January 23, 2022


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we touch on The Project Economy, behavioural change, writing for presentations, celebrating invisible talent, recent tips for better serving users online, and adjusting to declining levels of trust in leaders. Enjoy!


1. Welcome to the Project Economy

Projects hold central stage in our economy, strategist Antonio Nieto Rodriguez argues. It used to be that operations were the main focus but in the past two decades they have been supplanted by projects.

Operations focus on the running of an organization – providing products or services. Projects involve the changing of organizations.

“Running the business is about efficiency, productivity, and speed. The focus is short-term, the objectives are mainly performance-driven, and the structure is hierarchical. Culturally, the model is command and control,” he writes in Harvard Business Review.

“Changing the business is about innovation, transformation, agility, and long-term value creation. The focus is medium or long term, the objectives are more strategic, the structure is flat and project based, and the outcomes are less quantifiable than operational results. Culturally, the model is entrepreneurship and collaboration.”

Managers, he says, must be ambidextrous, able to succeed at either approach. The future belongs to organizations that can achieve the right balance of running and change, but he warns most leaders are far better at the former so spend more time on it.

He says most project-management methods we use today were developed in the 1970s and 1980s and reflect efficiency and standardization methods, sequentially moving through successive stages. But projects involve work never done before, which requires experiments, false starts, and movement back and forth among the stages.

To run projects well, you need to focus on three main things: innovating; creating a high-performing team; and, most importantly, delivering benefits.

2. Leading Behavioural Change

If you’re a leader, you must lead behavioural change. Otherwise, step aside, because you’re not doing your job.

That admonition is from executive coach Kate Nasser, and she knows it goes against the grain. Over her three decades working with leaders, she has been told many times, “you can’t change people.” But that rejoinder avoids the responsibility and insults your staff.

“As goals and needs of the organization change, team members must grow and change their behaviours to meet those new goals. Great leaders lead behaviour change and show team members how it benefits them and their careers!” she writes in her blog.

Here are some steps to take:

  • Have everyone discuss what behaviours must change. This indicates you view team members as adults who can figure out what they must do to reach success.
  • Help team members identify obstacles to behaviour change. For example, how do the team’s processes, rules or culture interfere?
  • Ask team members what type of coaching or training they need to adopt these new behaviours. This could involve individual exercises or team building.
  • Discuss how these behaviour changes could help them in their development. This indicates what’s in it for them.

Accountability is important, but she stresses it’s not just individual.

“How will the leaders and team members address lack of behaviour change? If you do not discuss this and agree to a tangible approach, the whole effort can tumble down and leave a scar that prevents future change,” she concludes.

3. The Winning Communication Skill

When one of presentation coach Gary Genard’s clients complained, “I’m just not a good essay writer,” it highlighted a common concern holding people back from effective presentations. In this case, the discussion had nothing to do with writing an essay. The task was to make a presentation and lead a discussion.

In schools, however, training for reading and writing turns us into mini-essayists. “That’s left us exposed and clueless when it comes to the very different task of delivering an oral presentation,” he says on his blog.

In fact, we talk and speak to people more than we write to them, requiring us to speak directly and simply.

“You’re never up there to dazzle people with your intellect. Let the brilliant essayists do that. You’re there to reach out and connect with them. The more simply and honestly you do that, the more powerful and even life-changing your speeches will be,” he says.

Just be authentic, connect with people, and meet their needs through what you say. That’s extremely eloquent, actually.

4. Celebrate Your Invisible Talent

With concern about staff exits, corporate trainer Joel Garfinkle says you need to pay particular attention to your “invisible talent” — people to whom you are not giving proper appreciation. Often they come from groups that tend to be overlooked — women, minorities, and introverts.

Who might they be in your organization? Take notice of them and give positive feedback. Let others know their strengths. Give them more opportunities and rethink how your organization defines leaders.

“If your company tends to promote only ‘big personalities’ — assertive, outgoing and intensely self-promoting candidates — it might be time for top-level management to consider more diverse leadership approaches,” he writes on LinkedIn.

5. Zingers

  • Resist Temptations: Ethics consultant Linda Fisher Thornton urges you to conquer these temptations in 2022: Avoid attacking people instead of attacking problems; choosing “quick fix” solutions that do more harm than good in the long term; treating employees as commodities rather than human beings; and reading only that which confirms what you already believe. (Source:  Leading in Context).
  • Don’t Be Misunderstood: It’s the responsibility of the communicator to be understood, says consultant Diana Peterson-More. That means you must communicate in a way that is clear to those you are communicating with and must check for understanding. (Source:  DianaPetersonMore.com).
  • Revealing Vulnerabilities: How could a competitor overcome your organization? Consultant Lisa Bodell recommends imagining you head a competitor and set out to attack or destroy your organization. Then – the key part – rank the vulnerabilities exposed from most to least substantial and begin to correct them. (Source:  Professor Michael Roberto’s Blog).
  • Getting to No:  To help her say no more consistently to opportunities best ignored, career advisor Lindsey Pollack calls her leadership coach to ask for approval. She still can say yes, but the dialogue with someone else helps her evaluate the request more carefully. (Source:  LindseyPollack.com).
  • Three Jobs:  Management consultant Margie Blanchard, co-founder with her husband of the Ken Blanchard Companies, says a manager has three jobs. One is to do their own jobs, and there’s a lot to do today. The second is to develop people, and they want to be developed. The third is to be interested in other people’s careers — where they want to be down the road.  (Source:  ChiefExecutive.net).

6. The List:  Content Marketing Trends for 2022

Here are six less-technical highlights plucked from a Top 10 list on Search Engine Journal.  They might be worth discussing with your tech department too.

  • Focus on Intent: To craft online content that speaks, marketers must understand not only what people are searching for, but why.
  • Instantaneous Response: Consumers will continue to demand rapid responses and results.
  • Real-time Reality: Monitor for changes that could impact the experience of your content in the moment; act before they interrupt the customer’s experience.
  • Content Proliferation: The challenge is to think deeply about the ways your content is presented across voice, video and visual channels via mobile and social.
  • Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Audio Fusion: The merging of content formats will help audiences connect more deeply with stories as they read, see, hear or even smell and touch.
  • Storytelling Balance: Capitalize on the intelligence of AI and machine learning without sacrificing empathy that touches hearts of the audience.

7.  Around Our Water Cooler

It’s Always Been About Trust

Perhaps it’s been because of our involvement with many sensitive planning discussions and other negotiations for clients during the pandemic, but we’re finding the place of trust, which has always been important, is now at an all-time premium.

A recent Guardian article by William Davies, Why We Stopped Trusting Elites, walks us through a staggering decline in the credibility of establishment figures, whether they’re in media, the professions, among politicians and government officials, perhaps even compromising your own leadership.

He describes a loss of faith in the communications that support our societal interactions — the reports, accounts, records, testimonies and interpretations offered by experts, technocrats and those reporting the news (fake or otherwise).

It’s more than a culture of rising cynicism — it involves eroding trust in leaders suspected of currying favour and protecting their own interests at the expense of others.

Technology has also affected this trend, making it easier to expose “inside liars” who carefully hide information (think of the impact of data leaks, exposure of confidential emails or video captured secretly on mobile phones).

Our staff or customers or partners may also face challenges in interpreting the facts for themselves. They often face a mass of data and tangle of complex analysis, jargon, and regulations. They also lack time to dig in.

This crisis of confidence in leaders and experts means we need to meet a higher standard for interactions and communications:

  • Transparency with the evidence has never been more important. “Trust me and my interpretation” is less likely to be taken at face value.
  • Clarity of motivation and intent must be demonstrated in words and deed. That provides important context for how audiences interpret what is being said and whether to believe it.
  • Convenient mechanisms are needed so stakeholders can directly access the data or evidence and satisfy themselves that leader is to be trusted.

Davies references a catchphrase from social theorist Michel Foucault — a new “regime of truth” with a different way of organizing knowledge and demonstrating trust. Truth is now assumed to be hidden. That means we have to spend more time on how we reveal it, sustain it and use it to build trust.

What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick: We often present numbers triumphantly in reports, presentations and arguments only to have them fall flat because they are difficult to comprehend. In Making Numbers Count, a book that can be enjoyed by both math phobics and math enthusiasts, Chip Heath, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and journalist Karla Starr, show where we go wrong and present simple tips to connect clearly with your audience.
  • Rob’s Pick: Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters and How to Harness It, by psychologist Ethan Kross. How can the voice that serves as our best coach also be our worst critic? Our inner voice is both a helpful superpower and destructive kryptonite, and the silent conversations we have with ourselves powerfully influence how we live our lives. Kross, a self-described “mind mechanic”, shares research and tools for changing the nature of our most important conversation: the one we have with ourselves.


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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

“I used to resent obstacles along the path, thinking, ‘If only that hadn’t happened life would be so good.’ Then I suddenly realized, life is the obstacles. There is no underlying path.”

—  Janna Levin (Professor of Physics and Astronomy)