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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Five ways to jump start a culture shift in your organization

MikeKerr2Earlier this week, my professional colleague and buddy Michael Kerr wrote a guest piece titled Creating culture shift.  I promised he’d be back with a follow-up piece and here it is – five ways to jump-start a cultural shift in your organization.

Here are five ways to help you jump start a cultural shift in your organization:

  1. Focus on the Important Stuff: Within less than a year the Denmark supermarket chain Irma transformed their culture (and saved their business) when the CEO decided to try a revolutionary new approach: putting people first. To achieve that goal the company focused on three areas: Leadership training based on personal development, open communication (including a very personal and heartfelt weekly newsletter that helped build trust and openness), and celebrating positive results. And yes, within less than a year Irma became profitable and today is recognized as one the best workplaces in Denmark and the best retailer to work for in Europe.        Continue reading

Creating culture shift

MikeKerr1Michael Kerr is my professional colleague (and a good friend) who helps companies create more inspiring workplace environments.  He’s a busy guy though; in fact the last time he guested on the Turning Managers into Leaders blog was four years ago in October 2010 when he wrote Subversive workplace humor can be a cover for some uncomfortable truths!  Fortunately he found time to return, not only today, but with a follow-up post later this week.  Thank you Mike!  Glad you’re here!

As I travel the world researching inspiring workplaces, a simple question I’ve put to more than 100 leaders is, “What has been the most important driver of your success, your business strategy or culture?”   A resounding 90% have answered, “Culture.”  As Kim Axelson, the passionate CEO of AFA JCDecaux (an outdoor advertising company that has received numerous accolades for its culture and business success) told me when we sat down together for three hours in his Copenhagen office: “The best business strategy in the world won’t survive in the long run without a strong culture to move it forward. For us, culture has been the key to success in every aspect of our business.” Continue reading

Millennials, November 6 is Bring In Your Parents Day!

As readers of this blog know, I have a keen interest in the Millennial generation and their impact on the workplace, and I frequently seek to get dialogues going on this topic (one such column: Four things millennials hate about you).  Recently, my fellow columnist at The Globe & Mail, Brian Church (who is also Canada’s manager for LinkedIn) posted a column about how parents can be a great source of career advice to their Millennial kids entering the workforce.  I couldn’t agree more!  In fact, a study done by LinkedIn found that Canadian parents believe the top five skills they can impart to their children are: problem solving, perseverance, integrity, time management and teamwork.  And what workplace couldn’t benefit from employees who have these characteristics?!  Brian also noted that their research found that many parents are not sharing their knowledge of these skills with their kids because they either don’t think their kids will listen or don’t have a strong enough understanding of what their child does at work.

Nov_6-LinkedIn-Bring-In-Your-Parents-DayIt was the second reason – parents feel that they don’t have a strong enough understanding of what their child does at work – that caught my attention.  It make sense – given how rapidly technology is changing, and all the new types of jobs created over the past few years, it’s understandable that a lot of parents may not understand what their kids actually do at work each day.  And my research has shown that Millennials love having their parents know about their work lives, to the extent that many of them appreciate and are motivated by their bosses letting their parents know how well they are doing on the job!  (Yes, I know, that may sound crazy to some of you, particularly if you are a Boomer, but it is what it is!)  What excited me though is what is happening on November 6.  Continue reading

Use this phrase for more effective communication

Two irrefutable truths about effective communication:

  1. Effective communication involves both speaking and listening, preferably equably between two parties.
  2. When it’s your turn to speak, it’s also your responsibility to ensure that the message is heard and received by the other person.

Red Flashing LightLet’s look at #2 more closely.  Despite the fact that it happens often, ensuring that the message is heard and received by someone else does NOT involve speaking louder and faster!  Instead, it’s about setting the stage so that your listener is willing to hear what you have to say, and to be open-minded enough to consider your point of view.  In previous blog posts, I’ve written about not making people defensive and focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t want, both approaches to increase the likelihood that the other person will hear and act on what you have to say.

Another tactic to improve another person’s listening ability is to prepare him/her – give him/her notice about what’s coming up – by using the phrase “Let me tell you why that is important.”  This is akin to putting a flashing light in the middle of a conversation.  Perhaps the person you are speaking to has drifted away and isn’t listening carefully.  By using this phrase, you are letting him/her know that they need to check back in and pay attention. Continue reading

What does it take to overcome resistance to change?

Alpha-PiperLast year I wrote this blog post about resistance to change – How can you get people to change before it becomes a crisis situation? – and I summarized the “burning platform” story in Daryl Connor’s book Managing at the Speed of Change.  In a nutshell, the message is that people change when the pain of where they are becomes greater than the pain of where they might be.

Recently, Reuven Gorsht, Global VP of customer strategy at SAP, and my fellow columnist at The Globe & Mail brought this point to the forefront of my mind once again.  In a recent column, he made the point that history is rife with examples of companies that have rapidly faded into irrelevance, not because they didn’t see change coming, but because their culture couldn’t shift into a new paradigm and innovate fast enough.  They couldn’t jump off the burning platform!  He offered Nokia as one example.  Back in February 2011, then-CEO of Nokia, Stephen Elop issued his now infamous Burning Platform memoContinue reading

Having trouble staying focused? You may be the problem!

Computer Keyboard With Word InterruptIn the past, I’ve blogged about the challenge of staying focused citing research from Gloria Mark, an associate professor at the University of California, Irvine and an expert on work interruptions (see A leadership lesson on staying focused (from cats)).  Recently, I was doing some research for a new program and came across an interesting interview with Gloria Mark in which she made another specific comment that caught my eye.  Her studies have shown that people interrupt themselves almost as much as they are interrupted by external sources – people interrupt themselves about 44% of the time; the rest of the interruptions come from external sources.

Wow!  Think about this for a moment – on average, 44% of interruptions are self-induced.  Continue reading

Slow down to gain depth and greater clarity

RockIsleLake_SunshineMeadowsEarlier this fall, I had the opportunity to hike up to Rock Isle Lake in Sunshine Meadows in the Canadian Rockies.  And as you might expect, the scenery was absolutely spectacular.  As I stood at the edge of the lake gazing into the water, I immediately noticed how I could see right to the bottom, almost 20 feet below.  My first thought was that this complete clarity must be because the water in the Rockies is so clean and pure.  But upon further reflection, I realized that it was because the lake was so tranquil and unmoving.  The stillness of the water allowed me to see deep into the lake and gain a clarity in vision that I never would have if this were a fast-moving stream.

Since the majestic Rockies often puts one in a contemplative mood, perhaps it wasn’t so surprising that my mind continued on to a related subject.  Continue reading

How to make the transition from friend to boss

CPA_Mag_Aug2014So you got promoted!  But what if the promotion now puts you in charge of people who were formerly your peers and friends?  Awkward?  Or okay?  This is a topic that is on the mind of many.  In fact, one of my regular columns for The Globe & Mail earlier this year focused on the exactly this subject (Seven steps to ease the transition from friend to boss).  And it came up again recently.  Writer Deanne Gage approached me for my advice on an article she penned for the August issue of CPA Magazine*.  To read the advice that I and several other experts offered, access the article: Continue reading

Why are so many managers useless as leaders?

Update as of October 6: This article has officially “gone viral”.  To date, it has garnered over 30,000 views, over 24,000 “direct” shares, and comments and re-tweets numbering in the hundreds if not thousands.  Clearly it struck a chord with many people – I am obviously aware that this is an issue that concerns many; this is why I strive to start a dialogue on this subject in the first place.  But I am still always taken aback (and very gratified) when one of my columns gets such an overwhelming reaction.  Thank you everyone for taking the time to participate in the conversation — the more we talk about topics such as these, the more likely we are to create workplaces that are positive and productive.

X —– X —– X —– X

My newest column in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series just launched into cyberspace this morning!

“Why are so many managers useless as leaders?”

addresses the unfortunate fact that there are a great number of people in managerial and supervisory positions in organizations who really have no business being in charge of people. It’s a topic that comes up often in my leadership development practice so I suspect it may have crossed your mind once or twice as well 🙂


I am always gratified when my columns in The Globe stimulate conversations both online and around water coolers in organizations across the country. It means that the topic is on people’s minds, and more dialogue always leads to greater understanding. Every time we talk about a difficult subject, we take a giant steps closer to more positive and productive workplaces!

As always, I want to hear what you think! The column should take you no more than a few minutes to read; I hope you’ll find it relevant and thought-provoking. Add your viewpoint to The Globe‘s website, or if you wish, drop me an email or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks). And please help me get the word out … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues. I’d love their perspectives as well! And if you happen not to agree with me, please join in the discussion. Dissenting viewpoints are what move us forward!

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere: