Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: August 2017

Are you inadvertently sabotaging yourself?

sabotaging yourselfAre you inadvertently sabotaging yourself?  A few weeks ago, I asked a different question: Would you run a marathon blindfolded?  It was in reference to how managers in organizations sometimes (usually inadvertently) set their employees up to fail by not giving them the tools and resources they need in order to get the job done!  This post prompted an email from a reader who shared the following:

[This post] reminded me of what one of my bosses used to always say when he saw people doing things in an unnecessarily difficult way.....You can climb Mount Everest in a pair of Oxfords, but it's difficult!

(By the way, Oxfords are formal lace-up shoes, usually worn by men as a necessary component of formal business attire.)

You can climb Mount Everest in a pair of Oxfords, but it’s difficult!

Which got me thinking further.  My original post was about how managers were the ones at fault … asking their people to complete tasks or fulfill responsibilities but neglecting to give them the tools and information they needed to make it happen.  But what if the guilty party isn’t your manager?  What if it’s you?  Do we sometimes, without realizing it, sabotage ourselves by wearing the metaphoric Oxfords when we should be wearing hiking boots?  Continue reading

Successful change in organizations doesn’t just happen. Here is strategy #10

In my continuing video series on leading successful change in organizations (which started back in June), here is strategy #10.  Today’s tip is: Let people vent.

Let people vent

You may recall that back in Strategy #2, I outlined how it is completely normal for employees, when faced with change that is perceived as negative, to go through stages of denial and anger BEFORE they can get to acceptance of the change itself.  Venting is a key component of both denial and anger.  It is an opportunity for the person to let off steam, to get their frustrations out and off their chest, by saying everything that’s on their mind.

And by the way, when you let someone vent, it does not mean that your role is now to jump in and give advice, nor does it mean that you should sit there silently.  Neither of these two options are likely to get your employee past denial and anger.  Continue reading

Here’s what Google discovered about team effectiveness

Business SeminarIn my practice, I am routinely asked by leaders in organizations for the definitive factors that lead to team effectiveness.  After all, leaders in every organization want to know what it takes to create high-performing work groups that not only exceed objectives but also play well in the sandbox together.  Well Google wanted to know the answer to this question as well, so in 2012 it embarked on an ambitious two-year project to codify the secrets of team effectiveness.  Code-named Project Aristotle, this sizeable initiative, in true data-crunching Google style, set out to study and analyze over 180 of Google’s internal teams to figure out why some stumbled while others soared.

Google’s Project Aristotle

Julia Rozovsky is an analyst in Google People Operations, and here is what she had to say about Project Aristotle.

Over two years we conducted 200+ interviews with Googlers (our employees) and looked at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams. We were pretty confident that we'd find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team -- take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right?  We were dead wrong!

Continue reading

Leading change strategy #9: Be transparent

My last two tips on leading change in organizations focused on communication (tell people why and feed the grapevine).  In today’s video in this series, I am switching focus slightly.

Be transparent

Transparency is key when leading change.  Be open and honest about difficulties, challenges and concerns with the “new order”.  Every change initiative comes with its own set of problems, many of which are expected or can be anticipated.  Don’t sugar-coat or attempt to hide them.  Be transparent about the potential challenges that may be experienced as a result of the changes.  Your focus instead should be on looking jointly for solutions to address them.  Do not try to minimize the challenges, or even worse, pretend they do not exist. You’re fooling no one, and all that you’re doing is jeopardizing your credibility.

In fact, by stating the challenges and concerns before your employees do, you are accomplishing three major benefits. Continue reading

What is your response to difficult workplace situations?

As a leader, you will often find yourself dealing with difficult workplace situations.  Many of which will test your resolve and tenacity.  Some will be people-related, others process-related, and yet others will have to do with ethical and moral dilemmas.  Several will make you stumble and even fall.  And more than likely, a few will cause you to question whether the entire leadership journey is worth it.

You don’t stop walking because you sprained your ankle

difficult workplace situations

You don’t stop walking because you sprained your ankle.  Instead, you take the unfortunate experience as an indicator of what not to do and what obstacles to watch out for, but you still keep walking.   Sure, you may rest up for a couple of days, perhaps even use a walking aid for a few more, but eventually you stand up, take a few tentative steps and continue walking towards wherever you need to be.  You may be more thoughtful about what route you take and you may be more aware of your surroundings, but at no point do you say “That walking thing didn’t work out so well, I think I’ll stop doing it.” Continue reading

Some unconventional advice for leading change in your organization

My previous instalment in my video series on leading change focused on the importance of communicating why.  Today’s tip also has to do with communication.  I call it “feed the grapevine”.

