Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: March 2014

Why your Millennials think you’re nuts!

Update as of April 2: This article has officially “gone viral”.  To date, it has garnered over 50,000 views, over 4,000 “direct” shares, and comments and re-tweets numbering in the hundreds if not thousands.  I must admit, while I am certainly passionate about this subject, I had NO idea that my passion was shared by so many.  I am of course thrilled to bits that people are talking, because the more we dialogue about this subject, the more likely we are to create workplaces that are positive and productive for all generations.

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My latest column in The Globe & Mail’s Leadership Lab series is in cyberspace this morning:

Four things millennials hate about you

Four things millennials hate about you

Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994) make up more than 30% of both the Canadian and American workforce, and this proportion continues to increase daily as more twenty-somethings enter the world of paid employment. Like every generation before them, these young people see the world through a different value filter, and just as their behaviours make more seasoned employees shake their heads in disbelief and dismay, Millennials scratch their heads in bemusement when they observe what they perceive as bone-headed moves by the veterans in their organizations. And that’s the subject of today’s column!

Take a moment to quickly read through the article; no matter what generation you belong to, I think you’ll find the material relevant, and definitely thought-provoking. And please … use the social media links on the Globe’s site to share with your staff and colleagues, I bet you’ll get some wildly different opinions; at minimum, the odds are good that you’ll get the conversation going! And feel free to add your thoughts to the Globe’s website; the dialogue there is much broader (lots more readers) so the discussion should get interesting!

How to reduce employee turnover

CGA0304-2014When companies talk about sustainability, normally they are referring to financial health.  But it’s just as important to build strength and sustainability in your workforce as it is to build it on your balance sheet.  And it’s a leader’s job to create an organization with low employee turnover, a department where people come … AND want to stay!

Last June I blogged about Amy Bouzaglo who showed the world (on the television program Kitchen Nightmares) exactly what to do if you want almost all your employees to walk out the door!  In my latest article in CGA Magazine, I take a much tamer approach to helping you improve employee retention – I offer you two proven actions to stop your staff from jumping ship and swimming over to the competition. Continue reading

Intergenerational conflict arising from dated policies and procedures?

Rule Book Or Policy Guide ManualLast week I was working with a group of about 60 leaders in a large energy company, focusing on helping them maximize performance in their multi-generational work teams. A lot of our dialogue centered on the intergenerational conflict that arises from differences in values and work styles between the four generations in today’s workplace, and the influencing factors that created those dissimilarities. As our discussion progressed, one of the participants made a very insightful comment. “It occurs to me,” she said, “that our policies and procedures were written by Traditionalists, to fit their values, work styles and work ethics. But, for the most part, the people who are following and implementing these very rules and guidelines are not Traditionalists, since most of them are no longer with the company. Instead, Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials, people who have significantly different work styles and workplace perspectives, are living with the implications and outcomes of the ‘policy manual’. No wonder they are frustrated,” she went on, “even though the Traditionalists have gone, the intergenerational conflict lives on through the policies and procedures.”

As soon as she spoke, I realized how astute her comment was. Continue reading

Phrases that diminish your power of persuasion

PersuasionAre you inadvertently sabotaging your power of persuasion by using words that make you seem unsure, hesitant, tentative, or unassertive?  You might be.  Here are some phrases that you should never have in your business vocabulary:

  • I might be wrong but …: the moment you utter this, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to listen to the rest of what you have to say.  If you might be wrong, then there’s no point in bothering to pay attention, is there?!
  • You know … (as in We need to, you know, report the safety violation): it either gets perceived as you seeking approval, or it comes across as superior and lecturing.  Either way, not an outcome you want. Continue reading

Sometimes it is better to enjoy the moment (rather than trying to understand why)

Photo credit: Joshua Pickles
Photo credit: Joshua Pickles

Last November I was in Manama, Bahrain and since it was my first visit to the country, I made it a point to save a couple of days to “play tourist”. One of the many remarkable places I visited was Shajarat-al-Haya or the Tree of Life, a solitary 32-foot tall Asian mesquite tree that survives, seemingly without water, in the middle of the desert. Despite extreme temperatures and the apparent lack of fresh water and nutrients, it has continued to grow and flourish, so legend has it that Enki, an ancient god of water in Babylonian and Sumerian mythology, protects the tree. And yet others believe the site is the historical location of the Garden of Eden. Science has a more logical explanation. Scientists believe that the tree’s root system has searched deep, over 150 feet in fact, and has managed to locate an aquifer that sustains its survival. However the scientists cannot prove this theory, Continue reading

Four lessons about teamwork from the meerkat

Meerkats – denizens of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa – by rights, they shouldn’t even be able to survive. They’re tiny; living in an inhospitable, dry and scorching environment; for all practical purposes, defenseless; and surrounded by predators. To add insult to injury, they have to dig for their food – and not just a little digging; but up to several times their body weight just to get one small morsel of a caterpillar or beetle larvae. Yet, cute, frenzied, tough and tenacious, survive they do, and quite successfully. Their secret? Teamwork.

Continue reading

Unable to delegate effectively? You may be the reason.

Liz-WeberLiz Weber is not only a respected business colleague and a friend, but also an in-demand coach and consultant to executive teams who need help with strategic planning, succession planning, and leadership team development.  And of course, I’m thrilled to bits that she agreed to guest on the blog today.

Are You Too Busy Being Busy?

Do you work 10, 11, or 12 hour days and never get ahead?  Do you believe the more tasks you physically do yourself, the greater your chances are you can inspire your team to do more? When that doesn’t work, do you ask yourself why no one seems to be working as hard or caring as much as you? If so, a primary reason for your frustration may be your own management style. You may be too busy being busy to effectively manage.

If you are jumping in and taking on team work or scurrying from task to task, often shifting direction, your behavior (i.e., your management style) is sending an off-putting message to others. The message you are conveying is that you are scattered and indecisive at best, or out-of-control at worst.  Most team members will recognize the message right away—and they will stay away. Continue reading

Workplace frustration drains motivation and lowers performance

frustrationLast week, I blogged about leaders who often get frustrated about aspects of their working environment.  See How to approach a difficult working environment.  A reader sent me a link to this paper: Workplace Frustration: A Silent Killer in Today’s Organizations  (published last year by the Hay Group) to emphasize that it isn’t just leaders who face workplace frustration, but also their employees, often because of their leaders.  Point taken.  So in the spirit of giving insights to leaders who want to make their workplaces less frustrating for their employees, I offer the following summary of the Hay Group article.

When held back by work environments that hinder performance, employees get frustrated.  Frustration is an inherently unstable state, so within a year, frustrated employees will do one of three things: Continue reading

So what does a crisis really mean?

Several years ago, while at several speaking engagements in China, one of my participants showed me how words in Mandarin Chinese are often 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.  I was so taken with some of the examples she shared that shortly after, I blogged about the word “listen” which in Mandarin made up of three radicals (or combinant characters) – ear, sound and heart (What does good listening really mean?).

Chinese_CrisisWell recently, a colleague in Singapore made me aware of the Chinese word for “crisis” which is made up of two radicals – danger and opportunity.  Wow!  Insightful or what?  As leaders, our days are filled with crises, some large, some small, all of which cause us varying degrees of frustration.  The frustration no doubt comes from the danger, but despite the heat of the moment, what if we were able to spot and focus on the opportunity?  Perhaps we could come out of the difficult situation better off than we were before.

What do you think?  Are you able to spot the opportunity in the face of danger?  Or is it easier said than done?