Merge's Blog

Yearly Archives: 2017

We’ll be back on January 8!

CelebrationAs we do every year at this time, we’re taking a short hiatus at the Turning Managers into Leaders blog to celebrate the holiday season. But we’ll be back, excited and energized, ready to talk and learn, on Monday January 8, 2018.  I look forward to another fantastic year of sharing tips and exchanging ideas, starting conversations and perhaps even some arguments, all in the pursuit of becoming even better leaders than you already are!

In the meantime, my best wishes to all of you and your loved ones for a festive, joyous, rejuvenating time with family and friends. I hope you’ll continue old traditions and find the time to create new ones!  See you in 2018!

Don’t just seek advice, pay attention to what you hear

Last year, I wrote a short series of posts on specific techniques you can use as a leader to improve the quality of your decision-making.  This story about a Swedish warship from the early 1600’s emphasizes not only the importance of approaching your team and experts to seek advice, but to also pay heed to the advice once you’ve heard it.

The tale of the Vasa: one king’s folly

seek adviceIn 1626, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden ordered the building of the Vasa, a new warship that was intended to become, for that era, the most powerful marine vessel in the Baltic Sea.  As was common in warships then, the Vasa was to have a rank of cannons on each side of the boat so that soldiers could easily fire at their attackers, no matter what direction the assault came from.

King Adolphus considered himself something of an expert boat designer so he took an immense interest in the actual design of the ship.  About mid-way during the ship’s two year construction, he learned that Poland, his greatest archenemy (and rival to take control of the Baltic Sea), had stepped up their naval firepower by building warships with ranks of cannons on two levels.  Well, Adolphus wasn’t going to be outdone!  Continue reading

One year of video tips on employee motivation … coming up in 2018

I am thrilled to announce that we have big plans for 2018 – a whole year of video tips specifically focusing on employee motivation!!

This past year, upon urging from many of you, I made the decision to post more video blogs.  You all told me that you appreciated hearing quick, specific, and actionable tips that you could implement immediately.  So back in February, as an experiment, I started with a short video series on making the switch from a non-supervisory to a management role – seven individual discrete tips to help you seamlessly move into the new role of a supervisor.  The response was so positive that I was persuaded to try again.  So in April, I started another eight tip video series – this time on leading virtual teams.  In it, I offered up, again, specific practical ideas, on how to make long-distance leadership work.  When that turned out to be a success, I went all in, launching a 15-part video series in June on leading organizational change.  Well, you’ve continued to tell me that you like these – that they’re quick and easy to internalize and implement, and that you’d like some more.

2018 … one whole year of video tips on how to motivate employees

So I can’t stop now, and I’ve got big plans for next year.  2018 is going to be the year to focus on and highlight ideas on employee motivation.  Actually, more specifically, zero and low-cost ways to inspire, encourage and excite your people – to greater positivity and productivity, to higher performance and greater commitment. Continue reading

Self-discipline and restraint are admirable leadership qualities

self-disciplineA bowl of dried beans offers two possibilities.  One, you can cook them up for a satisfying protein-rich meal.  Or two, you can plant them, and watch the successful seeds produce many, many more.  Your choice will determine whether you have food now, or food later.  This situation is reminiscent of the Stanford marshmallow experiment.  The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a series of studies on delayed gratification and self-discipline in the late 1960s and early 1970s, led by psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University.  If you are interested in learning more about the marshmallow experiment, I wrote about it (in 2007) in a Mega Minute titled Marshmallows, self-discipline, and success.

Beans … now or later

Let’s go back to the beans however.  If you’re the kind of person who guards your bowl of beans so that you can consume them all yourself, then you’ll certainly have a satisfying meal.  But your triumph will likely end there.  On the other hand, if you’re the leader who is willing to exercise self-discipline and self-restraint, at least in the short-term, and one who plants those seeds far and wide, you’ll create much greater potential.  Not only will you ensure a longer-term food supply for yourself, but you’ll also nourish others and build incredible goodwill with your staff, your colleagues, and your clients.

So, are you the leader who is willing to apply self-discipline and share your resources with others – information, your expertise, and your time – in order to build long-term success?  Or are you more interested in hoarding your sources and means because you are focused on victory today?  I hope you are the former, but I’d love to hear your perspectives.  Please share your thoughts below.

Braving the tides of a shifting retail industry

My latest regular column for The Globe & Mail published over the weekend in their Saturday edition.  It was inspired by two significant, yet polar opposite, events that occurred just recently in Canada’s retail industry.  The impending closure of a Canadian institution, Sears, contrasted with the almost-manic expansion of the online retailer, Amazon.

Braving the tides of a shifting retail industry

In What it takes to thrive in a shifting retail industry, I’ve compared Sears to Amazon, emphasizing that traditional retail is being replaced by options that promote less interaction with people and more interaction with systems.  This past weekend was Grey Cup weekend in Canada (Canadian football, for my non-Canadian readers).  So I’ve used the evolution of the quarterback as a metaphor for the shift in the retail industry.

Would love to hear what you think!

As always, I would love to hear your perspectives.  What do you think is the future of retail as we see it today?  What are the skills needed to adapt and thrive in the changing retail landscape?  You can either add your comments directly at The Globe’s site, or post your response here on the blog.

Sometimes, The Globe puts my columns behind their paywall. If that happens and you are unable to access the article directly through the link above, we will shortly be archiving a pdf version on the website at this link.

P.S. I’d like to gratefully acknowledge the kind assistance of Jeff Sharpe, a leader in one of my client organizations, who gave me invaluable assistance in getting the football metaphor right.  Those of you who know me well are fully aware that my in-depth knowledge of sports is limited 🙂 , so I am very appreciative of Jeff’s help.

Here’s how to destroy customer loyalty in a matter of minutes (aka lack of empathy)

I was recently reminded, first-hand, of how customer loyalty can be lost through a few ill-chosen words.  Let me explain.

Lack of empathyA couple of months ago, my elderly father was unexpectedly admitted into the hospital due to some health complications.  The hospital stay was longer than anyone had anticipated, and in the stress and anxiety related to this medical emergency, he missed making his payment on his ScotiaBank Visa credit card.  Now he’s been a ScotiaBank customer for at least thirty years and has a track record of not only paying all his bills on time, but also carrying a zero balance.  By the time we realized the oversight, he had been charged approximately $12 in finance charges.  As a senior with limited income, this distressed him greatly, so I promised to call the credit card company to see if they would, as a gesture of goodwill for his ongoing customer loyalty, reverse the charge.

My initial conversation with the customer service rep got nowhere.  Even though I explained why my father could not come to the telephone, the Visa rep, citing privacy laws, refused to discuss the situation with me because I was not the holder of record on the credit card.  Fair enough.  However, he suggested that I contact my father’s bank manager who would be able to assist.  So I did.

The real surprise was the conversation with the branch manager …

And promptly discovered a very surprising (and disappointing) approach to treating a long-term loyal customer.  Continue reading

Leadership literacy is essential; ignorance is unacceptable

leadership literacyLeaders have a responsibility to be literate.  And by the word “literate”, I mean knowledgeable.  Now that information is ubiquitous, available through our fingertips at the closest keyboard, twenty-four seven, there is no longer any reason to claim that you don’t know.  Ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse.  But real leadership literacy also requires critical thinking.  It is possible to tell the difference between genuine data and pseudo-science; between real facts and false news.  It requires however that you read beyond the headlines and evaluate the sources and the author.  It is possible to appreciate and comprehend the people you work with.  But that means that you need to make the effort and take the time to get to know them.  Leadership literacy is not only essential, it is completely achievable.

5 Rules of 21st Century Leadership Literacy

With this cautionary counsel in mind, here are five rules of 21st century leadership literacy that every leader should follow: Continue reading

Successful business relationships require that you invest before you withdraw

I continue to be astounded at how many people simply don’t understand what it takes to build solid thriving business relationships that stand the test of time.  This was emphasized to me, yet again, because of something that happened a few weeks ago.

business relationshipsbusiness relationshipsNow that we have opened our new west coast office, I find myself attending a lot more business networking events in Victoria and Vancouver than I have in the past.  At one of these well-attended events, I was walking back to my vehicle at the end of the evening, when I happened to find myself next to a woman who was also leaving the same event.  I had not had an opportunity to meet her earlier in the evening, so as we made the three-minute walk to the parking lot, we shook hands and introduced ourselves to each other.  As we parted ways beneath a street light, she asked for my business card, suggesting that we should meet again over a cup of coffee to get to know one another.  I readily agreed, always open to building relationships in my professional circles.  I took her business card as well, intending to connect with her the next time I was in town.

Our next contact was not what I expected

One week later, I received an email from her.  But it didn’t contain the expected invitation to coffee.  Continue reading

Customer Service Leadership Summit – advance registration deadline is midnight Wednesday

Customer Service Leadership SummitIf you’re a regular reader of the blog, or if you receive my monthly Mega Minutes, then you already know how excited I am about sharing the stage with three exceptional speakers at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary AB on November 15.  Not just these three amazing thought-leaders, but three industry experts will also be on stage, each of whom know exactly what they’re talking about and willing to share their extensive knowledge with you!  Why make the most common mistakes when you can learn how to avoid them from people who are incredibly successful at what they do?  The advance registration deadline is just two days away … just until midnight on Wednesday November 8.  If you act before then, you’ll save 30% off the standard rate.  On Thursday, the price will go up.  We only have a few seats left, so do it now!

Still not sure whether you should attend? Get a sample of what you can expect

If you’ve been waffling on whether or not you should attend, following are four videos that give you just a small taste of what you can expect.  Michael Kerr, Tina Varughese, and Jeff Mowatt are not just my professional colleagues who are renowned experts in their individual areas, but they are also professional speakers who know how to engage and entertain a business audience while sharing relevant ideas

Michael Kerr – Best-selling author

Tina Varughese – Cross-cultural communication expert

Jeff Mowatt – Customer service strategist

And … yours truly

You are a role model for workplace change that you’re leading … so walk the talk!

I started this video tip series on how leaders can successfully implement workplace change back in June, and today is instalment #15, which will be my final piece of advice in this series.  I hope you’ve enjoyed them and found them of value.  If you want to see all of them in one place, you can find them in the Video section of our website (under the Tools tab).  Here is a direct link: http://www.turningmanagersintoleaders.com/tools/videos/

My final tip in this series for leaders who are managing workplace change initiatives: recognize that you set the tone.

Recognize that you set the tone

As a leader, by virtue of your position and title in your organization, you are a role model.  Which means that you need to understand that you play a key role in the success of your workplace change initiative.  Your behaviour and actions will set the tone for how your employees will behave and act; it will establish the culture change that you are seeking for your department or your organization.  Truth be told, you cannot expect your employees to change if you’re not willing demonstrate that you’re willing to make changes yourself.   So it is essential that you walk the talk.

Walk the talk

Do as you say.  Continue reading