April 25, 2021


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we consider the value of recognizing service to the public, advertising that charges like a rhinoceros, tips for starting up, avoiding a tug-of-war during change, and improving through less, not more. Enjoy!


1. The Power of Recognizing Service to Others

With employees in not-for-profit and public service organizations under stress (not to mention budget crunches), an interesting study suggests managers can boost engagement through simple symbolic awards — congratulatory cards, public recognition, and certificates.

Previous research has looked at college students or those in the corporate sector, but what about the impact on government and not-for-profit employees?

Researchers from Harvard and King’s College London shared the findings recently in the Harvard Business Review:  Compared to their private sector counterparts, employees in fields such as health care, social work, and education tend to be more motivated by work that has a positive impact on others and less motivated by salary.

A simple intervention:

In their study, managers sent personalized letters to social workers at their homes that included two sentences of positive feedback. The first sentence was selected from options including “your continued dedication and hard work makes children and families in the region better off every day.” The second, more individualized, was written by the manager, who signed the letter in ink.

One month later, those who received a letter reported feeling significantly more valued, more recognized for their work, and more supported by their organization compared to those who didn’t.

There were also positive impacts on feelings of well-being and belonging, intrinsic motivation, and sickness absence rates.

Other research shows public accolades have positive effects on recipients and colleagues. If you try it, the researchers suggest starting small and paying attention to the workplace context, who gives the recognition and careful timing.

Other research shows public accolades have positive effects on recipients and colleagues. If you try it, the researchers suggest starting small and paying attention to the workplace context, who gives the recognition and careful timing.


2. Tips for Rhinoceros Marketers

Advertising expert Roy H. Williams says “bad ads waddle like a porcupine and make lots of little points. Good ads charge like a rhinoceros and make a single point powerfully.”

It’s the same for ad budgets, but university marketing courses preach the need for a marketing mix, which is appropriate for large corporations but, he argues, not for growing a local business.

A mixed approach leads small business owners to ineffectively sprinkle their budgets on too many options.

“Would you rather reach 100% of the people and convince them 10% of the way, or reach 10% of the people and convince them 100% of the way?  Repetition is effective,” he writes on his blog.

He suggests spending 80% of your ad budget on a single type of mass media and the remaining 20% online to get some Google traction.

“The choice of mass media is up to you, but it’s hard to go wrong with local broadcast radio or television newscasts. People rarely record the TV news on their DVRs. They watch it live. The same is true of live sporting events,” he says.

An exception applies if you sell something that only a tiny portion of people will ever want or need. Then spend your budget totally online but make sure your gross profit margin will allow you to spend 25­­–33% of total top-line sales on advertising.

If you’re small, advertise like a rhinoceros, not a porcupine.


3. Get a Grip on your Tongue

Doing the right thing doesn’t make up for saying something stupid, says executive coach Dan Rockwell. Foolish words can get you in a heap of trouble.

Your slip can come when you gossip about a colleague, let emotional heat start a firefight, you stretch the truth out of a feeling of insecurity, or you belittle your boss and lose a promotion.

Here are seven guidelines from his blog that may help:

  • Choose a positive purpose for your words. He calls that the ultimate rule of communication for leaders. “Only open your mouth to make something better.”
  • When in doubt, zip it.
  • Every rash word makes you bleed.
  • Don’t open your mouth to prove yourself right.
  • Never let bitterness control your vocabulary. “Kindness heals,” he notes. “Bitterness corrupts.”
  • Apologize when you say harmful things. If somebody bring up an offence again, apologize again.
  • Don’t try to justify yourself with an “I didn’t mean to” defence. Just apologize.

“The enduring value of your leadership hangs on the things that come out of your mouth,” he says, stressing that we should consider our attitude and tone.


4. Avoid “Tug-of-War” Change Management

Consultant Art Petty says he has seen too many leaders who subscribe to “tug-of-war” change leadership.

When convinced a new direction is essential for success, he says on his blog, “they persist in believing people will respond as they need them to, just because they are the ones who know how important it is.”

These leaders end up in a tug-of-war with change resisters and things spiral further out of control when they fall back on that classic line, which doesn’t work with their kids either — “because I said so.”

Instead, he advises you to get the entire organization involved in sharing ideas and implementing the change.

5. Zingers

  • The Elevator Question: Nobody ever bought anything on an elevator, observes entrepreneur Seth Godin. So replace the elevator pitch with an elevator question: Begin a conversation focused on the person you’re hoping to connect with, which is more likely to help you figure out if they’re a good fit for who you are and what you want. (Source: Seth’s Blog).
  • Engaging Zoom “Zombies”: Consultant Barry Rosen advises you to stimulate passive Zoom “zombies” by getting more people involved in the meeting through assigned roles such as facilitator, scribe and tech expert. And since people have probably joined from other meetings, slow down at the start to read the agenda and check for understanding and agreement. (Source: SmartBrief.com)
  • Bias in Recruitment Language:  Do you seek job candidates who are “fast-paced?” That’s a common phrase in job postings for tech and other firms. But recruiting specialist Laura Mather says that phrase telegraphs “mainstream male.” Instead you may want to try terms like “support” and “teamwork.” (Source: NPR).
  • Starve Your Problems: Some things are better off ignored than attacked, argues author James Clear. Attention is the oxygen of conflict, so when you fight a problem you also breathe life into it. On the other hand, when you starve a problem, giving it no attention, you can suffocate it. In a surprising number of cases that means you can get around a problem by ignoring it. (Source: JamesClear.com).
  • Three Feedback Categories: When it comes to feedback and coaching, entrepreneur Robert Glazer says people fall into three categories: Those who don’t want any (being sure they know everything); those who want it but can’t fully accept it (because of their pride); and those who enthusiastically embrace advice and act on it, becoming stars in their field. (Source: RobertGlazer.com).


6. The List:  Key Principles for Starting Up

Paul Graham, co-founder of the startup incubator Y Combinator, says he always shares this principle with startups:  It’s better to make a few people really happy than to make a lot of people semi-happy.

It turns out he has 13 other tips for people launching a new venture. Here are a few of them:

The List:

  • Pick good cofounders. (In a startup or new project, you can change your idea easily, but changing your cofounders is hard.)
  • Launch fast. (You haven’t really started working on your new service or product until you’ve launched. Engaging with users teaches you what you should have been building.)
  • Let your idea evolve. (It’s more than merely launching a brilliant idea — learn and iterate.)
  • Understand your users. (The hard part is seeing something new that users lack and would value.)
  • Offer surprisingly good customer service. (Customers are used to being maltreated. Go out of your way to make them happy.)
  • You make what you measure. (The mere practice of measuring something fosters an uncanny tendency to improve it.)
  • Get “ramen profitable”. (The term describes when a startup starts to make just enough to pay the founders’ living expenses.)
  • Avoid distractions. (Graham says nothing kills startups like distractions.)
  • Don’t give up. (Sheer effort is usually enough to get past obstacles, so long as you keep morphing your ideas.)


7.  Around Our Water Cooler:


Try Subtracting, Not Adding

When solving problems, we seem to naturally prefer solutions that add on new or extra features rather than remove elements from a process, product or design.

An article in Scientific American notes that minimalist designs are uncommon.

  • For example, kids seem to better learn how to keep their balance riding a bike when pedals are removed, rather than with extra training wheels added.
  • In one study, people reviewed a list of 651 improvement ideas for an incoming president — only 11% of them chose proposals that would eliminate an existing regulation, practice or program. (No wonder it’s so hard to “cut red tape”.)

It turns out that ways to build on an existing situation come to mind more quickly and easily; finding subtractive solutions takes more effort. Fortunately, cues that prompt us to stop and look at what might be eliminated do help broaden our thinking.

During the pandemic, many clients have discovered they can subtract their way to solutions, by reducing office space or travel and working virtually from home.

So, the next time you have a problem to solve, consider first what you might eliminate, say “no” to, or leave out.


What We’re Reading:

  • Rob’s Pick: In The Evolution of Everything (How New Ideas Emerge), Matt Ridley shows us how so many important outcomes develop from the bottom up, not top down. Whether you’re responding to social trends, culture change, technology or pandemics, situations evolve in ways akin to natural selection: We find our way forward by trial and error. Trends unfold steadily, step by small step. Results are shaped by scores of interactions in the system rather than by top-down planning, edict or design. An insightful perspective.
  • Harvey’s Pick:  A World Without Email by Cal Newport documents how email took over our lives without any prior planning or discussion of the implications. It frazzles us, and we need to adopt practical solutions to reduce email considerably or even eliminate it, improving productivity and creativity. A very important book on a very important topic.

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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

“Deadlines are things that we pass through on the way to finishing.”

Peter Gabriel