January 3, 2023




In this 8020Info Water Cooler, our first of the new year, we look at making adjustments to leadership style, designing for delight and simplicity, fostering your creative groove, building confidence, working clean like a chef, and issues for your board to monitor in 2023. Enjoy!


1. Adjusting Your Leadership for 2023

Leadership approaches have changed over the decades and the pandemic added some new twists. As 2023 begins, the Centre for Creative Leadership recommends reflecting on the adjustments you should be making to your leadership style.

“Leading in today’s work context requires sensitivity, adaptability to change, and an openness to experimentation,” the Centre advises on its website.

Five areas of focus will help you meet that challenge:

  • Acknowledge what has changed.
  • Foster empathy, equity and inclusion.
  • Cultivate the mindsets of learning agility and resilience.
  • Focus on spanning boundaries — within your team and across the organization. Boundaries split groups into us vs. them, which fractures relationships and hinders innovation. You need to increase collaboration by overcoming boundaries.
  • Pay close attention to direction, alignment and commitment.

“The group needs agreement about its direction and what they are trying to accomplish together; they must have alignment for effective co-ordination of the work in service of their shared direction; and members with commitment prioritize the success of the collective,” it explains in another article.

The Centre also calls on you to support employee development. Discuss goals with each individual, areas to focus on, and how to get the most out of each development opportunity. And make sure to follow up after a development experience, discussing what they learned, how they’ll apply it, and what you can do to continue supporting them.

Kick off 2023 with some of these tweaks to your leadership approach.

2. Choose Courage over Confidence

Have you ever shied away from taking on a role or opportunity because you didn’t feel confident enough?

Leadership coach Christie Hunter Arscott found it common among 120 women in eight countries that she interviewed. More than 70% reported that self-doubt, or not having enough belief in themselves, their capabilities, or their skills, was a driving factor.

One high-profile executive, troubled by what is known as the Imposter Syndrome, told her: “Every day I doubt myself. I doubt that I am good enough to be where I am.”

But Arscott also discovered another commonality: These women’s self-doubts weren’t sabotaging their success.

“The vast majority of successful women leaders I’ve interviewed and coached have built vibrant and fulfilling careers even while facing self-doubt,” she writes in Harvard Business Review. They have courage, even if they lack the confidence normally expected of leaders.

“My work has found that successful women take decisive action to move forward even while grappling with fears and doubts and questioning their own ‘readiness’.”

Self-doubts are not limited to women, of course. Interestingly, confidence can be a byproduct of courage. The executives told her that they gained confidence with each challenge accepted and conquered.

She urges you not to underestimate the impact of small, yet significant, acts of courage. They can unlock a courageous mindset.

3. The Keys to Designing Delight

The design of your web site, marketing brochure, or product should delight the user. In a blog post, a senior user experience specialist with Nielsen Norman Group, Therese Fessenden, outlines three aspects of delight:

  • Visceral Delight: Designs could have characteristics that spark positive feelings instinctively, based on how we’ve evolved over time. For example, studies show people tend to respond positively to images with natural elements such as mountains, trees, and water compared to urban landscapes.
  • Behavioural Delight: If a task is particularly easy to accomplish compared to the user’s expectations, the user may be likely to recommend the product to a friend and become a return user.
  • Reflective Delight: This occurs when the design appeals to a person’s sense of self — their personal values and their aspirations..

Fessenden says delight is a three-legged stool: You need all three aspects to succeed.

4. Seven Issues for your 2023 Board Agenda

Governance consultant Mark Pfister reminds us that luck favours the prepared.  If you’re on a board or reporting to one, he says, you have seven prime areas for focus this year:

  • Recession planning: None of us has a crystal ball to tell us whether a downturn will occur but it’s best to prepare.
  • Workforce attraction and retention: The battle for expertise continues.
  • Supply chain solutions: The issue has eased but has not disappeared.
  • Inflation scenarios: Each organization is affected differently but inflation hits all and continues.
  • Automation opportunities and studies: In a world of artificial intelligence, further automation opportunities must be monitored.
  • Prepared for Activism: What “protestable” risks should your organization be assessing?
  • Sustainability disclosures: “In today’s age of increasing transparency, organizations are expected to demonstrate broader purpose while simultaneously ensuring long-term value,” he writes on his blog.

5. Zingers

  • Pitch the Local Angle: When fundraising for far-away charitable purposes, find a local connection. A study found that potential donors who perceived recipients to be nearby tended to believe their donations would exert more influence. “Purely framing something as far or near makes a difference,” Kellogg School of Management Marketing Professor Rima Touré-Tillery says. (Source: KelloggInsight).
  • Share the Airtime: PayPal Executive Vice-President Kausik Rajgopal recommends making sure everyone speaks at least once during meetings before others get a second chance, an idea he got from the Supreme Court. (Source: Charter).
  • Focus on Baby Steps: In building better habits for 2023, go for small, incremental and repetitive improvements. Don’t promise yourself you’re going to read more; instead, commit to reading one page per day. Best-selling author Ryan Holiday also suggests building your patience to cope with timelines that take longer than expected. (Source: RyanHolilday.net).
  • Spice It Up: If your PowerPoint title slides are humdrum descriptors like “Agenda” or “Survey Results”, ask yourself what the slide is really about and instead say that loud and clear, advises presentations coach Gary Genard (Source: The Genard Method).
  • Be Open to Help: Nobody accomplishes anything significant alone. And  Atomic Habits author James Clear stresses that nobody accomplishes anything significant by accident either, expecting magic to just happen. “You have to act as if you are a force of nature and try to bend the universe in your desired direction — while remaining pleasant and open to help along the way.” (Source: JamesClear.com).

6. The Model:  Ways to Foster More Creative Ideas

Coming up with innovative ideas will drive success in 2023, but most of us take little time to foster the process. Todd Henry shared some classic tips in Find Your Creative Groove (HBR) —  a model to help you find your own creative rhythm:

  • Focus: Our minds must be trained to cut through the distractions of daily work and get to the heart of the matter. Can you name the three most vexing creative problems you’re working on right now?
  • Relationships: Instead of relying on default networks of convenience and obligation, be strategic about connecting with people who will stimulate your thinking and help you see things from challenging new perspectives.
  • Energy: Even brilliantly creative individuals are useless when drained by other tasks. Build your capacity to tackle the most critical problems. Prune lesser activities from your life to free up energy for new, important ideas.
  • Stimuli: “You are what you eat.” The same rule applies to our minds. Reduce your diet of e-mails and reports — read more stimulating articles and books to forge new neural connections and spark creative insights.
  • Hours: Time is the currency of productivity. Building creative time into your schedule allows you to grow capacity, generate ideas and think strategically about problems instead of simply reacting to daily work life.

This F-R-E-S-H formulation may help nurture your most important activity this year — creative thought.


7.  Around Our Water Cooler


Six Practices for Working Clean

Forte Labs treated us to some wonderful holiday reading with a post that finds lessons for knowledge workers in the kitchen practices of top chefs. (The tips build on ideas from the book Everything in Its Place by Dan Charnas.)

Like chefs, we often have to “contend with a deluge of tasks, under uncertain conditions, with tight deadlines, using tools and resources that weren’t always built for the task.” Here are six practices to help you cope:

  • Sequence: We can never do more than one thing at a time. What comes first, what comes next, and what comes after that? Tasks that come early in a sequence have more time for their effects to propagate. A minute spent now could save you hours tomorrow.
  • Placeholders: Chefs externalize reminders into their environments – for example, placing a pan for preheating or setting a bunch of parsley on the cutting board. These are “first moves” in a sequence. Similarly, we can use a task manager, notes app and calendar (a “second brain”) to create workspaces that “remember” everything that needs to be done.
  • Immersive vs. Process Time: Immersive tasks require your full focus and involvement. Other “process” tasks can be completed without the chef’s direct attention. Once started, the rice cooks on its own, but getting it started at the right time is critical.
  • Finishing Mindset: In cooking, a dish that is 99% finished still has zero value. Finishing unlocks the value. At all costs, avoid leaving unfinished work lingering as a mental distraction or hard-to-resume “orphan task”.
  • Small, Precise Movements: Because each move the chef makes is small, it doesn’t take much time. Because it’s precise, it has exactly the intended effect, without wasting time or effort. The lesson for knowledge work is to break down and compress our repeated, daily habitual actions.
  • Arrangement: A chef arranges a workspace to reflect the movement of food. Everything is kept in its place. Likewise we can arrange our virtual workspaces to provide order, predictability and smooth workflow.

Chefs are keenly aware of the limits of time and space. They work at the razor’s edge, balanced precariously between speed and quality. To succeed, they need to be focused and at the same time also be aware of the big picture. And so do we.



What We’re Reading:
  • Harvey’s Pick: It’s only the start of the year but it’s possible the best book of 2023 will be Attention Span by University of California Informatics Professor Gloria Mark. It brings together her wide-ranging research studies (and that of others) into our work habits; the battle against distraction; the impact of shorter jump cuts in the television, films, and videos we watch; and what we can do. (As with many picks, I am working from a review copy in advance of publication; this book will be released next week and I will look at it in depth then for The Globe and Mail)
  • Rob’s Pick: The Laws of Simplicity, by world-renowned tech designer John Maeda, is a great playbook for avoiding unnecessary complexity. It embraces the “less but better” school of design and there’s lots to consider — from the first law (“reduce”) through how time savings, knowledge, emotions and organization can make things simpler, to the final tenth law — that simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.


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8.  Closing Thought

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’”

Alfred Lord Tennyson