May 29, 2022


The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at engaging different types of stakeholders, seven distractions to avoid, how to simplify your case to make it more persuasive, what we’re reading, and tips to ensure you’re solving the right problem. Enjoy!


1.  The Engagement Onion

Engagement with outside stakeholders can be tricky. To make it simpler, Donna Kennedy-Glans, Alberta’s former associate minister of electricity and renewable energy, suggests you treat it like peeling an onion with four layers:

  • the cynical-minded,
  • the skeptical-minded,
  • the open-minded, and
  • the like-minded.

At the outer edge of the onion are the cynical-minded. Their world views probably contradict those in your organization.

It may seem daunting to reach out to them, but she notes in Teaching the Dinosaur to Dance “there are times when ignoring antagonistic points of view is neither possible nor recommended.” They might be organizing against you or a critical situation may have plunged you into the spotlight. The clash will likely be a polarity until a new truth emerges.

In the next layer are the skeptical-minded. They are fair-minded but wary of your proposal or situation, and you will feel uncomfortable reaching out as your idea may be rejected.

Start by building trust. If this engagement across differing views works, it may spawn creative ideas and strategies.

A layer closer and you come to the open-minded. They will assess the idea critically – for example, when you ask a technical expert for an assessment – and you can’t control the outcome, but it is likely to lead to consensus and be resilient.

Finally, just before the onion’s inner core of your  internal team, are the like-minded. They will be positively predisposed to your ideas and, if influential, can be a big help. But if you engage only with them when reaching out, the resulting echo chamber can be distorting and damaging.

Think carefully about where outsiders fit in your engagement onion.


2.  Seven Stupid Distractions to Eliminate

Distractions can seem innocent, enticing, or even helpful. But having too many distractions means far too little gets accomplished.

In a recent blog post, leadership consultant Carey Nieuwhof listed “seven stupid things that interrupt your day that simply don’t need to.” They are:

  • Push notifications:  Apps typically begin their relationship with you by asking, “Allow Push Notifications?” Your automatic answer, he advises, should be No. “Being busy isn’t a sign of respect anymore,” he adds. “It’s a sign you’re not managing your time or priorities well.”
  • Your idle curiosity:  The world is at your fingertips, beckoning. Resist. “Curiosity is a great thing, but idle curiosity that produces nothing… not so much,” he says.
  • An open schedule:  Don’t schedule only appointments and meetings with others. Write in meetings with yourself, from thinking time to project time to date night.
  • Too many meetings:  These can be time wasters. “Meetings expand to fill the time you’ve set aside for them. So just set aside less time,” he advises.
  • Inefficient use of email:  Limit the messages you receive and the times you check. Try a 15-minute window in the morning to check that nothing’s on fire and then pound through what accumulates later in the day.
  • Text messages:  You’ll survive without these, even if they’re from your closest friends and family. In an emergency, they’ll get to you in another way.
  • Conversations without a purpose:  Be wary of getting trapped in these encounters.  Keep them to two minutes and pleasantly move on.


3.  The Simpler Way to Be More Persuasive

When trying to persuade others, it’s common to pitch every possible reason why they should be supportive. In fact, that approach is counter-productive. Including weaker arguments tends to obscure your strongest arguments.

It’s known as the dilution effect, and Niro Sivanathan says it’s therefore critical to stick to a few of your strongest arguments, Smith Business Insight reports.

(Sivanathan earned a Master of Science in Management from the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and now teaches at the London Business School.)

“All of your arguments may sound good to you, and you may be proud of them, but you have to step back, maybe run them by a colleague and really think about which are your strongest. Put those on the table,” he says.

“Leave the others to offline conversations. They can be part of your appendices, but they should never be the central element of your discourse.”

You may resist a more focused approach, feeling you need to lace in extra points to appeal to different types of people listening. But he counters strong arguments will be strong to most people, while weaker ones just dilute your impact.


4.  Marketing in the Post-Pandemic Era

The pandemic has changed business-to-business buying behaviour, with one-third of buyers spending more time on pre-purchase research while one quarter of them are also spending less time talking with vendors.

“Sales and marketing teams need to think more strategically about the content they’re sending B2B buyers about products and services because buyers are relying more heavily on written information in their decision-making,” content marketing consultant Kelsey Raymond advises in Harvard Business Review.

