Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: February 2016

Three indisputable benefits of listening

curious businessman listens with glass leaning against the wallOver the years, I’ve penned many blog posts about the importance of effective listening, including the very interesting use of the word “listen” in traditional Mandarin Chinese. Today though, I thought it was worthwhile bringing up how not listening effectively actually causes people to sabotage their credibility and effectiveness. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize the benefits of listening, and thus, the serious consequences of not. Right off the top of my head, here are three specific benefits of listening that I can think of. Continue reading

Leadership training event coming up in Calgary

CPAThe next event in my series of “open enrollment” full-day leadership training programs in Alberta is coming up on March 10 in Calgary. This is one of twelve events that I am delivering in partnership with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta).

Emotional Intelligence: The Keys to Working More Effectively With Others will be held on Thursday March 10 at the Glenmore Inn.

I am often asked if I do “public” programs that anyone from any organization can attend. Unfortunately, my answer is usually “no” since most of my events are private – meant for leaders in the specific company that I am working with. But this series of programs offered in partnership with CPA Alberta is open to everyone; you DO NOT have to be a CPA member to register. If you work in a smaller organization that normally doesn’t have the budget to conduct onsite leadership training programs, then don’t miss this cost-effective opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development at a very reasonable cost, and a fraction of what it can cost through some commercial vendors. Click on the link above for further information or to register directly at the CPA Alberta site. You will need to create a secure account on their system in order to register, a very quick and easy process.

And please, leave a comment or send me a tweet if you’re planning to be there. That way I know to look forward to seeing you!

Positive phrasing is more powerful than negative

positive or negative optimism or pessimism bright side of life pIn last week’s post titled Don’t inadvertently send mixed messages, I talked about one reason employees don’t do what you expect and want them to. In today’s post, I decided to address another factor that can get in the way to people acting on your message – namely, your phrasing. If you want your communication to be more effective, if you want the likelihood that the action you desire will occur, then always choose to phrase your statements positively rather than in the negative. Why? Because positive phrasing is more compelling than negative. People are more likely to act, to do what you request, when you tell them what you want rather than what you don’t want.

So instead of saying Don’t miss the deadline or we’ll hear from the corporate office, you could say Please have your report turned in by Friday so that we meet the corporate deadline. This switch to positive phrasing makes a huge difference. In the first negative version you’re focusing on what you don’t want to happen and the negative consequences if it does. In the second positive phrasing, the focus is on what you should do and the positive outcome.

People don’t like to hear what they cannot do, what they did wrong, or what they ought to do, yet ironically, without realizing it, we provide instructions, directions, or enforce policies and procedures that do just that. Continue reading

Don’t inadvertently send mixed messages!

MixedMessageLast fall, my column for Profit Magazine on the five-step method for crystal-clear communication focused on how to give directions to employees in a way that they understood and acted – the first time. In today’s post, I decided to talk about why employees might not understand and act in the first place, specifically about the confusion that arises from mixed messages.

A mixed message is a cavernous disconnect between what you say and what you do, and quite frankly, it confuses your people. And when your people are confused, your credibility drops like a rock. An example is the manager who says “Don’t be afraid to tell me when something goes wrong” but then has a minor meltdown when an employee does exactly that. The poor confused employee doesn’t know whether it’s okay to tell his supervisor when something goes wrong, or whether he should keep quiet. And the manager loses credibility in the eyes of the employee. Mixed messages happen amongst peers as well. Have you ever met the co-worker who says “I’m open to feedback” but then gets silent and morose for the rest of the day when you offer her some advice? Does she really want feedback, or are you better off keeping your advice to yourself? Mixed messages are confusing! Continue reading

Need to have a difficult conversation with an employee?

Mgr-Emp-1Difficult conversations are just that … difficult … which is why so many of us keep putting them off. Has this ever happened to you? You have a problem or an issue you need to bring up with one of your employees – perhaps it’s a missed deadline, or constant tardiness, or a complaint from a customer – but things are overwhelmingly busy around the office and you can’t seem to make the time. Plus let’s face it, you’re not exactly looking forward to the conversation. So you might do what so many others in your situation do – you say, in passing, to your employee “We need to talk, but now is not a good time.” Don’t.

Why? Well, for one, the anticipation of not knowing what’s going on (even though your employee likely has some idea) will make your staff member feel apprehensive. Essentially you will be creating unease and anxiety without providing an opportunity to alleviate it. If your goal is to resolve the situation or get the employee to change their behaviour, then you’ve created a losing proposition before you’ve even started. Two, Continue reading

Feedforward – stay future-focused when offering feedback

forwardGiving negative feedback to employees is one of the hardest things that leaders have to do, so I often offer up how-to tips and ideas on the blog. One of my (many) past suggestions has been to stay future-focused in your conversation. Well I recently heard a new term to describe this approach – feedforward – and I liked it so much, I thought it was worth revisiting in today’s post.

Feedforward is focused on offering an employee suggestions for the future with a goal of helping them as much as you can. Supporters of the feedforward model suggest that because feedback focuses on the past, on what has already occurred, it is limited and static. Whereas feedforward, because it focuses on the infinite variety of opportunities that can happen in the future, is expansive and dynamic. Now I don’t think it really matters what word you choose because “feedback”, if it’s done well (and is future-focused), is just “feedforward” in disguise. But I do acknowledge that the word “feedforward” is an obvious and visible reminder of the importance of looking ahead rather than into the past. So let’s call it feedforward.

Here’s how it works. Continue reading

Resilient people have an attitude of gratitude, even during tough times

I’ve blogged previously about how important it is to build resilient employees, but my guest blogger today wrote the book on the subject! I am delighted that Patricia Morgan, my professional colleague and friend, is here to discuss the topic of workplace resiliency, an issue that is even more critical today, given that so many organizations are facing an economic recession. What happens to the people that get laid off? How do they cope? As Patricia points out, people who are resilient find ways to be grateful, even during a recession!

PatMorganAn Attitude of Gratitude During the Recession

Headline: Suicide rate in Alberta climbs 30% in the wake of mass oilpatch layoffs. CBC News, December 8, 2015.

The increases in depression and suicide are familiar statistics in times of recession. But people with high resilience continue to count their blessings; yes, even during a recession.

They remind themselves of Meister Eckhardt’s quotation, If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.

Our young next door neighbor was recently laid off from a job she loves. Fortunately, she was prepared to cut back on child care and other expenses. Also, she is wise enough to appreciate what is left for her and her family to enjoy. Continue reading

If you’re a leader, invest in yourself first

My first column for 2016 for ProfitGuide.com came out on Friday, and this one talks about a subject that every leader should think about, but many don’t! Most leaders consider it hugely important to invest in others – staff, peers, and their organization – but many forget that their capabilities as leaders is determined by what they have available in their own fuel tanks, which is why it is critical for them to invest in themselves first. Leaders can’t help anyone else if they’re running on empty! So in 5 Practical Ways You Should Invest in Yourself, I offer specific ideas on what leaders must do to refuel, so that they have the skills and energy to invest in others.

ProfitGuide020516

So what ideas do you have to add to the list? What are you doing to “put on your own oxygen mask first”? Please share by commenting below.

P.S. 2016 marks my second year as a regular contributor to ProfitGuide.com’s panel of business experts. You can find links to my previous columns on their site. For your information, Profit Magazine is a sister publication to Canadian business magazine giants Canadian Business, MoneySense and Macleans, and their list of columnists reads like the Who’s Who of Canadian business, so I am proud to be in such distinguished company.

“Just calm down” never works!

Businessman trying to calm down his upset negotiation partnerWe’ve all done it – said “just calm down” to another person in a situation of conflict. And I’m willing to bet it’s NEVER worked. Truth be told, saying “relax” or “calm down” (or even “take a chill pill”) is more likely to intensify or prolong the anger and exasperation. These phrases don’t bring stress levels down; instead they are virtually guaranteed to trigger further hostility and escalate the state of affairs. While your intention may have been honorable, the outcome is rarely successful. Inadvertent perhaps, but these types of statements only imply that the other person is unable to control themselves; and even though you may not have meant to, it feels to them like they are being treated like children. Ergo, the sure-fire negative reaction.

So what should you say? Continue reading