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Monthly Archives: March 2018

Telling people why is a powerful employee motivation tool

Last week, in our continuing series on employee motivation, I shared strategy #6: get to know your people.  Today’s tip: tell people why.

Tell people why

When you tell people why, when you openly share information with your employees, then they will be invested as part of your team.  Let me give you an example.

Several years ago, I was on my way to work with a client in an isolated area of northern Quebec, I was on a flight that made three stops at remote communities before finally arriving at my destination.  I flew out from Montreal, to Val D’Or, then on to Waskaganish, before finally arriving in Chisasibi QC, population 4,500.  This was my stop, but this same plane then continued to Whapmagoostui, before turning around and traveling Chisasibi-Waskaganish-Val D’Or-Montreal again.  Anyway, on my way there, at each stop, we disembarked from the plane for about 20 minutes while it was refueled.  At one of these stops however, Waskaganish to be specific, 20 minutes elapsed and stretched into 40, and all us passengers in the small waiting room began to get more and more restless.  Forty minutes became 60, and the level of frustration audibly increased.

By this point in time, even I wanted to know the reason for the delay.  Continue reading

Are you a high-potential (HiPo) employee? Don’t miss this upcoming event!

Earlier this year, my regular column for Canadian Accountant covered specific ways to get recognized as a high-potential employee.  In it, I laid out seven ways to become worthy of high-potential employee status.  Well, the topic of the high-potential employee got so much attention that I have now been invited to speak on this very subject at an upcoming conference.

Are you a HiPo?


I am very excited to announce that I will be one of the featured speakers at the Elevate Your Mind conference presented by the Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) of Alberta in Edmonton at the Shaw Conference Centre on May 14, 2018.  As our Alberta blog readers may already know, I have partnered with this exceptional organization for several years on a variety of learning events, and so I am thrilled to be working with them once again.  Elevate Your Mind is a full-day conference offering a variety of engaging and targeted speakers and sessions to “elevate” the skills of Alberta CPAs at any stage in their careers, and on May 14, I will be presenting a fast-paced high-energy session titled Are you a HiPo?

What is a HiPo? Continue reading

Highly-motivated employees occur by design: here is strategy #6

What does it take to create highly-motivated employees?  That’s exactly what we’ve been talking about in my current video blog series on specific strategies to inspire, encourage and excite your people – to greater positivity and productivity, to higher performance and greater commitment.  Last week, I discussed the motivational value of celebrating.  Today’s tip is #6 in our series: get to know your people.

Get to know your people

Make it a point to learn more about your employees than just their presence at work.  Find out something new about each of your employees’ experiences, background, hobbies or personal interests.  There are two benefits to this motivator.

The benefits are two-fold

First, the more you learn about your employees, the more you will learn about what it takes to create each specific highly-motivated employee.  Remember that this one fundamental concept in employee motivation which is …. different people are motivated by different things.  So the more you get to know your people, the better you will understand their individual motivators.

I am reminded of a story that is told by Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics.  Continue reading

The struggle to be a leader vs a manager (and how it’s easy to slide backwards)

I’ve blogged previously about the differences between management and leadership, most notably the Amazon situation I wrote about a couple of years ago, not just on the blog, but also in a piece for The Globe and Mail.  The reality is that almost all leaders go through stressful periods when they struggle with being a leader vs a manager; when it’s simpler (and perhaps critical) to concentrate on tasks rather than to invest in the building and nurturing of high-performing employees. The irony is that such a situation usually spirals downwards – employees get frustrated and make errors, patience dwindles and tempers fray, team members become less engaged, and the leader feels trapped and exasperated.

a leader vs a manager
What are the clues a leader should watch for?

Unfortunately, the only way out of this deteriorating pattern is for a leader to recognize the signs and act decisively to break the cycle. But how is one to know what to watch for?  Well, that’s exactly what I address in my latest column in The Globe and Mail which published this morning on page B11 of their print edition.  In it, I offer five things to watch for, each one a clue that you are sliding backwards from people-oriented leadership to task-oriented management.  You can read the online version here:

Five tell-tale signs leadership is slipping

So … are you guilty? In times of crisis, it’s easy to focus on getting things done (management) and lose sight of getting remarkable things done through people (leadership).  What do you do to avoid falling into this trap?  I would love to hear about your experiences.  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.  Please add your perspectives below.

