Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: August 2010

How do you behave when others are not watching?

Last week, YouTube watchers were horrified to see a chubby middle-aged grey-haired woman stroke a tabby cat on the street, and then after furtively looking around to see if anyone was watching, suddenly grab the animal by the scruff of the neck, throw it into a trash bin, slam the lid closed, and continue on her way.  It took another 15 hours for little 4-year old Lola’s owners to find her, and that only when they reviewed the footage from the closed-circuit TV in front of their house.  It happens at about the 0:20 mark in the video footage below.

Animal lovers around the world were outraged, and the woman was eventually identified as Mary Bale, a bank worker in Coventry UK.  She was initially quoted as saying, “I really don’t see what everyone is getting so excited about – it’s just a cat.”  She later apologized to the owners, “this is completely out of character and I certainly did not intend to cause any distress to Lola or her owners.”

Whether or not you believe and accept Mary Bale’s apology, you have to wonder why she acted the way she did.  Psychologist Leila Collins suggests, “People who are cruel to animals usually feel a lack of power in their own lives. They may feel helpless, lack authority and want to exercise control over something or someone who cannot retaliate.”  Bottom line, the true measure of one’s character is how you behave when others are not watching (or when those around you have less power than you).  I have seen far too many people in the workplace who behave one way (better) in front of their superiors and conduct themselves differently (poorly) in front of their peers and subordinates.  These people are not leaders.  Good leaders treat ALL people (and animals) with respect and professionalism, no matter what their relative status in the organization.

What do you think, both about Mary Bale’s actions, and the parallel to workplace behaviour?

Communicating with confidence and clarity

Communicating with ConfidenceThe great folks at PDNet and CGA Canada have invited me to deliver a live webinar “Communicating with Confidence and Clarity” on Tuesday September 14, 2010 at 9 AM Pacific Standard Time.   If you’ve never attended a live webcast before, it’s a great way to get focused relevant learning right at your desk.  Using just your desktop or laptop computer, you’ll be able to view and hear the webcast.  Plus, a recorded version of the webcast will be available to all participants for one year.  Priced at just $169 ($139 if you’re a CGA member), it’s a steal!  REGISTRATION CLOSES 24 HOURS BEFORE THE EVENT STARTS. SO DON’T DELAY! To register, or get more information, go to

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What is so difficult about convincing others of your point of view?

When you put forward an idea or an opinion in the workplace, do people pay attention?  Do you find yourself increasingly frustrated because you can’t bring others over to your position or opinion?  The ability to convince and persuade others is a critical skill that can close a sale, obtain the resources you need, garner support for a new initiative, and even get you a job.  Yet so many people find that their inputs to a discussion don’t get the consideration they deserve.

What obstacles do YOU face when it comes to persuading others over to your viewpoint?  Is it because you don’t state your case compellingly enough?  Or do you struggle with finding the right words to make your point? Share your toughest problems at, and I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can in my live Audio Conference coming up on September 16.

Help me find my Marketing Coordinator!

I am seeking the world’s best Marketing Coordinator, and I would like your help in spreading the word. As readers of my blog, I know you have an interest in the work I do, so I thought you might also be exactly the right people to help me find the perfect staff member!

The position of part-time Marketing Coordinator is a key role in my company, working closely with me on an ongoing basis. An interesting and multi-faceted job that offers great variety, it also offers an opportunity to work in an exciting and fast-paced industry. For the most part, the position is “virtual”, so the best candidate could be located anywhere (preferably in North America though) and could work flexible hours to suit his/her needs. However, because this is intended to be a long-term position that will continue for several years, it is definitely NOT for those looking for a short-term opportunity to bridge them between full-time jobs. Here is a link to the complete job description:

Marketing Coordinator at mergespeaks Inc. – job description

Do you know of anyone who would be “just perfect” for this job? If you know the ideal person (or someone who knows the ideal person), would you mind spreading the word? Either use one of the “Share and Enjoy” links at the bottom of this post, or cut and paste the following URL into an email and send it on.

Thanks so much for giving this some thought. I appreciate every single one of you!

Relationships built on friendship and trust stand the test of time!

As you may know from my recent blog posts, I visited India in early June for the first time in 30 years.  Speaking to a group of young leaders there was exciting enough, but there was another huge highlight of this trip.  I was also attending my Class 10 reunion at a residential boarding school I went to for six years when I was a teenager.  Our class turned out in full force – they came from all over the world – Canada, the United States, Thailand, Australia, and of course India.  It was a fabulous time, but what absolutely amazed me was how the thirty-year gap just melted away.  Keep in mind that I went to school long before the advent of the Internet, so almost all these girls (including me) had lost touch with each other over the years.  In fact, we had only just “found” each other on Facebook in the past year!  Yet, within minutes of meeting each other, it was like we had only parted yesterday.  Over the course of three days, we simply picked up where we left off thirty years ago, and we continued the deep relationships we had formed from six years of living and schooling together as youngsters.  What astonished me was that not even time (make that a VERY long time) could destroy solid relationships that were built on friendship and trust!

