The 8020Info Water Cooler

Highlights from the latest information for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs

1. The Disadvantage Of Being CEO or ED

Penny Herscher is chief executive officer of a technology company, FirstRain. Most of the time, she loves her job, and in a recent blog post she shared some of the advantages of being in the top spot. But she also listed some cons that apply to being chief executive officer or executive director of an organization:

  • You’ll work harder than you have ever worked in your life: She admits that not all chief executives are on overdrive, but those trying to get an organization off the ground or make significant changes will always face an inordinate number of mission-critical things to do that require more time than the day allows. “The time pressure will seem worse than your college finals did, and prepare for this pace to go on for years,” she writes.
  • You’ll be lonelier than you have ever been in your life: The cliché “the buck stops here” is absolutely true for CEOs and EDs. On crucial decisions your board, key reports, and advisors will have ideas, but you must make the call.
  • You’re the one who has to let people go: When people don’t meet the organization’s standards, guess who has to give them their walking papers?
  • Customers can jerk you around: She shares the story of a CEO’s customers who waited until the last day of a quarter to order goods – and then only at a very low price. Many customers and clients are wonderful. Some not so much.

2. Faulty Assumptions About Feedback

Many managers dread giving their honest feedback to subordinates, even though that’s what individuals need to grow and improve. On the Thoughtleadersllc Blog, consultant Anna Carroll gives four faulty assumptions managers must overcome:

  • People will become discouraged if I start giving them corrective feedback: If you start suddenly, after holding back previously, they will feel confused. But if you explain you are changing your approach for the whole team, she says, they will appreciate being told where they stand. Remember: Feedback also includes what is going well.
  • I want to be fair to people and wait until I have accurate observations before giving feedback: The longer you hold back —and she says some managers in a new post will wait up to a year— the more subordinates will resent that you didn’t help them correct problems earlier.
  • I don’t have time to schedule all those feedback conversations: At the start it may take about 30 minutes per person, but over time it can be handled in short hallway interactions or a call during the day. Besides, she stresses, feedback saves time: “In less than two weeks’ time, you will see great efficiencies resulting from the improved work actions your employees are taking.”
  • Trust is all important and if I give honest feedback, people won’t trust me: Actually, it’s the opposite. “Employees are more trusting of an honest manager who talks with them frequently and shows them again and again that they want to help them perform their jobs excellently,” she advises.

3. Cooks Who See Their Customers

When cooks see their customers, research shows, they make tastier food. When the reverse happens (cooks being watched by customers they don’t see), there is no improvement in their effort, Harvard Business Review reports.

The study by Ryan Buell, Tami Kim, and Chia-Jung Tsay indicated that seeing customers can make employees feel more satisfied with their jobs and more willing to exert effort. And it wasn’t just a perception that the food was better – it objectively improved, as when cooks stopped making eggs on the grill in advance and customized them to orders.

The researchers also suggest that customers rate their satisfaction higher when effort is visible to them.

You may not be a cook, but the researchers note comparable examples in knowledge work, be it decision-making in health care or prep work for online education.

“Think about an office job where your head is down and you’re just processing paperwork all the time and are separated from the customer. If suddenly the beneficiary of your labour is visible to you, it could change how you feel about the work,” says Harvard Professor Buell.

4. The Two Faces Of Leadership

There are two faces of leadership, according to consultant Jesse Lyn Stoner.

  • One face looks forward, she says on the Seapoint Center For Collaborative Leadership blog. It asks where are we going, why, what is the purpose, and what will guide the journey?
  • The other face looks back at who is following. That face is focused on building organizational capacity, considering skills and resources people need, and how best to align processes and systems to move the organization forward.

Both faces are equally important, she stresses, while warning that some leaders are out of balance, focusing primarily on either the future or on their organization.

5. Zingers

  • A Cheesy Problem: See yourself as a slice of Swiss cheese, advises Richard Avdoain, CEO of Midwest Business Institute. Recognize the holes in your thinking and abilities, and add others whose substance will fill in those holes, making for a solid, firm unified block of cheese. (Source: http://www.inc.com/john-brandon/20-leadership-experts-share-their-best-leadership-tip.html)
  • Probing References: Here are three helpful reference-checking questions from Gilt Groups CEO Kevin Ryan: Would you hire this person again, and if so, in what capacity? In what type of role, environment and culture can you see this person excelling (and in what type of role likely to be unsuccessful)? And would you describe the candidate as a leader, strategist, executor, collaborator, thinker, or something else? (Source: Eric Jacobson on Management And Leadership)
  • Trust Before You Click: A webpage link is a promise. And any broken promise chips away at trust and credibility. Make sure the destination page fulfills the promise extolled by the link’s anchor text. (Source: Nielsen Norman Group)
  • Sacrificing For A Better Brand: Many consumers want the world to be a better place, but they aren’t prepared to make sacrifices towards that end. Instead, they want brands —which generally aren’t seen as taking care of the planet or people— to make those sacrifices. What are you prepared to sacrifice? (Source: Trendwatching.com)
  • Help Me Do It Myself: Great mentors are humble, mix truth with compassion, and possess courageous candor, says trainer Dan Rockwell. They know that helping too much hinders. (Source: Leadership Freak)

6. Q&A with 8020Info: A Plan Mindful of Communications

Question:  What can we do to ensure our new plan works well from a communications perspective?

8020Info President & CEO Rob Wood responds:

To be effective, any new plan must be well communicated. Here are some checkpoints that frequently come up in our work with clients:

  • Clarity: Clear thinking comes before clear writing. So first, be sure you really know the meaning or purpose of your strategic goal, objective, policy, guideline, action or assigned task.
  • Consistency: When many source documents are used to develop a plan, or several authors are involved, different terms and inconsistent language can creep in. This confuses readers, and should be checked before the final draft of your plan goes out.
  • Jargon: Although it can be a convenient shorthand within a small tight group, jargon is usually a problem with broader audiences and plain language always a plus.
  • Perspectives: Consider the different types of readers who will be interpreting your plan — internal vs. external, front-line vs. senior management, clients vs. providers, funders vs. spenders, and so on. In addition to their different priorities and ways of thinking, consider their context for action, their focus on strategy vs. operations, and how much detail they may need (perhaps in another document).
  • Usability & Structure: People will need to work with your plan in different ways, so consider how it will be used when structuring your material. For example, material of organization-wide interest might be gathered in one place rather than scattered throughout sections earmarked for individual front-line units. Would a checklist help? Do you need a chart or anecdote to illustrate what you mean?
  • Engagement: Communication involves much more than simply publishing a document, especially when it comes to front-line staff and implementation. Consider ways to genuinely involve them in development of the plan — in the “how” of taking action if not in taking the top-level strategic decisions. Communications about your plan will be better received by an engaged audience.

7. News From Our Water Cooler: Getting Into Gear

As January passes, we hear some grumbling about the challenge of getting some real traction on well-intentioned goals and priorities adopted earlier this year. If you’ve been stalled or found it slow getting off the mark, consider these tips:

  • Translate general intentions into specific actions. You can’t take action on a general goal like “hold more effective meetings”; translate it into specific actions.
  • Identify a concrete “next” step, along with the time and place you will take it. (Remember, you don’t need a perfect plan. In fact, plans must sometimes change once you’ve taken a couple of first steps and see what works and what doesn’t.)
  • Leave space or buffers. How many times have you gone to file something but got stalled because there was no room in the jammed cabinet, so you set it aside, making work for later. Organize your filing cabinet (or email folder) so you can file immediately. Similarly, leave a buffer in your project schedule to deal with unexpected events or allow extra time to be spent on priorities.
  • Clear away distractions. All the evidence seems to suggest that focus is the secret ingredient for productivity. Create a supportive workspace for yourself — limit distractions in your environment as well as interruptions from people or technology.
  • Get your tools in place before you begin. One of the great tips from The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman is to get all your tools in place before you begin your project, and then focus on working intensely for short periods.

8. Closing Thought

“I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself.”

— Oscar Wilde


Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



This is a line break