October 23, 2022




In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at the importance of friends at work, onboarding and accountability, using doubts productively, six skills your team needs and tips from marketing cookware. Enjoy!

1. The Importance of Friends at Work

Gallup has shown over the years that having a best friend at work is strongly linked to business outcomes, including improvements in profitability, safety, and employee retention.

The pandemic turned many workplace relationships topsy-turvy at a time when millions of people are suffering from loneliness — Gallup has found more than 300 million people globally don’t have a single friend. Now CEO Jon Clifton is calling on leaders to nurture friendships at work.

Specifically, he suggests:

  • Establish a buddy system: Everyone needs a buddy, especially when new to a company. The key is the frequency of the interactions. Microsoft found when new hires met with their buddy more than eight times in their first 90 days on the job, 97% said that their buddy helped them become productive quickly.
  • Increase face time: Those who started working remotely in 2020 experienced a sharp decrease in time spent engaging socially with work friends. “The best way to connect is to see each other — even if it’s on Zoom or FaceTime. But at a minimum, coworkers need to talk more and email less,” he writes in Harvard Business Review.
  • Jam constantly: Musicians love jamming with others. It’s playful. It’s creative. It builds friendships. Give your employees many chances to enjoy the satisfaction and pride of creating something great together while having fun.

He stresses you should not force it, mandating employees to join compulsory happy hours or do goofy things. But make it happen.

2. Understanding (and Improving) Accountability

Many leaders would like to improve accountability in their team. But before doing so, they need to examine their understanding of accountability.

Jim Haudan, CEO of Root, a change management consultancy, notes that we must distinguish between “holding someone accountable,” which has mainly negative and punitive connotations, and “creating accountability in others,” which is about being vested in the performance success of others.

He says the myth of accountability is that it is all about leaders following up, checking in, and demanding that people deliver what they said they would deliver when they said they would deliver it. And if they repeatedly fall short of delivering, they should be dismissed.

“The problem is, if you do this as a leader, you may find that performance gets worse,” he warns on the consultancy web site.

To help create accountability:

  • You must believe and trust that people will be accountable. Accountability starts with seeing people as individuals who want to be accountable.
  • You must believe accountability only exists in a context of what “we” agreed we are going to accomplish together. Think of it like swim buddies, with you there to make sure the team stays on course but also that no one drowns — to act as a life preserver.
  • You must believe mistakes are part of the path to success. Responsibility and accountability are built through supporting people, while understanding mistakes is a rich part of the path to success.

3. How to Become a Productive Doubter

Executive coach Dan Rockwell says you don’t want to be a pessimistic doubter. It’s a destructive way of operating, turning you into an ice-figure, unable to move.

But a productive doubter is a friend of doubt. “It’s better to open a door to doubt than to maintain the façade of confidence,” he writes on his blog.

Productive doubting combats complacency, drives investigation, challenges thinking and current assumptions, identifies weaknesses, and opens closed minds to new ideas and perspectives. It seeks answers. It inspires innovation. It leads to humility.

He asks you to set aside 15 minutes to list your doubts about the present and future:

  • Which doubts are holding you back?
  • Which doubts call for exploration?
  • Read your list of doubts aloud. Which doubts sound ridiculous when you hear them? Why?

Another useful exercise is to invite a friend to coffee and talk about pessimistic doubting and productive doubting. Name your doubts and ask, “Which of these doubts seem pessimistic and which seem productive?” Choose one doubt and find a way to approach it productively over the next week.

4. Tips from Marketing Cookware

Studying the Caraway cookware web site, marketing consultant Katelyn Bourgoin points to a section where it proclaims their pots are “without the bads” of various chemicals. That neatly frames comparisons for visitors to other sites: What bad chemicals might be in those other pots and pans?

Caraway also lets people know how many other people have bought the specific pan, using all-important social proof — they are not alone.

And no product has a perfect five rating.  “Studies show that brands with imperfect ratings actually sell more … they’re more believable,” she writes in her newsletter.

Lessons Learned:  Compare favourable differences with alternatives, use social proof, and don’t pretend you’re perfect.

