Merge's Blog

Yearly Archives: 2020

Leadership lessons from a penguin

In the past, I’ve been inspired to blog about Leadership lessons from a mountain and Leadership lessons from a sea turtle, and many of you were motivated enough to add to these lists. Stirred by a visit to the Calgary Zoo, here is a list of what leadership lessons a penguin can offer.

PenguinsThe penguin is a bird that does not fly. With feathers and a beak, it looks like a bird. And in most behavioural aspects, it acts like a bird. Except of course in this one very significant characteristic … that it cannot fly. But what the penguin lacks in flight power it makes up in aquatic grace. In the study of bird evolution, paleontologists have determined that many eons ago, the ancient predecessor to today’s modern penguin could fly. But over millions of years, penguins’ wings evolved into fins as they adapted to marine life in the Antarctic Ocean. And if you’ve ever watched penguins swim, you know that they perform with as much elegance underwater as their avian relatives do in the sky.

Two leadership lessons from penguins

The successful existence of the penguin offers at least two apt metaphors for leaders. Continue reading

Not getting things done in your meetings? Here’s a powerful way to change that

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been sharing specific ideas on the blog about getting things done, on improving your productivity.  As I have mentioned in earlier video posts, many leaders tell me that poor meeting management seriously hampers their ability in getting things done.  And in fact, my last two instalments in this video series (four-column agendas, “action minutes”) have focused specifically on ideas to overcome this.  So I thought I’d share another tip today on how you can make your meetings a powerful source of getting things done.  It is to assign three key roles in every meeting.

Assign three key roles in every meeting

There are three critical roles that are required for every successful meeting.  The three roles are chairperson, timekeeper, and minute taker.  Now, this is important, the three roles must be filled by three DIFFERENT people.  If you’ve been to the meeting from hell, you already know what happens when the same person plays all three roles – it doesn’t work out that well!  Continue reading

Are contra-indications reducing your workplace communication effectiveness?

As a leader, your workplace communication needs to be effective.  It isn’t enough to communicate well with your employees; it’s just as important to make sure that the message is received clearly.  And for that to happen, you need to consider “contra-indications” — both “timing” and “background noise”.  Let me explain.

workplace communicationRecently, my doctor prescribed a once-daily two-week course of a fairly strong antibiotic for a low-grade bacterial infection that has been troubling me for a while.  Since I take a few multivitamins and supplements every morning with breakfast, I simply added this capsule to the daily quota.  A few days later, I happened to mention to my best friend that the antibiotics weren’t having an impact as quickly as I’d hoped.  She asked for the name of the antibiotic and (since she works in medicine) she immediately looked up the drug in an online database on her phone.

Oh no!

“Did you know that minerals such as calcium and magnesium are contra-indications to this antibiotic?” she asked. Continue reading

Hate your job? You have three choices

If you’re spending eight hours a day (or more) in a job that you’re not crazy about, then you have three options moving forward.  That’s right, only three!  And whining at the water cooler about how much you hate your job isn’t one of them!

If I sound harsh, I’ll apologize, but I stand by what I said!  You see, life is too short to “survive” a job that you hate.  Which is why I wrote my latest column in The Globe and Mail that published earlier today.

Hate your job? You have three choices

hate your job

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For amazingly productive meetings, switch to “public action minutes”

In our last video blog in our series on productivity tools for leaders, I gave you one idea on how to have useful and productive meetings.  Specifically, to issue an agenda using a four-column format.  Today, I’m continuing on that theme of productive meetings with another tip – always take and issue action minutes within 48 hours.

Always issue action minutes

Now I know what you’re thinking: 48 hours?  Yes I know, some of you are lucky if those minutes arrive the day before the next meeting!  But let’s just talk about this for a moment.  I have yet to meet one person who says to me “Oh Merge, I love taking minutes.”  In fact, almost everyone I know just hates it!  Some of you would much rather walk across hot coals than be volunteered as the minute taker for your next meeting!  We hate taking minutes … BECAUSE for most of us it’s a lot of work and it’s a pain in the neck!  Yet there is a way to get past this.

Are you ready?  This is a cool tool!  A very effective and painless approach to taking minutes is to focus only on recording action items.  Use a three-column format.  Take a sheet of blank paper and draw two vertical lines to create three columns.  Then title the columns as follows: Continue reading

Consider your (and the other person’s) personality profile to improve your communication

Nathalie Plamondon-ThomasMy professional colleague, Nathalie Plamondon-Thomas, is a Transformation Expert, an 8 times International Bestselling Author, and the Founder of the THINK Yourself® Academy.  I am thrilled that she is guesting on the blog today, sharing her STYLE-L.I.S.T. assessment tool to discover your personality profile, so that you can interact better with people around you.

