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Category Archives: Communication Tools

Employee engagement comes when you actively seek input from all levels of the organization

Jeffrey SharpeJeffrey Sharpe is a Project Manager at one of my client organizations and someone that I’ve had the privilege of working with for several months.  He is not only very good at what he does, but also a thoughtful and intentional leader, constantly seeking positive and productive ways to get more accomplished through others.  When I asked him if he would contribute a guest post here on Turning Managers Into Leaders blog, I wasn’t sure that he would agree.  But he did!  His post below gives first-hand practical advice on how to build employee engagement, both now and for the long haul.

The Importance of Engaging with Workers at All Levels of an Organization

Have you ever wondered what your workers really think of your company? How they would improve it? What they would do differently? Have you ever wondered what your senior management is planning and how it could affect your career?

The answers to these questions are within reach, but only if you are engaging your workers and customers to solicit this information. You could ask them nicely, or demand they tell you. But either way, it’s difficult to seek the truth without each party sacrificing something in return.

When I was young, my father worked at a shipyard as a welder. He would tell me stories about co-workers that were frustrating to work with, bosses who had no clue what was going on with their own front line, and “The Engineer”, a fellow so out of touch with how things operated in the real world and at the job site, it would make your head spin. Naturally, after graduating as a Civil Engineer, I was given a speech that ended with “Don’t let that Iron Ring on your finger cut the blood off to your brain”.   Now I could have taken offense to this message, or I could choose to learn from it. Continue reading

Customer loyalty – easy to lose, but just as easy to keep

Just a few months ago, I blogged about a specific situation I experienced where a few ill-chosen words by a bank manager were able to destroy long-term customer loyalty in a matter of minutes.  Well, I’m sad to report that it’s happened again, another situation this time, but ironically still involving a(nother) bank.

One Friday afternoon in February, I was catching up on my banking and processed four transactions within three hours of each other.  Two were deposits into an account and two were transfers out of the same account.  What is key here is that all were intra-bank transactions, moving funds from one Royal Bank account to another.

Fast forward to last week when I was reconciling my bank statement and realized that I had been charged an account overdraft fee of $4.09.  Puzzled, I called customer service to find out what happened.  Turns out that while the two transfers out of that one account had been processed before 6 pm, the first deposit into the account had been posted at 6:01 pm and the second about 30 minutes later.  Apparently the rule is that transactions posted after 6 pm are recorded on the next business day, in this case on the following Monday.  So, in the system, the withdrawals were logged on Friday and the deposits were logged on the following Monday, three days later.  Ergo, the overdraft fee.

Customer loyalty is easy to lose …

While the overdraft fee was logically accurate because of the computer algorithm, it clearly didn’t make common sense, at least from a customer service perspective.  It was a simple timing error, and one that had zero impact to Royal Bank as all funds had been moved between Royal Bank accounts.  So I fully expected the phone agent to willingly acquiesce to my request to have the amount waived.  Imagine my surprise when he “put me on hold to talk to a supervisor”. Continue reading

Communicating upward? Think bullet points

I’ve written in the past about how it’s important to modify your approach when you’re communicating upward, including in this column – How to persuade and influence senior management – that I wrote for CFM&D Magazine.  I was reminded of it recently when I overheard a leader in a client organization giving advice to one of his staff.  He said:

“When a senior manager asks you the time, don’t describe how a watch works”.  

I chuckled to myself because it was such an apt description for the deep pit that so many subject matter experts stumble into.

Don’t “vomit data”

As managers rise in the leadership ranks in organizations, by necessity, they need to focus more on strategic issues and less on the minutiae.  So they count on the subject matter experts around them to study the details and make recommendations.  Continue reading

Active listening is a critical leadership skill

As regular readers of our blog know, active listening is an essential skill in leadership.  And like most aspects of leadership, it’s a learned skill.  Which is why I’m so pleased that Jackie Edwards is guesting on the blog today with this great piece focusing on the value of active listening.  Jackie is an editor and writer, who previously worked as an HR Manager for a small finance company.  She currently focuses on writing about the world of management and business.

Managers: Are You Really Listening?

When you’re talking to someone, naturally you want to know that they are listening. As in, really listening. This is especially true when it involves your place of work. As a manager, you have a huge part to play in your team’s happiness at work. Being a good listener is key to this. Employees want to know that their manager values their opinions, takes their points on board and responds accordingly. Seeing as we retain half of what we hear (at most), all of us should work on improving our listening skills. To be an effective leader, this is vital.

Be an active listener

The best listeners are active listeners. Active listening means not just hearing what someone says, but focusing on the speaker and showing that you are listening – whether that be through verbal or nonverbal cues, or both. Active listening can be practiced and developed over time by following a few simple steps: Continue reading

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

Business global communication and the importance of “small talk”

tinav_01My professional colleague, friend and global communication expert, Tina Varughese last gave us a guest post earlier this summer offering cross-cultural communication tips for women.  So I’m thrilled that I persuaded her to make a repeat appearance on the blog today.  In her post below, Tina explores the value of “small talk” and its importance in the world of business global communication.

P.S. I am also very excited to tell you that I will be sharing the platform with Tina (and two other eloquent thought-leaders) at the Customer Service Leadership Summit next month on November 15.  I’ll give you more information about the Summit at the end of this post, but first, here is Tina’s contribution.

How important is “small talk” in business global communication?

According to Andy Molinsky, author of Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the Process, effectiveness can be limited if global dexterity is not adopted.  Yet, global dexterity can be a challenging skill to acquire – and can take some time and flexibility.  Engaging in ‘small talk’ can feel inauthentic if it’s not part of your cultural norm. Managers can feel frustrated and angry when needing to conform to cultural norms that conflict with their own cultural beliefs and values.

Even when interviewing for a new position, the human resources advisor will often ask if you found the building without issue. He may even talk a little about the crazy snowfall we had yesterday – or even the Calgary Flames’ loss. This part of the ‘interview’ will last about sixty seconds … or even more … depending on how necessary it is. Small talk is, essentially, benign conversation that puts both parties at ease and is essential to Canadian business and global communication. Does ‘small talk’ differ around the world? Absolutely! How important is it? Depending on where you are, it can make or break global business negotiations, assist in creating long-lasting relationships, or potentially contribute to losing millions in revenue. 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

Dealing with narcissists at work

The July/August issue of CPA Magazine features a story about narcissists in the workplace, and how to function effectively with (or despite) them, no matter whether they are your co-workers or your boss.  Yours truly was honoured to be interviewed as an expert source.  Not just an expert source though as I come by some of this knowledge first-hand.  Back in the 1990’s, I (barely) survived an egomaniacal boss and I live to tell the tale!

narcissists and egomaniacs
Narcissism isn’t just confined to the political arena

In recent months, the popular press has been all abuzz about a certain narcissist (no name needed) in international politics.  But unfortunately, Continue reading

Long-distance leadership tip #8: don’t forget about career planning for remote employees

Back in mid-April, I started a series of video tips on long-distance leadership, giving you one each week.  Last week’s strategy was to remember to praise your staff regularly.  I am planning a new series of tips to start shortly, so this week’s tip will be the final one (at least for now) in this sequence. Today’s idea: don’t forget about career planning for your remote employees.

Career planning is just as important for remote employees as it is for those in the office

When you have staff that work from a distance, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking – “why mess with things if they’re going well?”  But just like the people who are down the hall from you, your off-site employees have goals and aspirations.  And exceptional long-distance leadership means that you have to help them make progress on their goals for growth and advancement.  Even it means that you’ll have to lose them to elsewhere in your organization. Continue reading

If you have off-site employees, set standards for responding to email and voice mail

Last week’s tip for being a more effective leader if some or all of your direct reports are off-site employees was to establish common working hours for at least a fraction of the day.  In our continuing series, today’s idea is to set standards for responding to voice mail and email.

Set standards for response times to voice mail and email

One of the most common complaints voiced by off-site employees is that they feel like communication is more difficult as they lose touch with their peers.  When you’re working virtually, maintaining connections is not as easy as just getting up and walking down the hall to confer with your colleagues.  Which means that there is a much greater reliance on the telephone and on email.  But there’s nothing worse to employees than when they leave a voice mail or send an email to someone in the department which then gets sucked up into the giant cyberspace abyss, never to be heard from again.  Continue reading