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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Do you have a leadership brand?

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about “brand” – what message do you communicate about the product or service you deliver, and what makes it different and distinctive from that of your competitors? It got me thinking about whether there is such a thing as a leadership brand, and I rapidly came to a clear and unequivocal conclusion – yes! The message you communicate about yourself – what you do and what you stand for – is your leadership brand. It tells others what they can expect from you, and what makes you distinctive from everyone else. Can you articulate the answers to these two questions in a single sentence? I thought I’d give it a try using the following format:

I want to be known for __________ so that I can deliver ____________.

Here’s my answer:

I want to be known for giving people in organizations specific and practical tools to communicate and work more effectively with their staff and colleagues so that I can deliver on my promise to clients which is to help them become even more exceptional leaders than they already are.

So what do you want to be known for? And what visible results will you produce that will have people saying that you delivered?

P.S. Once you’ve articulated your brand, it’s worth asking your stakeholders whether it is in fact what you’re delivering.

To facilitate change, bring people together who are not connected

Chinese symbol for change

A couple of weeks ago I talked briefly about a leader’s role as an agent of change. And it’s a responsibility you should take seriously. The expectations that your clients and customers have of you are changing, rapidly, so you need to keep your ear to the ground to know what they’re thinking and what they demand of you. One of the best ways to stay ahead of the change curve is to find ways to think differently. Here’s one idea that I have observed many leaders use successfully. Bring people together who are not connected.

If you’re in a mid-sized or large organization, then in its simplest form that means creating cross-functional teams. If you’re working on a new initiative, put folks from engineering, operations, accounting, human resources and legal on the same team. Yeah, there will be some friction, but it will be for the good of the final result. Even if you’re not part of a large organization, you can still achieve the same outcome by deliberately choosing to interact with people who have different backgrounds or work with different target markets. One way to formalize this is to create a mastermind circle. If you don’t know what that is, or want to learn how to create and use one, then this short article titled Mastermind Circles: A powerful and easy way to create your own advisory panel that I wrote for CGA Magazine in November 2008 will be helpful.

What are you doing to bring together people who can offer you different perspectives and a variety of alternatives? Please share with the rest of us.

Would you change how you interacted with your employees if they were volunteers?

There are hundreds of not-for-profit organizations that are successfully run with small armies of volunteers. It certainly isn’t the money that is keeping them engaged, committed and involved. So what is? If you ask them, here’s what they’ll tell you. They feel that they are significant, that they matter. They feel like they are appreciated and recognized. They feel like they are supported in what they do. They feel like they are empowered to take action.

What if your employees were volunteers? Would that change how you interacted with them? If you want the kind of engagement and commitment that not-for-profit organizations get from their employees, then perhaps it’s time to start thinking about them as if they were volunteers.

What are you doing (or what can you do) to create a workplace where your employees feel significant, appreciated, supported, and empowered? Let’s get the conversation going!

Create momentum to fuel your change initiative

The Greek symbol for change

If there’s one thing that is constant in our world of work, it’s change. Which means that one of your responsibilities as a leader is to be an agent of change. But as you’ve probably realized first-hand, not all your employees are comfortable with how quickly things are shifting in the workplace. And that can be frustrating! But I often find that supervisors and managers focus on the few individuals who are digging in their heels and clinging with their fingernails to the “way things were”. It would be far more effective for these managers to focus their energy on the early converters. Just as there are always a few who would much rather reminisce about “the good old days”, there are also always one or two on your team who are ready and raring to get rolling on the new initiative. By concentrating on these few, you can create momentum. Let’s face it … peer pressure can be far more effective than anything you can say as the boss. So let these early converters help you create energy and excitement about what’s new. As the impetus builds, your holdbacks will find it harder not to participate.

What do you think? Are there other things that you are doing to facilitate change in your organization?

Could your weakness be your competitive advantage?

Why is it that doctors always seem to keep you waiting? No don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question. But I think many of you will agree that this is a common frustration about visiting the doctor – he or she is “running late”. I was waiting at my doctor’s office a few days ago and I noticed a new sign just behind the receptionist’s desk:

I was impressed with their approach. Clearly, “running late” is a common occurrence in this office, but the staff here have found a way to turn this negative feature into something positive. It reminded me of something I read several years ago called “Feature the Flaw”. Blogger Scott Anthony explained how the eco-tourism hotel industry has turned a set of flaws — basic rooms with no air conditioning, no TV and no room service, but a plentiful supply of mosquitoes — into features that can command price premiums. They positioned something negative as a benefit. Clearly this doctor’s office has taken a similar tactic.

So what can you do to apply this principle in your workplace? You no doubt have flaws in your products and services; is there a way to position these flaws differently so that your stakeholders will see them as positive features? If your clients or employees tell you that there is a potential failing in one of your ideas, can you spin the problem around by looking for an external client or internal customer who would consider that very failing a feature? By changing your point of view (and helping others see it), you could very well turn a weakness into a competitive advantage.

Do you have any examples of how companies have turned flaws into features?  Do share!

Is it better to go fast, or is it better to go farther?

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together

– African proverb

A business colleague sent me this quote today … and it struck a chord. Last week I was exploring coaching skills with a group of professionals, most of whom didn’t have any staff formally reporting to them. One of our many conversations centered on how it was a lot easier to get things done by yourself. After all, involving someone else usually means that you have to invest time in explaining things, even if they have the necessary skills and knowledge. And if they don’t have the relevant background, then it takes even greater time and resources to train them. “Far simpler and less complicated to just do it myself,” several of them said. But of course the problem with this point of view is that it is short-term thinking. Yes, it is faster to go it alone, but what happens when situations arise in the future where you have other more pressing priorities? If you haven’t invested energy in building others’ knowledge and expertise, then you’re on your own! Long-term sustainability depends on building relationships and fostering teamwork, on developing capabilities in others so that you can count on support when you need it.

What do you think? Is it better to go fast, or is it better to go farther? I would love to hear your perspective.

How to create a fun, humour-filled workplace

Over and over again, organizational research has shown that when employees have fun at work, they are more engaged in their work responsibilities and they perform better on the job. But what does it take to create a workplace that is playful, productive and profitable? In this month’s issue of CGA Magazine, I give you five specific ways that you can use fun and humour to increase employee morale and commitment. Read it: Are We Having Fun Yet? Creating a Workplace That Is Playful and Productive.

And once you’re done, come back and tell us right here on the blog: how specifically are you using fun and humour to create a workplace that’s high on productivity and performance?

Have a sense of humor! It will stand you in good stead

So you’ve probably seen the latest “video-gone-viral – how professional violinist Lukas Kmit handled the situation when an errant cell phone went off during his performance. If you haven’t, take 90 seconds to do so below.

Funny, right? But what I really liked about this clip is that it demonstrates how presence of mind and a sense of humor can turn what could have been an ugly situation into something much much more pleasant. It would have been so easy for the violinist to have lost his cool; after all, “turn off your cell phones” had probably been announced several times before the concert started. But instead, he kept his wits about him and turned something bad into something great. As a result, he’s probably gotten more publicity in the last week than he got previously in his entire career!

So is there a message there for the rest of us? I think so! In our day-to-day work lives, we face a myriad of unexpected situations, many of which can be professionally devastating if we don’t respond appropriately. Two things can make such situations better:

  1. Not taking ourselves too seriously (Lukas Kmit didn’t)
  2. Giving ourselves permission to improvise (Lukas Kmit certainly did)

Can you think of situations at work where doing these two things could have (or did) make the outcome better? Do share!