Vol.13 No.5 April-15-2013

The 8020Info Water Cooler


Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs


1. Six Social Media Skills Leaders Need

Capitalizing on the transformational power of social media will require leaders who have six skills and capabilities. Looking at the advances of General Electric (GE) in social media, Roland Deiser, a senior fellow at the Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management, and Sylvain Newton of GE Crotonville Leadership set out these dimensions for success in The McKinsey Quarterly:

*   The Leader As Producer: While video communication rises in importance, effective leadership will increasingly require creative skills previously associated with ‘auteur’ filmmaking, including an authentic voice, imagination, and the ability to craft compelling stories.

*   The Leader As Distributor: Leaders have traditionally disseminated information along a controlled linear chain but now everyone can have unscripted conversations, using social media to rebroadcast and repurpose messages. Leaders will need to nurture a group of social followers who can help spread their message.

*   The Leader As Recipient: Leaders will have to manage communication overflow, knowing what requires their energy for replying and sharing — and what doesn’t.

*   The Leader As Advisor And Orchestrator: The leader must play a proactive role in raising the media literacy of their immediate reports and stakeholders since social-media enthusiasm, without guidance and co-ordination, can backfire and cause severe damage.

*   The Leader As Architect: The leader must combine formal hierarchy and informal networks in a way that is not mutually destructive and helps move the social media initiative along.

*   The Leader As Analyst: The leader must be scanning technological change, staying alert to the latest possibilities.

2. Some Traits Of Overachievers

Careers blogger Penelope Trunk believes achievers have certain traits that may be uncommon or counterintuitive but lead to success. The list she offers on her blog includes these traits you may want to check for in yourself:

*   They use lists: High achievers organize their thinking and time with lists. Ironically, when they want to spur their creativity, they know the best approach is to force themselves out of the comfort of using their lists.

*   They let doors shut all the time: They are skeptical about their mother’s advice that they could be anything they want to be. “They pick a specialty, they give stuff up to get stuff, they know adult life is about making tough choices,” she writes. When a door closes, they don’t panic.

*   They talk about their weaknesses: In the same vein, they recognize that every strength comes with weaknesses and they’re not good at everything.  They know they aren’t being hired for their weaknesses and are comfortable talking about such vulnerabilities so people around them can see them clearly.

*   They get tons of coaching: Acting on the principle that high-potential employees get to full potential only with coaching, high achievers seek out mentors and coaches, getting their employers to pay or paying for it themselves when necessary.

*   They don’t talk about being well-rounded: Top performers focused from childhood on something to get great at. They find a specialty, and excel at it.

3. Parkinson’s Other, Not-So-Trivial Law

Parkinson’s Law is familiar to most of us: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. But he also had another law, known as Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, which was that organizations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.

In citing that law, leadership development specialist Dan McCarthy cites the marketing team that spends five minutes on the review of a new marketing brand strategy and 60 minutes on what to call the strategy.

In his Great Leadership Blog, he urges you to:

*   Be aware of this tendency and make sure the rest of your team or committee is aware of it.

*   Set time limits for your meeting agenda items.

*   Assign trivial issues to individuals or small sub-teams, and give them authority to implement without re-involving everyone.

*   Cry out when you think a discussion has fallen prey to this law.

4. Take The Innovator’s Pledge

Borrowing from history, innovation expert Scott Anthony offers a Declaration of Innovation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all have the ability to innovate.” And on Harvard Business Review Blogs, he then urges you to pledge allegiance by promising to do your best to:

*   Triple the time spent with customers

*   Routinely ask “Why?” and “Why not?”

*   Strive to run an experiment a day

*   Always look for ways to learn more without spending money

*   Read a magazine in a field where you are a novice

*   Call up the most iconoclastic person you know and ask them to introduce you to the most iconoclastic person they know

*   Teach a friend three key lessons you learned today

5. Zingers

*   Ask for more than yes or no: Instead of asking customers those typical questions we answer in just a word or two (e.g. “how was everything?”), author Paul Timm suggests improving your client service by using five open-ended questions: What else can I do for you? What else can I get for you? What else can I help you with? What else could we do better to serve you? How else can we be of help? (Source: Eric Jacobson on Management And Leadership)

*   Avoid a meeting domino effect:  Add a buffer of at least 15-20 minutes for transition between your appointments and meetings, since it usually takes more time than you expect, advises productivity blogger Timo Kiander. (Source: Lifehack.org)

*   Shift focus to the buyer’s journey:  Your organization probably follows a sales cycle, based on how long it takes from first contact to landing a new client and perhaps particular times of the year when you expect activity to intensify. But consultant Nancy Martini says it’s vital to balance that internally driven perspective by thinking carefully about “the buyer’s journey”, and how their buying cycle will determine whether they bite or not. (Source: Sales20conf.com)

*   Nobody cares about cluttered slides:  Tech blogger Nathan Zeldes once created a slide in a presentation jammed with “auto shapes” — boxes, arrows, flowchart symbols and the like — that deliberately made no sense at all because it didn’t mean anything. But nobody seemed to notice when it was in a long presentation. His message is that if you create too much clutter in a slide, with complex diagrams, it will be ignored. (Source: NathanZeldes.com)

*   The Achilles’ heel of success:  There’s an old saying that “you can’t argue with success.” But entrepreneur Seth Godin says you can and must: “The art of staying successful is being open to having an argument. Great organizations fail precisely because they refuse to do this.” (Source: Seth’s Blog)

6. Q&A with 8020Info:  Receiving The Gift Of Feedback

Question: When I receive critical feedback from my boss or colleagues, my first instinct is to reject it. I freeze and often don’t fully listen to it, later finding it difficult to act on what was said. How can I improve?

8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter replies:

That’s a common reaction. What’s interesting, however, is that often we will accept criticism easily when it is given in a different context. If you sign up as a beginner for a Spanish, cooking, or dance class, you would probably react to feedback differently. After all, you know you’re a neophyte, are seeking to improve, and while too many criticisms might be crushing, the occasional, clearly well-meant criticism from an instructor you respect would probably be embraced.

So in that comparison sit some lessons. At work, you don’t feel like a beginner. Your ego is at stake when feedback comes — or certainly on high alert. Or you may not respect your colleagues or boss (perhaps correctly, but perhaps because of that constant overbearing companion, your ego).

Studies by Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck have distinguished between people with a growth mindset, who believe they can add to their knowledge and abilities, and those with a fixed mindset, who believe that basic abilities, intelligence, and talents are fixed traits. It’s the former group, with the growth mindset, who are more successful (and less stressed) in life.

If you have a growth mindset, it’s possible that you can improve by yourself. But it’s more than likely you will need help from others. So adopting a beginner’s mindset, and welcoming feedback –being greedy for it– would be an advantage.

When someone goes into feedback mode, you have to go into beginner-learner mode. Remind yourself that feedback is a gift, not a dagger at the heart. Re-label it in your mind, if you can: “This is a gift. This is a gift. This is a gift.”

If you respect the individual giving the feedback, remind yourself of their value as a coach. If you don’t respect the individual, it will be trickier, but remind yourself that even this individual occasionally has sound insights.

It’s not easy to do, of course. The emotions and ego get tangled up in this. But reminding yourself that you want to welcome the gift of feedback will be a start.

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  Benefit-focused Service

Our lead zinger in this edition references one way to ask questions that help constantly improve customer service. Here’s an example of high-impact service through another lens:

A couple weeks ago we were working with a national client based in Toronto and they put us up overnight in the Park Hyatt Hotel. To ensure we didn’t sleep in or arrive late to facilitate the planning session, the hotel was asked to give the room a wake-up call at 6:00am.

Next morning, inadvertently and unnoticed, the phone had been nudged out of the cradle — the wake-up call couldn’t be completed.  Many hotels would shrug at the busy signal. At the Park Hyatt, mere minutes later, a service supervisor respectfully and quietly tapped at the door to ensure we were up (which, in this case, we were).

It was impressive to see not only the extra service effort but also the Park Hyatt’s focus on their customer’s real need — ensuring we made our meetings on time. Their service was not considered complete with just the function of placing a wake-up call: they followed through to deliver on the promised benefit.

8020Info helps teams develop and implement their strategic plans, stakeholder research/engagement and marketing communications more effectively. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries at (613) 542-8020, or by email at watercooler@8020info.com

8. Closing Thought

“Nobody rises to low expectations.”  — Calvin Lloyd

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