Merge's Blog

Yearly Archives: 2019

The informational interview – your secret advantage for your next job

Are you looking to the next step in your career?  If so, you should be tapping into a secret advantage that most job seekers ignore.  It’s called the informational interview.  Part networking, part information-gathering, and part low-key self-promotion, an informational interview is a powerful way to position yourself as the prime candidate for your perfect job.

Some estimates suggest that up to 80% of open positions are never advertised, they’re filled through word-of-mouth.  If all you’re doing is applying for the 20% that are advertised, then you’re trying to be the star in a cast of thousands.  The informational interview will shift the odds in your favour by helping you tap into the other 80%.

How do you get an informational interview?

So how does one go about getting an informational interview? So glad you asked 🙂 , because that is exactly what I cover in my latest column in The Globe and Mail that published this morning.

The informational interview:  A solid way to boost your career

informational interview

If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column on page B11. Continue reading

Are you falling into the complacency trap?

I saw the following words on a poster in my bank manager’s office the other day.

Complacency. Just because things are going well now, doesn’t mean that they can’t suddenly go horribly wrong.complacency

It was just below a photograph of a snail resting on a railway track, with a train approaching in the distance.  While I realize that the poster was slightly tongue-in-cheek, I was still reminded about how easily and quickly leaders can fall into this very trap.

Sure, it’s nice to have a period of time when things seem to be moving along smoothly, when the bumps in the road are small enough that they can almost be ignored.  But the reality is that while a short reprieve to catch your breath and celebrate success is well-deserved, resting on your laurels for too long can only get you into trouble.  When we get complacent, we tend to both under-estimate the risks we face, as well as over-estimate our own abilities.  And when complacency kicks in, things can suddenly go horribly wrong.

How would you know?

This poster got me thinking about how we would know if we are falling into the complacency trap.  What are the clues you should watch for as a leader that might indicate you are taking the status quo for granted?  Here is the list I came up with: Continue reading

Acknowledgement and praise are powerful tools to develop your employees

We’ve been talking all year on the blog about specific ideas to develop your employees, and today’s tip now brings us up to Strategy #23.  It is to deliberately and consciously seek out opportunities to praise and acknowledge your staff for good work.

Be deliberate about praising and acknowledging your staff for their good work

In order to grow and develop, people need to know how they’re doing.  In fact, back in Strategy #10, I talked about both why and how to give constructive feedback.  The goal was that employees should have enough information to change their behaviours and actions for the better.  But don’t just tell your staff what to improve.  Positive feedback, praise, acknowledgement for a job well done is just as powerful a tool to develop your employees.

Two powerful reasons to do this!

When we praise and acknowledge, it tells employees what they are doing well, and therefore, encourages them to continue.  That alone, is a really good reason to do it!  But even more than that, recognition for doing good work builds morale.  When staff feel good about themselves, they are more invested in themselves and in the department or organization, which means that productivity and performance will go up too.  So make it a point to deliberately and thoughtfully recognize your staff whenever you can.  Even though more is possible, a simple thank you that is tied to a specific action or behavior will suffice.  Praise and recognition can be given privately or publicly, think about what will be more appreciated by the person you are acknowledging.  It doesn’t matter how or where, just do it.  Try it, I think you’ll find that praise and acknowledgement can be a simple, yet powerfully effective tool to develop your employees.

So …. I’d love to hear from you.  Are you being deliberate about acknowledging and praising good work done by your employees?  If not, why not?  I’d love to hear more.

I referred to Strategy #10 above.  But if you’re looking for more, you can access the complete series in our Video Archives.

Dealing with workplace gossip – Dogs don’t bark at parked cars

Unfortunately, workplace gossip is a reality.  Sometimes it’s fairly benign, but more often than not, it is hurtful to the person who is the subject of the workplace gossip.

workplace gossipA professional colleague told me about a situation that happened to him just recently.  He has been quite excited about certain business successes he has achieved.  However, he was deeply disappointed to find out that someone whom he considered to be a good friend publicly criticized and disparaged his recent accomplishments.   He believes that this gossip is driven by envy and spite.  He is, not surprisingly, frustrated and saddened by his so-called friend’s actions.

Dogs don’t bark at parked cars

I was immediately reminded of a phrase I heard from a Bahamian colleague over six years ago  — “Dogs don’t bark at parked cars.” I remember clearly when he said this, I turned to him with interest and had to ask him to explain.  “You never see a dog chasing a parked car, do you? The only reason you are a target for workplace gossip is because you are making giant strides and going to winning places! If you weren’t climbing to great heights, then there would be no reason for anyone to try and knock you down. Take any malicious workplace gossip as a compliment and as an affirmation of your success.” Those wise words have stuck with me, and I repeated them to my upset colleague.

So what about you?  How many times have you been upset or hurt by gossip and back-biting.  Perhaps this phrase is what you need to help put things in perspective. I’d love to hear what you think.  Please share by adding to the Comments link below.

If you’re looking for some more advice on how to handle workplace gossip, you may find this column I wrote for The Globe and Mail useful: Take the toxins out of office gossip

Another powerful strategy for developing your employees

Today’s blog post is another instalment in our continuing video series on specific ideas for growing and developing your employees.  Today’s strategy for developing your employees is to include them in the hiring process for new staff members.

Let your high-potential employees help you hire other staff

The benefits of this strategy are two-fold.  First, the more obvious one is that it develops their skills.  If you envision that your high-potential employees are going to be the future leaders in your organization, then the skills of recruiting, screening, interviewing and selecting the right employees are ones that they need to acquire and hone.  What better way to accomplish this than to include them in the process so that they can observe and learn from you and other experts in your company.  Not only will they develop these very important skills, but being actively involved in the process gives them a first-hand insight into what it takes to get the right people in the right jobs for the success of the organization.

