August 2021 - on the difference management makes, 70-20-10, picking up the phone, and a challenge

Don't be a hero nor a technocrat, be this instead

We’re in times of transition: It’s back to school for people in the Northern hemisphere and it’s the end of Winter and beginning of Spring for those in the Southern hemisphere.

It’s been a long year and a half since the beginning of the pandemic. We are not at a new normal yet, we’re doing the best we can, and it’s heartening to witness managers who get it and treat their people with the understanding that the circumstances demand. It’s not business as usual and saying that it is and demanding that it is is making people miserable, if not depressed.

To the many managers who get it, I say “congratulations and thanks for being human.” And to those who don’t, I say (with a mix of affection and sense of urgency): grow up, acknowledge the damage you might be causing, and start with this.

Longer items in this issue and perhaps more research findings than usual. Enjoy!


This month last year, the most viewed post was:

How do I know people won’t watch Netflix all day?

Netflix isn’t the real danger. The real danger is that without a physical separation between work and the rest of life, people won’t ever stop working—risking burnout, which has huge costs for employees and their organizations. Wise managers address this, rather than worrying that people will slack the second they aren’t being watched.  [Thanks, Rob for the reference]


Survey results from Gallup and excellent questions about creating a hybrid workplace:

  1. Why is hybrid right for our organization?

  2. How will the voice of our employees guide our approach?

  3. Will we phase in gradually or all together?

  4. What determines flexible time in our organization?

  5. How will our managers support leaders in making the shift?

  6. Where will we see costs increase, decrease or shift?

  7. How will we evaluate what works (and what doesn't)?


Speaking of questions, L.M. Sacasas asks a whole list of them to help people decide how much attention they wish to pay to social media. Well worth the read and the reflection. Here are a few:

  1. What sort of person will the use of this technology make of me?

  2. What habits will the use of this technology instill?

  3. How will the use of this technology affect my experience of time?

  4. How will the use of this technology affect my experience of place?

  5. How will the use of this technology affect how I relate to other people?

  6. How will the use of this technology affect how I relate to the world around me?

  7. What practices will the use of this technology cultivate?

  8. What practices will the use of this technology displace?

  9. What will the use of this technology encourage me to notice?

  10. What will the use of this technology encourage me to ignore?


Here is a challenge: find ways to introduce yourself without saying your title. For example, instead of “I’m the VP of Design” or “I’m the Head of Design for Product X”, try “I’m part of the design team at [company name]” or “I’m a designer working on the [feature name] for [product name]”.

Fabricio suggests that doing so keeps him check, it keeps him honest, it keeps things simple, and it reminds him of what brought him to the work in the first place.

So, hit Reply and introduce yourself… without your title!

I’ll go first: “Hi, I’m Richard. I design and facilitate programs that contribute to team development and organizational change in companies that care for their people and for thoughtful managers who actively pursue the growth of their team members.”


Researchers followed the journals of 30 managers during May and June of 2020 to see how they handled their own emotional struggles at work.

A lot of the emotional experiences were similar but the way they responded were different, particularly as regards negative emotions. They identified three different types:

  1. Heroes: focused on the positive, doing their best to convince their teams that they would get through the crisis no matter what;

  2. Technocrats: ignored emotions altogether and focused on tactical solutions; and

  3. Sharers: openly acknowledged their fears, stresses, and other negative emotions.

They found that Sharers were particularly successful in building cohesive, high-performing teams that were resilient in the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Sharing negative emotions can lessen their impact on the leader, build empathy between leaders and employees, encourage others to open up about their own negative emotions, and help others recontextualize and overcome those struggles — ultimately boosting morale and performance throughout the organization. 

Sharing can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. The article has plenty of suggestions and tips.


From a tweet by @emollick (which you should follow if you’re on Twitter):

Management differences explain a lot more about success than people realize. Using 11,000 interviews in 34 countries, this cool paper found 30% of the productivity advantage of US firms comes from their better management.

I know that the above results are disputable. But let’s not lose the main point: not all management is the same. And good management makes a difference.


Curiosity: being inquisitive, a desire to gain knowledge and information. It drives science, language, and development.

Researchers studied it and concluded that it is made up of five dimensions:

1. Joyous Exploration. This is the prototype of curiosity—the recognition and desire to seek out new knowledge and information, and the subsequent joy of learning and growing.

2. Deprivation Sensitivity. This dimension has a distinct emotional tone, with anxiety and tension being more prominent than joy—pondering abstract or complex ideas, trying to solve problems, and seeking to reduce gaps in knowledge.

3. Stress Tolerance. This dimension is about the willingness to embrace the doubt, confusion, anxiety, and other forms of distress that arise from exploring new, unexpected, complex, mysterious, or obscure events.

4. Social Curiosity. Wanting to know what other people are thinking and doing by observing, talking, or listening in to conversations.

5. Thrill Seeking. The willingness to take physical, social, and financial risks to acquire varied, complex, and intense experiences.

And upon treating these dimensions as part of a single profile, they found evidence for four types of curious people:

1. The Fascinated: high on all dimensions of curiosity, particularly Joyous Exploration

2. Problem Solvers: high on Deprivation Sensitivity, medium on other dimensions

3. Empathizers: high on Social Curiosity, medium on other dimensions

4. Avoiders: low on all dimensions, particularly Stress Tolerance

I hope this helps and… which one are you?


This a little more macro:

How do directors view their work on corporate boards? The popular belief is that they are supposed to keep the CEO in check, re. Enron, Theranos, etc. Researchers asked a sample of directors. Their answer? Our job is to support managers, not to monitor them. Accordingly, they rarely seek to vote down management decisions.

The take-away: Don’t count on board members to monitor for fraud or corruption. They don’t see it as their job.

This just in: As of two weeks ago, the U.S.-based stock exchange will now require all listed companies to have at least two directors from underrepresented groups. The new rule also calls on companies to publish annual diversity data on the composition of their boards.


70-20-10 is a model that is often discussed in the world of development. Often used “and widely misunderstood”, according to Byron who does a good job at clarifying the basics.

First, effective workplace development includes different elements:

  • the 70% denotes learning through experience on the job;

  • the 20% represents learning through others; and

  • the 10% represents development through programs, courses or content.

Second, the 70-20-10 percentages do not relate to the actual time spent on development but rather on how employees learn things related to their work. It’s not a description of time spent, but “the percentage chance of a development activity sticking.”

Third, of course you need all three and they align as follows:

I hope this is useful when you think about the development of your team members. In other words, sending them to a training is not enough. The other two pieces need to be in place as well.


People choose to send email or text messages because they believe a phone call would be more awkward. They are wrong.

Research finds that interactions including voice (phone, video chat, and voice chat) created stronger social bonds and no increase in awkwardness, compared with interactions including text (e-mail, text chat). Misunderstanding the consequences of using different communication media could create preferences for media that do not maximize either one’s own or others’ wellbeing.