Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: February 2018

Are you guilty of being a micro-manager? Stop before it’s too late!


Ask the countless employees who find themselves working for a micro-manager, and they’ll tell you that it is not only maddening, but wearisome and demoralizing. Dealing with a controlling boss who needs to question and redo everything you do can be gruelling. But if you look carefully enough, the signs of a micro-manager are clearly visible. You just may not have paid attention.  Which is exactly why I not only explore this topic in depth in my column this morning in The Globe and Mail, but also offer four ideas to stop being a micro-manager.  Read it here:

Guilty of micromanaging? Stop before it’s too late

Don’t fall into the classic micro-manager trap

If you’re a micro-manager, it’s very easy to explain away your actions as “attention to detail” and “ensuring quality work.” But the unfortunate reality is that this behaviour comes at an immense cost – employee morale, team performance and workplace productivity.  It’s time to stop!

Well … what do you think?  Are you one of those who has been at the receiving end of a micro-manager, or is there a case to be made for this management characteristic?  Obviously, you know where I stand on this subject, but I’d love to hear from you.  The Globe has temporarily turned off commenting on articles on their website while they resolve some technology issues, so you can’t comment directly there.  But share your thoughts right here on the blog.  Leave a comment below and let everyone know your thoughts and experiences.

Sometimes, The Globe puts my columns behind their paywall. If that happens and you are unable to access the article directly through the link above, we have archived a pdf version at this link:

Tip #3 to motivate employees – organize fun!

Last week I gave you Tip #2 in my new ongoing series on specific tips and strategies to motivate employees – cut out the red tape.  Here now is idea #3: organize fun.

Organize fun

The key word here is “organize”.  Fun workplaces can be powerful motivators, but many managers and supervisors I work with assume that fun workplaces just magically occur.  You can’t just assume that it will just happen, creating a fun workplace actually takes effort.  It’s worth it – it’s a powerful way to motivate employees – but you have to consciously and deliberately plan and organize for it.

Here’s one practical idea!

One of the easiest ways to organize fun is to appoint a rotating Fun Committee (or what I used to call a rotating Vice President of Fun).  Continue reading

Garbage in, garbage out: poor inputs result in poor outputs

garbage in, garbage outGarbage in, garbage out is a phrase I learned in one of my first-year Computer Science classes, back in my university days.  It was used to express the important concept that incorrect or poor quality input will always produce faulty output.  I learned this phrase in the context of computers, but it’s a phrase that is just as easily applicable to the world of work.  Except, in recent times, I think we might have forgotten it.

Whether it’s hiring employees, sourcing out raw materials, or investing in training, I see repeated examples of short-sighted managers focusing only on solving the immediate problem.  Staff shortage? Let’s hire the first warm body that seems to have the required modicum of skills.  Need to cut costs?  Let’s find the cheapest material inputs.  New software or processes?  Let’s give our people the bare minimum of training and get them back to doing “real work” as soon as possible.

The problem with “Garbage in, garbage out”

The problem of course with all these approaches is what I said earlier – garbage in, garbage out.  When you are desperate enough to hire the first applicant simply because he meets the required minimums, you’ll never get off the turnover treadmill.   When your entire focus is on trying to find cheaper average inputs, your final product will always be of poor quality.  When you shortchange your people on the training they need, you’ll find yourself having to waste time and money doing it again later. Continue reading

To motivate employees, cut out the red tape

Last month, I started a brand-new video series offering specific ideas on how leaders can motivate employees.  The first tip in this series was to be flexible.  You all told me that this was a subject that you would find immensely helpful.  So here is today’s strategy to motivate employees: cut out the red tape.

Eliminate red tape

Red tape is excessive bureaucracy or over-the-top adherence to rules and formalities.  Research shows, over and over again, that one of the biggest de-motivators for employees is perceived bureaucracy.  So anything that you can do to reduce or remove red tape will be a huge motivator to most of your staff.  Now I know that some of you watching this video come from organizations that are so large that they have policy manuals that probably cover just about every situation you could possibly think of.  And so … you might think there is no way you can reduce red tape.  Don’t underestimate what you can do!

