Merge's Blog

Tip #2 to keep in mind as a first-time supervisor

Moving into the new role of a first-time supervisor comes with challenges, many of which stem from not recognizing that you have fundamentally changed occupations.  I posted a video blog last week that offered one very important reminder when you make that transition.  Today I am posting a second video blog about how it’s critical to understand that as a first-time supervisor you cannot fall into the trap of thinking that the skills and behaviours that have made you successful in the past will make you successful in the future.  The skills needed for successful leadership are very different from those that were needed in your previous role as an individual contributor.  Here’s another aspect of this change to keep in mind.

Your sources of satisfaction will become more vicarious and intangible

You have to understand that once you are a supervisor your sources of satisfaction will become more vicarious and intangible.  Think about this: in the past, in your previous jobs, you could take a project  from start to finish, and enjoy the fulfillment that came from seeing the end-product of your efforts.  Perhaps you were even recognized either privately or publicly for your efforts.  Continue reading

Improve your coaching skills by asking this one simple question

coachingBack in 2012, I posed this question on the blog: When your employee comes to you with a problem, do you tell or do you ask?  My point was that so many leaders have the tendency to “solve” our employees’ issues rather than coaching our employees to resolve the problems themselves.  Over the years, I have discovered one very simple, yet powerful, phrase can make the difference.  Ask: What do you think?

A powerful coaching moment

When an employee comes to you with an issue, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need to provide an answer.  Instead, use the opportunity to create a very powerful coaching moment.  The chances are high that your employee already has a very good idea as to what the solution should be, and only really wants to discuss it with you and get your concurrence.  When you ask “What do you think?”, you are opening the door for a dialogue that not only will lead to a solution, but will also build your employee’s self-confidence as well as enhance problem-solving skills.  Continue reading

First-time supervisor? Here’s an important reminder

When you become a first-time supervisor or a first-time team leader, you have to be VERY aware that for all practical purposes, you are essentially changing occupations.  This is true even if you’re becoming the supervisor of a department you are very familiar with.  And if you are not conscious of this fundamental change, then you are going to struggle with your role as a first-time supervisor, and perhaps more importantly jeopardize your success as a leader.  Here’s one aspect of this change you MUST take into account.

You are now responsible for managing other people’s time.

In the past, in your role as an individual contributor or a technical specialist, you were accountable for your own time.  Continue reading

Making risky decisions: a simplified approach

Making risky decisionsBy definition, there is always uncertainty in making risky decisions; after all, the old adage “no risk, no reward” holds true.  No doubt, leadership instinct and past experience play an important role in determining whether the possible reward is worth the perceived risk, but I am nevertheless often asked by leaders whether there is a more systematic approach to making risky decisions.  Decision-making theory abounds with a plethora of techniques and methods, but there is one relatively simple approach that I have found to repeatedly give positive results.  Ask yourself: does making the decision result in more options or fewer?  If the answer is more choices, then move forward.  If the answer is fewer options, then don’t take that action.

Here is one example

Let’s consider an example to illustrate this approach.  You are trying to decide whether to invest in a new piece of equipment for your manufacturing operation.  There are several risks involved with this purchase including Continue reading

Another common new supervisor “trap” to watch out for

Earlier this week, I addressed a question that I was asked during a recent leadership development training program for a new supervisor group.

A common new supervisor trap

In this same program, a second question that was asked of me by a participant was this one: I have only been a new supervisor for just three months, but one of my employees has a standard response whenever I ask him to do something he doesn’t want or like to do.  He says “the last supervisor never asked me to do that” or “this wasn’t a big deal for the last supervisor.”  Any tips on how to effectively respond to him?

First, it may appease you to know that this statement – “the last supervisor never made me do that” – is not as unusual as you might think.  Continue reading

Don’t fall into this new supervisor trap

Business Meeting: Professional Successful Team; Managing DirectoAbout a year and a half ago, I did a short series of blog posts on the common mistakes made by first-time leaders.  I was reminded of those just recently when working with a group of relatively new supervisors at a client organization.  This time however, a couple of additional questions came up during these training programs that I thought would be worthwhile to address in my two blog posts this week.

Here is the first question from several of my participants:

I recently became the new supervisor of a 12-person team.  My team members have a variety of responsibilities, and I just don’t know how I am going to learn all their jobs.  How am I going to learn everything?

