November 21, 2021


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at how to step up your game as you move beyond pandemic concerns, overcome adversity, use social proof, encourage employees to stay with your organization, let others “own” their tasks, and why we avoid hybrid online/on-site formats for focus groups. Enjoy! 


1. Stand Out, Aim Higher and Improve Your Team

For the past 20 months, most organizations have been scrambling to deal with the impact of the pandemic. This coming year might allow us to set our sights on other improvements.

Consultant Donald Cooper notes in his newsletter  there are two levels of organizational improvement:

  • The easiest way is to learn from the best. “Do you know who does it better than you, anywhere in the world?” he asks. “Have you physically gone to check them out, wherever they are or, if that’s not practical, have you checked out their website and read about them on the internet?”
  • The harder step is to differentiate your organization by doing what has never been done before.  “What is it that no other business has had the creativity and courage to do that would be so powerful, so compelling, that your target customers simply could not resist you?” he asks. Stop playing it safe.  Stand out. Aim higher.

In another edition, he also offers four more questions you might want to ask:

  • What one to three new positions, filled by talented top performers, would make a difference in your organization?
  • In what positions, could you replace mediocre or toxic staff with talented top performers and catapult ahead?
  • What pieces of new equipment, technology, or system upgrades would make a big contribution to organizational improvement?
  • What additional staff training, done effectively, would be very helpful?

We’re a few weeks from a new year — now is a good time to ponder his questions.


2. The Three “Stay Conversations”

With employees considering their options as the pandemic wilts and the media buzzes with stories on The Great Resignation, it’s a good time to hold in-depth, “stay conversations” with your key staff.

Consultant Claire Lew has identified three themes to weave into your one-on-ones with staff, which she shares on her blog.

First, questions that clarify work motivation: Ask these three questions around motivation to understand what might encourage your employee to stay:

  • In the past few months, when have you felt most motivated or energized in your work (if at all)?
  • Is it clear why the work you do matters to the organization?
  • Which of your skills do you feel is not being used in your current role?

Next, three questions around team dynamics, again to understand what might keep the individual committed:

  • Is there any part of the team you wish you could interact with more?
  • How do you feel about the current level of social interaction across the team?
  • How do you prefer to be recognized for work well done?

Finally, organizational context questions:

  • Is there any aspect of the organization that you wish you knew more about?
  • What has felt confusing or frustrating for you lately?
  • To what degree would you say the vision of the organization is clear?

She says sitting down face-to-face with your team members moves you from broad generalizations about behaviour to what might actually motivate them to remain with your organization.


3. Add Social Proof to your Website

In his landmark 1984 book Influence, Robert Cialdini highlighted the importance of social proof. We determine what is correct by finding out what other people signal as being correct.

But it’s often missing from websites.

Consultant Andy Crestodina says evidence  is one of the three main elements of a high performing page (along with answers to questions and calls to action).

“Social proof usually isn’t what the visitor came to find, but it’s what we want them to see while they’re here. And it’s one of the biggest differences between weak and strong web pages,” he writes on the Orbit Media site.

A page with evidence gives the visitor reasons to believe, he says. A page without evidence is basically a pile of unsupported marketing claims.

So look for places where you can buttress your appeal with testimonials from clients or evidence provided by third parties. Add the material near the claim it supports and in the most visible parts of the page — if nobody sees it, the information won’t help.


4. Giving Ownership

Leaders these days are told they need to give ownership to others. One thing to watch, says executive coach Dan Rockwell, is how frequently you are acting as a fixer.

“It’s natural to rush to fix, but it’s detrimental when competent teammates are the object of your efforts,” he writes on his blog. You are implying they are incompetent. You are also denying them the chance to fix their own mistakes. Competent people prefer to do things themselves.

Also watch how often you are warning others about things that could go wrong. Again, overprotection promotes weakness.