Buffer your people from bureaucracy

True, you might not be able to get rid of the bureaucracy, but you CAN buffer your employees from it.  Continue reading

Performance measurement – are you tracking the right metrics?

I have long been an advocate for performance measurement … as a way to motivate people (including myself) to get things done.  In fact, one of my leadership mantras is “What gets measured and publicized gets acted on!”  But if you’re going to make performance measurement work in a way that will create positive intended outcomes, then you have to make sure that you’re using the right benchmark.

It is better to have no timepiece than one that is wrong

performance measurementAn old mentor used to say to me: The worst kind of timepiece is the one that is wrong.  Think about it … if you don’t have a watch, then you are well aware that you don’t know the time.  So you know that you don’t know – conscious incompetence – and that is valuable information.  And then, if you really want to know what time it is, you’re going to find someone who has a watch, and ask.

But if you have a clock that is erratically fast or aimlessly slow (and you don’t realize that the problem exists), your natural inclination will be to accept the time you see at face value and assume that it is correct.  Which will, sooner or later, lead you into trouble. Continue reading

Active listening is a critical leadership skill

As regular readers of our blog know, active listening is an essential skill in leadership.  And like most aspects of leadership, it’s a learned skill.  Which is why I’m so pleased that Jackie Edwards is guesting on the blog today with this great piece focusing on the value of active listening.  Jackie is an editor and writer, who previously worked as an HR Manager for a small finance company.  She currently focuses on writing about the world of management and business.

Managers: Are You Really Listening?

When you’re talking to someone, naturally you want to know that they are listening. As in, really listening. This is especially true when it involves your place of work. As a manager, you have a huge part to play in your team’s happiness at work. Being a good listener is key to this. Employees want to know that their manager values their opinions, takes their points on board and responds accordingly. Seeing as we retain half of what we hear (at most), all of us should work on improving our listening skills. To be an effective leader, this is vital.

Be an active listener

The best listeners are active listeners. Active listening means not just hearing what someone says, but focusing on the speaker and showing that you are listening – whether that be through verbal or nonverbal cues, or both. Active listening can be practiced and developed over time by following a few simple steps: Continue reading

Waiting for all the facts … and making decisions

making decisions“We need to wait until we have all the facts …” is something I hear many managers and supervisors say.  It’s often in response to an issue that needs to be dealt with or an unexpected problem that has occurred.  Usually the situation is a difficult one and because the manager has no prior experience with making decisions in an identical or similar scenario, s/he is stalling for time.  The unfortunate reality of course is that if you wait for all the facts, you might be waiting for a really (really) long time; perhaps even an eternity.

When it comes to making decisions, you will never have all the facts

Leadership is about making decisions – it’s inherent in the role of a leader.  The reality is that there are very few instances in which leaders will have complete information … ever.  Whether it is predicting customer behaviour, forecasting sales volumes, expecting employees to act in certain ways, or anticipating your competitors’ activities, you will simply never have all the facts.  Which means that the real question is Continue reading

How to motivate employees – the first tip in our new video series

At the end of last year, I promised that this year I would give you a series of frequent video blogs focusing specifically on zero and low cost ways to motivate, encourage and excite your people.  So that you can create positive and productive workplaces that inspire higher performance and greater commitment.  Today, I’m excited to be kicking off this brand-new series with one specific idea on how to motivate employees, and expect many more in the future in the weeks and months to come.

But before I give you today’s tip, I want to remind you about one fundamental concept in employee motivation which is …. different people are motivated by different things.  So don’t think of each strategy I share with you as the one that will be effective with all your employees.  Instead think of each one as one more tool that you can add to your motivation toolkit.

With that in mind, here is today’s motivation strategy: Be flexible.

Be flexible

When I say be flexible, I mean be flexible in the application of rules.  Your company no doubt has a rule book, or a policy manual; in some organizations it’s a VERY BIG policy manual.  And, all those rules are there for a reason.  But … as a supervisor or manager, one of the most powerful motivation tools you have available to you is that of flexibility in judgement.

Red rules vs blue rules

Some rules relate to health and safety and those are what I call red rules.  Red rules should never be broken.  Continue reading