Can you imagine the depth of loyalty we could create in our companies if we focus on creating solid relationships that are built on friendship and trust – with our employees, our customers and our suppliers?  What are you doing to build solid relationships that can stand the test of time?

Delivering unpleasant information with compassion and credibility

CGA0708-2010CoverDelivering bad news is not easy.  Your objective is to soften the blow without sugar-coating the facts.  And your two biggest obstacles will likely be separating your emotions from your message, and listening more than  you talk.  To make this process easier (and more effective) I’ve identified seven definitive things that you must keep in mind.  You can read them in my latest article in the July/August issue of CGA Magazine.

By the way, what do you think?  Have I missed anything? Please add your thoughts below.

Workplace negativity is toxic

GlassWater1The unfortunate truth about negative people is that their sour attitudes bring the rest of the workplace down.  And if you’re a manager, supervisor or team leader, it’s this toxic nature of negative people that should cause you the greatest concern.  Imagine for a moment that you have a glass of water sitting in front of you.  The water in this glass is clear and bright.  But what if you were to take a pitcher of coffee and pour a few drops into the glass of water.  Immediately the coffee would swirl and spread through the glass of clear liquid, and cloud and darken the mixture.  Negative people are like that.  Just a few drops can immediately cloud and darken the team atmosphere.  Just a few negative people can dampen team morale and productivity.  Which means, if you are a leader, you need to take immediate action to deal with those few drops.  Otherwise, if left unchecked, team morale will slip, productivity will suffer, and bottom-line, your people will stop working well together.

So what can you do about it?  Well, there are no quick fixes, but it has to start with a conscious effort to cultivate a positive attitude in the rest of your people.  Notice my use of the word “cultivate” – creating a positive workplace is a process, not unlike the progression of gardening.  The positivity seeds have to be planted, frequently watered, given sufficient light and nutrients, protected from predators and diseases, and allowed to grow and flower. This requires monitoring and effort.  If you invest time and energy into creating a positive work environment, it will combat the negativity toxin that is spread by a nasty few.

What other ideas do you have to combat negativity in the workplace?

Leaders are role models for their employees

Kit Grant is “The Director of Comfort Zone Infiltration”!  He works with organizations  to help create environments that foster personal responsibility and accountability.  He’s also my professional colleague and good friend, and he agreed to guest-author today’s blog post.  Thank you, Kit!

People learn primarily by following — in other words, they copy the behavior they see being demonstrated by others. If you have children, you know that’s true as demonstrated every time your spouse points out something your child is doing that’s just like you! Employees aren’t that much different. If the person “in charge” behaves with little concern towards customers, why would the staff do anything different? Staff don’t want to get in trouble with customers but they’ll do whatever they can to avoid getting into trouble with the boss. The best way to do that is to behave just like the boss! Chances are your best memories of good leaders you worked for were those whose behavior made you feel most at ease. The real problem is staff will replicate whatever behavior they see, be it good or bad.

If you come in late to work and leave early, you teach staff to get there just before you and leave just after you do. If you’re enthusiastic and positive, you definitely increase the likelihood your people will exhibit the same traits. In working with companies to improve  customer service delivery, I point out service is not something you do — it’s something you are. All good external service starts with good internal service.  In fact, previous postings on this blog have pointed out that people do not leave organizations, they leave bad managers.

One of the best leadership principles to adopt is to consistently demonstrate the behavior you want in others.

Well, you can’t argue with this!  If you are a leader, then you are a role model, good or bad, for your employees.  What’s been your experience?  What good and bad examples have you observed of this phenomenon?  Please share.

You can reach Kit through his website at

Traffic in India: respecting rights and differences?

This past June, after almost 30 years away, I returned to India, the country of my birth.  To say that I faced culture shock would be an understatement!  I recall the India of my childhood as always being colourful, noisy and vibrant, but I was completely unprepared for the sights, sounds, smells and oh yes, heat, that confronted me as soon as I arrived.  Teeming masses of people; a never-ending cacophony of voices, music, and traffic; and 42 degrees Celsius (that’s 107 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature – this was my first impression of India.  Exhilarating, breath-taking, exciting and just a little bit scary, all at the same time!  And then we braved traffic!  It is impossible to describe traffic in India with just one word, but the phrase “utter organized chaos” would be an apt description. Continue reading