Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: July 2012

Real leaders don’t fret and fuss about EVERYTHING

If you’re a worrier, then you’re not being as exceptional a leader as you can be. The truth is that very little of what we fret and fuss about ever happens, so worrying about EVERYTHING only creates more instability and angst within your team than there needs to be. I’m not saying you shouldn’t worry at all; I’m just saying that you don’t have to share EVERY concern with EVERYBODY on your team. Worst case scenario, if you persist, others will see you as lacking in confidence or god forbid, setting up to make excuses for future possible failures. Your team members want a leader who calms their uncertainties and doubts, not a leader that amplifies them.

So … do you agree? Or am I being too tough? Jump in with your thoughts.

How to lead the change-resistant employee

Do you find yourself dealing with employees who are resistant to change, and apathetic, negative or distrustful of anything new? Interestingly enough, despite the fact that negative change is often unpredictable, people’s reactions to it tend to follow a classic four-step model.  In this article I walk through a specific example to illustrate the model AND offer you two key things you should be aware of in order to ease the process.

Dealing with change

What have been your experiences? Do you have approaches you use that you can share with your fellow blog readers? Do tell.

What does it take to transform organizational culture?

If you want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.

– Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in Il Gattopardo (The Leopard)

As paradoxical as this quote may sound, it’s the perfect lead-in for my latest article in CGA Magazine. In this month’s issue, I explain how employees view any change initiative from three possible degrees of transformation, and then I offer five key things that you should focus on as a leader if you want your change efforts to be successful.

Implementing Change: What it takes to transform organizational culture

Give it a quick read and then come on back to the blog and share your thoughts. Let’s get a conversation going so that we can learn from one another.

Don’t allow negative people to be disrespectful

Over the past few months, we’ve talked about how defensiveness and stalling are just two of the tactics used by negative people to create a toxic work environment.  Here’s a third – being disrespectful to both their peers and their managers.  And this one, particularly if you are at the receiving end, is the hardest to swallow.  But if you do happen to be at the short end of this stick, it is worth remembering that being disrespectful is actually just another way that negative people attempt to mask their own lack of self-esteem.  By making someone else look weak, the attacker believes the focus is deflected off himself and on to the receiver.  Put-downs are specific examples of disrespect.  They are small jabs for control. The negative person who uses put-downs may be trying to save face in an uncomfortable position or to regain some control if he’s feeling threatened.

So how should you handle it?  Continue reading

How to get respect in the workplace despite your youth

I recently got an email from a new graduate who’s been in the job for about six months. He feels that because of his youth, he’s not always taken seriously by his more veteran co-workers, and he asked for some advice on how to best go about earning greater influence and responsibility. His email reminded me of an article I wrote in CGA Magazine back in 2008 on this very subject in which I laid out four specific and practical ideas to move positively in this direction. Apparently, some workplace issues are timeless!

Given that thousands of university and college graduates have just recently started in their first internships or full-time jobs, I thought it was appropriate to point people to this article. In Welcome to Your First Job, I outline four things that you can do to get respect despite your youth – learn more, share your knowledge, get involved and write well. Give it a read, and then come on back and offer your sage advice to these thousands of new entrants into the workforce.

You create the culture in your organization

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – You are a role model. Whether you realize it, whether you want it or want nothing to do with it, you have no choice; you are a role model. Your actions will create your organizational or departmental culture. Your employees look to you for leadership and direction and they will emulate your behaviour. Which means that you better be modeling whatever it is you want them to do and say.

I was reminded of this … in a very positive way … just last week. I was delivering a keynote at the Leadership Symposium for the quintessential Canadian brand Tim Hortons. Not only was it a learning event for their restaurant owners from across the Canada and United States but it was also a celebration and demonstration of what this company does so well – commit fully to people, customer service and community leadership. Tim Hortons proudly proclaims that they touch the lives of hundreds of people in their community. Whether it’s remembering a guest’s order or greeting a guest by name, they bring a personal touch to every guest’s visit. And I unexpectedly, and very pleasantly, discovered this to be true for myself. Let me tell you what happened. Continue reading

Leadership is NOT about managing people!

