Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: August 2013

Working with Millennials – take advantage of their questioning and impatient nature

Millennial08Earlier this week I put forward the somewhat controversial suggestion that you be willing to adjust your work schedule for your Millennials’ social engagements. Yeah, I heard from a “few” of you! 😛  Well, here’s another (less outrageous :)) idea for how to engage and motivate your Millennials.

Take advantage of their questioning and impatient nature. Not only do Millennials question everything, but they’re impatient for the answers; they want them now! So rather than fight this fundamental character trait, take advantage of it. Continue reading

Working with Millennials – be flexible with your schedule

Millennial07Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1994, are getting noticed! Also known as Generation Y, this growing demographic is increasingly making its mark in the workplace. Because Millennials see the world through different value filters than the generations who came before them, it often leads to tension and conflict, but it doesn’t have to! These “kids” are creative, adaptable, realistic, tolerant, and technologically-savvy, but only if you know how to tap into their potential. Since May, off-and-on, we’ve been discussing how to best motivate and harness the potential of this workplace demographic (links to previous posts are below), and this week I have two more specific ideas.

Be flexible when it comes to work scheduling. Be willing to adjust your schedule for their social engagements. Continue reading

Cultural context is always important to effective communication – another reminder

Over two years ago, I wrote a post about the importance of cultural context when communicating — a cola advertisement went horribly wrong because the cultural context was not taken in account.  Well a similar situation occurred again recently.  The German consumer products company Henkel had to pull their Bref Duo Stick toilet freshener product from store shelves in the Ukraine because someone didn’t take cultural context into account.


As you can see, the toilet freshener looks suspiciously like the Ukraine’s flag; turns out that the Ukrainian people don’t particularly appreciate watching a smiling woman place their flag in the toilet, even if it is just on TV.  Continue reading

How to maintain your composure? Do math!

We’ve all had the experience of saying or doing something in the heat of the moment that we’ve regretted later. And in a professional environment, its consequences can carry serious negative repercussions to both career and business success. Even one inappropriate emotional outburst can tarnish your reputation for years to come. So it’s worthwhile knowing how to stay composed, positive and unflappable even in trying moments, and learning how to think clearly and stay focused under pressure. In previous blog posts addressing this subject, I’ve offered two ideas:

Identify your main triggers

Know that your actions will control the outcome of any situation

DoingMathHere is one more: do math! Yes, I know it sounds silly, but it’s actually VERY effective. When you’re facing stressful or difficult circumstances, the emotional centre of your brain (known as the amygdala) takes over. Math however is a logical activity which takes place in your neo-cortex, a separate part of your brain. By doing a math problem in your head, you will engage the logical neo-cortex of your brain and overcome the emotions centred in the amygdala. Continue reading

Training employees – GPS or paper map?

GirlMapGPSDo you remember when Global Positioning System (GPS) devices were not as ubiquitous as they are today?  I do.  I remember having no choice but to use paper maps; studying one before I went somewhere important, turning it sideways and upside down while standing at a street corner in order to orient myself in the right direction, and looking for other landmarks around me to pinpoint my location (once I realized that I was hopelessly lost).

Yes, I admit it, I love GPS devices!  After all, what could be easier?  A pleasant voice telling me to turn left, drive for 6 miles, turn right, make a U-turn and then arrive at my destination.  And if I happen to miss a turn, the just-as-pleasant reprimand — “recalculating”.  Continue reading

To foster innovation, keep negativity at bay

bigstock-high-jump-in-track-and-field-33491909In 1964, Dick Fosbury revolutionized the world of high-jumping by turning the sport upside down … literally!  Until then, athletes used either the straddle technique (in which the jumper lifts his legs individually over the bar while facing down) or the less popular upright scissors method (in which he runs upright towards the bar and lifts his straight legs over one at a time).  But Fosbury did it differently – he went over the bar, head-first and on his back, curving his body and kicking his legs up in the air at the end of the jump.  The “Fosbury Flop”, as it came to be known, is why he not only took the gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City but also set a new Olympic record of 7 feet 4-1/4 inches. His success silenced the initial skeptics in the high-jumping community, but the true proof came in the following years – seventy percent of the athletes in the Munich 1972 games used the Flop, and that number rose to eighty percent by 1980.  Today, it is the most popular technique in the sport of high-jumping.

It’s worth noting that Fosbury was mocked and ridiculed when he first starting using his new technique; Continue reading

Recovering from workplace setbacks

Usually when I attend conferences, it’s as a speaker.  But last week was different.  Last week I attended a conference where I was an audience member and I got to sit back and listen to a variety of speakers.  I particularly enjoyed Robyn Benincasa’s story.  Robyn is a professional adventure racer, known most for being a two-time world champion of the multi-day expedition-length Eco-Challenge.  One statement in particular that she made about her experiences caught my attention.

Pain is mandatory but suffering is optional.Pain_Suffering

Robyn was of course talking about the numerous setbacks and obstacles her four-person team faced over the course of the grueling 300 mile race.  But I found her message to be even more relevant to the workplace.  Whether it’s on the adventure race course or at work, we all know that stuff happens!  Continue reading

Are you creating an inclusive workplace?

cpaeLast week I attended a convention in Philadelphia, but as an attendee, not a speaker!  It was the annual gathering of my American professional colleagues, all members of the National Speakers’ Association, and it was a great opportunity for me to rekindle relationships, swap “road” stories, and leave rejuvenated and refreshed.  Even though I am Canadian, the close proximity of our two countries means that I have many amongst their ranks that I consider my good friends.  As is tradition in their association, on the final evening of the convention, five speakers were recognized and honoured by their peers by admission into the American Speaker Hall of Fame.  As the winners were announced, each came up on stage and (as you might expect :)) gave a very moving speech of acceptance.  What struck me the most was the similarity of two of their stories. Continue reading

When giving negative feedback, weigh the tradeoffs

WeighscaleAs a leader, one of your more challenging tasks is to give negative feedback to an employee.  And there’s an art to doing it effectively; after all, your goal is to get a desired behaviour change, not to frustrate or de-motivate your employee.  In the past I’ve offered specific advice on how to give negative feedback (see links below), but today I want to step back and ask you to consider whether the feedback is even necessary.  It is always worth your while to weigh the tradeoffs before you have a conversation with the transgressing employee. Continue reading