5. Zingers

  • Zoom On or Off?  Managers have been encouraging team members to keep their cameras turned on during online meetings, to promote engagement and inclusion. But researchers have found keeping video on all day increases “zoom fatigue”.  That’s particularly true for women and new employees — groups that already may feel they are under the microscope. (Source:  Harvard Business Review).
  • Align Your Development Goals:  An employee goal must advance both learning and organizational improvement, says consultant Art Petty. But most goals are tactical, focused on targets or mild enhancements of “table-stake” activities. Instead, isolate one or two significant commitments that push the individual to learn and grow and ultimately create an important benefit for the organization. (Source:  Leadership Caffeine)
  • Critiquing Yourself:  Always take the position that you are, to some degree, wrong, and your goal is to be less wrong over time, says Elon Musk. (Source:  Leadership Now)
  • For Managers in the Middle:  The fundamental purpose of middle management is to push context down and information up, says software developer Jacob Kaplan-Moss. (Source:  Jacobian.org)
  • Moving Fast vs. Rushing:  There is a difference between moving fast and rushing, argues Atomic Habits author James Clear. You can move fast and be thoughtful. But when you rush, you sacrifice thoughtfulness. Don’t rush — but also don’t wait, allowing thoughtfulness to become procrastination. (Source:  JamesClear.com)


6. The List: Nine Beliefs to Overcome Adversity

To overcome adversity, personal coach Robin Sharma says you have to accept nine core beliefs, grappling with them both psychologically and emotionally until they become automatic instincts. The beliefs are:

  • This, too, shall pass.
  • Every seemingly terrible situation inevitably ends well.
  • If it helps you grow, it’s not a problem but a reward.
  • Adversity shows up to test how much we desire our dreams.
  • Chaos carries opportunities.
  • Heroes are born in hard times.
  • To live without adventure is to not really live at all.
  • Life always has your back and whatever is happening is for your best.
  • Become more comfortable when things are uncomfortable by detaching from outcomes.

—  From The Everyday Hero


7. Around Our Water Cooler 

Caution Against Hybrid Meetings

With the easing of some pandemic restrictions, managers have been asking whether they should host planning meetings entirely online or go hybrid with some participating in person and others on Zoom or Teams.

From our experience, we recommend choosing one format or the other but not a mix.

The problem we’ve seen with the hybrid format is that those together on site are rarely able to participate as well as the online people (or vice versa, if they’re the minority). Some causes are:

  • Online participants can’t see participants well if they’re distanced.
  • Others can’t hear them easily if they’re masked.
  • Engagement is limited — those offline can’t do Zoom polls or participate in chat, while those online can’t take part in activities in the on-site space.
  • As an online chair, host or facilitator, you may find participants sit off screen —you can’t see whether they want to speak or if they’re even in the room. And if the dominant arena of discussion is on site, the online participants are the ones who get short shrift.

We were asked once to facilitate an online focus group that included a few participants dispersed (for distancing) in a spacious auditorium. The only way to identify some of those on site was by the colour of their sweaters (their faces were tiny smudges on the screen). The sound was terrible, and alternating from virtual to on site was awkward..

Organizations may well need to make their facilities available to provide online   access to those without other means. And a desire for in-person interaction may be a matter of preference or the result of experiencing terrible virtual meetings.

We suggest going either with all online or all in person but not a mix.

If you must go hybrid, here are two workarounds:

  • If you wish to safely set up some participants in a meeting room, provide each of them with a laptop (so the effect is the same as all being online, each one being able to see and hear all the others).
  • If you have just a pair of participants who share the same “bubble”, they can sit close together, side-by-side on one screen, unmasked and with good sound, as we have done with individuals supported in group homes.


What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick:  Joan C. Williams has written extensively on barriers for women, people of colour, and blue-collar workers. She argues the ideas of what she calls “the diversity industrial complex” don’t work that well. In Bias Interrupted, she calls for a further evolution of diversity training to focus on recognizing and interrupting bias when it happens, individually and systemically, framed around five biases that pervade our organizations.
  • Rob’s Pick:  Tiny Habits:  The Small Changes that Change Everything by BJ Fogg rounds out a nice syllabus about habit formation and change (along with The Power of Habit  by Charles Duhigg and Atomic Habits by James Clear).  Fogg runs the Behaviour Design Lab at Stanford University. In Tiny Habits, the scientist breaks down aspiration, inner critics and the code of habit formation. His step-by-step guide then helps you design habits and make them stick through positive emotion and celebrating small successes.


●  § ●

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 

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden