February 12, 2023




In this 8020Info Water Cooler, we look at how we may be distracting our team members, leaders with blind spots, website buttons that get results, gaps for women in the workplace, a model for design research, and tips to curtail procrastination. Enjoy!


1. Stop Distracting Your Team

It’s hard to get things done at work with all the distractions. But often the distraction for other people is us. Particularly if we are a manager, a hub of connectivity and co-ordination, with lots of important stuff to share.

Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable, asks:

  • Do you expect near-immediate responses to emails?
  • Do you ask for regular status updates? Or send “just wanted to make sure you saw my last email” emails?
  • Do you plan check-ins around your schedule, without considering others’ needs?

“If your answer to any of the above questions is yes, you’re likely distracting your employees rather than encouraging their productivity,” he writes in Harvard Business Review.

To change that, you might consider opening a dialogue about distraction at work, while keeping in mind that’s difficult to do because some employees may fear reprisals if they voice their thoughts honestly. You must build a culture where people feel safe discussing their workplace problems.

The next step is to sync your schedule with your team. Ask employees how they carry out their work so you can get an idea of the rhythm of their day and avoid interrupting periods they carve out for focused work.

Also consider having your team designate specific distraction-free periods each day with no messages, emails, meetings, or quick in-person check-ins — even by you.

Finally, avoid convening meetings without agendas. They are often a waste of time and a distraction from more important work.

2. Leaders Are More Susceptible to Blind Spots

While everyone has blind spots, the consultants at NOBL Academy suggest that leaders are more susceptible for these reasons:

  • Prior Success: Leaders have usually attained their positions because they have been right many times before. It becomes easy to repeat what worked in the past, even as times change.
  • High Stakes: “Leaders are paid to be right and to deliver results quickly. Most leaders feel they have little room for taking time to understand, and almost no space to say, ‘I don’t know.’ After all, if you’re wrong or lost, why should other people follow you?” they write on their consultancy website.
  • Commitment to their Vision: Leaders paint a vision for the future that usually is slightly rosier than the current reality. That makes it hard to judge feedback: Are people against what’s possible, what’s desirable, or being asked to change their ways?
  • Isolation: Leaders surround themselves with people who help them get things done, but that may distance them from dissenting opinions.

Be wary of blind spots and think through how they can occur. The consultants urge you to find ways to expose yourself to people you don’t usually talk to, particularly employees and clients. Regulate your emotions and avoid defensiveness — yours and that of other managers.

When we sense tension, the consultants suggest exploring it: “What’s causing the conflict? Have you considered all potential solutions, or are you falling back on what’s worked before?”

3. Design a Website Button Visitors Will Click

Many web site buttons are calls to action, urging visitors to click for something more. To get people to click, the buttons need special care.

Design consultant Andy Crestodina recommends these guidelines:

  • Align your call to action with the visitor’s intent: Your button must be more than attractive. It must make your offer crystal clear. In addition to attracting the right visitors to your page, you also have to anticipate and handle their objections in the associated text.
  • Be specific: Make sure the text on the button sets the visitor’s expectations about what they’re really doing. “More than other button design aspects —color, shape, size, placement— the text is the key factor for the visitor,” he writes on the Orbit Media “Contact us” is common text. “Schedule a call with a subject expert” is more specific.
  • First person (I/we point of view) is best: “Create my account” draws significantly more clicks than “create your account.”

4. Empowering Women in the Workplace

In their 2022 Global Workforce Hopes & Fears Survey, PwC looked at 12 factors of empowerment in the workplace. They found men and women had essentially similar answers on eight of these factors. But there were some big points of difference:

  • Being fairly compensated financially at work: Among women, there was a gap of 34 percentage points between the share of respondents who said this was important and the share who actually experienced it.
  • Choosing when, where, and how to do one’s work: There were gaps of 27 points, 22 points, and 22 points respectively on these choices.
  • Finding one’s job fulfilling: The gap was 20 points.
  • Having a manager consider one’s viewpoint when making decisions: Here the shortfall was 19 points.

“Companies don’t have to wonder what women want in the workplace,” a team of PwC consultants write in strategy + business. “There’s no mystery about how to improve. Instead, companies can simply give them what they say is important.”

5. Zingers

  • Four Retention Questions: Leadership consultant Joe Caruso says these four questions will reveal how to keep your talented people:  Why do you work? Why do you work here? What do you love most about your job? With whom do you look forward to working each week? (Source: SmartBrief).
  • The Price of Excellence: The price of rapid improvement is repeated failure, says entrepreneur Julie Zhuo. Doubt and discomfort are the price of entry on the pathway to excellence. (Source: The Looking Glass).
  • Creep, Creep, Creep: Entrepreneur Seth Godin warns against feature creep, not just in tech but in all aspects of your work. It is cheap to add another feature compared to the benefit it offers to new or existing users. But once a feature is added, it is almost never removed. And when enough features are added, the system breaks down and fails. You must be smart and proactive in timing when you should clear the slate and start over. (Source: Seth’s Blog).
  • Revive Mentoring: It’s time to increase mentoring for early-career leaders after the pandemic crushed it, argues leadership writer Jennifer V. Miller. Lack of time can be a challenge so double up, fitting times in your calendar when you are doing another task — for example, invite the protege to join a meeting they wouldn’t normally attend but may find interesting and introduce them to others in a way that highlights their skills. (Source: The People Equation)
  • Confrontation Guidelines: When someone needs to be confronted, good leaders do it, says sales executive Steve Keating. But they do it with empathy and compassion. Their goal isn’t to “win” a confrontation. It is for both sides to maintain their self-esteem, better understand the situation and build a stronger relationship. (Source: Lead Today).

6. The Model:  An AEIOU Framework for Research

Designers grappling with complex problems use this AEIOU framework to investigate, organize and document their research findings. You may find it a useful model for analysis too:

  • Activities are goal-directed sets of actions. What pathways do people follow — specific actions or processes for the things they want to accomplish?
  • Environments include the entire arena in which activities take place, the atmosphere and function of context, including individual or shared spaces.
  • Interactions between people, and with things, are the building blocks of activities — routines, special interactions between people and objects in their environment, and across distances.
  • Objects are the building blocks of the environment — key elements sometimes put to complex or even unintended uses, possibly changing their function, meaning, and context.
  • Users are the people whose behaviors, preferences, needs, values and biases are being observed. Who is present? What are their roles and relationships?

Authors Bella Martin and Bruce Hanington note these elements are interrelated, not independent, with critical interactions between each factor.

—  From Universal Methods of Design  


7.  Around Our Water Cooler 


Are we in “trudge mode” or just procrastinating?

It may be a pandemic effect, but we’ve been noticing that many managers and team leaders seem to be in “trudge” mode, getting to things when we can, with less urgency around arbitrary timelines and milestones. Are we easing up, or perhaps just procrastinating?

In a fun piece on LinkedIn, Gretchen Rubin says we don’t all procrastinate in the same way, so it can be helpful to determine your procrastination style.

  • Are you a procrasti-cleaner? Do you decide that you can’t start working until you finally get all your files re-organized or spend an hour clearing your desk?
  • Are you a procrasti-creator? If so, you work — but not on the most important project. “Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination,” she says. “You feel productive, but you’re procrastinating if you’re not making progress on your real priority.”
  • Are you a procrasti-waiter? If so, you delay work because you convince yourself you need more information, permission from someone else, a mentor, or something else to fall into place.

She also has five tips to help you avoid procrastinating:  set specific times for the task, schedule it when energy and focus are high, get sleep and exercise, ask for help when you need it, and step into it with a transitional task.

For more 8020Info Water Cooler blurbs on procrastination, see:

Procrastination Diagnostics

Tips for Managing Procrastinators

Recovering Your Momentum

What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick: Over the years, McGill University Professor Henry Mintzberg has been known for his groundbreaking ideas on strategic planning and the work managers perform. But he also has applied his keen analytical mind and puckish humour to specifically studying organizations in two books and now he condenses and crystalizes his thoughts in Understanding Organizations … Finally!  It’s dense but surprisingly easy reading and, as always with Mintzberg, illuminating.
  • Rob’s Pick: There is plenty of insight, clarity and practical sense in Julian Barling’s Brave New Workplace. The distinguished Queen’s University professor takes us through seven elements that drive exceptional workplaces: high-quality leadership, autonomy, belonging, fairness, growth, meaning and safety. He notes small changes in these areas can make a big difference to employees and organizations. We snapped it up on the release date (Jan. 31st).


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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

“The trouble is that most people want to be right. The very best people, however, want to know if they’re right.”

John Cleese, actor, comedian, and visiting professor at Cornell University.