August 29, 2021


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at deciding between online and in-person meetings, improving employee experiences, the power of praise, avoiding pop-ups, styles for managing conflict, and tips on saying “no”. Enjoy!


1. Planning Your Hybrid Meetings

As we contemplate the hybrid (online/on-site) office, a key question we need to ask is: When do we actually need to meet in person?

That leads to the following subsidiary questions, leadership development consultant Rae Ringel writes in Harvard Business Review.

  • Is a meeting even needed? The pandemic reinforced the importance of time and how draining it can be when too much of it is spent in meetings.
  • Are my meeting goals relationship-based or task-based? Task-based goals include updating a board, briefing everyone, or planning an event. Those goals can often be accomplished in a virtual meeting. Relationship-based goals, which involve strengthening or repairing connections among team members, are usually accomplished most effectively in person.“Why do I say ‘usually?’ Because over the past year, I participated in some meaningful virtual meetings where participants bonded and opened up in ways that I doubt they would have in person. For some people, the screen creates a sense of psychological safety, and with it the freedom to share views and take risks,” she says.
  • How complex are my objectives? Sometimes complexity is more helpful as a guide to determining the best forum for a meeting. That includes emotional complexity and the level of interdependence certain decisions or outcomes may require.
  • Could my meeting take an entirely different shape or form? It’s not just Zoom or in-person. Now that we have so many more tools at our disposal, are there other ways information could be imparted so that it’s absorbed more effectively? One of her clients replaced monthly all-hands staff meeting with a pre-recorded video that staffers can watch on their own time, for example while preparing dinner.
  • What type of meeting is most inclusive? There’s a lot to be said for the virtual route, particularly if your team is far-flung.

Ponder these questions as you plan your meetings in the weeks ahead.

2. Strategically Defining the Employee Experience

After a tough 18 months, it may be an ideal time to consider how to improve the employee experience at your organization.

The NOBL consultancy suggests bringing a cross-functional team of change champions together to attack this issue.

Then map out the experience of employees on their journey through key stages at your organization. The sequence they suggest on the NOBL Academy website is: Attract, Recruit, Immerse, Retain, Empower, Exit, and Network.

Based on feedback you’ve heard as well as survey data, identify which elements in the journey are working well; what’s not; and what’s missing.

You now want to improve the situation, but they urge you to start small. Pick one specific area or employee population:

  • What can you try to improve the experience?
  • How will you test out your idea?
  • How will you collect feedback on the impact?
  • If the experiment is successful, how will you extend it to others?

Then keep evolving.

“Build feedback loops into your process to see if the tweaks you’ve made are improving overall employee experience — we recommend reviewing progress at least quarterly,” they note.

3. The Power of Praise

Each time you praise someone, you take a step towards saving your organization big money.

On his blog, productivity expert Chris Bailey shares that finding from happiness researcher Shawn Achor.

When an employee received four or more touchpoints of praise or recognition in a quarter, the retention rate increased to 96% over the next year compared to a level of 80% for new hires.

“Given that the cost of replacing an average employee could be around $40,000, if we do the math we see that every single short touchpoint of praise was worth $10,000!” Achor wrote in his book Big Potential.

Actually, it’s not quite that simple: You must hit four praise points since the first two don’t have much impact. It’s the third and fourth touchpoints that have the power.

Bailey highlighted these tips from the book:

  • Don’t provide comparison praise, lauding one person on your team at the expense of others.
  • Provide only authentic praise.
  • Don’t praise only the highest performers. Those individuals likely don’t achieve success by themselves. They rely on others who make less visible contributions and also deserve praise.

4. Beware of Irritating Users with Pop-ups

Website pop-ups and overlays (content boxes displayed on top of page content) help to get your message across. Unless, of course, they drive prospects away.

And the Nielsen Norman Group warns that could be the case. Over more than two decades, their surveys have found that users hate pop-ups. In fact, they are among the most hated techniques used in advertising. That result hasn’t changed since a 2004 study.

Giving examples on the firm’s website, usability expert Kate Moran warns against thinking that a specific pop-up is acceptable because it will be good for users.

“Sadly, so many other sites have hurt users so much with unacceptable (and multiplying) popups that they have poisoned the well for all other websites.”

5. Zingers

  • Talk of Trouble: A sure sign you’re heading for trouble is when problem talk exceeds solution talk, says leadership coach Dan Rockwell. (Source: LeadershipFreak).
  • Selling Inside First: Consultant Donald Cooper says many businesses make the mistake of promoting their brand promise and brand value to their target customers before successfully selling them to their own staff. If your staff hasn’t bought into those ideals, they won’t deliver them to customers.  (Source:  The Donald Cooper Newsletter).
  • Your Leadership Brand: As for brands, what is your personal leadership brand? Leadership development consultant and former New York Times columnist Adam Bryant asks: What are the three values that are most important to you as a leader – the consistent behaviours that people can rely on and expect from you?  (Source:  strategy + business)
  • What You Can’t Borrow: You can borrow knowledge but not action, observes Atomic Habits author James Clear.  (Source:  JamesClear.com)
  • It Takes More Than Talent: When it comes to success, productivity consultant Laura Stack argues that three qualities hold greater value than sheer talent — hard work, persistence, and desire. Talent does give you an edge. But hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. (Source: The Productivity Pro)


6. The Model:  Five Styles for Managing Conflict

Queen’s IRC executive coach Filomena Lofranco says managing conflict is the managerial superpower that makes the difference between a good day and developing an ulcer.

“How do you deal with conflict and what are your typical results? Does your approach generally help or hinder conflict situations? These questions are essential for managers to consider.”

In Five Superpowers Every Manager Needs, she identifies five styles of conflict management, each appropriate to particular circumstances. They are:

  • Accommodating: You put the other person’s needs before your own. (What we would call, “go along to get along”.)
  • Avoiding: You evade the conflict and hope it goes away on its own.
  • Compromising: You attempt to find a solution that partially pleases everyone involved. (This could involve taking a middle-ground approach or making trade-offs between wins and losses.)
  • Collaborating: You attempt to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
  • Competing: You stand firm and resist anyone else’s perspective.

This last style may sound harsh but consider, for example, a situation involving workplace safety or compliance protocols where you have to stay on the right side of the law.

Lofranco notes employees seem to hate the avoidance style of conflict resolution the most because it assaults people’s ingrained idea of fairness —when someone observes you seeing, hearing and saying nothing about it.

She adds that having poor conflict resolution skills is possibly the fastest way to lose the respect of your team.

If you’re uncomfortable with conflict, your resolution skills probably need improvement. That’s okay, she says, but get help as soon as possible. Resources for learning include books, internal courses and mentors, or outside professional development.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler

Sidestepping Pushback When You Say “No”

Say “no” to something today — that’s at the top of our task list every single day. It’s key to setting priorities, maintaining boundaries and getting things done.

In Biz Ladies: Saying “No”, Grace Bonney shares some useful tips for reducing fears of pushback after you say “no”.

“For me, being afraid to say NO had to do with being scared of people’s reactions. Would they hate me? Talk behind my back? Get mad and yell at me? Make me feel guilty? … ALL of those things have already happened to me after saying NO to a project. But the reality is, 99% of the time, they don’t.”

Her top tip is to have a standard “no” response at the ready.

She suggests developing an email template you can use as a jumping-off point, putting you in the right (polite) frame of mind and making it easier to respond in a more timely, professional and personalized way.

Your standard text might follow an outline like this:

  • First, thank someone for their time and thinking of you for their project.
  • Explain that your schedule is busy because of [insert a specific example if possible].
  • Suggest an alternate person who might be good for the project. (She notes this helps them, helps you support someone else you like, and ends the situation on a positive, helpful note.)
  • If you do want to participate in the project, suggest a follow-up time. But don’t suggest a time down the road as a delaying tactic if you don’t plan on doing the project — they will follow up!
  • End again with a thank you. Even if the offer isn’t appealing, it’s polite to thank someone for taking the time to reach out to you personally.

Your own version of this template will make it easier to just say “no” when you know you should.


What We’re Reading:

  • Rob’s Pick: Who Not How. The book’s essential point, from a long-established coach of entrepreneurs, is deceptively simple. When you want to accomplish something (especially if you’re stuck), stop asking “How can I do this?” Instead, ask “Who can do this for me?”  Dan Sullivan says the shift in mindset will stop you from limiting your potential to only what you know or can do yourself. Instead, build teams that support your vision and help accomplish your goals.
  • Harvey’s Pick: Two classics on marketing and persuasion have been re-issued with new material but also a lot of old stuff worth reading for the first time if you missed them or re-reading – Influence, New and Expanded by Robert Cialdini and Nudge: The Final Edition by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

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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

“Excuses are the skin of a reason wrapped in a lie.”

Billy Sunday