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Monthly Archives: October 2015

How to keep your best people? Pay them fairly

EmployeeLeavingWe’re underway in an ongoing series on how to keep your best people from walking out the door and over to your competition. So far I’ve talked about giving sincere praise often and buffering your staff from bureaucracy. Today I want to get to a much more practical topic – money. If you want to keep your best people, pay them fairly. Did you notice that I didn’t say “Pay them well” or even “Pay them a lot”. I said pay them fairly. “Fairly” means equivalently compared to their peers. And keep in mind that “fairly” is in the eyes of the beholder.

A lot of people think that the best way to keep people is to pay them more. And believe it or not, it’s not true. Now let’s be clear. You can’t get away with under-paying your folks (because they’ll walk, particularly the good ones), but once you pay them at a level that they perceive as fair, the research unequivocally shows that it’s not the money that will keep them performing at above-average and exceptional levels. Continue reading

How to keep your best people? Buffer them from bureaucracy

BureaucracyLast week I started a short series on how to keep your best people from jumping ship to the competition. My first suggestion: give sincere praise, often. Today’s post is another practical (and very effective) idea – buffer them from bureaucracy.

Reduce perceived bureaucracy. As much as you can, cut out the red tape. Research has shown that one of the top two reasons good people leave is because of perceived bureaucracy. So anything that you can do to reduce or remove red tape will be a positive move. Now some of you come from organizations that are so large that you might think there is no way you can reduce the red tape. But don’t underestimate what you can do! Sure, you might not be able to get rid of the bureaucracy, but you CAN buffer your employees from it. In other words take the flack yourself. Continue reading

How to keep your best people? Give sincere praise, often

How do I keep my best people from walking out the door? This question comes up quite often in my practice from leaders in client organizations, particularly when the economy is on the upswing. Despite the current economic climate in which the prevailing point of view is that many countries, industries and sectors are currently on a downturn, this question is still one that should be burning a hole in every leader’s mind. If your business environment is currently in a slump, then now is actually the best time to focus on keeping your top-notch employees. Because if you take the time to build loyalty and commitment when times are tough, this same allegiance will carry over to when the economy is booming and your competitors come calling to get your stars to jump ship. Business Meeting: Professional Successful Team; Managing DirectoIf you’ve built an environment in which your best people truly want to work at your company, then your competitors’ enticing promises to your top performers will carry far less appeal than they otherwise might. So what is the answer to “How to keep your best people?” Today I am starting a short series on specific ideas to answer this very question, with one idea today, and two more posts coming next week.

Here’s the first idea. Continue reading

Leadership training events in Edmonton at the end of this month

CPALast month, I blogged about how excited I am to be partnering with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta) to deliver a series of “open enrollment” full-day leadership training programs in Edmonton and Calgary from now until March 2016. Well, the first three events are coming up at the end of the month! If you live in or near Edmonton AB, don’t miss this opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development at a very reasonable cost, and a fraction of what it can cost through some commercial vendors.

Remember … you DO NOT have to be a member of CPA Alberta to register. If you work in a smaller organization that normally doesn’t have the budget to bring in onsite leadership training programs, then don’t miss this cost-effective opportunity to get what you need. Click on any program link above for further information or to register directly at the CPA Alberta site. You will need to create a secure account on their system in order to register, a very quick and easy process.

Let me know if you’re planning on joining me for any of these upcoming events. That way I know to look forward to seeing you there!

The five-step method for crystal-clear communication

My newest column for hit cyberspace this morning, and this edition focuses on a complaint I hear from many a leader – Why is it that I give what I think are crystal-clear instructions to an employee, only to discover later that they didn’t quite get it? As common as this issue is, the good news is that the solution is actually fairly easy. In How to Give Instructions Your Employees Will Actually Follow, I address this frequent problem of staff not always hearing what you are saying, and lay out five specific steps to give directions in a way so that your employees understand and act – the first time.

ProfitGuide101615Well, what have been your experiences when it comes to staff not always understanding and acting on your message? What are you doing to ensure clear communication – to make sure that you are heard, clearly, the first time? Do share please.

P.S. In case you didn’t know, I am a regular member of’s panel of business experts. You can find links to my previous columns on their site. For your information, Profit Magazine is a sister publication to Canadian business magazine giants Canadian Business, MoneySense and Macleans, and their list of columnists reads like the Who’s Who of Canadian business, so I am proud to be in such distinguished company.

Maintaining your composure – do you react or respond?

I have blogged many times about how important maintaining your composure is for you as a leader, even in trying situations. Doing math, managing your actions, and identifying main triggers have been suggestions I’ve made in the past. Lately, this issue came to the top of my mind again.

SpiderDuring a recent trip to Hong Kong, I found myself seated at a small table in a tiny streetside outdoor café one afternoon. There were only four other tables, equally small, all of them occupied. Suddenly, the two well-dressed women at one of the corner tables screamed loudly almost in unison, and stood up, shouting rapidly, nearly knocking over the table in their haste to get away. Even though I don’t understand Cantonese, it didn’t take me long to figure out what happened. A giant furry brown-and-white spider, still suspended by a remnant of a cobweb, had dropped down from the tree above, and come to a stop almost in front of the faces of the two women. Startled and obviously distressed, they almost knocked over their coffees and desserts in their rush to get as far as possible from the monster arachnid. It was mere seconds later that the café owner stepped from behind his counter, walked over to the table, gently lifted the offending spider and placed it on a bush a few feet away. The two women, still rapidly speaking in Cantonese, continued to be unnerved and agitated, presumably by the spider’s size.

As I watched the drama unfold over a matter of minutes, it occurred to me that it wasn’t the spider that caused the turmoil. Continue reading

Stop working on the weekend!

Businessman using modern smartphone or mobile phone. New technolBack in 2011, we conducted a fun informal poll at our website that asked the question: What is your single biggest time waster at work? And the top two answers were Other people and Email. I had that poll in my mind when I also realized that we (in Canada and the United States at least) are heading into a long weekend, so today’s blog post seems particularly timely – how not to get caught in the trap of working on the weekend.  Now many of you are from countries other than Canada and the United States, and others of you work unusual shifts, so translate the topic to be “how not to get caught in the trap of working on your days off”.

The problem is that in today’s highly-connected tech world, so many of us can’t seem to shut work down when we’re supposed to be off. In fact, some of the leaders in my client organizations have sheepishly admitted to regularly saying out loud “I’ll get that done over the weekend.” I say it’s gotta stop!

But how? Continue reading

Three reasons to ignore your policy manual

My latest Leadership Lab column for The Globe & Mail went up on their site earlier today

Three reasons to ignore your company’s policy manual

Yes, I know. Some of you think that this borders on blasphemy! After all, policy manuals are decrees and edicts that were painstakingly put together by teams of expert professionals, people who know what they’re doing. Sure. But I still stand by my unequivocal belief that corporate rule books were put together to offer guidance to leaders, not to handcuff and prevent them from using and applying good judgment. As far as I am concerned, policies are guidelines, not rules. And as the title of this Leadership Lab column suggests, I offer up three perspectives to make my point.


As always, I want to know what you think. Do you agree with me? Or am I treading on a slippery slope (downhill)? Please share your views directly on The Globe‘s site so that your insights are available to their significant readership. Or if you wish to comment in a more targeted way, drop me an email or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks). I’m eagerly looking forward to your reactions and perspectives (even if we don’t agree with one another).

And one last thing — do me one HUGE favour – help me get the word out … share the link with your staff and colleagues (easiest directly from The Globe‘s site using the share icon at the very top of the article). My objective is always to get the dialogue started so the more people who join in the conversation, the more I’ve succeeded in achieving my goal.  

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:

Does Amazon have the right corporate culture?

CanadianHRReporter_9-21-2015My column Amazon’s leadership forgot that ‘how’ is as important as ‘what’ in The Globe & Mail‘s Weekend Commentary & Analysis section prompted writer Sarah Dobson from the Canadian HR Reporter to reach out to me for an article she was writing about Amazon’s recent notoriety for their “toxic” corporate culture.

Here is a link to her piece that ran in the September 21st print and online editions: ‘Bruising workplace’ stirs up debate. In this article, Sarah speaks to four leadership experts (including yours truly) to get a greater insight into whether or not Amazon is doing the right thing. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, then you know my opinion on the subject (they’re not!), but I encourage you to read her article to get a variety of different perspectives. And then come on back here and let me know what you think. Is Amazon taking the right approach with its tough culture?

P.S. Occasionally your access to the direct link to my article at The Globe‘s site may be restricted; if that happens, you can also download the pdf version here: