Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: June 2014

Want to achieve your goals? The answer lies in performance measurement

There’s an old leadership adage – what gets measured gets done; in fact, I have long advocated an extended version – what gets measured and publicized gets acted on – which I blogged about back in November 2010.  Recently, I, at a personal level, became a living breathing example of this leadership principle of performance measurement in action.

Merge_June2_2013This is what I posted to my friends and family on my personal Facebook page on June 2 earlier this month:

Exactly one year ago today, June 2 2013, I weighed 33 lbs more than I do today!  Many of you have asked me HOW I achieved this. Just plain ol’ simple math. Output greater than input every single day, that’s it! Plus tracking help from my Fitbit and the associated app.

Those of you who have ever tried to lose weight know that it can be a very challenging effort.  In fact, I found this goal to be FAR FAR harder than any business goal I’ve ever tried to achieve.  But it was because I measured – steps walked every day, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned, calories eaten, weekly weight checks – that I was motivated to keep going.  Now granted, technology makes it a lot easier to keep track (that little Fitbit and its associated app are awesome!), but it was because I measured and publicized (within my Fitbit circle of friends) that I achieved this major milestone.

So what’s the message here for leaders?  Continue reading

A strong organizational culture creates customer loyalty

“Vision, mission and values … those are just meaningless words on a wall poster!  In fact, most employees couldn’t even tell you one-quarter of what the sign says”, scoffs one manager I know.

DoTheRightThingUnfortunately, this is a sentiment that I hear more often than I’d like!  When senior leaders in organizations spend time (hours, sometimes even days) developing the vision, mission and core values for their company, their ultimate wish is that their employees will take these principles and ideals to heart; in fact, their hope is that the values become so firmly entrenched in the minds and actions of their employees that it becomes an integral part of the organizational culture.  But with prevailing sentiments much like the above, should leaders even bother?  Well my answer is, unequivocally, “yes”!  Not only is it possible to get all your employees on the same page when it comes to corporate values, but those companies who do, reap the benefit of enthusiastic customer loyalty, highly-engaged employees and bottom-line profitability.  A couple of years ago, I wrote about an experience with Tim Hortons that proves this point.  And just recently, it became apparent to me, once again, that when leaders live and breathe their core values, highly-engaged employees do the same, and that leads to the ultimate bottom-line outcome – loyal repeat customers who become word-of-mouth advocates to the people they know!

My most recent experience was with the adventure travel company G AdventuresContinue reading

Millennials in the workplace – CKNW 980 NewsTalk Vancouver interview

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a link to my latest column in The Globe & MailWant respect, millennials? Here’s how to earn it is the third in a series, and like the first two, it has gone viral, stimulating both positive and negative feedback, but definitely instigating conversations!  Some of those dialogues have included me, but far more important are the thousands of discussions that have started around coffee stations and water coolers, as people have commenced and continued to work on improving communication between different generations in the workplace.

CKNW980NewsTalkLast week, Bill Good, very popular morning host on CKNW NewsTalk Vancouver, invited me to join him on his show to talk about – you guessed it – generational differences in the workplace.  The conversation, not surprisingly, centered on the negative stereotypes that are often assigned to the millennial generation, and how to get past them.  Here is a link to the actual interview.  Continue reading

For effective meetings, hold a “wall” meeting

Business team standing in hallEarlier this week I blogged about “ball” meetings – a very useful technique to run more effective meetings.  Today, I want to tell you about another approach – “wall” meetings.  In a wall meeting, no one can sit down; everyone participates in the meeting while standing, leaning up against the wall.  For even more effectiveness, ensure that that there are no donuts available in the room either! 🙂  The premise behind this approach is that if people are not comfortable, they are more likely to get on with the matter at hand and move towards the intended result.  Basically, the discomfort creates focus, which in some situations may be exactly what you need.

A wall meeting is particularly successful if Continue reading

For effective meetings, hold “ball” meetings

TennisBallYou’ve no doubt attended your fair share of business meetings; in fact, if you’re in a formal leadership role, you’ve probably called a few yourself.  Given how pervasive meetings are in today’s world of work, you’d think that people would have figured out how to be more efficient and effective in meetings by now.  But alas, it is not so!  I am repeatedly told by clients how so many of the meetings they (are required to) attend are mind-numbing, ineffective and a waste of time.  As I have said repeatedly, it does not have to be that way.  Continue reading

Setting goals? To build confidence, go smaller and sooner

GoalsSetting goals is an important first-step towards achieving objectives and when done appropriately and regularly, it can be a source of great motivation for teams and individuals.  I often hear leaders refer to “stretch targets” – goals that require and effort or “stretch” to realize.  But the key to goal-setting that results in success really lies in attaining a balance – a balance between “too much” and “not enough”.  If the goals are too big or too distant or not reflective of the business reality, they will actually undermine confidence and eventually become de-motivators.  On the other hand, if the goals are too easy, or simply the status quo, they will not serve to encourage higher performance or productivity.

So what’s the solution?  Continue reading

Want respect, millennials? Here’s how to earn it.

My newest column in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series just published this morning.


“Want respect, millennials?  Here’s how to earn it”

offers six specific pieces of advice to millennials on how to earn greater respect amongst their boomer and Gen-Xer peers and managers.

My last two columns on the subject of millennials (Four things millennials hate about you in March and Don’t gripe about millennials at work, appreciate their talents instead in April) created quite the commotion, so if history is a predictor of the future, I suspect this one will cause some conversation as well.  As always, the column will take you no more than a few minutes to read, and I know that it will be relevant, but perhaps more importantly, I hope it will be thought-provoking.

I hope it goes without saying – I’d love your thoughts!  Please … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues.  I suspect that they’ll each have an opinion as well!  And if you’ve got a millennial or two in your work or personal life, I’d love to hear from them too.  Please comment below, or add your perspectives to the Globe’s website.  You can also tweet me at @mergespeaks.

Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere:

Frequent and liberal employee recognition and praise creates positive workplaces

I have always maintained that frequent and liberal employee recognition and praise is fundamental to creating positive workplaces.  In their 2004 book How Full is Your Bucket?, authors Tom Rath and Don Clifton explain the theory of the dipper and the bucket:

pail_scoopEach of us has an invisible bucket.  It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us.  When our bucket is full, we feel great.  When it’s empty, we feel awful.  Each of us also has an invisible dipper.  When we use that dipper to fill other people’s buckets – by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions – we also fill our own bucket.  But when we use that dipper to dip from others’ buckets – by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotions – we diminish ourselves. 

So we face a choice every moment of every day: we can fill one another’s buckets, or we can dip from them.  It’s an important choice – one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health and happiness.

Simply by virtue of their position, leaders hold extraordinary power to fill or dip the invisible buckets of their staff.  Continue reading

Leave difficult personal issues outside the workplace

When you’re facing a personal crisis or dealing with difficult personal issues, it’s not unusual to want to get it off your chest by venting to others, often the people you work with.  It’s only human!  But … when you’re in a position of leadership, choosing who you voice your frustration to becomes critical.  Let me explain.

Dirty SockA manager at a client company is going through a messy marriage breakup, and not surprisingly, emotions in his personal life are running high.  On an almost daily basis, he rails on about his [insert colourful adjective] wife and her [insert just as vivid adjective] lawyer – to his staff, his co-workers, his clients, just about anyone who will listen.  Clearly he has got a lot on his mind and he needs to unload somewhere, but it’s the where that is the problem.  Airing your dirty laundry in public, without restraint, is never a good idea.  And probably without even realizing it, this manager is creating a very awkward working relationship (with his staff, co-workers and clients) AND seriously undermining his own credibility.  Continue reading