Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: April 2013

How leaders prevent problems

Phil vanHooservan Hooser is a professional colleague and someone with whom I have had an opportunity to have several very productive business discussions.  Like me, his focus is on helping leaders become even more exceptional than they already are.  His new book Leaders Ought To Know released exactly one week ago, and I am thrilled that he agreed to guest on today’s edition of the blog. Continue reading

What is your single greatest challenge in your new leadership role?

leadershipWhen you make that big move into a position of leadership, the skills that made you successful in the past are likely to cause you to fail as a new leader!  Earlier, you were probably recognized and rewarded for your track record in getting things done; but when you have staff that report to you, your success is now measured by how well you can get other people to get things done.  And that’s not always as easy as you might hope! Continue reading

Pay attention to slow trends as well as sudden changes

frogIt is said that if you put a frog into a container of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger.  But, if you put a frog in a pot filled with cool water and then gradually heat it up until the water starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late.  Apparently, the frog’s survival instincts are geared towards detecting sudden changes, not gradual ones.

Cool story!  But it turns out that there’s no factual basis to it.  Continue reading

What to do when a negative employee resorts to sabotage

Earlier this week, I brought up (once again) the oft-discussed subject of workplace negativity, specifically the various tactics that negative people use to create conflict and friction in the workplace.  Previously, I’ve discussed how defensiveness, stalling, disrespectfulness, ranting and gossip are common methods; but I promised that today I would discuss one final extreme tactic – sabotage.  Basically, sabotage is a desperate and final way for a negative person to try to regain power over a situation where he or she thinks they have lost control. Sabotage is usually used by someone who has tried a number of more subtle ways to get others to change a decision or direction of a program.  At this point, the saboteur is desperate or frightened about the future of the situation and is acting in a “last chance” frame of mind.  How do you get past this?  Continue reading

Workplace gossip creates a negative work environment

Spreading gossip is yet another tactic that negative people use to create a toxic workplace.  Keep in mind that negative people usually suffer from low self-esteem, so when the gossiper’s stories tells get strong reactions from others, and even better, begin to “get around”, s/he feels an increasing sense of importance.

At the end of the day though, this is just another approach to gain control and attention within a situation.  There are two different ways to deal effectively with gossip.  Continue reading

Give people the tools they need to get the job done!

Dessert_SableLast weekend I attended a dinner with several colleagues at an upscale restaurant in downtown Chicago.  Because we were a large group of about a dozen people, our meeting planner had pre-arranged the menu with all the courses coming to the table “family-style”.  If you’re not familiar with this phrase, it simply means that instead of the meals being individually plated, they’re brought to the table in large serving bowls or platters and then passed around for everyone to help themselves … sort of like you might do at the family dinner table.  The food was not only delicious, but also beautifully presented.  In fact, you can see two of the desserts in the photo.

But there was one problem!  Continue reading

Are you using your tusks or your teeth? – positional vs relational authority

On a receElephantnt engagement in India, the car I was traveling in was pulled over by a policeman for an alleged traffic infraction. After a tense argument in low voices, my driver turned on his heel, returned to our vehicle, and we continued on our way. “What happened?” I asked. In response, my driver quoted the following Hindi proverb:

Haathi ke do daant hothe he – ek khane ke liye, ek dikhane ke liye

Translation: elephants have two sets of teeth – one real set to eat with and a second set (tusks) to show off to others. Continue reading

Don’t set people up to fail!

GreatByChoiceYesterday I had lunch with my professional colleague (and good friend) Nora, and we got to talking about excellent books we’ve recently read.  Great by Choice (written by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen) topped Nora’s list, and as she told me about the book, one sentence in particular caught my attention.

The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive

The authors make this statement as they explore what behaviours it takes for companies and organizations to thrive in chaotic and uncertain environments.  Obviously, it’s a response to the age-old adage “you polish your skills by doing it right, but you learn from making mistakes”.  Continue reading

It’s more important to be kind than clever

I was talking to a client the other day — a senior manager at an oil company in Calgary — about various issues he’s dealing with in his department, and something he said jogged a long-forgotten memory about a conversation with one of my mentors many years ago.  The manager said “It’s more important to be kind than clever”, which was virtually word-for-word what my mentor told me back in 1991, when I had just become a team leader for the first time.

“It’s more important to be kind than clever.”

In 1991, one of my employees inadvertently made a factual error in a presentation she was giving to our management team.  Unfortunately and much to her chagrin, it was a senior executive member who caught her blunder and pointed it out in front of everyone attending.  Continue reading