Feed the grapevine

Way back in leading change strategy #1, I talked about involving employees early on in the change process, and I mentioned the existence of one of the most efficient, if not necessarily effective, communication channels that exists in organizations – the company grapevine.  Whether or not the information in the grapevine is correct, its transmission is very prompt and immediate.  And in the absence of correct information from the leadership team, invariably, the grapevine contains the worst possible scenario.  Which is a recipe for disaster.  Because once the worst possible version gets into the grapevine, as you likely know, it takes on a life of its own.  The grapevine quickly morphs into the rumour mill.  Continue reading

Don’t set employees up to fail

I often blog about how managers, sometimes inadvertently, set employees up to fail.  Unfortunately, this issue comes up repeatedly.  Which leads me to the opening question in today’s post: if you want to successfully run a marathon, would you do it blindfolded?

Would you run a marathon blindfolded?

set employees up to fail

Of course not.  Yet, it is exactly what is asked of so many employees by their managers in workplaces across the country!  And every time they do that (often unintentionally), they set employees up to fail.

When people are asked to complete tasks or fulfill responsibilities but they are not given the tools and information they need in order to successfully get the job done, it is the metaphoric equivalent of trying to run a marathon without the benefit of sight.  Even if there are people on the sidelines shouting out instructions, yelling louder does not get the runner to the finish line.  What the marathoner really needs to be successful is an overview of the course with a mental picture of the finish line, adequate running gear (shoes, etc.), mile markers at strategic points to indicate progress, onlookers offering encouragement along the way, and oh yes, the crystal-clear ability to see where s/he is going.

How would you remove the blindfold at work?

In a work environment, the metaphoric “removal of the blindfold” includes: Continue reading

Cross-cultural communication tips for women

cross-cultural communication expert Tina VarugheseTina Varughese is not only an expert on workplace diversity and cross-cultural communication, she’s also my professional colleague and my friend. I am also thrilled that I will be sharing the platform with her later this year at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary.  Tina’s opening keynote at this prestigious event is titled “50 Shades of Beige – Successful sales and service to all cultures.”  Yeah, I know, the irreverent title should give you some inkling as to how thought-provoking and hilarious she is going to be.  Anyway, more about the Customer Service Leadership Summit at the end of this post.  To the business at hand, I asked Tina to guest on the blog today, and she brought a perspective that I don’t often cover on the blog – that of women in international business.  True, I often write about cross-cultural communication and differences, but Tina’s post today focuses on an even tighter subset – women and cross-cultural communication.

The Perception of Women in International Business

As a woman in business, you may need to be prepared for culture-specific expectations and practices in business situations. Understanding cross-cultural differences and having an understanding of cross-cultural communication will definitely further career goals.  Building close business relationships with people from other cultures might often be more difficult than it is for male colleagues.  There are ways to build these relationships and prove yourself as a trustworthy and respected professional that will often need to differ from how males accomplish this.  Continue reading

Communicating change? Tell people why!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted an installment in our ongoing video series on specific actions you can take to better manage your organizational change initiative.  However, I’m back today with another specific strategy, this one focusing on communicating change in a way that is effective and likely to bring people on board. Today’s tip: when it comes to communicating change, offer as much detail as you can about the why’s and how’s of the change.

Tell people why

People want to know why.  So take the time to explain it.  Several years ago, I was on my way to work with a client in an isolated area of northern Quebec in Canada.  In order to get to this community, I took a small commuter flight that made three stops at remote communities before finally arriving to my destination. At each of these three stops, we disembarked from the plane for about twenty minutes while it was refueled. At one of these stops however, twenty minutes elapsed and stretched into forty, and everyone in the small airport waiting room began to get more and more restless. Forty minutes became sixty, and the level of frustration in the room audibly increased. By this point in time, even I wanted to know the reason for the delay. So I walked up to the young man at the airline desk and asked.  But he wouldn’t give me a straight answer.  Which caused me to get even more persistent as he gave me several evasive answers.  But eventually, he told me the truth.  In fact, it turned out to be a perfectly legitimate reason. Continue reading