April 17, 2022


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look leadership fears, managing polarized workforces, making human connection, finding meaning in data, and opening the gate blocking customers from your online content. Enjoy!


1.  Five Fears of Leadership

All leaders have fears. Fortunately, all fears have solutions, says executive coach Lolly Daskal. Here are five common fears, and how to handle them:

  • The fear of being an imposter:  It’s surprisingly common for leaders to feel like a fraud who will soon be found out. But a big part of leadership is developing the skills you need. As well as trial and error, consider using a coach.
  • The fear of being a failure: Some leaders give up on their goals, fearing they are unattainable. “Choose to follow the example of the successful leaders who are afraid of failure but they take action anyway. When they face a setback, they work harder,” she writes on her blog.
  • The fear of making the wrong decision:  To protect themselves, they put off decisions. But making hard decisions is part of leadership, and not deciding can be more damaging than any choices you make.
  • The fear of being a weak communicator:  Most leaders have so much to communicate that sometimes they aren’t as effective as they could be. Study and practise good communication habits every day, “A few lucky people are born with a gift for communication, but most of us have to master it like any other skill,” she says.
  • The fear that what got them here won’t keep them here:  This fear has some validity since, as your career grows, so will the skills required. But it’s easy to address. Surround yourself with talented people, and stay open-minded and open-hearted.


2.  Managing a Polarized Workforce

Sharp disagreements can arise in work teams, when different points of views or different attachments clash. In such situations, we have been told everyone should leave their ego at the door.

But Harvard University professors Julia A. Minson and Francesca Gino say that advice is unhelpful, founded on three myths:

  • People who disagree with us do so because they are uninformed or unintelligent.
  • Disagreement will make people defensive.
  • Disagreement is bad.

In fact, people can listen with an open mind and disagreements are unlikely to be as upsetting as we expect. You need to help employees hold productive conversations with those holding opposing views.

A good place to start is by seeking points of agreement. Sometimes that involves little more than reminding them of the over-arching goals that brought them together.

“In our executive education classes we have found that teaching leaders how to find points of agreement with people who hold opposing views makes them more willing to engage with information from them.” the professors write in Harvard Business Review.

“They don’t have a great time doing it, but they become better informed and are often struck by sound logic and admirable values behind their counterparts’ positions.”

Leaders can also teach people to be open-minded. Intentionally consider information from an opposing perspective in meetings. Remind people they can learn from colleagues they disagree with and should be curious to find that learning.

None of that is easy. But it’s vital.


3.  Five Questions to Build Connection

How do you get technical specialists who are typically more comfortable “communicating” with computers to want to connect and collaborate with people instead?

Faced with that challenge, a team of academic researchers asked participants in a study to discuss five questions with a randomly chosen colleague. They could be discussed in either the work context or outside of work. The connections these discussions created suggest the questions might have value in all workplaces.

  • Given the choice of anyone [in the world/in the workplace], who would you want as a dinner guest and why?
  • What would constitute a [perfect day for you/ perfect day for you at work]?
  • Is there something that you’ve dreamed of [doing/doing at work] for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  • What do your [friendships/friendships at work] mean to you?
  • What is the greatest accomplishment of your life [outside of work/at work]?

“The next time you encounter a colleague at the office pantry or in an office gathering, avoid talking shop and instead, try connecting at a human-to-human level,” Spencer Harrison, a professor of organizational behaviour at Insead, writes on Insead Knowledge.


4.  Opening your Information Gate

Gated content is common in business-to-business marketing, requiring people to give their email address and other information to receive white papers or other documents of interest.

But when Aha Media Group opened up their content, they saw a gratifying rise in page views, social media followings, and email newsletter sign-ups. A four-year prospect also became a client.

Consultant Ann Handley says on her blog putting a gate around your content no longer signals high value. You should consider whether it prevents the creation of a trusting relationship or leads to a disconnect right at the first point of contact.


5. Zingers

  • Business as Bike:  Consultant Donald Cooper says business is like a bicycle. If you’re coasting, you are going downhill. You can’t coast uphill. For that, you need to do the work. (Source: DonaldCooper.com).
  • Covid Reset Time:  Executive coach Stephanie Peskett recommends a Covid audit and reset, reflecting how your habits and rituals have changed over the past two years, and deciding what you should let go and what you should hold on to now and in the future. (Source:  Smart Brief).
  • Visions Are Values:  Vison and values are often seen as being different. But consultant Jim Clemmer says visions are values projected outward into the future. Values are visions turned inward. It’s a yin-yang: Both reflect and create each other in a synergistic — often unconscious — interrelationship. (Source:  The Clemmer Group).
  • Diversity Reflects Morality:  New research shows greater diversity in a corporate team leads to perceptions of higher morality of the firm and its representatives. As a consequence, diversity results in more favourable consumer attitudes and behaviour towards the firm. (Source:  Oxford Academic).
  • Delay Gratification:  Most people optimize for the day ahead, observes Atomic Habits author James Clear. A few people optimize for one to two years ahead. Almost nobody optimizes for three to four years ahead, or longer. A person willing to delay gratification longer than most reduces competition and gains a decisive advantage.  (Source:  JamesClear.com).


6.  The Model: Matching Meaning to the Math

Publicis Groupe’s Rishad Tobaccowala makes an interesting case in his book Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data.

As data becomes a more powerful driver of strategy, he notes it can sideline all the intangible feelings, perceptions and beliefs that shape meaning around people, products, services and the organization itself.  Algorithms and big data may not tell the whole story.

He recommends extracting meaning from data by tapping into people. Here is his “Six I” model to accomplish that:

  • Interpret the Data:  Identify the story it’s telling from multiple perspectives. Don’t take the numbers only at face value.
  • Involve Diverse People:  How might marketing see the data compared to HR or people from a more diverse cultural background?
  • Interconnect to Larger Trends and Events:  What does the data mean compared to longer-term trends or a broader context in your sector?
  • Imagine and Inspire Solutions:  Often we let data frame our thinking, setting boundaries or limiting options instead of inspiring creative action.
  • Iterate:  Surprising, disturbing or promising data can spawn follow-up data gathering and testing to discover even more insightful facts and figures.
  • Investigate People’s Experiences:  Many employees or customers may have relevant insights when they relate the data to their own experiences.

Tobaccowala also suggests filtering data through a human lens:

  • Determine what data is worth receiving and eliminate the rest.
  • Flag bad data.
  • Stop using data as a crutch.
  • Measure judiciously.
  • Avoid focusing on the wrong things (ask meaningful questions that data should answer, rather than relying on data alone to generate questions).


7.  Around Our Water Cooler 


Setting Your Team Up for Success

Strategic Coach Dan Sullivan offers a variety of tools designed to help you clarify and then communicate intentions to your team, setting yourself up for success. His latest 4×4 matrix invites you to reflect on ways you can be a hero or get into trouble with your team.

  • Quadrant 1:  Performance  (For example, do you need to be alert to new possibilities? Resourceful? Curious to go deeper? Responsive when new opportunities emerge?)
  • Quadrant 2:  Results  (Does your success depend on constantly finding ways to do things faster and better, more easily and cheaper, or by multiplying your capabilities?)
  • Quadrant 3:  Being a Hero  (Define four areas of responsibility or most important areas of focus. Describe actions you want to see in each one.)
  • Quadrant 4:  Drives Others Crazy  (Share with team members four ways they can drive you crazy or get them into trouble with you. And vice versa.)

Here at 8020Info we haven’t applied the exercise in detail yet, but we’re tempted to start with quadrant 4!  😊.


What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick:   Corruptible, by University College London professor Brian Klaas, is one of those engrossing books, filled with stories, research studies, and eclectic insights, in which you at times lose track of the main topic while enjoying the ride. It looks at whether power corrupts, or attracts corrupt people, or we choose poor leaders, or… or… or… After exploring possibilities, he offers nine lessons, starting with actively recruiting incorruptible people and screening out corruptible ones.
  • Rob’s Pick:  The Imagination Machine: How to Spark New Ideas and Create Your Company’s Future, by Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller from the Boston Consulting Group’s think tank. This volume is a pleasant surprise for its practical focus and applicability (so many books on this topic are just high-level conceptual treatises). Amusing cartoons and graphics peppered throughout make it a readable experience. After each section, “Good Questions to Ask” help you reflect on their ideas and advice.


●  §  ●

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 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist