The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders and entrepreneurs

1. Make a “To Become” List

A to-do list helps us through our daily challenges. But for the broader demands ahead in the New Year, you may want to consider a “to become” List.

The idea is advanced on Smart Blogs by executive coach Mary Jo Asmus, who believes your ability to respond to change and sustain your leadership over time requires you to persistently “become” a better leader through improving the behaviours that allow you to lead at your best. Some examples she provides:

  • Become a better listener: This powerful skill can be the foundation for influencing others, delegating effectively, increasing empathy, and leading change.
  • Become more inclusive: When you include more colleagues and stakeholders in the work you do – through participation or simply by soliciting opinions – you’ll find their input makes your job easier. 
  • Become curious: If you have been successful, you may well have become stuck in your ways. Further success, when the external environment is changing, requires you to become curious and receptive to new ideas. 
  • Become more approachable: Relationships are vital to getting things done. “If you’re not making an effort to create the relationships necessary to influence others in order to achieve organizational goals, you’re not leading,” she says. Figure out who you need to connect with — or connect better with. 
  • Become more caring: Effective leaders care about others, seeing them not as a means to an end but as human beings who want to be valued.

2. Becoming A Better Servant Leader in 2014

Mark Miller, vice-president for organizational effectiveness at Chick-fil-A, believes that the best leaders serve others. On his ­blog, he sets out some New Year’s Resolutions for becoming a better servant leader:

  • Think of others first: Servant leadership starts with this mindset. “If I slip into the quicksand of self, I will not lead for long. People want to follow a leader who has their best interest at heart. Servant leaders don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less often,” he notes.
  • Be more courageous – daily: Without courage, daily, it is impossible to lead.
  • Own mistakes and share praise: The best leaders don’t blame others, and they are quick to give praise. “This single resolution, if honoured, will help me and you earn the respect of those we lead,” he stresses. 
  • Fight pessimism in your life: Pessimism is cancer for a leader. Napoleon said that “a leader is a dealer in hope.” You must be able to see the preferred future and believe you can help to create it.
  • Learn something every day: Leaders are learners. Stop learning and your leadership journey is over.
  • Walk the talk: The people you lead expect that you will try, every day, to align your words and actions.
  • Value people and results: The best leaders value relationships and results. Since most of us have a natural bias towards one or the other, you must counterbalance and ensure you value both.

3. Recruiting Trends To Prepare For

Recruiting expert Dr. John Sullivan says the competition for top talent will intensify in many sectors in 2014, after years of slack hiring. “Aggressiveness, the need for counteroffers, higher rejection rates, and a renewed focus on recruiting the currently employed will all return to prominence,” he writes on the ERE.Net blog.

In that atmosphere, pay attention to employee referrals, which can produce high performers, high retention, and if managed correctly, can be faster and cheaper than alternative recruiting ventures. Branding a firm for its recruiting efforts will come back into favour and, he argues, is the only long-term recruiting strategy.

This is required not just because of competitive pressures but also because social media now allow former employees to comment online about your organization, positively or negatively.

Boomerangs remain important: Former talent who return to your organization can provide high quality help. And if you wish to be innovative, you will need to redesign your recruiting system to find creative people.

4. Beware: The Best Time For Annual Change May Have Passed

If you’re looking ahead to January to begin making changes in your work and personal life, you may be too late, argues provocative careers blogger Penelope Trunk. Statistics suggest New Year’s resolutions are the path to failure, she notes on her blog 

The best time to try for significant change, she contends, is in December. That’s because the year is running out, and you act with determination. In January, with 12 months to go, she feels we become delusional about how much we can get done. So keep that in mind, as you grapple with how to improve your situation in the coming year.

5. Zingers

  •  Values drive resolve:  Link any New Year’s resolution to your values, advises blogger Brendan Baker. Your core values dictate what is important in your life, and will give  you the motivation and energy to succeed. So dig behind your resolution to understand the core value it connects to.
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  •  Seek balance in the moment:  Avoid rumination in the coming year, endlessly looping back to what might have happened — instead, be in the moment. Also, embrace opposing forces:  Get comfortable with opposing pressures and instead of picking between polarities, accept the truth of both.
  • What else?  Here are five questions to ask your customers, drawn from 50 Powerful Questions You Can Use To Keep Your Customers by Paul Timm: 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?
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  • Keep raising the bar:  In the recent book The Everything Store, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos shared his approach to hiring: “Every time we hire someone, he or she should raise the bar for the next hire, so that the overall talent pool is always improving.” Most companies, as they grow, compromise their standards for hiring, he observed. Amazon always tries to have people working with even better people.
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  • Don’t disconnect your brand:  Marketing consultant Drew McLellan recently heard a British accent on an announcement in the Des Moines airport. It reminded him that it’s important not to let out-of-place brand statements create a disconnect for your clients. Whether it’s your web site, your radio ads, the answering of your phone, or any element of your marketing materials, make sure it sounds the way it should for your brand.
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6. Q&A with 8020Info: Lessons Learned in 2013


Can you share a key lesson you’ve learned this year that would help those striving to make a difference?


Rethinking “audiences”: 

How we define audiences, and structure communications around them, has changed fundamentally. In the old days, clients typically identified their primary audiences by proxy — by demographic description, geographic location or media habits. But today these proxies aren’t focused enough for our content, which must command attention as it races freely through and across multiple channels and in diverse formats. The relevance of your messaging has become paramount, which means you have to define audiences by their driving purpose.

In 2014, we’ll need to understand the “personas” of purpose-driven audiences and design marketing communications to serve their distinct sets of goals, behaviour patterns, interactions, mental models, values and experiences. How do they make their decisions? What is their typical path, scenario or journey to an interaction with you? When and how do they experience critical “moments of truth”? What are the values and networks and “ecosystems” that affect their behaviours and decisions?

— Rob Wood, President & CEO, 8020Info


Assessing Performance:

Discerning between various levels of employee performance is often challenging. It’s especially difficult when quantitative measures are not easy to apply. Try this:

  • Think carefully about ideal outcomes of the employee’s work, from both the customer and organizational perspective.
  • Based on your own experience, as well as documented customer expectations, develop concrete descriptions of performance and outcomes, spanning from poor to excellent. Use them as benchmarks to rate each employee.
  • Provide real examples of what top employees do.

— Karen Humphreys Blake, Senior 8020Info Consulting Associate


Preserving your health: 

A heart health scare and a book provided my lesson for the year: You need to be healthy to make a difference. And that goes beyond daily chunks of exercise (which I have always faithfully maintained) to interweaving physical activity for about two minutes every 20 minutes, during work, TV watching, and reading. According to Tom Rath’s Eat Move Sleep, that will lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. It takes discipline to counter your ingrained keep-working discipline, but the research indicates the benefits are impressive.

— Harvey Schachter, 8020Info Associate


Silence Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Consent:

When taking ideas forward for approval, we can become so focused on a positive decision that we assume the absence of detractors means everyone is supportive. Not necessarily. Some objectors may remain silent to preserve a ‘team player’ reputation. Others may like the idea but have concerns about implementation or relative organizational priority. Let’s make sure our internal sales efforts include consultation with affected stakeholders regardless of their stated positions. Otherwise we may find ourselves fighting unnecessary rearguard actions rather than getting on with the job at hand.

— Kathryn A. Wood, 8020Info Director & Consulting Associate

7. News From Our Water Cooler:  2013 Shout Out

It’s been another busy year jammed with fascinating projects, and we’d just like to say thanks to those special people, our clients, with whom we’ve had a chance to collaborate in 2013 — to undertake research, facilitate consultations and planning sessions, develop strategy and plan communications.

Best wishes of the season from all of our team to:

  • CAMH – Service Collaborative for KFL&A Mental Health
  • CanPlace – Limestone Community Education
  • Cantabile Choirs of Kingston
  • City of Kingston Cultural Services Department
  • Downtown Kingston BIA
  • DTZ, a UGL company (formerly DTZ Barnicke)
  • Frontenac Arch Biosphere
  • First Work (Ontario Association of Youth Employment Centres)
  • Frontenac County
  • Interprovincial Lottery Corporation (6/49 & Lotto Max)
  • Home Base Housing
  • John Howard Society Kingston
  • K3C Community Counselling Centres
  • Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO)
  • KEYS Job Centre
  • KFL&A Public Health / Healthy Eating Working Group
  • Kingston Frontenac Public Library
  • Kingston 1000 Island Cruises & Trolley Tours
  • Kingston Poverty Reduction Plan
  • Kingston Symphony Association
  • Limestone Advisory for Child Care Programs
  • Limestone Board of Education
  • McMaster University
  • Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre
  • Providence Care
  • Queen’s University ITServices
  • Queen’s University Learning Experience Task Force
  • Queen’s University Library & Archives
  • Rideaucrest Home
  • Rural Kingston Family Health Organization – Health Link
  • St. Lawrence College – Brockville Campus
  • The Great Waterway (Tourism Region 9)
  • The Tett Centre for Creativity & Learning
  • Township of South Frontenac
  • United Way serving KFL&A

8020Info helps teams develop and implement their strategic plans, stakeholder consultations and marketing communications and 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

“If you asked me for my New Year Resolution, it would be to find out who I am.”

— Cyril Cusak



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