Merge's Blog

Tag Archives: building relationships

Successful business relationships require that you invest before you withdraw

I continue to be astounded at how many people simply don’t understand what it takes to build solid thriving business relationships that stand the test of time.  This was emphasized to me, yet again, because of something that happened a few weeks ago.

business relationshipsbusiness relationshipsNow that we have opened our new west coast office, I find myself attending a lot more business networking events in Victoria and Vancouver than I have in the past.  At one of these well-attended events, I was walking back to my vehicle at the end of the evening, when I happened to find myself next to a woman who was also leaving the same event.  I had not had an opportunity to meet her earlier in the evening, so as we made the three-minute walk to the parking lot, we shook hands and introduced ourselves to each other.  As we parted ways beneath a street light, she asked for my business card, suggesting that we should meet again over a cup of coffee to get to know one another.  I readily agreed, always open to building relationships in my professional circles.  I took her business card as well, intending to connect with her the next time I was in town.

Our next contact was not what I expected

One week later, I received an email from her.  But it didn’t contain the expected invitation to coffee.  Continue reading

Who should you have by your side?

stephaniestaplesStephanie Staples is a recovering burnout nurse and a serial entrepreneur who has founded three businesses.  As she says, 🙂 two of those were successful, and one a nightmare … but you can’t win them all! She is a speaker, radio host and consultant, and I am proud to also call her my professional colleague and friend.  Today she guests on the blog, with a wonderful metaphor about who you should have by your side, as part of your personal support structure, to help you achieve great things in your life and career.

Who’s in your Front Seat – and Who should be in the Back?

No man is an island, it takes a village to raise a child, we can’t go it alone … All these clichés to say we need people to get through this crazy thing called life. 

Not just any people though – top-quality people.  Some people call it their dream team, their empowerment team or their board of directors – I call it front seat passengers.  The special people we want to ride with us on this journey of life and we want them in the front seat – helping us navigate, advising us as necessary, encouraging us when we are not sure and cheering for us when we avoid an accident or make a great move.  Some people are in the front seat of our cars because they are family, some are there because they have been there for a long, long time, some are there because they put themselves there. Still others are there out of habit, obligation, fear or plain laziness on our part to get them out. Continue reading

Build synergy and goodwill – the metaphor of compound interest

YogaClassThere is a classic Aesop’s fable about the value of synergy – when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  I was reminded of this fable when my yoga instructor said something to our group while in practice the other day that caught my attention, and stayed with me long after the hot and exhausting session was over.  She said to think of every practice as a deposit into your metaphoric health bank account.  And as sequential deposits build up the total balance, the impact of the compounding interest becomes increasingly visible.  As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that it’s very true, but not just in the context of physical health; it also applies in the workplace environment.

Think about workplace relationships.  When you invest time and energy into building individual relationships with your staff and co-workers – show empathy, lend a helping hand when required, offer a kind ear when it’s needed the most, engage in meaningful small talk – you essentially build goodwill.  Ergo, you make deposits.  And when you make many deposits, the value starts to compound and the goodwill you build grows exponentially, much like compound interest does in a financial bank account.  And goodwill matters!  Continue reading

Are your actions increasing or decreasing your value in the eyes of your stakeholders?

I read something the other day that gave me reason to pause and consider how my clients and other stakeholders value the services that I have to offer.

MichelinGuideYou have likely heard of (and perhaps even used) the Michelin Red Guide, the oldest European hotel and restaurant reference guide, which awards Michelin stars for excellence to only a select few establishments.  Restaurants in Europe vie to get one, two or even three Michelin stars, as it can have a dramatic effect on the success of their business.  You may not however know that this now world-famous guide started life as a mere marketing ploy.  In 1900, when there were less than 3,000 cars in France, brothers André and Édouard Michelin published the first edition of the guide for French motorists as a way to boost people’s interest in cars. You see, the two brothers owned a tire manufacturing company, and they hoped that by getting people to drive more and thus buy more cars, it would also increase the demand for tires.  The very first Michelin Guide contained a variety of useful information for motorists, including maps, instructions for repairing and changing tires, and lists of car mechanics, hotels and petrol stations.  During the last century, the Guide slowly morphed into what is so well-known and recognized today.  Interesting fact: when the guide was first published, the brothers had nearly 35,000 copies printed, and gave them away free of charge.  This continued (with a short gap during World War I) until 1920, when the story goes that André Michelin was visiting a tire merchant and noticed that copies of the book were being used to prop up a workbench.  He immediately made the decision to start charging for the guide.  He is said to have declared that “Man only truly respects what he pays for”.  Continue reading

How to deal with inappropriate workplace behaviour (and stay out of legal hot water)

StephenHammondI’ve often addressed how leaders should deal with specific dysfunctional workplace behaviours (including my suggestions in this article in CPA Magazine).  Today though, my professional colleague and friend Stephen Hammond comes at this very important subject from a much more global perspective.  The focus of Stephen’s professional practice is helping leaders improve workplace behaviour, and he’s also the author of a new book The New Norm: a manager’s guide to improving workplace behaviour…and keeping out of legal hot water.  I am thrilled that he agreed to write a guest post for the Turning Managers Into Leaders blog.

