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Category Archives: Tough Situation Tools

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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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

When things are out of control, are they really?

controlSome things are entirely and wholly out of my control.  Severe weather, for example.  I cannot effect change in the weather.  Whether it’s a sweltering heatwave, a blinding snowstorm, or a stormy hurricane, I can’t make the weather calamity go away, no matter how hard I try.

But, on the other hand, there are plenty of things I can do to control how I react and respond to harsh weather.  I can seek out a cooler environment (inside an air-conditioned shopping mall for example), delay my road-trip to future date to avoid wintry driving conditions, or gather essential documents and supplies as I evacuate to safer ground.  Instead of complaining about the effects of severe weather, I can choose to take thoughtful actions to avoid, or at least, mitigate the damage.

Just because we can’t control the situation doesn’t mean we can’t influence the outcome

There are a myriad of events in our lives that are outside our sphere of control.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t influence the final outcome.  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

When you’re overwhelmed at work, it’s worth considering another approach

“I can’t talk to you for very long, Merge, we’re buried!” said a client when I returned his call earlier this week.  “What’s going on?” I asked.  He went on to describe the turmoil and chaos in his department at the insurance company where he works.  “We’re overwhelmed at work.  Claim volume is up 200%, our phone lines are flooded, and our call agents feel like they’re drowning.  Plus I can’t get enough adjusters out into the field fast enough, and clients are getting frustrated so they’re calling in more than usual, increasing call wait times even more.  I feel like we’re in a dark tunnel with no end in sight.  Help me!”

Now obviously, this manager’s current state of affairs is driven partially by external circumstances (in this situation, recent weather-related catastrophic events are the root cause of the increased call volumes).  But I was reminded of a phrase often used by a mentor of mine many years ago, so I asked this manager to look at the situation with another filter.  My mentor frequently used to say “Just because it is dark doesn’t mean we’re buried.  Often, it means that no one has bothered to turn on any lights”.

It’s the leader’s job to turn on the lights

Fortunately, the phrase caught my client’s attention.  Enough for him Continue reading

Dealing with adversity – wisdom from P!nk!

musicnotesThe song “Try” by P!nk popped up on my playlist as I was out walking in my neighbourhood the other day.  Now I’ve heard this song many times in the past, but for some reason (likely because I have recently been dealing with adversity in my personal life), I noticed the lyrics in the refrain more than I usually do.

“Try” by P!nk
Where there is desire, there is gonna be a flame

Where there is a flame, someone's bound to get burned

But just because it burns, doesn't mean you're gonna die

You gotta get up and try, and try, and try

Gotta get up and try, and try, and try

You gotta get up and try, and try, and try

Now I know that this song is actually about romance, but it caught my attention because the words so appropriately so apply to our both our personal and professional lives as well.  If you replace the word “desire” with “adversity”, suddenly these lines take on a whole different meaning.  What was intended to be a song about finding love is now solid advice for dealing with adversity, for never giving up, both in the professional and personal arenas. Continue reading

An ageless folktale about dealing with adversity

hot water as a metaphor for adversityEvery so often, a conversation with an elderly relative reminds me of a story from Indian folklore that I heard when I was a child.  Recently, that happened again, this time on the topic of how one reacts or responds to adversity.  The story tells of a young person who was complaining to his grandmother about the challenges he was facing in his school and job – difficult assignments, tough professors, a demanding boss, not enough time to relax, and always, a seeming shortage of funds.

Her response: to place three pots of water on the stove

The grandmother responded by placing three pots of water on the stove.  When the water in each was boiling, she placed two potatoes in the first pot, two eggs in the second, and a scoop of tea leaves in the third.  About twenty minutes later, she pulled out the potatoes and eggs and placed them on a plate, and strained the water out of the tea leaves into a cup, and placed them all in front of the young man.  Puzzled, he looked up at her. Continue reading

The right way to communicate unpopular decisions to your staff

Sometimes you will have to make decisions that will not be liked by your staff; it’s one of the responsibilities of leadership.  Sure, good leaders strive to minimize the fallout on their people, but sometimes doing the right thing for the company as a whole means hurting some of the individuals within it. Whether that means layoffs, reorganization, or even just a strategy shift, there are bound to be a few people who are put out by your decision. While you can’t avoid making unpopular decisions, there are things that you can do to help your team understand and accept the new reality. And that is the topic of my new column for ProfitGuide.com.  In The right way to communicate unpopular decisions to your staff, I offer five ideas to deliver the message, yet soften the long-term impact.

ProfitGuide081016

What do you have to add to the list?  What specific things have you done to make sure people understand the implications, and to mitigate the ensuing damage?  Please share by commenting below.

P.S. I am now in my second year as a regular contributor to ProfitGuide.com’s panel of business experts. You can find links to my previous columns on their site. For your information, Profit Magazine is a sister publication to Canadian business magazine giants Canadian Business, MoneySense and Macleans, and their list of columnists reads like the Who’s Who of Canadian business, so I am honoured to be in such distinguished company.

How to break bad news to a client

In the world of business, things don’t always go according to plan.  Shipments can get delayed, production lines may break down, and unforeseen events might prevent people from getting the job done.  My latest column for ProfitGuide.com is titled How to Break Bad News to a Client.  In it, I lay out seven steps for when things just don’t go your way and you now have to tell your customers the unfortunate truth without jeopardizing your reputation and credibility.

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So do you have anything to add to my seven?  How have you handled the difficult situation of breaking bad news to a client?  Please share by commenting below.

P.S. I am so proud to be in my second year as a regular contributor to ProfitGuide.com’s panel of business experts. You can find links to my previous columns on their site. For your information, Profit Magazine is a sister publication to Canadian business magazine giants Canadian Business, MoneySense and Macleans, and their list of columnists reads like the Who’s Who of Canadian business, so I am honoured to be in such distinguished company.

Deal with performance problems sooner rather than later

BrokenWindowA recent conversation with a manager in a client organization about dealing with an employee performance problem reminded me of a Mega Minute I wrote back in October 2004 titled Broken Windows and Leadership.  In it, I referred to the Broken Windows theory put forward by authors James Wilson and George Kelli in 1982 to explain the epidemic element of crime.  The ultimate premise of the Broken Windows theory is that small things matter, often more than the big things.  The hypothesis is that if a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.  Soon, more windows will be broken.  That leads to more petty crime, then serious crime, and finally urban decay.  The point: if you’ve got broken windows, it’s important to fix them right away, before they turn into bigger problems.

I was reminded of this because this manager and I were talking about the importance of dealing with an employee performance problem promptly.  Continue reading