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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Improve decision-making by brainstorming with 2-6 stakeholders

BrainstormingLast week I started a short series on specific proven techniques you can use to improve the quality of your decision-making in your role as a leader.  Last week’s technique was to develop at least three or more realistic alternatives for the situation you are facing.  Today’s tip is one that I actually referred to in passing in the last blog post; specifically to brainstorm with a team of at least two, but no more than six stakeholders.

While this tool comes directly from my many years of experience working with leaders in numerous organizations, you don’t just have to take my word for it; the empirical research into organizational decision-making fully supports and reinforces this as well.  Obtaining insights from more people adds value and also increases buy-in, both very important in organizational settings.  But there IS an ideal number of people to brainstorm and team up with when it comes to achieving the highest quality of decision-making.  Continue reading

Improve decision-making by developing alternatives

ThreeChoicesRecently, I’ve been thinking a lot about decision-making by leaders.  The reason isn’t terribly earth-shattering, it’s only because an association client has asked me to re-develop a program for their members on tools and skills for problem-solving and decision-making.  But since I often blog on this subject (most recently just at the end of June), I’d like to, for the next two weeks, focus on offering up a few definitive ideas on how to make more effective leadership decisions.  Today’s specific tool – develop at least three or more realistic alternatives.

Significant research into the psychology and process of decision-making shows that no other practice improves the quality of decisions more than expanding your choices.  So brainstorm with 2-6 colleagues (more on this number in an upcoming blog post) and put some energy and creativity into generating at least three, but ideally four or more, practical and reasonable options for the topic at hand.  Continue reading

Should workplace social celebrations be compulsory?

PeopleAtRestaurantLast week, I advocated the need for a regular schedule for fun social celebrations in the workplace, and I offered up an approach that I have used very successfully over the years in my leadership roles where I had staff directly reporting to me.  That blog post prompted a question from one reader – should attendance at these social celebration events be compulsory?  The short answer is “no”; however it comes with a “but”.  Let me explain.

Attendance at social events should never be compulsory, always voluntary.  There are great employees who choose not to socialize at work, and that’s okay, and there should be no judgment applied if that is their choice.  But … if the social event is being held during working hours (either wholly or partially), then the employee has the choice of attending the event OR working.  That’s it, only two options – they can either join in on the social event, or stay at their desks and continue working.  Continue reading

Answering someone else’s question is poor email etiquette

Email2Back in March, I did a series of blog posts on appropriate email etiquette, and the things people do (or don’t do) with email that negatively affects their credibility and effectiveness.  I even did one post on When email is not the best choice ….  Well, prompted by a conversation I had with a client last week, I have one more “don’t” to add to the list.  Don’t respond to questions in a group email that are not directly within your scope of responsibility, at least not right away.

This “don’t” applies to emails you receive in which you are one of several addressees.  I’m not talking about the single informational email that is sent out to a large group distribution, but rather an action-oriented email in which a few people have action items or questions that are under their area of responsibility.  Continue reading

Motivate employees with regular fun social celebrations

Young people playing table tennis in workplace, having fun.As frequent readers of this blog know, I am a huge advocate for leaders consciously and deliberately making it a point to celebrate accomplishments in the workplace.  My reason, celebration of achievements is so fundamental to both employee morale as well as future success.  Unfortunately though, the reality of today’s workplace is that we are busy – getting things done, fighting crises – that we move on to the next thing that is pressing, without stopping to take the time to celebrate what we did well.  To our detriment.

One approach for the consistent celebration of accomplishments that I recommend to the leaders in the client organizations I work with is to establish a regular schedule for fun social events.  The easiest way (that I have used myself): establish a rotating quarterly committee of fun, a group of department employees who are responsible for planning a fun social event for the quarter.  Three thoughts about making this work.  Continue reading

The right way to communicate unpopular decisions to your staff

Sometimes you will have to make decisions that will not be liked by your staff; it’s one of the responsibilities of leadership.  Sure, good leaders strive to minimize the fallout on their people, but sometimes doing the right thing for the company as a whole means hurting some of the individuals within it. Whether that means layoffs, reorganization, or even just a strategy shift, there are bound to be a few people who are put out by your decision. While you can’t avoid making unpopular decisions, there are things that you can do to help your team understand and accept the new reality. And that is the topic of my new column for  In The right way to communicate unpopular decisions to your staff, I offer five ideas to deliver the message, yet soften the long-term impact.


What do you have to add to the list?  What specific things have you done to make sure people understand the implications, and to mitigate the ensuing damage?  Please share by commenting below.

P.S. I am now in my second year as a regular contributor to’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 honoured to be in such distinguished company.

Build synergy and goodwill – the metaphor of compound interest

YogaClassThere is a classic Aesop’s fable about the value of synergy – when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  I was reminded of this fable when my yoga instructor said something to our group while in practice the other day that caught my attention, and stayed with me long after the hot and exhausting session was over.  She said to think of every practice as a deposit into your metaphoric health bank account.  And as sequential deposits build up the total balance, the impact of the compounding interest becomes increasingly visible.  As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that it’s very true, but not just in the context of physical health; it also applies in the workplace environment.

Think about workplace relationships.  When you invest time and energy into building individual relationships with your staff and co-workers – show empathy, lend a helping hand when required, offer a kind ear when it’s needed the most, engage in meaningful small talk – you essentially build goodwill.  Ergo, you make deposits.  And when you make many deposits, the value starts to compound and the goodwill you build grows exponentially, much like compound interest does in a financial bank account.  And goodwill matters!  Continue reading

“Being present” (or not) sends a powerful message to those around you

Young businessman sitting on sofa at office listening to talkingAre you “present” in your conversations with others?  I asked this question back in December 2009 after an unpleasant experience with a professional colleague.  If the mail I get on this subject is any indication, this apparently continues to be an issue of epic proportions.  Evidently, being present is not something that managers and supervisors do well!  So what exactly is “being present”?  If you repeatedly glance down at your watch while a co-worker is talking to you, you’re guilty of not being present.  If you supposedly “listen” to what a staff member is saying while pecking away at your keyboard, phone or instant message, then you’re at fault for not being present.  If you are the supervisor or manager who gets easily distracted away from the person in front of you by other pressing issues or people around you, then you are probably one of the people that I hear repeatedly about.

You might ask “So what?”  Why should I care that people complain about this behaviour to you Merge?  The answer is because your actions are a huge indicator of the respect you give (or don’t give) to your staff and co-workers.  When you can’t be bothered to be fully present in your conversations and interactions, you devalue and demoralize people, essentially telling them that they are not important.  Continue reading