Why does anyone put up with inappropriate workplace behaviours, some of which can be described as harassment, bullying and discrimination?  After all, we’ve had decades of policies and education to address these very issues…yet problems persist in so many workplaces.

It seems we need to ask some very important questions: Why can one person poison an entire workplace? Why can a bully be promoted into a managerial role where she can wreak havoc on even more employees? Why does a bullying boss get a promotion, thereby indicating that the organization rewards bad behaviour? And why can people blow the whistle on bad behaviour and yet they end up with discipline, or worse, they get fired? Continue reading

What long-nosed bats can teach us about teamwork

I often blog about what the animal kingdom can teach us about teamwork – Canada geese, meerkats, crabs, ants and penguins have all come up in the past. So regular readers of the blog will not be surprised by today’s post about long-nosed bats. 🙂

LongnoseBatsLong-nosed bats, endemic to Central America, have a unique approach to discouraging predators. They feed primarily at night, so during the day they roost in a number of places, one of which is the surface of tree trunks. However, most trees are usually out in the open, so in daylight, the little bats can become very tempting morsels to predatory birds. Enter teamwork. Before settling down for the day’s nap, groups of eight to sixteen bats arrange themselves in a roughly vertical line, to take on the appearance of a long snake. When a hungry bird approaches hoping for a delicious delicacy, the bats’ defence mechanism is to individually move back and forth within the vertical formation to create the combined effect of a large snake about to strike. The cautious bird, vigilant of poisonous snake venom, flies off to find easier prey. Brilliant!

So what are the lessons here for leaders about teamwork? I see at least three. Continue reading

Praising employees who are in their 40s and 50s – is it necessary?

KarlMooreI often blog about the value of praising employees (one such post is Frequent and liberal employee recognition and praise creates positive workplaces). So when Dr. Karl Moore, associate professor at the Destautels Faculty of Management at McGill University (and my fellow columnist at The Globe & Mail) recently wrote a piece on this topic, it captured my attention. Why do people in their 40s and 50s receive less praise? published in the Leadership Lab a couple of weeks ago, and in it, Dr. Moore makes four key points. Continue reading

There is great strength in teamwork

This is a clever video I came across several months ago that emphasizes the importance of teamwork (demonstrated by crabs, ants and penguins, no less!). If I recall correctly, it is actually excerpted from a series of advertisements for a company that offers group insurance, but I have not been able to verify that. Nevertheless, the underlying message is “Union is strength; it’s smarter to travel in groups”. Take a quick look, and as you’re watching, think about what lessons in teamwork leaders could learn from these.

So what are the lessons here for leaders? Here are the ones I came up with: Continue reading

Insensitive behaviour is often driven by good intentions

In the last few weeks, significant life transition events have made me unusually introspective, perhaps even philosophical. Some may say that it’s not a bad thing, and they’re probably right 🙂 .

Word "Good" jigsaw puzzle pieces isolated on whiteOne of the things I’ve noticed is that people often say and do stupid things. And I’ve come to the awareness that, generally, their insensitive behaviour is not malicious or intentionally hurtful. I’ve come to understand that other people usually mean well. The truth is that people, for the most part, do the best with the resources they’ve got. Sometimes they have access to minimal emotional and mental resources, and that can cause them to make asinine comments and/or take mindless actions, but at its core, their intentions are almost always good. Continue reading

Here’s one sure-fire way to create employee disengagement!

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a fairly common workplace practice, particularly in large organizations, of requiring that employees provide a death certificate or a funeral notice in order to take a few days of (paid) bereavement leave. In a nutshell, I believe that this is An archaic practice that destroys trust in the workplace. Well, it prompted a call from a reader, a well-respected manager in a client organization, who wanted to share his personal experience with me. While his incident isn’t exactly the same situation that I outlined in my previous blog post, it is related enough that I thought it was worth writing about today. Unfortunately, this is a prime (sad) example of how to create employee disengagement.

Time PassingSeveral months ago, his mother passed away. Given her age, it was not entirely unexpected, but he and his family were grief-stricken nevertheless. Due to significant work commitments (he was managing a major project implementation), he was able to take only four days off to put his mother to rest, and then he came right back to work. But he felt that he had not fully supported his family through this difficult life transition, so several months later, once the project was winding down, he sought to repair this deficit. He tried to negotiate some substantial time off from the company so that he could spend some time reflecting and grieving his loss with others in his family. Much to his dismay, the company wouldn’t oblige. Continue reading