Effective leadership is like tending a garden. Assume that it’s a large garden, so you can’t do it on your own; you need to hire a gardener or two. Never forget that your objective is to manage the garden – you can decide what you want to plant, where and when – and you can make arrangements to get the right tools –spades and hoes and rakes and wheelbarrows – but don’t lose sight that your goal is to manage the garden, and not the gardeners. You see, the gardeners manage themselves! Sure, you need to tell them what you want done and make certain they understand, but they are the ones who actually dig and plant and weed and prune. There’s no point in standing over the gardeners while they dig holes and plant bushes and weed beds and prune trees; it’s not going to make the plants grow any faster. In fact, when you think about it, the gardeners don’t actually grow anything either, the plants grow on their own. So your gardeners are really your assistants, people you can trust and rely on to help you get your garden to where it needs to be. Sure, you might check in often to ensure that they don’t need clarification or your help in obtaining the required tools, but your time is really best spent on long-term strategy – envisioning the overall layout of the garden, planning for the next season, and going through the seed catalogues. But … the key in making all this happen lies in ensuring that you get right gardeners in the first place.

So when you think about it, effective leadership is about managing situations, processes, events, strategies (and even outcomes), but it’s not about managing people. Because people manage themselves! Your job is to focus on the big picture, tell them what needs to be done, get them the tools they need, and to check in periodically to support and encourage. But you can’t do this unless you get the right people on your team. So put your energy into building your team and then trust them to get on with it.

Do you agree?  If not, why not?  Share your perspective please by adding your Comment below.

The top five reasons your employees won’t give you feedback

Rell DeShaw is a manager in Canada’s federal public service and I met her at the National Managers’ Community Development Forum in Winnipeg this past May.  She is not only an exceptional leader but also an avid learner and teacher, seeking to discover and share resources with others.  She is the author of her own blog Letter to a New Manager, and a few weeks ago I asked her if she would guest here on Turning Managers into Leaders.  Much to my delight, she agreed!

I believe in giving upward feedback … but I subscribe to the theory that the higher up you go, the less willing people are to give you honest feedback.  Unfortunately, because of the perceived power imbalance, many employees won’t bother telling you what they really think.  Here are their top five reasons why they won’t AND my rebuttals to these rationales.

  1. It’s the leader’s job to give me feedback not the other way around. Like any relationship, your relationship with your boss goes two ways, so as long as feedback is given in a way that has the potential to strengthen the relationship, it can be done.
  2. They should already know this – don’t managers get trained? No matter how much training a manager takes, the fact is that they have never managed you. They can’t read your mind and they may forget that they are not managing a clone of themselves. Of course your boss has preferences about how they want to work and ultimately they get the last word. But you won’t know if there is room for change until you ask.
  3. I’ll probably get fired for insubordination. That is certainly possible if you choose to give the feedback in a disrespectful way but I think that the better way to approach it is that you were both hired to work for the same goal. If you have a suggestion to change the working relationship to be more effective in reaching a common result, why wouldn’t you propose it? In upward feedback discussions I always ask myself “What’s in it for them?” and “What’s in it for the organization?” Without good answers to these two questions, I am not yet ready to have an upward feedback discussion.
  4. If they wanted my feedback they’d have asked for it. Yes in an ideal world they would have, but this doesn’t mean you can’t offer it anyway. It won’t occur to some, some don’t know how to ask, some don’t think they’d get any feedback even if they tried.
  5. I have no reason to believe this will be effective. Some ways to test the water without actually talking to your boss include: Doing back door checks to see how they have reacted to feedback in the past. If the person doesn’t “suffer fools gladly” it may not be worth it. It is however a good sign of the person has done a 360 degree feedback exercise.

So, what do you have to add to this list?  What are your reasons for not giving (or giving) feedback to your boss?  Let’s add to this great list that Rell has started.  Please add your Comments below.

You can dialogue with Rell through her blog at Letter to a New Manager.

Expect older, experienced employees to continue to learn

If you have older, more experienced employees on your team, often they will assume that they no longer need training. After all, they’ve been doing what they’re doing for a while, so what value will training add? Perhaps nothing to the technical aspects of their job, but there is still a great deal of return on investment to be had on training in other areas. When it comes to verbal and written communication, relationship skills, leadership development, and personal development, there is always something new to learn. Or perhaps your employees aspire to other roles but previous managers have shut down their dreams. Now is the time to help them shine. When you insist that your employees, ALL your employees, continue to learn, the message you send is strong: “I value you enough to invest in you.” Occasionally, your veteran employees will fight you on this, stating: “I’m not looking to get a promotion or move to another job, so I really don’t need to attend any training.” Don’t buy into that excuse; be adamant in your resolve that they should always continue to learn.

What do you think? Is training an investment that will yield returns when it comes to older, more experienced employees? Please add your comments below.

P.S. In previous blogs, I’ve offered you ideas on how to capitalize on the value that older, experienced employees bring to the organization. If you’re interested, see: