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Category Archives: Leadership Tools

Leaders who exhibit vulnerability create an environment that nurtures employee learning

Today I’m continuing our ongoing series focused on creating workplace environments that foster employee learning and help you develop and grow your employees.  My last strategy on this topic was to set an example by being a positive role model for continuous learning.  Following from that strategy is today’s tip: show your people that it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Show your people that it’s okay to be vulnerable

If you get it wrong, admit your mistake.  If you make an error in judgement, apologize.  If things didn’t work out exactly the way you’d hoped, ask for feedback from those involved.  Sometimes, the feedback you will need will be from your staff.  But that’s not a bad thing.  Every time you demonstrate vulnerability as a leader, paradoxically you show great strength of character.  And the real bonus for developing and growing your people is that it creates an environment that encourages openness and honesty, which nurtures employee learning.  When employees know that it’s okay to show vulnerability, they are more open to listening and considering alternate approaches to problems and issues.

As a leader, when you are willing to admit mistakes and move forward, when you demonstrate that you’re a continuous learner who is open to feedback, you show your employees that vulnerability is actually a sign of strength.  It may seem contradictory, but it’s the irony that makes it so powerful.

So, I often get pushback on this one when I bring it up in my live leadership seminars.  What do you think?  Does this make sense, or is it a recipe for disaster?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please comment below.

Blocking internal transfers and promotions is a bad idea!

Demotivator on Warning Road SignSometimes, managers deliberately and consciously take actions that while logical, create situations that are non-productive and hugely demotivating. Unfortunately, this is more usual than not.  In fact, this was the very topic of a one of my regular The Globe & Mail columns back in November 2014 titled Why do smart managers do stupid things?

I continue to see examples of this dysfunctional behaviour repeatedly in my leadership development practice.  Last week I had a very positive conversation with a group of leaders in one of my client organizations, but it reminded me of this very negative situation that I came across (and blogged about) back in 2016.  In fact, it stirred up such dialogue in this group that I felt it was worth bringing up in the blog again.

I got a call from an employee at a large client company, very upset because his manager had blocked his internal transfer.  This organization has an online internal job bulletin board that permits employees to apply for internal jobs within the company.  This particular employee had, with his manager’s knowledge, applied for a job in another department.  Since he has been in his current role for over three years, he was seeking different challenges and new learning opportunities.  The interview process went well and he was optimistic about getting this new assignment.  Imagine his surprise to learn that he did not get the job because his manager had blocked the transfer.  Turns out that there had been some other recent unexpected personnel changes in the department, and his manager felt that his move would be too much change, too fast. Continue reading

Employee growth and development tip #3

It’s been almost two weeks since I posted our last tip in our new video series for 2019 on creating an environment that fosters employee growth and development.  Tip #2 was to support your employees’ career aspirations.  But I’m back today with Tip #3: set an example by being a positive role model for continuous learning.

Set the example as a continuous learner

Don’t just tell your people that you believe in employee growth and development, show them.  If you expect them to continue to develop and grow as employees, then be prepared to also walk the talk.

Demonstrate that you are a continuous learner by attending training programs – both shorter lunch-and-learn sessions, and longer full-day or extended programs.  Display that you’re open to new learning by listening to what the subject matter experts on your team have to say.  And ask intelligent questions about the information they are sharing to show that you value their expertise.  If you’re not completely up to speed on the nuances of social media, ask your tech-savvy staff to reveal some of their favourite tips and tricks.  Even better, have one of them do a short presentation at your next team meeting.

My point is that if you want your staff to buy into employee growth and development, then you need to set an example by doing the same.  So be a positive role model.

I’ll be back next week (I promise) with the next strategy in this series.  But in the meantime, I’d like to know what you think.  What gets in the way of you investing in continuous learning?  I’ll tell you what I hear most often – lack of time for supervisors and managers.  Is that true for you as well?  How do you get past it?  Please share your experiences by commenting below.

The leader as a facilitator – are you a lifeboat or a lighthouse?

As a manager, your job is to get things done.  But as a leader, your mission now becomes to get things done through other people.  And many times, what that really means is that you have to be a facilitator – someone who removes obstacles, levels the path, greases the wheels – who ensures that your people have the tools they need to achieve their results.  But even your involvement as a facilitator can vary.  Imagine a continuum where one end is a lifeboat, and the other is a lighthouse.

facilitatorIf you’re at the lifeboat end of the continuum, you might visualize yourself as someone who lets your employees sail on their own, navigating their own way from port to port, but you’re close by to step in if there is a crisis.  When things go wrong, you’re right there to rapidly swoop in to save the situation, and you’re gratefully lauded by those who were otherwise drowning.

facilitatorBut if you see yourself at the lighthouse end of the continuum, the image is different.  Now, you’re a beacon, a guiding light that shines brightly, illuminating the path for your people to get from harbour to harbour.  Your role is not so much to search and rescue, but rather to stand firm in the storm, offering hope and resilience to those trying to get to shore.  Sometimes it’s through advice, and sometimes it’s just by being a positive role model.

So which type of facilitator is better?

Continue reading

#2 in our series on employee development strategies

Earlier this month, I kicked off our brand-new video series on employee development strategies with our first tip: invest in training. Today’s strategy: ask about and support your employees’ career aspirations.

Support your employees’ career aspirations

This is a two-parter. First, you need to make the time to ask. I always recommend that supervisors and managers schedule a 30-minute coffee meeting with each of their employees sometime within the first six months of their working relationship. The coffee meeting doesn’t actually have to involve coffee (even though it may).  But it should be away from the immediate workspace.

The purpose of this meeting is to talk about the employee, and not necessarily about their current job responsibilities. Sure, current issues may come up in the course of the conversation.  But the real goal of the coffee meeting is to find out more about the employee at a personal level. Who they are, their interests, their families, their hobbies, and yes, their career goals and aspirations. Make the meeting about the employee. And pay attention specifically to what they tell you about what they want to accomplish during their careers.

After you ask, support

Continue reading

Upcoming leadership training programs in Calgary in February

CPAFor four years, I have been privileged to partner with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta to deliver high-quality leadership training programs for their member professional development.  The really cool thing about these programs is that you don’t have to be a member of CPA Alberta to attend these programs.

Often, I am asked by people whether I hold “public” events that individuals from any organization can attend, and my answer is usually “no”, because almost all my work is with intact work groups in client organizations.  However, these leadership training programs with CPA Alberta are the closest I get to “open-to-the public” events.  You don’t have to be a member of CPA Alberta to attend, and if you are looking for high-quality training at a fraction of the price that is usually charged by other vendors, then you cannot go wrong with these options. Continue reading

Looking for ways to develop employees? The simplest is to invest in training

Earlier this month, I promised that this year I would give you a series of frequent quick video blogs focusing specifically on ways to develop employees – explicit, pragmatic and actionable ideas to develop and grow your people not only into accomplished professionals, but also the future leaders in your organization.  Today, I am excited to kick off this brand-new series with one specific suggestion that I hope you’ll find quick and easy to implement.  And expect more of the same in the weeks and months to come.

Invest in training

So here is the first instalment in ways to develop employees: invest in training.  Not much of a surprise, is it?  The key word here is “invest”.  An investment creates an expectation of a positive return on that investment, and thoughtful, good-quality training rarely disappoints.  When you invest time and money into training and professional development for your people, it tells them that you value them, and it is this very aspect of the training investment that causes people to pay attention, absorb and put their learnings into action, all for the benefit of your organization.

Two common objections

Now I’ve heard many of the common objections to this strategy.  Continue reading

Celebrating my 5-year anniversary with The Globe & Mail

G&M010915Next Wednesday January 23 marks a very special day for me – exactly five years ago on this date, my very first column for The Globe & Mail published that morning.  In How to be the boss when your co-workers are your friends, I laid out seven steps to ease this difficult transition.  I’ll be honest, this was (and still is) a very exciting day for me!  To be invited to contribute as a thought-leader for one of Canada’s most respected and widely-circulated national newspapers is a huge honour.  Not to mention a validation of the leadership development work I have been doing for so many years.

Back then, I was a contributing columnist to The Globe’s Leadership Lab series, published primarily online, but also occasionally in their print edition.  Today, five years later, I write a regular column in their Report on Business print edition, every four weeks on Mondays, under the loose banner of “Leadership Matters”.

Thank you The Globe & Mail, I am gratified to be amongst the ranks of your respected writers.

Notable columns

My most popular column ever was Four things millennials hate about you, garnering more than 50,000 views, over 4,000 “direct” shares, and comments and re-tweets numbering in the thousands in just three days.  It was my first taste of “going viral” and while pretty exciting, was also a little scary! Continue reading

How to develop and grow your people

Brand-new video series for 2019

Last year I did an entire video series of short focused tips on how to motivate employees, each one outlining a specific way that leaders could inspire, engage and energize their employees.  This series got such great feedback from so many of you that I knew that I needed to do something in a similar format once again.  So it got me thinking about what this year’s subject area should be.

If you have ever attended one of my live leadership training events, you know that I usually spell out the two basic philosophies of leadership.  Principles so fundamental that if you don’t live, breathe and truly believe these values, then you simply should not be in a leadership role.  If these leadership philosophies are not your core beliefs, then with great respect, you cannot be a great leader.  You will hate being in a leadership position, and quite frankly, your employees will dislike it too.  The first of these two fundamental philosophies of leadership is your belief that “You are a coach and developer of people”.  As a leader, you HAVE to be a coach and developer of people.  Else, you cannot be a good leader, let alone an exceptional one.

2019 – one full year of focused tips on how to develop and grow your people

So … with that in mind, this year’s topic for our video series is going to be … drum roll please …. “How to develop and grow your people”Continue reading

What bungee cords are preventing you from moving forward?

moving forwardLast April, here on the blog I asked the question: What’s stopping you from moving forward?  And to answer it, I used the metaphor of paddling a kayak.  Today, I have another metaphor to address the same question.

Imagine a bungee cord

Imagine a bungee cord.  One end is attached to a fixed object and the other is hooked to the back of your belt.  As long as you stay close to the stationary end, the cord remains loose and there is no tension.  But as you walk away, the slack in the cord will begin to tighten and you’ll feel a pull on your back.  Continue to step away and you’ll find that eventually it will be a struggle to keep going. In fact, not only will the bungee cord hold you back from moving forward, but you will also be at serious risk of either losing your pants or getting smacked by a broken bungee.

All of us have bungee cords attached to us, links to the past that hold us back from moving forward.  And the more we try to get ahead, the more the stress and tension grows forcing us to stay where we are.  And often the fear of losing our pants or getting smacked by the broken bungee keeps us from continuing to try. Continue reading