5. Zingers

  • The Test of the Messy Middle: It’s always messy in the middle of change, testing a leader’s ability to sustain traction and personal resilience. “At a certain point (although you wouldn’t necessarily admit it to your team) even you may start to doubt if change is possible when you’re in the middle of leading lots of people to work together in new ways,” consultant Bud Caddell writes in the NOBL newsletter.  (Source: NOBL).
  • Which Lens for Employee Experience? Most organizations view employee experience through the lens of the business. But to truly understand what it takes to keep employees highly engaged and committed to a career with the organization, employers must view experiences from their employees’ perspectives, stresses consultant Claude Werder.  (Source: Training).
  • Balancing Innovation with Logistics: Over time, an innovative company thrives only if the logistics people can make sure things run effectively. But entrepreneur Seth Godin notes a good track record increases their power and influence when the next innovation is considered. That’s why upstarts who feel like they have nothing to lose are so much more likely to innovate — they don’t realize how hard it is going to be.  (Source: Seth’s Blog).
  • Starting Point for Succession Plans: Succession planning starts not with the characteristics of an individual but with strategy and execution, warn consultants David Reimer and Adam Bryant. Start with the what, not the who. (Source: strategy + business).
  • Jargon May Limit Recruiting: Job ads often use phrases that tell applicants they need to be “fit and energetic,” “digital natives” with a “background in social media,” “up-to-date with current industry jargon,” and ready to deal with a “dynamic” workforce. In testing such ads, researchers found older folks were less likely to apply. The average age of the applicants dropped by two to three years, and the number of older applicants (apparently over 40) fell by 7­–10 percentage points. (Source: MarketWatch).

6. The Model:  Six Skills Your Team Needs

In his new book, The 6 Types of Working Genius, author and consultant Patrick Lencioni presents a new way to look at the skills a team must have to be effective.

His model also offers a way of identifying how best you can contribute to the team as well as why, when you are forced to use skills you don’t particularly like or aren’t your forte, it can lead to discontent or even burnout.

The six skills are:

  • Wonder: This is the ability to ponder, speculate, and question the state of things. It can lead to a new way of seeing the situation and a possible pathway for improvement.
  • Invention: This is about coming up with new ideas and solutions through creativity and ingenuity.
  • Discernment: When new ideas are proposed, someone should have the intuition and judgment to assess it – even without a lot of data – and provide valuable feedback and advice.
  • Galvanizing: The new idea or initiative needs someone with the ability to rally and motivate people to take action.
  • Enablement: People with this ability are naturally inclined to help others accomplish their goals and their support role extends to often anticipating what folks will need before they even ask.
  • Tenacity: Someone must be dogged in bringing the idea – and team – across the finish line.

Lencioni’s testing on 250,000 people indicates we each tend to have two areas where we thrive, which he dubs geniuses; two frustrations, areas we struggle; and two in the middle, working competencies.

When people felt they had three geniuses, they would be asked what brings them energy and joy, and usually pulled back to two.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler


A Renewed Focus on Onboarding

In our consulting practice, we see different themes rise and wane as urgent priorities. For many senior management teams (and boards), the latest hot topic has been increasing effort and commitment to onboarding processes, whether for employees, volunteers, or new directors on the board.

As HBR has noted, onboarding used to be a process of just a few days, but new research shows that “spending as much as a year helping new employees get up to speed in the workplace is necessary to capitalize on the skills, knowledge, and excitement they bring to the organization”.

Other academic research has shown that the first three to six months (when new hires are particularly susceptible to turnover) are the most critical.

McKinsey describes the  new environment in What Matters Most? (Jan. 2022). They say the new normal means:  “Labour” becomes “talent”. Hierarchies become networks of teams. Competitors become ecosystem collaborators. And companies become more human: inspiring, collaborative, and bent on creating an employee experience that is meaningful and enjoyable.

How might you adapt?

  • Microsoft has shifted from a “know it all” to a “learn it all” ethos.
  • Google uses an electronic checklist to remind managers to discuss roles and responsibilities with new hires, set up check-in meetings and match new hires with a peer buddy.
  • Zappos offers new hires a five-week course that teaches culture and values.
  • Evidence suggests a new employee’s manager is one of the most important people in the onboarding experience. How are they supported?
  • There’s also emphasis on reskilling and upskilling that blends training, digital courses and job aids with non-traditional methods such as peer coaching, learning networks, and “nudging” techniques.

Accelerating change, increasing staff turnover, and impacts of the pandemic all seem to have made onboarding a critical capability for organizational success.


Some other Water Cooler tips on onboarding:

#364 –  Conversations to Pursue after Onboarding

#309 –  Five Questions For Onboarding New Employees

#307 –  Improving Your Onboarding

#286 –  Three Tips For Onboarding

#277 –  Onboarding: How To Do It Right

What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick: Ideaflow: The Only Business Metric That Matters by Stanford University design school professors Jeremy Utley and Perry Klebahn. When grappling with a challenge, they argue, the organization or team that will win is the one that generates the most ideas — and not eight or 10, but in the hundreds. Then they show how to generate that idea flow, individually and collectively.
  • Rob’s Pick: Knowledge, like radioactivity, breaks down and decays at a predictable rate. The half-life of uranium is 704 million years, but knowledge in social sciences, marketing and medicine loses its power at a much faster rate. Facts change all the time, and The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date by scientist Samuel Arbesman will cause you to reconsider the dated knowledge that underpins your decision-making. We need to invest more time in learning the latest.


●  §  ●

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 it or do not do it — you will regret both.”

Soren Kierkegaard, philosopher and poet