October 11, 2021


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at biases towards authority, negativity and proximity, auditing your web content, polishing your daily management micro-habits, and leading when you’re stressed. Enjoy!


1. Leading When Stressed

When you’re stressed and anxious, it’s easy to lose your temper and undermine the humane culture you’ve worked to build.

“If you have too many of these freak-out moments, your people will conclude that kindness is only for the easy times,” consultant David Dye notes on the Let’s Grow Leaders blog.

Stress and anxiety are unavoidable, but he says you can lead through those times with these five steps:

  • Recognize what’s happening: Notice when you feel a tightness in your chest or other signs of your body feeling you’re under attack. When you acknowledge your feelings and the stress response, it lessens their grip.
  • Remember your why: Check back on your purpose. It’s not the numbers or a promotion, but something deeper. “There’s a temptation in stressful moments to react — to do something, anything. But these reactive moments often do more harm than good because they aren’t connected to your purpose,” he notes.
  • Reassess what’s happening and your resources: With that grounding, take a look at the facts. Examine the risks and probabilities objectively. Once you’ve got a clear picture, consider the resources available to address the situation.
  • Reconnect with your team: Give them the facts about what’s happening and what’s at stake. “You don’t need to suffer or muscle through the problem on your own. Your people can surprise you with their ingenuity and effort if you give them the chance,” he says.
  • Respond: Identify the path forward and take the first step.

Become a human-centred leader again.


2.  Auditing your Web Content

Web sites can grow like weeds. You probably have a lot of content but may not know what you have, where it is, or if it’s still any good.

Digital strategist Laurel Miltner explains on the Orbit Media blog there are two types of audits: Quantitative or qualitative.

A quantitative audit is a list of every piece of content on your web site, and where it lives. A qualitative audit builds on that to evaluate the content from a strategic perspective and compare it to industry best practices.

A Step-by-Step Approach:

That begins with a spreadsheet itemizing every page viewed more than once. Arrange like content with like content, perhaps using tabs for various sections like services, products, your blog, and case studies.

Evaluate content on factors like page views, time spent on each page, and the value of the page in the estimation of others you recruit to rate everything. Then color-code the outliers. If some pages of a particular type perform really well for a given metric, make those cells green. Colour those performing really poorly for a metric in red.

You now have a simple visual snapshot of content performance, by page type. You can mark some content to kill and other material to be improved.

  • Content with high engagement and page value but a low number of views might be worth optimizing for search and/or promoting them more to attract more visitors.
  • Content with high views but very low engagement might have design or content issues to fix.

It’s tough, intense work, but it can pay off in a time when your website is increasingly important to your success.

3.  Beware of Authority Bias on your Board

Ideally, you want experts on your board who can help you grapple with the challenges confronting you. But three consultants from PwC’s Governance Insights Centre warn about the dangers of authority bias in strategy + business.

If someone is a long-standing expert in a field, others will likely defer to him or her when decisions are to be made in that area. That makes sense at some level.

But, as Maria Castañón Moats, Paul DeNicola, and Leah Malone write, “They can become too influenced by that opinion, dismissing what others have to say or abdicating their own responsibility to weigh in.”

PwC researchers have found boards may be more likely to prioritize the views of their male members, long-tenured directors, or those with a commanding stature or tone of voice.

Avoiding the Trap:

“Boards can fall into the trap of waiting to hear from these authorities first or always giving them the last word. They can fail to provide important checks and balances against the expert,” the consultants observe.

One counterbalance is to solicit opinions from each director in turn. Or, if someone likes to wrap up discussion to have the last word, ask them to speak earlier in the discussion.

4. Explore Your Proximity Bias

Another bias deserving attention is proximity. In a remote or hybrid world, it’s too easy to treat people unequally based on how physically close they are to you.

Consultant Julie Winkle Giulioni recommends exploring your true feelings about those working remotely. Ask what “reliability,” “hard work” and “commitment” look like for you.

As well, examine which team members work near or far, get “face-time” or not. Is there a relationship between the ones you prize most and where they work?

“Candidly challenge yourself to see if you may be inadvertently favouring some employees over others based upon proximity,” she writes on her blog.

5. Zingers

  • New Drivers of Productivity: Jaime Teevan, chief scientist at Microsoft, says we need to redefine what supports productivity in the hybrid era by placing more focus on well-being, social connections and collaboration, and the innovation people bring to drive business success. (Source: Harvard Business Review).
  • Count Positive Moments: Yet another bias is towards negativity. Consultant Michael Kerr asks you to tally every positive moment during the day, seeing if you can reach 100 over the week as a way to brighten your mood. You might also invite team members to join in the fun. (Source: Humor at Work e-zine)
  • One-on-One Trap: Executive coach Suzi McAlpine advises that a common trap in one-on-one sessions with subordinates is to focus on tasks and not enough on the person doing them — how they are doing, and how you can help or coach them. (Source: SuziMcAlpine.com)
  • Direction vs. Destination: You only need to know the direction when making decisions, not the destination, notes Atomic Habits author James Clear. The direction is enough to make the next choice.  (Source: JamesClear.com)
  • A Presentation Essential: The most important element of a presentation is to know your audience, says award-winning speaker Tulia Lopes. Know their demographics, their needs, their expectations, and above all, the language they communicate in. Without that, your message will land nowhere. (Source: Presentation Guru)


6. The List:  Micro-Habits of High-Impact Managers

Here’s a selection of 10 of our favourites from a list of 25 targeted tactics for upping your management game, gathered from a variety of senior leaders, by First Round Review:

  • Don’t swerve around a debate.
  • Be generous with your ideas.
  • Think of yourself as the team captain, not the head coach.
  • Write down (and share) what makes you tick.
  • Pull back the curtain (e.g. share a quick personal update or anecdote).
  • Make time and space for reflection.
  • Find the “connective tissue” linking your team with your context.
  • Follow up and follow through.
  • Look for opportunities to praise in the moment. Spot chances to send kudos up the chain.
  • Sharpen the arrows (craft skills) in your quiver.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler


Nesting Strategies in Context

In a Q&A with a couple dozen social service agencies last month, workshop participants highlighted the importance of positioning their own strategies within larger, external strategic frameworks. Those contexts might involve the priorities of funders, strategies of their national agencies, or policy frameworks in a sector.

One metaphor seemed particularly apt for describing the situation— a Matryoshka doll, which is a type of Russian stacking doll dating from the 1890s. Wooden dolls are nested one inside another, sometimes with as many as eight dolls inside. The original intent was to surprise children — as you open one doll, you find another inside.

It’s worth considering how your strategy is nested within larger contexts in a similar way. In significant ways, your team strategy might be nested within a departmental role within an organization priority within a sector approach and so on.

Design Tip:

In a similar vein, when developing strategies in context, consider this advice from architect Eliel Saarinen in 7 Things I Learned in Architecture School:

“Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context —a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”


What We’re Reading:
  • Harvey’s Pick: The overwhelm and burnout many people are feeling these days derives from collaboration overload, argues Babson College professor Rob Cross. His book Beyond Collaboration Overload  elaborates on that important insight, offering examples that might feel close to home, as well as ways to extricate yourself from excessive collaboration and productivity techniques — some familiar, some not.
  • Rob’s Pick: Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner’s classic Changing Minds seems as relevant as ever for leaders implementing strategies, whether helping a team adapt to new conditions or attempting to influence factors in your operating environment. The focus may range from individuals to a nation. Stories, theories, concepts and skills all have their place. And we have often referenced his seven-point “RE” list of levers for changing minds:  Reason, Research (evidence), Resonance (emotions), Redescriptions (reframing), Resources/Rewards, Real World Events and Resistances. You can find a quick summary/recap on HBR here.


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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

“Now is the time to do what you know you must and have feared to begin.”

Writer and Activist Marge Piercy


To Reach Us:


8020Info Inc.

356 King Street West
Kingston, Ontario, K7L 2X4
Tel: (613) 542-8020



Vol. 21, No.14
Copyright 8020Info Inc. 2021