The second benefit is that Continue reading

Influence employee behaviour by using the Convenient Fruit Principle

FruitBowlOne of my favourite hotels always has a large bowl of fruit sitting on the counter in their front desk area, available to any of their hotel clientele who want a quick snack.  Recently, as I checked in one evening, I mentioned to the front desk agent that I felt the onset of a cold.  She helpfully recommended that I boost my Vitamin C consumption.  To which I laughingly responded that their fruit bowl never contained oranges, only apples and bananas.  She paused, and then earnestly replied, “Oh, we tried adding oranges, but no one ever takes the oranges, just the apples and bananas.  So now we just leave them out.”

The convenient fruit principle

At first thought, you might assume that this discrepancy exists because most people like apples and bananas more than oranges.  But when you consider it further, the reason is much simpler.  Apples and bananas are easy to eat, but oranges are not.  As delicious as oranges are, you usually need a knife to eat them.  And if they can be peeled, most times they are quite messy.  So hotel guests looking for a quick and easy snack always pick the apples and bananas.  I call this the “convenient fruit principle”, and it applies just as much in the workplace as it does at snack time.

Use the convenient fruit principle to motivate desired behaviour

Continue reading

Seven lessons learned as a first-time entrepreneur

Many people dream of taking the leap from employee to entrepreneur.  Whether it’s the idea of following a passion to make a difference, the appeal of being in control of your own destiny, or the flexibility of working for yourself, the desire to “go out on your own” is one that I hear repeatedly.

When I started my leadership development consultancy in 2002, I took a giant leap of faith.  I left the security of a thriving career as a financial manager in a multinational company to venture into the enormous abyss of building a company from the ground up.  “I didn’t know what I did not know” is an apt synopsis for my early years.  Today, almost eighteen years later, I have the benefit of hindsight.  So in my regular column in today’s issue of The Globe and Mail, I share seven distinct lessons that I learned as an entrepreneur.  True, everyone’s entrepreneurial journey will be different.  But if you’re considering the leap from employee to entrepreneur, then I hope that my lessons learned will help you avoid a few speedbumps along the way.

Seven lessons learned as a first-time entrepreneur

G&M100719

If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column on page B10. Continue reading

Develop your staff in financial literacy and you will build your future leaders

Today’s blog post is Strategy #21 in our ongoing series on specific ideas to develop your staff as the current and future leaders in your organization.  And it is: regularly discuss and explain your financial results.

Discuss and explain your financial results regularly

If you are going to develop your staff as the future of your organization, then they need to understand the numbers.  Where are your revenues coming from?  What are you spending on?  How much do you pay in taxes? And what is left over for profit?  Even if you are a not-for-profit entity, your people still need to know what your funding sources are, where the funds are being spent, and whether and how you are in a surplus or deficit position.  If you are going to grow and develop your staff, then they need to be financially literate; they need to know about the dollars and cents.  And one of the best ways to build this financial literacy in your people is to regularly discuss and explain your financial results.

Do three things to develop your staff in financial literacy

At minimum, to develop your staff in financial literacy, you should be doing three things.  First, share your organization’s and department’s financial results monthly.  Now don’t just mass-distribute the financial statements; most people find them overwhelming and they’ll likely get ignored.  Instead give your staff simplified versions that report just on your company’s critical numbers.  Continue reading

Relevant and cost-effective public leadership training in October

A couple of weeks ago, I shared our exciting news – for the 5th year in the row, I am partnering with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta) to offer public leadership training in Calgary and Edmonton.  “Public” means that these programs are available to anyone from any organization … you DO NOT have to be a member of CPA Alberta to register.  If you work in a smaller organization that doesn’t have the budget to conduct an onsite leadership training program, this is your stellar cost-effective opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development!

Coming up next month … five to choose from!

Five of these are coming up in October so if you want in, now is the time to sign up (before it’s too late!)

Calgary:

  • How to Communicate with Confidence, Clarity, and Credibility – Thursday October 3
  • Productivity Skills for Leaders – Wednesday October 23
  • NEW! Building Bridges and Fighting Fires: Tools and Skills for Problem-solving and Decision-Making – Thursday October 24

Edmonton:

  • Coping with Stressors and Pressure at Work – Tuesday October 15
  • Productivity Skills for Leaders – Wednesday October 16

For further information on any of these courses, go to the Search page at the CPA Alberta site and enter “Gupta” in the Instructor field. You will need to create a secure account on their system in order to register; it’s a quick and easy process.

And please, let me know if you’ll be attending – it’s always exciting to know who’s going to be there!

To motivate employees, thank their spouses and families

This blog post was originally written in January 2014, and has been updated since then. 

GiftBasketOver the years, I have posted many times about zero-cost or inexpensive ways to motivate employees.  Each time my focus has been on ways to create a positive workplace atmosphere.  If you can secure your employees’ cooperation and loyalty, you can improve productivity and performance.

In fact, last year, in 2018, I posted an entire series of video blogs (33 in total) that focused specifically on ideas to motivate employees.  Each video was a 2-3 minute specific actionable idea that leaders could use to build positivity, productivity and performance.  But it’s always very exciting to actually see these tips in action … even better when I experience them first-hand.

It happened to me!

Which is exactly what happened to me in January 2014 when a gourmet food hamper arrived at my front door! It was accompanied by a card – “Please accept this small gesture of my appreciation for your family’s patience and sacrifice during the company’s year-end close”.  It was signed by a senior manager of the company my husband works for. What a pleasant surprise! Continue reading