Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: June 2015

A problem solving tool – the early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese

Recently, a conversation with a client reminded me of a blog post from several years ago in which I explained a team-building and problem solving tool I call How many hats? Not only is this exercise helpful in improving team cohesiveness, but it is also a useful means to overcome differing priorities and “personal agendas” amongst team members. In this recent dialogue though, the topic, while similar, was slightly different. This manager was finding that his team members were frequently disagreeing over when and how to take action on various initiatives underway in the department. Some staffers were keen to jump in and get at the matters at hand; others wanted to hold back and study and evaluate issues before trying to address them. “Both perspectives are valuable,” said the manager, “but my staff don’t see it that way, they just end up constantly at odds with one another.” So I suggested that he try a related tool that I often use in some group facilitations; I call it “The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese”.

EarlyBirdMouseYeah, I know, that’s an unusual title, but it’s a quote, and the title will make sense once I explain the process to you. Continue reading

If you are not a positive role model, you cannot be a leader

Today’s post is about an event that happened back in mid-April. I’ve waited this long to blog about it because I found this incident very disturbing, and it’s taken me a while to be able to write about it without feeling sick. Those of you who know me personally are aware that I love animals which is why this particular story is very distasteful. As repulsive as I find it though, my point in posting is not about the event itself, but rather about the leadership message that lies deep within. First though, let me tell you the story (which you may have already heard about through other sources).

Kristen Lindsey, a veterinarian in Austin County, Texas posted a photo of herself on Facebook proudly holding up a cat she had shot and killed with a bow and arrow along with the words,

My first bow kill lol. The only good feral tomcat is one with an arrow through it’s head. Vet of the year award…gladly accepted!

Not surprisingly, the photo went viral. A defiant Lindsey then posted on Facebook:

No I did not lose my job. Lol. Psshh. Like someone would get rid of me. I’m awesome!

Turns out she was wrong. Continue reading

Praising employees who are in their 40s and 50s – is it necessary?

KarlMooreI often blog about the value of praising employees (one such post is Frequent and liberal employee recognition and praise creates positive workplaces). So when Dr. Karl Moore, associate professor at the Destautels Faculty of Management at McGill University (and my fellow columnist at The Globe & Mail) recently wrote a piece on this topic, it captured my attention. Why do people in their 40s and 50s receive less praise? published in the Leadership Lab a couple of weeks ago, and in it, Dr. Moore makes four key points. Continue reading

Got a problem employee? Don’t whitewash

This has been an eventful week in my world of column writing. Yesterday, my newest Profit article titled How to stay focused by managing workflow interruptions was published on, and this morning, my latest piece for The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab hit cyberspace.

Got a problem employee? Don’t whitewash

is (as you might expect from the title) about “whitewash”, a communication blunder that many managers make where they seek to address a problem behaviour by issuing a broad edict to many, instead of being direct and specific with the particular employee who is the concern. Not only does whitewash not achieve the desired outcome with the problem employee, but perhaps more damaging, it is demoralizing to the high-performers on the team. So how do you NOT whitewash? By having a frank and straightforward conversation with the employee in question. But “How?” you ask. Well, my column gives you the answer by laying out the five key steps to structure your dialogue.


Well now I want to hear from you. What do you think? What have been your experiences with “whitewash”? How have you had that difficult conversation with a problem employee? I’m always interested in other perspectives and viewpoint, including contrary opinions. The primary reason I write these columns is to instigate dialogue; the more we talk about the subjects that make and break us as leaders, the more equipped we are deal with these topics. So please, add your point of view to The Globe‘s website, or if you wish, post your Comment here right on the blog, or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks).

And please help me get the word out and get the message to as many as possible … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues. I’d love their thoughts as well!

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:

Minimize distractions and maximize productivity

Some of you may recall that last month I became the newest member of’s panel of business experts. is the online version of Profit Magazine, a sister publication to Canadian business magazine giants Canadian Business, MoneySense and Macleans. My inaugural column was titled How to become a persuasive triple-threat and it explored what it takes to get more people to buy your ideas.

