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Monthly Archives: June 2012

Introverts can be great networkers too!

Like it or not, networking is critical to your career success. The ability to develop and maintain contacts and personal connections with a variety of people leads to increased business opportunities, more job possibilities and long-term relationships. But … it comes easier to some than others. As an extrovert myself, I find it fairly easy to attend events, initiate conversations, and keep the dialogues and relationships going. But I am very aware that there are many among us who dread the thought of networking!

Which is why I found myself very interested in a conversation I happened to have last week with a professional colleague. Somewhere in our exchange, she confided to me that she’s an introvert. Surprised, I uttered the first thought that came to my mind. “You’re such a good networker, I never would have thought you to be an introvert,” I exclaimed. “It’s true,” she said. “I loathe talking to strangers, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t like being in groups of people either.” As I stared at her with raised eyebrows, she continued on to tell me how she has found ways to network that fit her style as an introvert. So for those amongst you who find yourself in the same dilemma, I thought you might want to hear about two specific things she does to overcome her natural aversion to networking.

  1. When she goes to events, she focuses on individuals rather than groups. By seeking to have a few meaningful one-on-one conversations rather than interacting with groups of people, she’s able to make networking fit her introverted style.
  2. Because she’s naturally shy, she uses LinkedIn to initiate or continue relationships. If there is someone she wants to connect with, she looks them up on LinkedIn and sends them a connection request, saying a little bit about herself, and if applicable, how they met or know each other. Getting things started online is not as stressful as face-to-face.

So if you’re someone who dislikes the traditional definition of networking (or even if you’re not), what are some of your ideas to get past the fear and aversion and make it work for you and your career? We all want to know!

Moving from manager to leader

Rell DeShaw  is a manager in Canada’s federal public service and she pens a regular blog titled “Letter to a new manager”.  I had the pleasure of meeting her at the National Managers’ Community Development Forum in Winnipeg last month, and she blogged about my presentation a few weeks later.  Here’s a link:

Letter to a new manager

I’ve asked Rell if she’ll guest here on the Turning Managers Into Leaders blog, and she has very graciously agreed!  You’ll hear from her shortly, in fact coming up on July 5.

Great teams make it “look easy”

Earlier this month I spoke at the PMAC Conference in Moncton NB.  As it is with almost all my speaking engagements, it was a delightful experience – a receptive and participatory audience, helpful and cheerful staff, great networking and relevant content – overall, a meeting that was well-designed and perfectly delivered.  What most people were not aware of though was the feverish and furious activity that was going on behind the scenes.  You see … just the previous week, seven short days before the biggest and most important meeting of the year, the primary meeting planner for the conference had left this organization. So for the past week, a small team of staff had stepped in to fill the void.  Frantic and frenzied, they pulled together, figured out what needed to be done, and set out to flawlessly deliver.  Sleeves were rolled up, job descriptions went out the door, and the team pulled together to make it look easy.  No doubt there were a myriad of crises, small and large, happening from moment to moment, hour to hour, but as a team, the staff dealt with the issues and shouldered forward.  Did everything work out as perfectly as they would have liked?  Probably not.  But all in all, what I observed was a testament to great teamwork, and I extend my compliments to the staff for a job well done!

I have always believed that the true sign of a great team is their ability to make it “look easy”, despite chaos and mayhem behind closed doors.  Building a great team is your job as a leader, but the proof of your success (or lack thereof) will be seen in times of crisis.  What do you think would happen if your team were faced with such a crisis?  Would they band together and come through in the crunch, or scatter like rats on a sinking ship?   What are some of the things that you do, consciously and deliberately, to build a better team?  Please share.

A shocking tirade from a company’s CEO – what can the rest of us learn?

The proverbial storm has been brewing over the last few weeks at Tate Publishing, a vanity publishing house headquartered in Mustang OK.  Well, not a storm, perhaps a better description would be “a hurricane of massive proportions”.  I must admit that in all my years in this profession, I have never come across something as disturbing and shocking as this.

First, some background.  Apparently, an anonymous email was circulated by an employee over the May Memorial day weekend taking the company’s CEO Ryan Tate to task for his plan to lay off employees and outsource all their jobs to the Philippines.  That got Tate’s back up, and he threatened that unless the responsible employee confessed to the email, he would fire 10 random employees from the production floor.  No one owned up to the offending missive, so Tate then went on to up the ante.  He was now going to fire 25 people.  Turns out that at least one employee was still boldly defiant as s/he recorded Tate’s tirade in a shortly-before-May-31 staff meeting and released it to ABC News.   You can listen to the entire outburst here:

Ryan Tate’s tirade at a company staff meeting in late May

Fair warning: this is stuff that you would never expect to hear from someone who is in a senior leadership position in an organization; frankly I found it disturbing.  If you don’t want to listen to the entire 17 minutes of audio, here are some of the low-lights:

  • At about the 1:43 mark, Tate likens himself to Jesus.
  • At the 4:53 mark, he refers to a $7.8 million lawsuit that has been filed against five former employees of the company.  ABC News later determined that no such lawsuit had been filed; it was a lie designed to bully and intimidate his employees.
  • During the rant, he refers to his employees as cowards, and at the 5:53 mark calls them morons and stupid.
  • At the 9:00 mark, he actually begins to threaten his employees: “I get to put liens on your houses, I get to put liens on your cars, I get to garnish your wages, everything you do pretty much the rest of your life is mine if I want it.”
  • Absurdly, at about the 13:55 mark, he begins to tear up because he has to fire 25 innocent people, and he goes on to say “I’ll pray for you and I’ll pray for your families.”

And oh yes, 25 employees were fired on May 31.

So what can we learn from this debacle? Well, here’s my list to get the conversation started:

  • It doesn’t matter how difficult the situation or how upset you are; as a leader you simply cannot lose your composure.  By virtue of your position, you ARE a role model to others, and you must always be aware and thoughtful of what you say and do.
  • It simply is NOT appropriate to be verbally abusive to anyone, let alone your employees.  Calling your staff “stupid”, “cowards” or “losers” is just not done!
  • We live in the digital age.  Understand that nothing you say or do in a public arena is confidential.  Yes, this was a private staff meeting, but the surfacing of this audio is proof enough that you must always be conscious of your words and actions.
  • It’s probably not a good idea to equate yourself to a religious figure who is revered by many.  It’s not only tasteless but it will make you look like a pompous ass!
  • Don’t ever forget that your employees are people; real people with feelings and emotions.  They are not pawns on your chessboard.  Do not play games with their lives and livelihoods in order to prove your power and superiority.

What would you add to this list?  Please add your comments below.

Three key roles are necessary for effective meetings

Meetings continue to be the bane of managers and supervisors everywhere – I mean how many times have you attended the meeting from hell? Yeah, thought so!

In previous blogs, I have offered ideas on how to make your meetings more productive (see links at the bottom of this post), and today I have one more proven idea – establish three key meeting roles for every meeting — chairperson, timekeeper, and minute-taker — filled by three different people. The chairperson is responsible for facilitating the meeting — making sure all relevant input is being solicited and gathered, and smoothing over rough spots as necessary. The timekeeper’s role in a meeting is paramount — he or she is responsible for letting participants know when the allotted time for an agenda item is up. The timekeeper may need to be firm with participants to ensure that they stick to the agenda. The minute-taker’s role is exactly what it sounds like — he or she is responsible for producing a written record about key aspects of the meeting … more about this in a future blog post.

Another thought: if you hold recurring meetings, rotate the roles of the chairperson, timekeeper, and minute-taker for each meeting. The benefits of rotation are two-fold — all participants develop meeting skills, and, perhaps more importantly, there is greater awareness and respect for the challenges inherent in these roles.

By the way, these three key roles are just as applicable to unplanned or emergency meetings as well: if you don’t assign these roles, an emergency meeting can quickly turn into a waste of time.

So what do you think? Are these three key roles necessary? What advice do you have to offer to prevent the “meeting from hell”?

If meetings are driving you crazy, then these previous blog posts may be of value:

Give people “ripening” time when communicating difficult messages

If you’ve ever tasted a Hachiya persimmon, you’ve either loved it or hated it! And your sentiment would have been based on the maturity of the fruit. You see, ripe Hachiyas are soft, sweet and have a delicate flavour that is oh-so-silky-smooth. But the unripe Hachiya is the extreme opposite – unpalatably astringent – sort of like taking a bite out of an unripe bitter walnut while suddenly having your tongue and the inside of your cheeks turn furry as the moisture is drained out of every cell in the near vicinity of your mouth. The science behind this change in flavour is actually quite straightforward – the bitter and dry taste in raw Hachiya persimmons are caused by high levels of soluble tannins, but these same tannins evaporate as the fruit ripens. And one of the best ways to ripen persimmons is actually quite easy – simply expose the fruit to light, perhaps on a counter or window sill, for several days – and inedible and disgusting becomes succulent and delicious!

So whether you love or hate the Hachiya persimmon is actually all about your timing. In fact, if you think about it, that’s not unlike many of the difficult communication challenges you might face in the workplace. Often, your success (or lack thereof) in persuading or influencing others over to an unappealing point of view is all about timing as well.

Consider this for a moment. What if you were to put your idea or suggestion or recommendation “out there” and expose it to your various stakeholders for a few days before you pushed for them to accept it? Could the “ripening” time increase the palatability of the unpleasant decision? My experience has been that when I need to put forward recommendations that I know will not be easily accepted, it’s actually a very good idea to suggest them, and then wait for a few days as people react to the negative and assimilate the positive. Frequently, the “ripening” time helps people come to terms with the pluses and the minuses of the situation, and I often have much greater success in achieving the ultimate intended outcome. What’s been your experience?

Is “unfriendly and unhelpful” a good business strategy?

Japan’s low-cost carrier Skymark Airlines is making a concerted effort to cut operating costs by simplifying services. Japan’s major daily Mainichi Shimbun reports that since mid-May, brochures have been placed in all seat pockets letting passengers know that they are not allowed to complain during their flights! If they wish to file a complaint about any aspect of their flight experience, they must do so after the flight by calling its customer centre or public consumer affairs centres. In addition, the brochures advise that “crew members will not help” passengers load bags into the overhead bins and that the company does not order crew members “to use polite words” in dealing with customers. They end proudly with “We provide onboard services in a style that makes a difference from others.”

[Deep breath]. So it seems that this organization thinks that being helpful and polite is what is sinking their business! Apparently, the way to increase revenue and build customer loyalty is to be unhelpful and indifferent. And this too in a country where good manners and protocol are the pillars of society and a fundamental way of life!  Sheesh!

I wonder how successful this approach is going to be. I think you can tell that I believe it’s a step in the wrong direction, and evidently at least one other person agrees with me. According to the newspaper report, an official of another airline expressed concern that the concept could affect the reputation of the entire air transport industry. What about you? What do you think?

If you’re a new supervisor, is “bossy” better?

Last month’s issue of Harvard Business Review had an interesting article by Stephen Sauer, a business school professor at Clarkson University in New York. You can read the whole article here, but in a nutshell, Sauer puts forward that if you are a manager that’s new to a position, you will be more successful if you are bossy and tell others what to do, rather than being collaborative.

On the basis of two experiments, Sauer suggests that rookie managers are often perceived as having low status – because of age, education or experience – and so when they ask for input, they can be seen to lack in confidence. However, when they tell others what to do, they are viewed as more confident. Interestingly enough, the opposite occurs with experienced managers. When veteran managers give orders, they are viewed as less confident and less effective, suggesting that collaborative leadership is for those who have a past positive track record in leadership.

What do you think? Do you think Sauer has it right? Should those new to a leadership position be more “bossy”?