulnerability strengthens, enjoyment strengthens, and connection strengthens.  (Source: LeadershipFreak)
  • Trash Can Gems: Performance artist Marina Abramović places her students at tables with trash cans underneath and gives them thousands of pieces of paper on which they write ideas. Good ideas stay on the tables; bad ones go in the trash cans. After three months she looks at their ideas — but only those in the trash can. There she finds a treasure trove of the great things they are afraid to do.  (Source: Farnam Street Blog)
  • People Rhythms: Consultant Pamela Hackett recommends a 1/5/30 system for supervising your team. Each day, check in and ask, “how is your day going?” Every week, ask “how is your week going?’ to discuss progress, what they need, and what the next week will be like. Every month have a meaningful face-to-face chat (Zoom allowed) about “How is your job going?”  (Source: Leading Blog)
  • Seek the Hidden: The best possible new employees are rarely job hunting, notes author James Clear. The best clients are rarely shopping. The best option is usually off the market. That doesn’t mean you can’t have it. But you have to find it and sell yourself.  (Source: JamesClear.com)


6. The List:  12 Elements of Great Managing

Gallup research into what people wanted from their workplace unearthed these 12 elements. Managers must be alert to them and ensure their employees can say:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • I have the opportunity at work to do what I do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition and praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is somebody at work who encourages my development.
  • My opinion seems to count at work.
  • The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

From 12: The Elements of Great Managing


7.  Around Our Water Cooler


Five Steps to Consider When Rebranding

In these changing times, you may feel some urgency to rebrand what you stand for and offer to the world — is it time to reposition your services, update your identity or evolve the essence of what stakeholders find valuable and meaningful?

Here, from Chen Guter via MarketingProfs.com, are five essential components to consider when designing your new story:

  • Feel Out the Market: Make sure the market is ready for your relaunch. Do you need to undertake a complete repurposing or a just a facelift? Either way, make sure those you serve are ready for the “new you”.
  • Go Beyond a Marketing Campaign: Rebranding might be quarterbacked by marketing designers, but it should involve all those areas that manage the product or service, determine who it’s sold to and why. Anchor the new brand in the organization’s DNA, core values and mission.
  • Lock Into an Identity: Your story involves who, what, when, why and with whom, but it also needs a distinctive tone of voice and style. What should your brand’s unique personality be?
  • Ensure Your New Brand ‘Breathes”: Does your redesign reflect not only where you are today, but where you are going? Is it flexible enough to adjust to future change?
  • It’s Rebranding, Not Refreshing: The process is so much more than splashing on a fresh coat of paint. Your new brand will be your North Star, so do the work to get it right.


What We’re Reading:

  • Rob’s Pick:  Think Again: Wharton professor Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, prefers to “listen like he’s wrong”. We tend to favour the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn. In these fast-changing times, the ability to rethink and unlearn may be as important as intelligence.
  • Harvey’s Pick:  The Power of Pressure by Dane Jensen, a consultant and lecturer at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, is a thorough, methodical look at how to harness pressure for better performance (and why time management, a tactic we often turn to, only makes it worse).

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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

“We build on foundations we did not lay. We warm ourselves by fires we did not light. We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant. We drink from wells we did not dig. We profit from persons we did not know.”

Peter Raible