Well, column number two just hit cyberspace this morning! How to stay focused by managing workflow interruptions offers up three strategies to minimize distractions, maximize productivity, and get more done.

ProfitGuide061815 Continue reading

Motivating employees of different ages

FoodService_Spring2015What does it take to inspire and motivate employees of different ages? Over the years, I have blogged several times about different generations in the workplace (see Intergenerational conflict arising from dated policies and procedures? and Five things every leader should know about the multi-generational workplace), and it still continues to be a topic of huge interest to clients in just about every industry. The food services industry is no exception. Recently, Food Service & Nutrition magazine (published by the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management) invited me to pen an article for them for their Spring 2015 issue on this very subject, and you can read it here: Continue reading

There is great strength in teamwork

This is a clever video I came across several months ago that emphasizes the importance of teamwork (demonstrated by crabs, ants and penguins, no less!). If I recall correctly, it is actually excerpted from a series of advertisements for a company that offers group insurance, but I have not been able to verify that. Nevertheless, the underlying message is “Union is strength; it’s smarter to travel in groups”. Take a quick look, and as you’re watching, think about what lessons in teamwork leaders could learn from these.

So what are the lessons here for leaders? Here are the ones I came up with: Continue reading

Don’t let your anger send the wrong message to your staff and co-workers

businessman in anger screaming puff going out from earsLet’s face it, if you’re in a position of leadership, there are times when your staff (or your peers, or your boss) will do or say stupid things that will drive you nuts, enough that their actions may cause you to get angry enough to explode. Don’t. Your expression of anger says more about you than it does about them. When you get visibly angry, what you’re really saying, whether you mean to or not, is “I feel like I have lost control, so I have lost control.” What you’re really doing is saying that you feel helpless. Which often is the exact message that you don’t want to communicate.

Instead, improve your success as a leader by learning how to manage your anger. Here’s an approach that I’ve used for many years. Continue reading

Insensitive behaviour is often driven by good intentions

In the last few weeks, significant life transition events have made me unusually introspective, perhaps even philosophical. Some may say that it’s not a bad thing, and they’re probably right 🙂 .

Word "Good" jigsaw puzzle pieces isolated on whiteOne of the things I’ve noticed is that people often say and do stupid things. And I’ve come to the awareness that, generally, their insensitive behaviour is not malicious or intentionally hurtful. I’ve come to understand that other people usually mean well. The truth is that people, for the most part, do the best with the resources they’ve got. Sometimes they have access to minimal emotional and mental resources, and that can cause them to make asinine comments and/or take mindless actions, but at its core, their intentions are almost always good. Continue reading

Here’s one sure-fire way to create employee disengagement!

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a fairly common workplace practice, particularly in large organizations, of requiring that employees provide a death certificate or a funeral notice in order to take a few days of (paid) bereavement leave. In a nutshell, I believe that this is An archaic practice that destroys trust in the workplace. Well, it prompted a call from a reader, a well-respected manager in a client organization, who wanted to share his personal experience with me. While his incident isn’t exactly the same situation that I outlined in my previous blog post, it is related enough that I thought it was worth writing about today. Unfortunately, this is a prime (sad) example of how to create employee disengagement.

Time PassingSeveral months ago, his mother passed away. Given her age, it was not entirely unexpected, but he and his family were grief-stricken nevertheless. Due to significant work commitments (he was managing a major project implementation), he was able to take only four days off to put his mother to rest, and then he came right back to work. But he felt that he had not fully supported his family through this difficult life transition, so several months later, once the project was winding down, he sought to repair this deficit. He tried to negotiate some substantial time off from the company so that he could spend some time reflecting and grieving his loss with others in his family. Much to his dismay, the company wouldn’t oblige. Continue reading