Merge's Blog

Yet another example of foolish short-sighted company policies!

Over the years, I have often blogged about foolish short-sighted company policies and management practices – forced ranking, archaic performance reviews, the requirement that employees substantiate bereavement leave, assuming that attendance equals productivity – to name just a few.  Well, what is really mind-boggling to me is that the list continues to grow.

Today’s example of foolish short-sighted company policies and/or management practices that is irking me: that a manager can unilaterally deny an employee’s application for an internal transfer or promotion.

Unilaterally denying internal transfers or promotions is just wrong!

Now before you start on me, I am well aware of the reasons that managers might want this discretion.  I fully understand that constant turnover in a department is disruptive and difficult.  Sure, you want employees to be in positions long enough so that they are not just making their way up the learning curve, but also around for a reasonable period to master responsibilities and make positive improvements in their roles.  I get that!

But far too often, I come across managers who hold employees back for no other reason than they want to eliminate (or reduce) interruption and instability in their own departments.  For purely selfish reasons, they block their (good) people from moving on to other favourable opportunities.  And because they have been given the unilateral discretion to deny their employees these possibilities, they do exactly that.  Ironically though, these actions don’t usually benefit either the manager (or the organization) in the long-term.  Good employees who are obstructed from achieving their own aspirations get demoralized and demotivated, and eventually just leave the organization and walk …. usually right over to the competitors.

There is a reasonable alternative

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Top employee motivators #21: performance feedback that is constructive

In our last video tip in our continuing series on persuasive and effective employee motivators, I talked about how offering timely performance feedback is a compelling and powerful leadership tool.  But there is one additional aspect of performance feedback, positive or negative, that can make it even more successful.  And that is: ensure that your performance feedback is constructive.

Ensure that your performance feedback is constructive

So what exactly does constructive mean?  It means that you need to be specific enough so that it is clear to your employee what actions or behaviours need to be changed.  It is critical that you focus on giving your employee information so that he or she understands what needs to be changed in order to fix the problem.  An easy way to do this is to focus on facts rather than opinions.  Let me explain.

Example #1

“I want you to be more positive in our team meetings” is a statement that is based on opinion.  While getting your employee to be more positive may be the outcome you want, the statement itself gives no information about what actions or behavior you want changed in order to fix the problem.  Consider this statement instead: “When other team members offer suggestions, I’d like you to hold back on expressing your reservations about their ideas until others have had a chance to contribute and discuss further.”  This statement is based on fact.  And it gives your employee specific and clear information on what you’d like changed in order to create a more positive environment in your team meetings.  See the difference?

Example #2

Okay, let’s try another one.  “You need to be more organized” is a statement based on an opinion, and it doesn’t offer any useful information to your employee about what you’d like done differently.  But “I’d like you to keep an updated real-time log of outstanding system issues that I can access whenever I need it” is based on fact, most likely that you have faced instances in the past when you have been unable to do so.  Now your employee has information that is specific enough so that he or she know what needs to be done to improve the current situation.  I think you get the idea.

When you offer constructive performance feedback, you are providing information that is specific enough for the employee to be clear on what needs to be changed in order to correct the present state of affairs.  Many people question how giving negative feedback can be motivating.  In fact, it’s this “constructive” aspect of performance feedback that puts it into the category of powerful employee motivators.

Well?  As always, I am interested to hear your perspectives.  Are most managers good at offering feedback that is constructive?  What do they do well?  And what don’t they?  Please share.

Periods of vulnerability can present both threats and opportunities

vulnerabilityRecently I had a conversation with a scientist friend who told me how biologists use information about animal life cycles to accomplish diametrically opposite objectives – in some cases to purge populations, and in others to conserve them.  The secret: determining in which stage of its life cycle is the animal most vulnerable.  And it’s at these points of vulnerability that either the worst or the best is the easiest to accomplish.  It is when the animals are at greatest risk that it takes the least effort to destroy them, or conversely, to protect them.  He gave me two examples to illustrate his point.

The Bertha armyworm

The Bertha armyworm is a significant insect pest of canola in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the interior of British Columbia.  Like many insects, it goes through a four stage life cycle – egg, larva, pupa and finally, the adult moth stage.  However, their vulnerability is greatest at the larval stage.  As eggs, they are not susceptible to pesticides; as pupae, they are buried in the ground and therefore well protected; as adults, they are widely dispersed and therefore difficult to control.  Because scientists know that the insect’s defences are the weakest when at the larval stage, substantial and successful control efforts are targeted at this point in the life cycle.  Continue reading

Employee motivators that really work – timely performance feedback

Last week, in our video series on employee motivators that really work, I gave you strategy #19 – delegate effectively.  Today’s tip: offer timely performance feedback, both positive and negative.  Give your employees feedback about their performance that they can use to become better at what they do, and do so on a timely basis.  But what does timely mean?

Offer timely performance feedback

Timely means within 48 hours of you being made aware of the event.  This is important, in order for performance feedback to be effective, it must be delivered within 48 hours of the event that it relates to, or within 48 hours of you finding out about it.  So what happens if you are not going to have an opportunity to see your employee for another week?  Should you wait to deliver it face-to-face, in person?  Well ideally, in person is the best option, but if the feedback is positive, time is more important than face-to-face.  In order for positive feedback to be effective, it’s more important to deliver it on a timely basis, rather than in person.  So if you know you’re not going to get that face-to-face meeting, leave a voicemail or send a short e-mail acknowledging and thanking the person for their good work.

What if the feedback is negative?

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Bracing for the boomer brain drain

As the last of the Boomers move through their 50’s and beyond, those who elect to take early retirement often take decades of tacit knowledge with them.  This boomer brain drain – the loss of undocumented, intuitive experiential information about people, business processes and informal procedures can leave huge gaps in an organization’s cumulative intelligence.