The answer to this question is: You’re not, at least not to the degree that you might think!

It’s not your job to do your employees’ jobs

As a leader, it is not your job to be able to do your employees’ jobs; in other words, you can’t fill in for them if one of them is absent.  Continue reading

Procrastination: why it happens and how to conquer it!

Back in September 2015, in one of my regular columns for ProfitGuide, the online portal for Profit Magazine, I wrote about how leaders can overcome the endless cycle of procrastination.  You know … procrastination … the situation where you put off doing stuff until it becomes critical, vow that you’ll never put yourself in those circumstances again, but of course, finding yourself exhausted from the last sprint to the finish line find yourself in exactly the same condition yet another time!

Published in The Downtown Victoria Magazine

Overcoming procrastinationWell, I was pretty thrilled when The Downtown Victoria Magazine chose to reprint my article in their special insert in Victoria’s Times Colonist on November 23.  I realize that we’re already in February, but I just recently got my hands on a hard copy of the publication so I had to share!  Yes, I know that the print is too tiny in the photo for you to be able to read the article, but you can read the original version at – A 9-Point Plan for Overcoming Procrastination.

Big shout out to the DVBA!

As many of you who regularly read the blog know, I only just last year opened a new office on the west coast Continue reading

Money as a motivator (P.S. It’s not!)

Exciting news – my first column for 2017 in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series just got published this morning!!  It’s about money as a motivator, which continues to be a subject of some controversy.  And in case you’re wondering about my point of view, it’s unequivocally that it’s not!   In Why money is not an employee motivator, I make the case for why, and perhaps more importantly and practically, I tell you what it means to you, a leader, so that you can inspire your people towards excellence in the workplace.


Now, my hope, as always, is that this will give you food for thought and spark a dialogue amongst leaders everywhere, ideally in agreement with my point of view.  But even if you don’t agree with me, I’d like to hear what you think and what your experiences are.  If you can, please share your perspectives directly on the The Globe‘s site since your opinion will get a much wider audience there.  But I’m always open to hearing from you directly as well, so you can drop me an email or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks) with your thoughts too.

Please help get the word out!

And one last thing — do me a HUGE favour – help me get the word out … share the link with your staff and colleagues (easiest directly from The Globe’s site using the share icon at the very top of the article).  My objective is always to get conversations started, so the more people who respond to this column means deeper and extended dialogue, which is always a good thing!  In advance, please accept my thanks for your help.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere:

Take advantage of cumulative experience

The Aztecs knew the power of cumulative experienceThirteen years ago (long before this blog even came into existence), I wrote a Mega Minute titled Learn From the Aztecs in which I outlined the “cumulative experience” approach taken by these ancient people in building their glorious city of Teotihuacan.  The original settlement of this ancient metropolis, located near present-day Mexico City, began in 200 B.C.  At its peak in 600 A.D., it was home to approximately 200,000 people, making it one of the old world’s largest cities, with an urban core covering some twenty square kilometers.  However, about 650 A.D., for reasons unknown, the city was abandoned.

When the Aztecs arrived, it was already a ruin

By the time the Aztecs arrived on the scene in 13th century, the area was already a little more than an ancient ruin.  The Aztecs wished to construct Teotihuacan, their Place of Gods, and rather than destroying what was already there and starting from scratch, they took the existing structures and used them as foundations upon which to build even greater temples and palaces.  Continue reading

When you offer to help, you enhance your relationship with your manager

Last week, in my second post in my recent ongoing series about how to improve your working relationship with your manager, I gave you a “don’t” – don’t correct your boss in front of others.  Today, I want to cover one last (at least for now) piece of advice in this series – look for ways to help.

Offer to help

Build a stronger relationship with your managerAsk your manager if she needs assistance with any project or initiative she has on the go.  Many bosses have very full plates, and like most of us, they’re not always good about asking for help.  But when you offer, when you ask if you can lend a hand, your swamped manager will often gratefully accept.  Sure, you’ve likely got enough to do already, but when you show a willingness to push beyond the day-to-day and take on more than your core responsibilities, you’re sending a very positive message about yourself.  And it’s a message that carries a great deal of weight when it comes to advancement opportunities. Continue reading