December 3, 2022




In this 8020Info Water Cooler we look at finding inspiration for the coming year, using a down-and-up “W” framework for planning, language to use when agreeing to disagree, conversations about personal or career development, 10 tips on the future, and our annual year-end shout-out to clients and community. Enjoy!


1. Choose Your Inspiration for 2023

In lieu of a New Year’s resolution, executive coach Diana Peterson-More recommends choosing a few inspirational quotations as your guiding light in 2023.

Last November, in her blog, she picked three for this year:

  • “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” from Mahatma Gandhi.
  • “The buck stops here,” from U.S. President Harry S. Truman.
  • “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” from Maya Angelou.

With each, she included to-dos. For being the change she wishes to see in the world she pledged to:

  • Redouble my efforts by engaging more with a social service non-profit.
  • Spend more time with my circle of family and friends when anyone is in need.
  • Listen to those with views different from my own to better understand their points of view..

Another alternative is picking one word to guide the year.

“Resolutions are pressure,” leadership coach Alli Polin noted on her blog. “One word for the year ahead? That feels more like a lighthouse in the dark.”

She notes that a single word – she chose “flow” – can set the tone for who you want and need to be regardless of what you want to do. In essence, it establishes a mindset to get you through the rough times. It won’t guide your every move but will be a reminder from time to time of how you want to live your life.

2. Using a “W” Framework to Plan

When organizational planning falls apart, it’s usually not the plans or the process that are at fault. It’s the roles — a basic lack of understanding of who is responsible for what and when.

That assessment comes from Lenny Rachitsky and Nels Gilbreth, who led strategic planning exercises at, respectively, Airbnb and Eventbrite.

Their solution is the “W Framework”, because the ideas and emerging plan go down and up, as in the letter W, between the top leadership group and the teams actually doing the work.

It’s iterative, as each one builds on the other’s latest contribution, in four steps:

  • Context: Leadership shares a high-level strategy with teams.
  • Planning: Teams respond with proposed plans.
  • Integration: Leadership integrates team plans into a single plan and shares it back with the teams.
  • Buy-in: Teams make final tweaks, confirm buy-in, and get rolling.

That first step is critical: Good planning requires top-down guidance. But it’s guidance and context, not nitty-gritty details. In fact, they encourage the leadership team to specify not just what they know but what they don’t know and wish they did.

“Planning isn’t a time to demonstrate that leadership has all the answers. It’s a time to share what they know and invite others to help fill in the gaps,” they write in First Round Review.

“Leadership needs everyone’s help to complete it. What matters most is that the strategic plan accurately reflects the leaders’ best thinking at this time.”

The back-and-forth improves on those ideas and develops an integrated plan.

3. Find Language to Make Disagreement Productive

To make disagreement productive rather than damaging, you need receptiveness to opposing views through open and respectful listening, notes Julia Minson, an associate professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. That means listening as intently to ideas from the opposing side as you would your own.

In a talk at the university’s business school reported by The Harvard Gazette, she observed that a recent study of executive disagreement found they responded negatively to “No” (negation) and reasoning language ( “the reason is …” or “because”).

But on the positive side, they noted the value of acknowledgment (which Minson described as “using some of your airtime to restate the other person’s opinion”), hedges (“it could be …”), second-person pronouns (you/your), and stressing points of agreement. That agreement, the researchers stressed, does not mean capitulation.

Minson draws that together into the acronym HEAR, for hedging, emphasizing agreement, acknowledging, and reframing in the positive. “Using this language has positive outcomes,” she said.

4. Three Conversational Tactics for PD Discussions

Learning and development consultant Julie Winkle Giulioni boils down personal growth and development conversations into three elements:

  • Draw it out of them: Development is best when personal and self-driven, so you must bring out the insights, wisdom and energy that exist within each individual.
  • Lift them up: Those who have a genuine connection to their leader and feel appreciated as human beings – not just as workers – will have the confidence to venture into something new and potentially risky.
  • Nail it down: Depending on the situation, you may have to help clarify interests, aspirations or actions; set out concrete learning experiences; or jointly determine next steps.

“But each and every time, employees will benefit from your efforts to crystalize understanding and inspire action,” she writes on her blog.

5. Zingers

  • Data-Driven Recruiting: Can you be more scientific in your recruiting? Talent management consultant John Sullivan recommends surveying the responsible manager after a new hire has been on the job three to six months. Determine whether they would, without hesitation, rehire that individual. Then study which recruiting and selection approaches are associated with recruiting your top performers … and weakest ones.  (Source: DrJohnSullivan.com).
  • As Soon or Possible? “As soon as possible” can be a trap if you focus on soon instead of possible, notes entrepreneur Seth Godin.  (Source: Seth’s Blog)
  • Determining Self-Fulfillment: Blogger Claudia Dawson picked out three self-fulfillment questions based on those offered by a billionaire, a PhD math professor, and a 99-year-old man:  What is it that I can think of, read, watch, listen and talk about for hours on end without tiring of it? What would this look like if it were fun? How do I want my life to be different in one year?  (Source: Recomendo).
  • Why Founders Fight Exit Strategies: Entrepreneurial optimism is one reason founders often fail to discuss exit strategies, according to investor Touraj Parang. They also worry that having an exit strategy would make it too tempting to rush to a quick sale when trouble occurs rather than work through the hardships and reach for the stars.  (Source: Harvard Business Review).
  • Preparing for 2023: The consultants at NOBL Academy recommend setting aside time before Dec. 31 to discuss what’s possible — what new possibilities do you want to create in 2023? Two questions to help: What if we tried something that we weren’t sure would succeed? What if for every “that’s the way we do things here” way of working, we tried something new for a week?  (Source: The Blast).

6. The List:  10 Tips on the Future

Jim Carroll, the Toronto-based consultant who makes his living as a futurist, says “the future is ultimately wildly unpredictable.”

His key rule is “volatility is the new normal!” and he shares on LinkedIn these other guiding factors about the future:

  • It’s faster than you think.
  • It’s bigger than you think.
  • It involves trends you aren’t yet aware of.
  • It’s going to challenge every single assumption you have.
  • It will happen, but sometimes only eventually, because timing any trend is a massive challenge.
  • In that context, it usually starts out slow, and is then suddenly instant.
  • Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, it will immediately change.
  • It often will involve surprises and twists and turns you hadn’t thought of.
  • It will go in a direction that will blow your mind.
  • It will eventually make the impossible, possible.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler 


What We’re Reading

  • Harvey’s Pick: Deliberate Calm by McKinsey and Company consultants Jacqueline Brassey, Aaron De Smet and Michiel Kruyt offers solid advice on how to be on the balcony and the dance floor simultaneously, watching yourself in action, dampening down fear and the protection instinct amidst change. More broadly, it offers guidance on being a better manager.
  • Rob’s Pick: In The 48 Laws of Power (recently updated), author Robert Greene distills three thousand years of the history of power into 48 essential laws.  Even though they all reflect an interest in total domination in some way, this thought-provoking book has value whether your aim is ambitious conquest, self-defense, or simply to better understand rules of the game.


Our 2022 Year-End Shout-Out

At 8020Info, it’s been another year full of meaningful opportunities to work with boards, senior management and leadership teams across many different sectors. We’d like to say thanks to all those special people we collaborate with and serve — our clients.

Best wishes of the season from our team to:

  • Alzheimer Society KFL&A
  • Anti-Violence Coalition Leeds-Grenville
  • Brockville & Area Community Living Association
  • Brockville District Hospital Foundation
  • The CCS-CLA Alliance (Carebridge Community Support and Community Living Association Lanark)
  • City of Kingston (various projects)
  • Community Living Quinte West
  • Community Living North Grenville
  • I-CREAte (Innovations for Community Resilience, Equity and Advocacy)
  • FLA-OHT (Ontario Health Team)
  • Kingston Community Health Centres
  • Kingston Military Family Resource Centre
  • Ongwanada (Developmental Services Centre)
  • Queen’s University HR Department
  • Secker Ross & Perry LLP
  • Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning
  • University Hospitals Kingston Foundation, KHSC and Providence Care
  • Union Park Kingston
  • Upper Canada Family Health Team

We also salute the good works of those worthy community organizations in our hometown where we contributed this year as supporters and volunteers:

  • Community Check-In Calls (Covid) with Mayor Bryan Paterson
  • Community Foundation for Kingston & Area
  • Hospice Kingston (residential hospice campaign)
  • Pathways to Education
  • Propel Impact (formerly the Kingston Social Value Fund)
  • Queen’s Family Health Team Advisory Board
  • Queen’s CPCSSN Data Access Selection Committee (healthcare research)
  • Queen’s Standing Research Committee (Family Medicine)
  • SPEAKingston (community smart growth group)
  • Tai Chi – Fung Loy Kok Institute of Taoism
  • The Art of Courage (Heather Haynes)
  • United Way Leadership Development Series (strategy workshops)
  • University Hospitals Kingston Foundation (campaign cabinet)

May the coming year bring you a fascinating quest, great teammates for the journey and surprising new things to learn in 2023.


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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

“What matters is the tool-box of ideas with which, by which, and through which we experience and interpret the world.”

— E.F. Schumacher, economist and author of Small is Beautiful