The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs


In this issue of the Water Cooler we touch on the isolation of leadership, executive temptations, how to structure content, and some suggested reading for leaders this summer. Enjoy.


1. The Five Temptations Of A CEO

Patrick Lencioni’s Five Temptations of a CEO, his first of many fables dealing with management problems, looked at how executives get trapped by the daily complexities of their operation and succumb to five temptations:

  • To protect their current hard-earned status (and realizing there is no route upwards anymore, only the possibility of tumbling down), they seek to protect their ego and reputation. Instead, they should continue to press intently for results.
  • Being CEO can be lonely and they may seek camaraderie with their closest associates. Wanting to be liked, they don’t hold those direct subordinates accountable for delivering on the commitments that create results. “Work for the long-term respect of your direct subordinates, not their affection,” he writes.
  • They seek certainty before making decisions and, since that’s hard to attain, they leave things fuzzy, expecting subordinates to figure out the right answers. Instead, make clarity more important than accuracy — take decisive action rather than waiting for more info.
  • Most people, including CEOs, believe it’s better for people to agree and get along than disagree with one another. However, harmony can sometimes restrict what he calls “ideological conflict,” the passionate interchange of opinions on an issue. The solution for CEOs: tolerate discord. Indeed, encourage direct reports to air their ideological differences.
  • The final temptation is trying to maintain invulnerability, believing that conflict is fine among underlings but fearing you will lose credibility if challenged. Instead, actively encourage your people to challenge your ideas.


2. Six Ways To Conquer A Leader’s Isolation

It can be lonely at the top, as leaders leave their peer groups for new heights in the organization. On The Rapid Start Leadership Blog, Ken Downer offers six ways to conquer the isolation:

  • Make new friends on purpose: Look around your organization to see who else is performing at your level and build connections to those feeling similar challenges.
  • Cultivate a mentor: Think of people outside your “chain of command” that you admire, invite one for a coffee, bounce ideas off him or her, and see if that might bloom into a mentoring relationship.
  • Form a personal board: Assemble a team of trusted advisors who can help you make the tough decisions. “Pick four or five people you know to be knowledgeable, experienced, and trustworthy,” he says. “You might be surprised to find that they feel the same as you and are happy to be a part of your little group.”
  • Make outside friends: Join a club or a sports team, volunteer at a charity, or start a hobby — find a way to break out of the work routine and meet new people.
  • Crack open a book: This may sound counter-intuitive, just inviting more isolation, but he argues that when we read about the experiences of other leaders, we are reminded that leadership isolation comes with the territory and can learn how others dealt with it.
  • Host an event: You can still have fun with colleagues, even if your relationship has changed to boss.


3. Onboarding: How To Do It Right

When a new recruit arrives at work, many organizations spend just a few minutes or hours bringing the newcomer on board.

But a report in Harvard Business Review says spending as much as a year helping new employees get up to speed is necessary to capitalize on the skills, knowledge, and excitement they bring. And it pays off: Companies with successful onboarding programs are more likely to retain new hires and report measurable profit growth.

The first three to six months — when new hires are particularly susceptible to turnover — are most critical. Academics Allison Ellis, Sushil Nifadkar, Talya Bauer, and Berrin Erdogan write:  “On average, companies lose 17% of their new hires during the first three months.”

Their research found managers were more likely to help new employees who actively sought out information about their role and worked at making connections with their new colleagues. The downside is that managers may fail to support new employees whom they perceive, perhaps wrongly, as being less committed.


4. Guerrilla, Not Gorilla, Marketing

Jay Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing series helped many small organizations with ideas aimed at them rather than at giant corporations, and marketing was a key subject.

Entrepreneur Seth Godin, who assisted with four of the early books, says on his blog that when marketing was expensive, it was done with care. These days, because of the noise and clutter and availability of cheaper outlets, advertisers are like “a troop of gorillas, all arguing over the last remaining banana.”

Ignore them. More noise won’t work. Focus on the smallest possible audience and build something worth talking about.


5. Zingers

  • Nurture relationships: Do you have two minutes? Send somebody a positive email. You’ll feel better afterward and the relationship will be strengthened.  (Source: Lifehack.org)
  • Get going by starting small: If you are prone to procrastinating, blogger James Altucher says to make a list of 10 things you can do that will make you feel productive. Then, when the urge to procrastinate occurs, you should look down the list and do the tiniest thing on the list. (Source: JamesAltucher.com)
  • When concessions are easy: Go into negotiations knowing what the other party considers important, since that will be crucial to the deal. Amy Trask, former CEO of the Oakland Raiders, further advises that if something is very important to the other person and not to you, concede it. And don’t ask for anything in return: not everything need be a quid pro quo. There may be a payoff for you later. (Source: FastCompany.com)
  • Hold your tongue: Silence also works well in negotiations. When the other person makes a suggestion, don’t rush to answer. “The discomfort of the silence will make the other person want to fill the void and start talking. Let them reveal information that helps you to have the upper hand moving forward in the conversation,” says lawyer and strategist Avery Blank. (Source: Forbes.com)
  • Step up for the team: Here are two tough questions to ask individuals on your team, from leadership writers Scott J. Allen and Mitchell Kusy: Where can you take greater ownership on this team? And: Where have you let the team down? (Source: Eric Jacobson on Management)


6.  Q&A With 8020Info:
     Summer Reading for Leaders

Question:  Do you have summer reading suggestions for us again this year?


8020Info Associate Harvey Schachter responds:

People usually prefer something light, but absorbing and useful for summer. So I’ll start (but not end) there.

  • Menlo College President Richard Moran’s The Thing about Work is fun — a caustic, insightful series of short commentaries on a myriad of work topics, from how coffee has become the new lunch to how late is late for a meeting.
  • Former major league pitching coach Rick Peterson has a host of lovely anecdotes from that world as he tackles the issue of bringing your best to Crunch Time moments in a book co-written with Judd Hoekstra of the Ken Blanchard Companies.
  • A consultant who walked Spain’s famed Camino de Santiago trail came away with an easy-to-read, reflective book on life and work. In The Five Thieves Of Happiness, Vancouver’s John Izzo argues that happiness is our natural state but control, conceit, coveting, consumption and comfort do us in.

The most important books I have seen are:

  • University of San Diego Professor Jennifer Mueller’s Creative Change, arguing we’re instinctively against innovation (even those of us who believe we’re change junkies);
  • United States Naval Academy Professors Brad Johnson’s and David Smith’s Athena Rising, looking at the importance of, and obstacles to, men mentoring women; and
  • Journalist-turned-consultant Bryce Hoffman’s Red Teaming, on how intelligence agencies, the military, and companies are now setting up small teams to argue against the prevailing wisdom, since it could well be wrong, at great cost.

For marketing advice, you’ll find This I Know by CBC host Terry O’Reilly and Secret Sauce by New Zealand consultant Harry Mills jammed with anecdotes and pungent advice. O’Reilly is more wide-ranging but has a concluding list of tips while Mills provides a focused formula for success based around the word.

For start-ups, you can find sound stuff in The Ultimate Start-Up Guide by consultants Tom Hogan and Carol Broadbent and serial entrepreneur and investor Ed McLaughlin’s The Purpose is Profit (which came out last summer).

I’d be remiss not to mention that long-time Queen’s Professor Carol Beatty has brought her many years of research on change into a new book The Easy, Hard & Tough Work of Managing Change. It is available free as a gift from the Queen’s Industrial Relations Centre.

And if you worry about the frenzy of life while relaxing this summer, you may want to take time to tackle productivity pressures with consultant Ann Gomez’s sensible The Email Warrior or contemplate Google manager Rachel O’Meara’s thoughts on the allure and value of Pause.


7.  From Our Water Cooler:
     Tools to Structure Information

Recently, we met with a client struggling to organize their plans for a couple dozen community initiatives, from youth outreach and awareness campaigns to fundraising and other projects. With so much detailed material, they were having trouble finding the best way to sort and organize the content.

This isn’t a new problem for us and we had a useful resource to share with them — Richard Saul Wurman’s book, Information Anxiety. He offers a useful framework that identifies the five main methods of structuring content — that is, by:

  • Category
  • Time
  • Location
  • Alphabetical order, or
  • Continuum (magnitude)

You aren’t limited to using just one of these structures, and often can achieve more clarity with a nested combination of them.

For example, the Yellow Pages are divided into categories of need, and then organizations are listed alphabetically within each one. This follows the logic of the user — compared to scanning an enormously long alphabetical listing, the categories break it down and make finding a service much easier.

In this case, the client started a team conversation about how best to organize their myriad initiatives. Some ideas were to sort them by:

  • Where the initiatives would have an impact (Location)
  • When initiatives would be implemented/finished (Time)
  • The goal/type of initiative: such as improving access, community engagement, employment, method of communication, and so on (Category)
  • The relative size of the various projects, in terms of their financial requirements or number of people involved. (Continuum)
  • Or simply listing them in alphabetical order.

If you have a lot of information or data to organize, you might consider using this framework as a tool to save you time and frustration.

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8020Info helps strategy teams think better together as they develop and effectively implement research / stakeholder consultations, strategic plans, change and marketing communications. We would be pleased to discuss your needs and welcome enquiries.


8.  Closing Thought

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’ !”

Audrey Hepburn


Vol. 17, No. 10
Copyright 8020Info Inc. 2017




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