The boomer brain drain can cripple your company

This corporate amnesia can cripple a company, so if you’re a leader, it’s up to you to actively identify and work to mitigate this possibility.  And the time to do it is now, well in advance, and not just in the months and weeks before a key employee is due to leave.  In my latest column for The Globe and Mail, I offer five strategies to brace for the boomer brain drain, and retain crucial institutional knowledge.

Bracing for the boomer brain drain

Bracing for the boomer brain drain

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Reverse mentoring: working one-on-one with a younger colleague can help you stay relevant

reverse mentoringI often discuss the value of one-on-one mentoring relationships with my clients as well as here on the blog (in fact, one-on-one mentoring makes up a significant portion of my professional practice).  The assumption with mentoring is often that it is a one-way effort – veteran staff mentoring younger employees.  However, there is just as much value in reverse mentoring – where senior employees benefit from a one-on-one learning relationship with someone who is much younger.  The value can come in many aspects, but the most beneficial is likely in the area of technology.

When it comes to technology, there are many tools and resources out there that you may have never heard about.  So if you are over 35 years old, it’s worth considering a reverse mentoring relationship with a younger work colleague.  Ask your younger mentor what trends they are observing and what new technologies they are trying out.  Ask them to show you how these tools work.  Tell them about the work-related challenges you are facing and see if they have solutions to offer that you may not have considered, or for that matter, even know about. Continue reading

Effective and powerful employee motivators – Tip #19

Today’s blog post continues on with our ongoing video series on effective and powerful employee motivators.  The last one I gave you was Strategy #18: create a vision and sense of purpose.  And today, Strategy #19 is to delegate effectively.  And the key word here is “effectively”.  In order for delegations to be employee motivators, they must be done “effectively”, which means something very specific in this context.

Delegate effectively

Often, managers tell me that I’d like to delegate … but my employees resist responsibility.  And quite frankly, they already have more work than they can handle.  In fact, the research shows that the belief that employees resist responsibility is a myth.  Most staff welcome responsibility, but in order to be successful, they also need two more things in addition to responsibility.  In order to fulfill the responsibility, they also need authority AND accountability.  And it’s in these two areas that delegation often falls apart.

Delegate authority with responsibility

Often, managers are quick to delegate responsibility, but they either inadvertently or intentionally do not delegate the authority to act to fulfill that responsibility.  Continue reading

Social awareness is a necessary component of emotional intelligence

social awarenessI have long championed that emotional intelligence is a fundamental and necessary skill for leaders, and I repeatedly see evidence of that (or lack thereof) in my leadership development practice.  A conversation with my husband last weekend reminded me specifically of one significant component of emotional intelligence.  Namely, social awareness – the ability to sense others’ feelings and perspectives and to accurately read emotional cues.

This manager lacked social awareness

Last Friday, my husband and a co-worker were, as he puts it, chest-deep in preparation for a senior management meeting scheduled for early Monday morning when a manager from another area walked into the room.

“Whatcha doing?” he asked with a smile.

“Trying to get all the materials together for the Vice Presidents’ meeting for Monday morning,” said my husband.

“And it’s an absolute mess.  We’re going to have to push until literally the last minute just to make sure that all the required data is there, and to also put it in some semblance of order,” added his colleague.  “I have a feeling that we’ll have to work late tonight, or else we’ll have to come in over the weekend to finish it.” Continue reading

Great service recovery from the Delta Burnaby!

When it comes to keeping your customers and clients happy, things don’t always go according to plan.  Stuff happens … deliveries are delayed, products don’t work exactly as intended, and your service falls short in one or more areas.  So, no matter how hard you try, the unfortunate truth is that things will go wrong!  Which is why I’ve always said that it’s not bad customer service that makes or breaks an organization, it’s the quality (or lack) of thdeltacardeir service recovery that makes the difference.  It’s how your staff react and respond to a customer’s problem or complaint that will decide whether you now have a disgruntled customer (who will likely tell many more via social media) or a raving enthusiastic fan.  I have blogged in the pdeltafruitplateast about how some companies don’t understand this fundamental reality of service recovery, most recently when writing about the Royal Bank.

But in today’s blog post, I want to go in the other direction – I want to tell you about an organization, and more specifically, one of their employees, who gets it!   Samantha Scott is the Guest Services Manager at the Delta Hotel in Burnaby BC, my hotel of choice when I work in the Vancouver area.  And something happened last week that reinforced why I choose to stay at this hotel, again and over again.

Is there a gym above me?

At about 9 PM on Tuesday night, an endless racket began in the room above me.  It sounded like my room was placed directly beneath a gym – I could hear furniture moving, what I thought were weights being dropped, and what seemed like an endless skipping rope, thumping against the floor.  Eventually, shortly after 10 PM, I called the front desk, and Samantha answered the phone. Continue reading

4 steps to finding a personal brand

Last month, reporter Sarah Ovaska-Few from Financial Management magazine reached out to me for an article she was writing on what it takes to find and build a personal brand.  As regular readers of the blog know, I have spoken and written on this subject before (see Five ways to build a kick-ass brand) so I was delighted to see if I could be of value to her.

Taking time to reflect on your personal brand can help focus your career goals

Here is a link to an online copy of her article which published earlier this month:

4 steps to finding a personal brand

personal brand

In it, Sarah interviews not only yours truly, but also Dima Ghawi, an executive who went through a personal branding process.  The premise in this article is that if you refine your personal brand, it can help you weigh your career options, highlight your skills, and thus eventually focus your career goals.  Definitely worth a read if you’re thinking about where and how you want your career to grow and progress.

What are your thoughts?  What advice do you have to offer those who are seeking to define their own personal brand?  I would love to hear about your experiences and decisions.