 

THE FOUR STYLE-L.I.S.T. AT A GLANCE

Do you find it challenging to connect with some of your coworkers, staff or superiors? Sometimes, you feel that they just don’t get it. They are clueless. However, the mismatch in communication may be due to the fact that You are not speaking their language.

Recognizing your own and the personality profile of the people you interact with can transform the way you collaborate, communicate, sell, lead and get along with others.  Using their preferred language can contribute to avoid conflicts and uncover potential areas of interpersonal complements with others.

Understanding the similarities and differences allows you to build on strengths, yours and theirs, as well as establishing strong and happy long-lasting relationships through excellent communication.

Here are the four personality styles that surround you and some suggested words to use when you want to get your point across. Continue reading

One practical tip to eliminate loss of productivity in meetings

One of the biggest complaints I hear from leaders is about their loss of productivity due to the time they spend in meetings.  Most leaders attend more than 60 meetings a month.  Research shows that over 90% of meeting goers admit to daydreaming; over 70% do other work during meetings; and almost 40% say they have occasionally dozed off while in a meeting.  Clearly, loss of productivity due to meetings is happening every single day.  So for the next four video blog posts, I’m going to focus on specific ideas to stop the loss of productivity that is occurring for you due to those meetings.  Today’s tip: always, always issue a four-column agenda, distributed at least 48 hours in advance of your meeting.

Always issue a four-column agenda

The most common reason we don’t issue agendas is because it seems like a lot of hard work.  But it doesn’t have to be!  One of the best, easiest and most effective ways to develop an agenda is to use a table format using four columns.  Take a sheet of blank paper and draw three vertical lines to create four columns.  Then title the columns as follows: Continue reading

Influential authority vs positional authority (and the chimpanzee Mike)

The topic of influential authority versus positional authority comes up often in my discussions with leaders.  Not long ago though, it came up in an unexpected context.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Dr. Birute Galdikas, renowned primatologist and one of the world’s leading experts in orangutans.  Just as Jane Goodall did for chimpanzees and Dian Fossey did for mountain gorillas, Dr. Birute has devoted her life to learning about and protecting orangutans.  As a (not-so-secret) all-things natural science geek all my life, meeting and conversing with her was definitely a bucket list item for me!  When Dr. Birute learned that I run a leadership development consultancy, she started drawing parallels between primate behaviour and leadership, and shared several behavioural examples and stories.

Mike, the chimpanzee, and his rising status

influential authority

One story in particular stuck with me, likely because her telling of it was so funny.  She told me about Mike, a chimpanzee that had been observed by Dr. Jane Goodall for many years.  Mike was a young male in a troupe, and quite submissive to all the other males.  That is, until one day when he accidentally discovered how he could intimidate all the other chimpanzees.  He started batting a gasoline can around, and realized quickly that all the loud thuds and irritating banging noises made the other chimpanzees nervous and apprehensive of him.  With some practice, Mike was able to run down the narrow forest Continue reading

Five lessons learned as a first-time supervisor

At various points in your career, you’ve no doubt come across terrible managers or supervisors, perhaps even had the misfortune to report to one or two of them. But, as horrible as they were, maybe it wasn’t really their fault! Perhaps they started off as first-time supervisors not knowing what minefields to watch for. And then, when they made a few mistakes, because they didn’t know any better, they continued with the same lapses and blunders, and were just never able to pull out of the quicksand.

Years ago, when I got my first supervisory role, I had my fair share of missteps.  It wasn’t until later, when I starting working with clients in my leadership development consultancy, that I realized that all my early mistakes and stumbles were actually quite common for novice leaders. So, in my latest column for The Globe and Mail that published this morning, I’ve described the five most unexpected (yet common) lessons I learned as a first-time supervisor.

Five lessons learned as a first-time supervisor

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Here’s how to prioritize your endless to-do list

In my first strategy in our new series on productivity tools for leaders, I talked about the importance of writing things down.  One of the biggest advantages of making a to-do list is that you can now assess everything that needs to be done in totality, and determine how to prioritize.  And towards the end of the last tip, I promised that I would show you how to prioritize by giving you a simple two-by-two matrix.

Prioritize by using a simple two-by-two matrix

I call this matrix the impact-implementation window.  On a piece of paper, draw a two-by-two grid.  Along the vertical axis, from the bottom to the top, write “low impact” and “high impact”.  Along the horizontal axis, from left to right, write “easy to implement” and “hard to implement”.  You now have four boxes.  Then take everything in your to-do list and record it, as appropriate, in one of the four boxes. Continue reading