The 8020Info Water Cooler

  Highlights from the latest information
  for managers, leaders & entrepreneurs



In this 8020Info Water Cooler we focus on pandemic leadership styles, taming Zoom, job impact statements, email marketing tips, 10 commandments for empowerment, and reducing unforeseen surprises in a complex operating environment.  Enjoy!


1. The Best Pandemic Leadership Style

There are many different leadership styles and usually it makes sense to adapt them to the situation. In a pandemic, which one should you opt for?

Content writer Angeline Licerio says the choice probably comes down to one of seven approaches:  autocratic, democratic, charismatic, supportive, laissez-faire, transactional, and transformational.

She makes the case that these times need transformational leadership — driving the organization forward, finding opportunities to thrive, and encouraging people to focus on working hard to reap success amidst uncertainty.

The hallmarks of transformational leadership, according to famed organizational behaviour scholar Bernard Blass, are:

  • Promoting motivation and self-development;
  • Providing employee with advice and resources for mentoring along with a sense of autonomy, letting them make decisions for positive self-growth;
  • Placing importance on moral standards and adopting a communal sense of ethical responsibility;
  • Encouraging a team-focused mindset;
  • Setting out clear values of honesty, adaptability, originality, and communication.

Licerio highlights the importance of speaking to the future.

“Words are an incredibly powerful motivator,” she writes on leadership trainer Gordon Tredgold’s website. “They can be used to change people’s mindset, allowing leaders and managers to connect deeply with their staff.

“When leaders speak with confidence, sincerity, and transparency, employees become more confident about the future. They allow themselves to discard a fear-based mindset and accept the changes.”

You want to create a positive and learning work culture and build a value-creating team. Lead by example into the new future, with a positive outlook, willing to reinvent yourself as well as encouraging others.


2. The Three Rules of Zoom

To make your video conferencing more effective, public speaking consultant Nick Morgan shares three rules for Zoom:

  • Visibility—The First Rule of Zoom:  “It’s hard for participants to know when to speak. It can feel quite rude to interrupt, and yet if you don’t, you may in essence disappear because a two-dimensional picture is not the same to our brains as a real person,” he writes on his blog.

Create some formal, but simple, mechanism for handing off the conversation to the next participant, such as a hand raise. It will take some time for people to learn this new approach, but the payoff will be worth it.

  • Predictability—The Second Rule of Zoom:  Provide an agenda for a Zoom call that’s going to last more than 30 minutes and adhere to it by having someone act as MC or chair, making sure all are heard in the given time.
  • Transparency— The Third Rule of Zoom:  Always begin with a quick check-in to establish factors that might affect the call, such as people leaving early.

He also recommends asking each participant to rate their emotional temperature between green (everything’s OK); yellow (I’ve got some concerns, but nothing desperate); and red (I’m upset). That’s needed because people are too polite to express such issues without being prodded.

In the middle of the session, take a break for casual chat to boost relationships.


3. The Value of Job Impact Statements

We know people benefit from understanding the purpose behind their work. So why not give more attention to the difference they make by devising job impact statements to highlight what they are accomplishing?

“Fortunately, not only is a job impact statement effective, but it’s also among the lowest-cost motivation tools,” says proponent John Sullivan, an HR consultant, on his blog.

Some of the biggest impacts will be on the environment, the product, customers, the team, and, of course, business results. But don’t overstate how a role makes a difference; keep it to one page.

Don’t forget the personal — people want to know that they will be nurtured and taken care of. He suggests highlighting the organization’s safety record, as well as historical skill development areas and career path opportunities. “Let incumbents know if key executives once worked in this job.”

Finally, consider the company’s impact on the community. The job holder should understand they are part of the organization’s economic and social impact, which includes the number of jobs, annual payroll, and local taxes paid.

Your organization probably has job descriptions. Consider adding job impact statements.


4. Improving your Email Marketing

If you use email for marketing, here are some stats from MarketingProfs.com that might point you in a better direction:

  • Emails with a single call to action increased clicks by 371%. So have one or, at most, two calls to action — any more will be ineffective.
  • Email list segmentation can help increase the open rate by 200%, so tailor different emails to different groups of prospects and customers. Don’t fall for the ease of one size fits all.
  • Design your emails for different devices — 53% of emails are opened only on mobile devices.


5. Zingers

  • Phone Back Immediately:  Think about the last 20 emails you received from clients or prospects. How often did you immediately pick up the phone and call as soon as you finished reading the message? Consultant Mike Figliuolo says that, unless you’re in a meeting with another client or prospect, you should make that call — and expect great results.  (Source: Thought Leaders).
  • The Right Assistant:  If you’re going to hire an assistant, entrepreneur Ramit Sethi says to consider someone older or more responsible than you. Too many people make the mistake of hiring someone young and cheap, but they may not understand the value of time and organization and will end up making you less productive, not more. (Source: RyanHoliday.net).
  • Be Agreeable About Differences:  You can be agreeable without agreeing, says marketing writer Seth Godin. He suggests that, in fact, we usually prefer to spend time with people who have a different point of view but are willing to be agreeable nonetheless. (Source: Seth’s Blog).
  • Self-Vision:  Executive coach Ed Batista says truly great professionals understand the difference between what should never change about themselves and what should be open for change, between what is genuinely sacred and what is not. (Source: Ed Battista.com).
  • Negativity Odds:  Author James Clear says it’s crazy how 1,000 people can compliment you and you’ll spend all day thinking about the one person who criticized you. (Source: JamesClear.com).


6. The List: The 10 Commandments of Empowerment

Executive coach Dan Rockwell says empowerment begins when you give control to capable others. To do it right, follow these 10 commandments he shares on his blog.

  • Thou shalt not give quick answers. People won’t contribute their insights to a boss’s “brilliant” ideas.
  • Thou shalt not establish policies and procedures for everyone when only one person screws up. Rules and regulations are symptoms of distrust, while empowerment is based on trust.
  • Thou shalt not tell capable people how to do their jobs.
  • Thou shalt notice people.
  • Thou shalt affirm more than complain by a ratio of 3:1. Complaining more than commending leads to insecure teams.
  • Thou shalt “walk about” at least once a day.
  • Thou shalt remember that connecting isn’t meddling.
  • Thou shalt laugh at your own mistakes. Your response to mistakes creates environments of fear or confidence.
  • Thou shalt explain what’s important. Priorities concentrate and magnify power. Ambiguity dilutes power and devalues energy.
  • Thou shalt maintain curiosity.


7. Around Our Water Cooler:  Surprises and Unintended Consequences

The pandemic has given most organizations we serve an acute sense of how they must survive as part of much larger and complex systems, which can jolt best laid plans.

When these systems are well behaved, we tend to forget about the many interactions and interconnected relationships that drive them. But when the operating landscape, your client base, staff and other parts of the system are perturbed, nasty surprises can pop up, seemingly out of nowhere.

Scanning for Ways a Decision Might Bite Back:

One framework was identified two decades ago by Edward Tenner in Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. While the book was focused on technology, it’s worth considering its broader lessons. For example, here are four types of bite-back consequences to watch for:

  • Attempts to solve one problem end up creating new or additional risks. Perhaps you’ve decided to have staff work from home, connecting online to keep operations going. But that may lead to new risks: vulnerability to hacking, ransom attacks or unauthorized access to confidential data.
  • Costs and risks are merely redirected to other areas. Shielding a beach from waves simply transfers the water’s force in some other direction. Implementing physical distancing measures, for example, may cause a shift in client calls from in-person to online customer service.
  • Processes and tools become more complicated: A tech example might be lighting controlled by an app, meaning a visitor cannot simply flip a switch.  Pre-COVID, you might have picked up news around the water cooler or asked a question of a colleague just in the next office. Now you need to schedule calls and spend more time searching for information.
  • Efficiencies don’t save time — you just end up doing more. You may streamline how you handle the ever-increasing wave of emails coming in, but instead of freeing up time for other things, you find you’re simply processing more low-value emails in the same amount of time (many spend a third or more of their workday replying to emails..

Considering Second-Order Effects:

As others have mentioned, it can seem that when we fix one crisis, we always create another. Despite best intentions, your solution to one problem may lead to something else popping up that’s worse.

Failing to consider second- and third-order effects of a decision can be a common cause of such consequences (for more on that, see this explanation).

Try to anticipate and avoid these unintentional or unforeseen impacts. Think further out in time and trace through the chain of interactions that could flow from a decision — keep asking yourself, repeatedly, “and then what, and then what?”

High complexity of an operational system, by definition, means we can’t predict the interplay of dynamics far into the future. There are too many combinations of causes and effects, like predicting the weather.

But we can reduce unwelcome surprises by looking beyond the obvious and immediate consequences before making a fast, simple or automatic decision.


What We’re Reading:

  • Harvey’s Pick:  Jeff Bezos has a practical type of wisdom about people, technologies, and organizations. Invent and Wander brings that together through an introductory essay on him by Walter Isaacson, biographer of Steve Jobs; Bezos’s letters to shareholders over the years; and talks and articles Bezos has written. It’s eclectic, at times repetitive, but easy to read and thought provoking.
  • Rob’s Pick:  “On the final day of my sophomore year of high school, I was hit in the face with a baseball bat.” From that attention-getting first line, James Clear is off on a dash in his widely cited Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. His four “laws” speak to making habits obvious, attractive, easy (tiny atomic steps)  and satisfying. You might enjoy some related tips here.


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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 

“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”

— Willa Cather


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