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:

Want highly-motivated employees? Celebrate successes often and unexpectedly

Continuing in our series of video blogs on specific actions leaders can take to create highly-motivated employees, my strategy last week was very specific: offer genuine and sincere (S-S-I) praise.  Today’s tip is simple: celebrate successes frequently and unexpectedly.

Celebrate successes frequently and unexpectedly

This is actually a very powerful motivator, mainly because it’s so rare.  It’s been my experience that in organizations, we don’t stop and take the time to celebrate.  We do good work, we accomplish great things, but then we’re so busy moving on the next thing on our to-do list that we don’t stop to celebrate what we have already done.  And because this happens so rarely, it becomes a very powerful way to create highly-motivated and highly-engaged employees.  So celebrate often and celebrate unexpectedly.

“Unexpected” bumps up the motivational value

Let me talk about “unexpectedly’ a little further, because it is important.  This is best explained with a quick example.  Continue reading

Communicating upward? Think bullet points

I’ve written in the past about how it’s important to modify your approach when you’re communicating upward, including in this column – How to persuade and influence senior management – that I wrote for CFM&D Magazine.  I was reminded of it recently when I overheard a leader in a client organization giving advice to one of his staff.  He said:

“When a senior manager asks you the time, don’t describe how a watch works”.  

I chuckled to myself because it was such an apt description for the deep pit that so many subject matter experts stumble into.

Don’t “vomit data”

As managers rise in the leadership ranks in organizations, by necessity, they need to focus more on strategic issues and less on the minutiae.  So they count on the subject matter experts around them to study the details and make recommendations.  Continue reading

One (foolish) way to create disengaged employees

One of the biggest de-motivators for employees is when their managers can’t (or won’t) exercise flexibility in the application of rules.   I repeatedly blog on how not realizing this leads to disengaged employees – a video blog just last month, and this real-life example about how a talented employee quit – to list just a couple.  Well, it’s happened again!

disengaged employees

I spoke last week to a senior manager at a client organization who oversees a global group of employees who are located in several countries around the world.  In order to keep the lines of communication flowing, she participates in a weekly meeting that is scheduled to fit the working hours of the majority of the attendees.  Unfortunately though, it means that she needs to be online and on the phone at 5 AM in her local time zone.  Not a problem from her perspective, she’d much rather accommodate her staff’s schedules rather than force a meeting time to fit her needs.  Not a problem that is, except for the directive that she has received from her immediate director.

You see, her immediate director insists that she must be present in the company’s offices in order to participate in the meeting.  Yes, that’s right, she can’t dial and log in from her computer in her home office; she must get dressed, drive to work, and sit at her desk in an almost empty office building in order to “work”.  Continue reading

S-S-I praise goes a long way in creating highly-motivated employees

Over the last month, I’ve been posting a series of video blogs on specific actions leaders can take to create highly-motivated employees.  My last strategy was to plan for and organize fun.  Today’s tip: offer genuine and sincere praise.

Offer genuine and sincere praise

I am frequently asked the question – can there be too much praise?  And my answer often surprises people.  My answer is that there can never be too much praise … as long as it is S-S-I praise.  S-S-I is an acronym for Specific, Sincere and Immediate.  There is no such thing as too much praise as long as it is Specific, Sincere and Immediate.

This is sincere

This is easiest to explain if I give you an example.  Let’s say I have an employee, Carter, who is doing good work and I want to praise him.  So I see him standing at the coffee machine, and I stop and say “thanks for doing a great job Carter”. Continue reading

Last chance for open-enrollment leadership training in the Calgary area

leadership trainingLast fall, I told you that we were beginning our third exciting year of partnership 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. Well, the last two events for the Calgary area are coming up at the end of the month! If you live in or near Calgary AB, don’t miss this opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development at a very reasonable cost (which includes continental breakfast and lunch!), and a fraction of what it can cost through some commercial vendors.

Last chance if you live in the Calgary area!

These are the last two events in this series scheduled for Calgary, so if you want in, the time is now!

Open-enrollment means “open to the public”

Continue reading