Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: April 2012

Use “the salami technique” to overcome procrastination

Last week I offered up the 5-minute technique to overcome procrastination and I promised I’d share a couple more in this week’s blog posts.  So here’s another approach I’ve used quite successfully: I call it “the salami technique”.  I find this particularly useful when the task seems too big or overwhelming and for that reason I seem to lack direction.  Now I know that the name sounds odd but it refers to the fact that salami, as a roll, is decidedly unappetizing, but once you slice it up and pile the thin slices on to your sandwich, it suddenly becomes much more enticing and tempting.  In the same way, if you take your task or your project and slice it into smaller and smaller pieces by function or time, you will find that it will become easier to handle, or more interesting to start with, or you’ll be able to visualize the end result more clearly.  By “slicing” the task into smaller pieces, you’ll find that it isn’t as big or overwhelming or as uninteresting as you thought.  So the salami technique is – slice it up!

Well, what do you think?  Do you have other things that you do to overcome procrastination?  Do share.

Use the 5-minute technique to overcome procrastination

Almost every leader I know is guilty of procrastination, guilty of putting off things till later, usually until it becomes a crisis. And even knowing that the eventual outcome will be a frenzied manic effort to get things done at the last minute, most people procrastinate anyway. So why do people put off the inevitable? Usually because of one or more of three reasons – they don’t like doing it, they see it as too big and overwhelming, and they don’t know how to do it. Here’s one thing that you can do to overcome dragging your feet.

I call it “the 5-minute technique” and it works really well for things that I don’t like doing; usually for me, that means routine tasks. So for example, I dislike routine filing and I am apt to put it off for as long as I possibly can, usually until the “to be filed” basket is overflowing. The 5-minute technique is exactly what it sounds like. I set a timer for five minutes, and for that period of time I do nothing but file. Once the timer goes off I have the option of resetting it for another five minutes, or just patting myself on the back and moving on to something else. But because it’s just five minutes, I do it – I figure I can tackle anything if it’s just five minutes, even the stuff I don’t like. And often, I find that the first five minutes builds momentum for another five. So it gets done!

I’ve got a couple more ideas that I have used very successfully to get things off my to-do list, and I’ll share them with you in next week’s blog posts. But for now, what about you? How do you overcome procrastination? Share your approaches please.

How to communicate unpopular decisions and changes – live audio event on May 2

If you’re in a leadership position, then you know that it’s your responsibility to make tough decisions … but sometimes the changes that result don’t always sit well with your employees.  You certainly don’t want to alienate your team, but is it possible to communicate these unpopular decisions in such a way that your employees “buy-in” and negative responses are minimized? Absolutely!

And I can help! If you hesitate or struggle with delivering bad news, or if you’re unsure how to communicate unpopular changes to your team, then join me for one fast-paced and content-rich hour in which you’ll not only learn specific ways to communicate changes and decisions with openness and honesty, but also techniques to deal with negative employee responses.

Click here to register now

More than anything else, you need to be the boss that employees can trust, and I can show you how to develop and maintain your credibility so that you can create better working relationships and a more productive working environment.  And if you act by April 25, you can take advantage of early bird savings!

Here’s just some of what you’ll learn:

  • Six specific techniques to formulate and deliver your message so that your employees see and know that you’re communicating with openness and honesty
  • The one critical factor that will allow you to maintain credibility with your staff when the going gets tough
  • Six proven strategies to deal with the negative responses you might get from your employees
  • The well-known change response model, and how it gives you an insight into why people react the way they do when they are faced with negative changes
  • How to rise above your own conflicting emotions – it’s hard to support and implement a decision if you don’t agree with it yourself!

Join me on May 2, 2012 at 11 AM MDT. Early bird pricing in effect ONLY until this Wednesday April 25!

Click here to register, or for more information.

Why leaders cannot ignore rapid advances in technology

As regular readers of this blog know, I often comment on how important it is for leaders to keep abreast of technology, not just for their own benefit, but perhaps more importantly to stay current in the context of the people they lead.  For several years now, I’ve been saying this, and I’ll say it again: there is a fundamental shift in the way people are communicating with one another, and it has enormous implications for how you should be recruiting, motivating and leading your people.  In the past, I’ve introduced you to two very eye-opening videos by Erik Qualman – Social Media Revolution and Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh).  Now he’s recently released a new video titled Technology Can Kill to support his book Digital Leader.

Technology has made it possible for you, a leader, to make an impact far and wide, to exert more influence than ever before.  Are you accepting this reality, or are you fighting it?  What are you doing to embrace technology?  Or not?  Does this video have any implications on how you are or should be leading your people?

Should every leader have a “sweep”?

Last week I blogged about my unfortunate bicycling mishap on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California – Are you leading from the front or the rear? – in which I realized that leadership wasn’t just about going ahead and guiding the way, but also about staying back and supporting those who needed help.  It got a conversation started, and Ron Umbsaar (see the Comments under the blog post) told me about how white-water and river canoeing groups always have not only a “lead” boat but also a “sweep” boat.  The sweep is another experienced person whose role is to bring up the rear and make sure that the team stays together.  Which got me thinking …

Shouldn’t every leader have a sweep – another experienced team member who assists the leader by following behind the group – to help team members who falter, and to get them back on track?  I think this person should ideally be a senior experienced team member who is known and respected by the others.  But perhaps most importantly, I think the leader needs to identify this person to others as a resource, a second-in-command, or a “senior”, so they know where to go when they need help.  What do you think?  Good idea or not?

Are you leading from the front or from the rear?

A couple of weeks ago, I bicycled across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. It was a unique experience, marred only by a minor mishap that occurred partway during the trip. The busy pathway was neatly divided down the middle with a line separating the lane for foot-traffic from that for wheeled-traffic, a system that was working quite well … until a young boy darted out into the bicycle lane. Not a veteran cyclist, I panicked, hit my brakes, lost my balance, and promptly tumbled over and hit my head on a concrete abutment. When I fell, those who were ahead of me had no awareness of what had just happened behind them. In fact, it wasn’t until about five minutes later when the rest of my group stopped for a photo opportunity that they realized I was missing. Indeed, the family of the young child who triggered the accident were also completely oblivious as they continued on with their morning stroll. It was the three city workers who were walking behind me who stopped and helped me stand, then sat me down and brought me water, finally getting me up and on my way once again. In the good news department, there was no major harm done, not even to my head (courtesy of my riding helmet). But unfortunately, for the next two weeks, scrapes and bruises on my knees and shins were a sore reminder of my not-so-excellent adventure.

It wasn’t till several days later (when the aches began to subside and the bruises started to fade) that I reflected back on this incident and got to thinking about what role a leader should play on the team. By its very definition, you would expect a leader to lead, to be out in front, to blaze the trail, to be the shining beacon lighting the way to your destination. But the problem with being out front is that you can easily miss what’s happening in the rear. For me, the true leaders in this situation were those who were behind me, there to pick me up and dust me off when I fell, and get me back on the road to finish my journey.

Where are you leading from – the front or the rear?  What about others around you – have they made this important distinction? Tell us what you think.


What is your biggest challenge when it comes to communicating unpopular decisions or changes?

There are times when you have to deliver bad news to your staff, or communicate unpopular decisions to your team … and let’s face it, sometimes those changes don’t always sit well with your people.  Ideally, what you really want is employee buy-in; but often you run the risk of doing exactly the opposite – alienating your team!  There’s no doubt, it’s a tough situation to be in!

And that’s exactly the topic I’ll be covering in my live Audio Conference on Wednesday May 2 in a program titled “The “Let’s Not Kill The Messenger” Manual – A Leader’s Guide to Communicating Unpopular Decisions and Changes”.  I’ll be opening the lines for questions, so I want to know —when it comes communicating, or sometimes even making, unpopular decisions or changes, what is your biggest challenge? What one thing could I help you with that would make the process easier? Go to to ask your question and I’ll answer as many as I can on May 2.

And while you’re at, be sure to download the free article — “Breaking Bad News: How to deliver unpleasant information with compassion and credibility” — in which I offer seven definitive things you need to consider.   Just click on the link on the bottom left of the screen.

Tardiness at work – how often and why?

So I was catching up on some reading the other day and I came across a reference to a U.S.-nationwide survey conducted late last year that asked more than 7,000 employees and 3,000 employers (across a broad cross-section of industry segments and company sizes) about tardiness at work. You can read more about this study here, but here are a couple of the highlights:

  • 16% of workers reported they arrive late to work once a week or more and 27% of workers arrive late to work at least once a month.
  • The top three reasons for getting to work late are traffic (31%), lack of sleep (18%), and bad weather (11%).

My favorite section in the study however was examples of some of the most outrageous excuses employees gave for being tardy. They ranged from:

  • An employee thinking she had won the lottery (she hadn’t) to
  • An employee who believed that his commute time should count towards his work hours to
  • An employee whose leg was trapped between the subway car and platform (it was).

So what are some of the most outrageous excuses you’ve heard (or used :))? Let’s see if we can top this list.