And if you have separate sales and marketing teams, she says you must make sure they are aligned in their messaging efforts. One idea is to have cross-departmental shadowing, such as having a marketing staffer shadow sales calls.


5.  Zingers

  • Manager or Leader?  A difference between managers and leaders, from emotional intelligence coach Dharius Daniels:  Managers have to make people follow, but leaders make people want to follow. (Source: Forbes).
  • No to Non-Stop Meetings:  Make back-to-back meetings a sin against humanity, urges leadership coach Dan Rockwell. Shorten 60-minute meetings to 50 minutes, leaving time in between to breath, reflect and take a bio break. (Source: LeadershipFreak).
  • Brand Tattoos:  The top 10 brands people have tattooed on themselves are: Disney, Nintendo, Harley-Davidson, LEGO, Nike, Vans, Dior, PlayStation, Volkswagen, and Armani. (Source: MarketingProfs.com).
  • Coaching Balance:  Your coaching conversations should include both coaching for corrective action and also coaching for positive reinforcement, says consultant Steve Keating. (Source: SteveKeating.me).
  • Questions for CEOs:  Here are three questions that entrepreneur Diana Kander suggests can help CEOs and other leaders cultivate deliberate curiosity and speed up your growth:  What are your blind spots? How will you know what’s not working? How do you create accountability for yourself? (Source: DianaKander.com).


6.  The List: Solving the Right Problem

Sometimes we need to stop and make sure we’re not solving the wrong problem.

As Farnam Street Learning Community founder Shane Parrish has explained, writing a problem statement is a simple, versatile way to elevate your decision-making process so you know exactly what problem you’re trying to solve. Here are some questions he suggests that may help clarify your focus.

Define your problem-solving aims (or what is wrong):

  • What is the current state?
  • How can you measure why it’s wrong or bad?
  • What evidence do you have that it’s a problem? What are the negative effects?
  • What is the desired state? How will you know when you get there?
  • What is the history of this problem? Has it happened before?
  • What solutions have you previously attempted?
  • How is the problem developing over time?
  • How would you explain the problem to someone with no knowledge of the subject or situation?

Identify the root cause:

  • What would it take for this never to be a problem again?
  • What evidence do you have, or can you collect, to connect cause and effect?
  • If you keep repeatedly asking “why” of the cause (and then of the answer), what explanation do you reach eventually?
  • How can you break the problem down into parts. What are the connections and interactions among them?
  • What process could be added or improved [or eliminated] to solve this problem?

Parrish points out that problems can have multiple root causes. And a problem never exists in isolation — the more context you can understand, the greater will be your chances of solving the right problem.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler 


Whose To-Do List Is It Anyway?

We’ve all seen so much advice on Getting Things Done and First Things First and managing to-do lists. Nevertheless, the simplicity of this tweet by writer Jenée Desmond-Harris has appeal.

“I  started dividing my to-do list into 1) things I have to do, 2) things I want to do, and 3) things other people want me to do. Life changing! I often don’t get to 3 and I finally realized: OMG, is this what it means to have boundaries?!”

  • Our thanks to Cool Tool’s Claudia Dawson for noting this item in their Recomendo newsletter. Other content in this issue was also suggested by readers, clients and friends — thanks to Scott MacKinnon for putting us on to 2) Seven Stupid Distractions to Eliminate, and to Karen Humphreys Blake, a former 8020Info associate now teaching at Queen’s University, who flagged 3). The Simpler Way to Be More Persuasive.


What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick:  Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy Bad Strategy was a must-read and so is his just published book The Crux. The mountain climber and UCLA professor emeritus takes his title from a critical moment in climbing but applies the concept to strategy — getting past the gnarly challenges, often a tangle of issues, that block your way forward. It requires audacity, since alternative actions are not clear and must be imagined or constructed. The book offers lots of advice on finding and moving past a crux.
  • Rob’s Pick:  In The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward, Daniel H. Pink explains how the idea of having “no regrets” is a false hope. Here he dissects studies involving more than 15,000 people in 105 countries to identify four core types of regret that influence how we live. One type involves regret for a lack of boldness in becoming all you could be (“if only”, “at least”). Moral regrets are another category, and there’s the pain of disconnect and loss of meaningful relationships. Foundational regrets begin early with a choice of path that then unfolds over time with inexorable logic.  Pink aims to teach us how understanding regret is a step towards living a richer, more engaged life.


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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 

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.”

Publilius Syrus, Ancient Writer