January 3, 2022


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at strategy “spines”, rethinking for better decisions, leadership peer groups, hybrid work, and a manifesto method to go from aspirational to actionable leadership statements. Enjoy! 


1.  Build a Strategy Spine to Counter Skeptics

One thing won’t change in 2022: The strategies you build for coming years will be subject to skepticism. To handle that, Columbia University Strategy Professor Rita McGrath recommends developing a document she calls a strategy spine:

“Much as your own spine serves to tie together many different parts of your body to create capability for movement, a strategy spine shows key stakeholders exactly how all the pieces fit,” she writes in her newsletter. It involves:

  • Sources of revenue:  Who is going to provide funds to you? Through what vehicles and for what reasons? “This will structure the whole rest of the document, so it’s critically important to be super-clear about this,” she says.
  • Key assumptions:  A strategy prepares for a future that doesn’t yet exist.  You need to lay out the key assumptions you are making about revenue sources — and learn from the questions prompted by that process.
  • Key goals by your time horizon:   Spell out the metrics stakeholders can use to determine if you are making progress at a future point of time, such as in five years. The goals may change, but it’s helpful to have them written down now.
  • Revenue implications by your time horizon:  Having laid out sources of revenue, assumptions and goals, now articulate what this will mean in terms of revenues at future points in time.

The spine is rounded out by explaining the supporting investments required and the additional infrastructure you expect to add. Like the body’s spine, it must hold together.


2. Create a Leadership Peer Group in 2022

If you don’t have a peer group in which you confide and share work issues, this might be the year to take the initiative and set one up. You could help those you invite to join — and yourself.

Sometimes called a mastermind or leadership learning group, it brings together people who fulfill similar roles, usually outside your own organization. It can help identify areas for growth and deal with the isolation trap common to leadership roles.

“Leaders can easily become isolated because they have no trusted peers within their organization with whom they can dig deep or share feelings — and there are many business and leadership issues that they cannot profitably share at home,” leadership coach Ken Vaughan writes in Industry Week.

“A group of peers can understand, accept and respond appropriately to the struggles that a leader might face.”

He says the most effective peer group is small, with a range of experience, expertise and personalities. Members must be trustworthy, able to hold confidential all the group shares.

“The most important ingredient is the desire and willingness to have a positive impact on each other’s lives,” he says.

“Though a group may be composed of peers, each peer will have a different perspective based on their history,” he notes. The group opens everyone up to different perspectives.

It also can respond to emotional needs for acceptance, affirmation, and empathy. So mark it on your goals for 2022.


3. Write A Manifesto To Drive Change

To succeed, we need to focus our energy. Leadership consultant Charlene Li counter-intuitively recommends going on a wide-ranging rant to find that focus — and your own leadership manifesto.

The notion of a leadership manifesto can sound intimidating, but she gets you going by suggesting you rant —productively— for three minutes about what really bothers you. You can focus on your organization, industry, community, or own life.

“Just let the answers flow without second-guessing them,” she writes on LinkedIn. “Don’t censor yourself!”

Now flip those negatives into a positive belief that motivates you. Ask yourself: “What’s the underlying belief behind my rant? What should everyone believe?” This step, she promises, will be magical — transformational.

Now identify the actions you’ll take to act upon it, writing what she calls “a shabby first draft” of your manifesto.

“With this powerful statement, you’ve succinctly captured everything you’re trying to do, everything you believe, everything you want to change, everything you’ll implement into one document. You’ve gone from aspirational to actionable — and that’s how you drive change,” she concludes.


4. Get Input to Make Hybrid Work

Planning for the hybrid office usually revolves around finding the most effective arrangement for group collaboration.

Instead, in Harvard Business Review, workplace consultant Sue Bingham says the key to success is learning each team member’s individual circumstances for flourishing. Do this by asking:

  • What are your goals for the near term and long term, and what stands in the way?
  • What makes you feel valued at work?
  • What do you wish you could spend less time doing?
  • What processes could we update to create efficiency?
  • Where do you feel you are the most productive working?
  • What work schedules best support your well-being?
  • What tools do you need to perform your job well?

This is a good time of the year to ask.


5.  Zingers

  • Goal-setting Guidelines:  To turn your goals and resolutions into growth, consultant Art Petty recommends emphasizing fewer, bigger ones. Treat those goals as promises, not mere resolutions or hoped-for outcomes. (Source: ArtPetty.com).
  • Distracting Ideas:  Good ideas aren’t necessarily useful, argues leadership coach Dan Rockwell. Any idea you can’t act on today is a glamourous distraction. (Source: Leadership Freak).
  • Recruiting and Dating:  Hiring someone after just one interview is like asking someone to marry you on the first date, says consultant Donald Cooper. You don’t know them well enough yet. (Source: DonaldCooper.com).
  • Presenting with Energy:  The most important thing in a presentation is your energy, not your content, says presentations coach Florian Mueck: “You can turn the most mediocre content into a lifetime experience for the audience. But you will kill the most profound, most meaningful, most inspiring content with poor delivery.” (Source: PresentationGuru).
  • Retooling Your Digital:  There’s probably a better digital tool for the next thing you’re trying to do online, suggests entrepreneur Seth Godin. It might be worth the investment of time to ask, discover and learn. (Source: Seth’s Blog).


6. The List: Goals Beyond Project Completion

A team needs goals. But not just finishing a project. There are many other goals to ponder if you are forming or leading a team. Here’s a list from psychology coach Paula Thompson on BetterUp.com, with some that you may not have considered:

  • Learning goal
  • Responsiveness goal
  • Brand identity goal
  • Customer loyalty goal
  • Meeting goal
  • Customer satisfaction goal
  • Employee engagement goal
  • Product development goal
  • Goal-setting goal.

How many of those do you need to add or, at least, clarify?


7.  Around Our Water Cooler 

Pausing to Rethink in 2022

Over the holiday break, we’ve spent some time reflecting on how we might all need to adjust our decision-making approaches for the circumstances we’ll need to negotiate in 2022.  It seems wise to double-check whether we’ve brought a hockey stick or baseball bat to a game where we might need a billiards cue.

Can we still trust reflex decisions?

Experienced leaders with a bias for action often use recognition-primed decision-making. They sense opportunities and recognize problems from past situations. They mentally flip through potential options that are familiar and come easily to mind (without deeper analysis), identify the first workable option, tweak it to minimize weaknesses and reinforce its strengths, and then act.

All of this works well — and is a valued skill — in an operating environment with stable dynamics, where time is at a premium, and underlying planning assumptions still hold. But is it time to doublecheck our decision-making instincts in a chronic COVID environment?

Are we still favouring skills that are now sub-optimal?

Many leaders have honed command-and-control approaches optimized for execution in relatively stable environments, with emphasis on operational efficiency, effectiveness and tangible results.

Two years into a pandemic, 2022 now seems to be calling on us to make better use of softer approaches — listening, negotiation and collaboration skills, nurturing well-being and creativity, and favouring strategies that are more pragmatic, resourceful and adaptive.

Should we pause more often to rethink our decisions before acting?

Wharton professor Adam Grant makes a good case for questioning our opinions and assumptions as well as opening our minds to new possibilities.

In Think Again, he describes intelligence as the ability to think and learn. But in a rapidly changing world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more — the ability to rethink and unlearn.

He notes that a hallmark of wisdom is knowing when it’s time to abandon some of our most treasured tools — and some of the most cherished parts of our identity.

When we’re certain we know the best way, we have no reason to look for gaps and flaws in our knowledge—let alone fill in or correct them. Studies show identifying even a single reason why we might be wrong can be enough to curb our tendency towards overconfidence.

“We’re mental misers,” he notes. “We often prefer the ease of hanging on to old views over the difficulty of grappling with new ones.”

2022 may be the year we have to nurture the practice of rethinking.


What We’re Reading:
  • Harvey’s Pick: From Impressed to Obsessed, by customer experience consultant Jon Picoult, explores 12 principles for turning customers and employees into lifelong fans, based on the all-important foundation of creating peaks while avoiding valleys, and finishing strong. Other principles cover ease, simplicity, emotion, relevance, control, attention to detail, surprises and personalization.
  • Rob’s Pick: In Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, organizational psychologist Adam Grant says, “our beliefs get brittle long before our bones.” We tend to think too much like preachers defending sacred beliefs, prosecutors proving the other side wrong, and politicians campaigning for approval. Instead, he says, we should think more like scientists —constantly aware of the limits of our understanding, doubting what we think we know, being curious about what we don’t know, and updating our views as new information comes in.


●  §  ●

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.


5.  Closing Thought 

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

Winston Churchill


Vol. 22, No.1
Copyright 8020Info Inc. 2021