Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: October 2012

Three new rules for business writing

Shirley Taylor is one of my professional colleagues based in Singapore who is well known for her business writing training courses.  Given that it’s so important for leaders to be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing, I asked Shirley if she would share some key ideas on the Turning Managers into Leaders blog.  As you can see, she obliged.  Thank you Shirley!

People who write effectively and powerfully are more likely to get listened to, more likely to persuade or convince others, and even more likely to get promoted.   More and more of our work today is undertaken through writing rather than in person or on the phone. As we are writing so much more, we depend on our writing skills to influence, persuade, encourage, collaborate, and to lead. But how often do you notice people talking about the importance of good writing in their day-to-day work? They don’t, right? Most people don’t really notice the quality of the writing they read – they simply react positively, negatively, or not at all. If you have ever wondered if there’s a better way to write your messages so they get better results, there is!

Here are three new rules for written communication: Continue reading

Conflict is necessary for high-performing teams

When it comes to high-performing work teams, conflict and disagreement are not necessarily bad things.  In fact, your goal as a leader is to create an optimum balance between consensus and conflict.  In the October 2012 issue of Lab Manager Magazine, I write on just this subject, and offer some insights into why it’s “oh so important” to create a working environment in which healthy conflict is welcomed and encouraged.

Read the article Conflict and Disagreement Are Not Always Bad: In fact, they are essential to high-performing work teams.

Then come on back to the blog and tell us what you think.  How can you make sure that conflict is healthy and constructive?

Continue reading

Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready

In the hip-hop culture, there is an old adage – “stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready”. In fact, here are the lyrics from a popular rap song “If you stay ready” by Suga Free.

If u stay ready, u ain’t got to get ready

If u stay ready, u don’t ever ever get someone way out to get ready

— Suga Free with DJ Quik from the How to Be a Player album

Sometimes, leadership lessons come from the most unexpected places! Continue reading

For effective meetings ALWAYS take minutes

The word “meeting” seems to elicit a reaction (not usually positive) from virtually every supervisor or manager I talk to. Turns out that most people’s experiences with meetings are not encouraging. This has come up often enough that I have devoted past blogs to this topic:

So here’s one more critical success factor for effective meetings – always take minutes of meetings, and issue them within 48 hours. Minutes provide a written record of what happened at a meeting, but because it sounds like a lot of work, many people balk at this rule. However, meeting minutes do not need to be long or complicated. An effective and popular approach is to focus only on recording action items. Continue reading

What does good listening really mean?

Earlier this year, I was at several speaking engagements in Shanghai, China, and over lunch, a participant in one of my programs gave me a rudimentary explanation of Mandarin Chinese.  Apparently, many Mandarin characters (or words) are actually combinations of several characters that also have independent meanings.  An example in English would be the word “stopwatch”.  “Stop” is an independent word, as is “watch”, and when combined, they create a third meaning.  Continue reading

Overcoming generational differences to create productive workplaces

There has never been such a diversity of generations in the workplace as there is today. It is not unusual to find each of the four generational demographics – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers and Millennials – in a single department. And because each generation brings its own values and expectations into the workplace, it’s not unusual to have differing viewpoints on a single situation which can often lead to disagreement and conflict. In the latest issue of Perspectives Magazine published by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council, I provide a quick overview of the differing outlooks of each generation AND I offer three specific ideas to bridge the gap.

Read Ages Apart: How to bridge generational differences to create productive and successful workplaces

So what is your experience? What are you doing to bridge the generational gap in your organization? Please share your ideas in the Comments section below.

Competitiveness is a barrier to creativity and innovation

In his now-classic 1945 candle experiment, psychologist Karl Duncker posed the following problem – how to affix a lit candle to a cork board using only a box of thumbtacks and a book of matches. Some tried to attach the candle directly to the wall using the tacks; others attempted to glue it to the cork board using melted candle wax; but neither approach yielded results. Very few of the participants thought to empty the box of thumbtacks, use the tacks to pin the box (with the candle in it) to the cork board, and then light the candle with the match. The cognitive bias that limits a person to using an object only in the way it is traditionally used is called functional fixedness, and is a known barrier to creativity.

Even more interesting than Duncker’s original 1945 experiment was the follow-up research conducted by Sam Glucksberg in 1962. Continue reading

Thankful to be Canadian!

This upcoming weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, a time of the year when so many of us north of the 49th parallel gather with friends and family to gobble roast turkey and stuffing, and sip luscious libations. At some point during the raucous revelry, most of us pause to express the many things we are thankful for. I am thankful for many things – my incredible husband, my amazing family, a successful leadership development practice, great clients, awesome friends – but it occurred to me as I put my list together that I am thankful for one more thing – that I am Canadian! As a first-generation immigrant to Canada (I came to my adopted land thirty-one years ago), I am so proud to call Canada home. I appreciate that Canadians are relaxed and laid-back, tolerant of others who are not like them, willing to welcome strangers without wanting to change them, quick to laugh at ourselves and not take the world too seriously. And as if luck was just waiting to prove my point, I stumbled across this video titled “Canadian Dance Moves”, set to the lyrics and music of “Canadian Please”. Not only is it catchy and fun, but I really think it’s so “Canadian”.

So, what are your favourite Canadian dance moves? Mine are Cold as Ice and Tap the Syrup. Skip the Goose Poop made me laugh!

And oh yes, what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Everyone needs a role model or mentor

In December 2004, a frightened baby hippo became an orphan as a result of a devastating tsunami that swept the shores of Kenya.  Stranded on a coral reef, he was ultimately rescued, and since there was no way to return him to the wild, he was placed in Haller Park Sanctuary in Mombasa.  Scared and frightened, and no doubt searching for his mother, little Owen got close and comfortable with a grumpy 130-year old Aldabra giant tortoise called Mzee.  Perhaps Mzee’s round shape and gray colour reminded Owen of his mother.  At first, the tortoise wanted nothing to do with the hippo, but Owen persisted.  Eventually, the bond between hippo and tortoise strengthened and two became inseparable.  They roused each other for meals, spent hours wallowing in the pond together, and snuggled up side by side each night.  In fact, for a while, Owen behaved more like a tortoise than a hippo.  He ate tortoise food, such as leaves and carrots (and ignored the grasses that hippos normally eat).  He slept at night, not during the day as wild hippos do.  Continue reading