Merge's Blog

How to manage distractions (aka the “Squirrel syndrome”)

If you want to be productive, to get things done, then you need to manage distractions.  And one of the biggest distractions that we all face – the Internet!  Which brings me to today’s strategy in our series on productivity tools for leaders: designate Internet-free times each day or week.

Avoid the “Squirrel syndrome” by designating Internet-free times

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Internet.  I mean where else can you look up the menu at a restaurant, watch cute cat videos, and unequivocally shut down bar arguments on stupid subjects.  Nowhere else but the Internet!

But once you get on the Net, it’s kind of like going down the rabbit hole.  Continue reading

How to communicate unpopular decisions and changes

Sometimes, as a leader, you have to communicate (and implement) unpopular decisions and changes.  Even worse, you may often find yourself charged with communicating or implementing decisions that you don’t agree with yourself.    Yet workplace change is an endless reality.  Shifting expectations, advancing technology, moving targets, toss in a pandemic for good measure; and change fatigue is not only real, but often debilitatingly painful.  Is it any wonder then that so many of the people you work with resist change?

So as a leader, how can you communicate unpopular decisions and changes that you know will not be liked or accepted while still maintaining trust and your credibility?    The answer is: thoughtfully; deliberately; with honesty and openness.

There are six things you need to focus on

In my latest column for The Globe and Mail that published this morning, I list and explain the six things you must focus on as you craft and deliver a message that you know will be disliked.

How to communicate unpopular decisions and changes

unpopular decisions

If you’re a paid online subscriber to The Globe, here is a direct link to the column on their site: https://tgam.ca/2TYfg3j

So the recent pandemic has created a lot of change in workplaces, and we’re not done yet!  As restrictions lift, many workplaces are making significant changes – staggered working hours, physical distancing, altered procedures, just to name a few – how are you and your people managing?  What are your biggest challenges, and how are you dealing with them?  Please share your experiences, and the solutions you’re trying, so that we can all learn from one another.   Add your comment below. 

I write a regular monthly column for The Globe and Mail Report on Business, under the banner of Leadership Matters.  Here are links to some of the more recent ones:

A leadership lesson from Aesop’s fables

This blog post originally published in September 2009, just a few days after we launched the Turning Managers Into Leaders blog for the very first time. Today, over 10 years later, this story about teamwork and synergy  is as relevant to leaders as it was then.  I hope you enjoy this blast from the past.

synergyThere is a classic Aesop’s fable that offers a great lesson to leaders about synergy and teamwork.  A father whose sons were always fighting wanted to show them the value of the synergy that comes from working together.  So he had one of the sons bring him a bundle of sticks.  He gathered his sons around him, and one at a time, he asked each young man to take the bundle of sticks and try to break it.  None succeeded.  He then split open the bundle, and handed each son one or two sticks, asking them once again to try to break them.  This time, the sons did so easily.  “You see boys,” he said.  “Individually, these sticks do not have much strength, but when you combine their individual might, they form something of much greater power.  Separately, you can be broken, but together, you are stronger.” Continue reading

Another idea to overcome procrastination

In my last two video blogs on productivity tools for leaders, I’ve focused on specific ideas to overcome procrastination.  So today, I’d like to give you one more idea on this topic.  If you’ve been putting off tasks on your to-do list because they feel so large that they are overwhelming, or because it’s something you just really don’t want to do, then overcome procrastination by scheduling them into 25-minute blocks.

Tackle unappealing tasks by scheduling them into 25-minute blocks

Research shows that 25-30 minutes feels manageable and attainable to most people.  Half a day, or even an hour may feel intolerable, but we can do anything for 30 minutes.  So schedule difficult or unappealing tasks into 25 minute increments with a five minute break in between. Continue reading

Overcoming procrastination can be as easy as simply getting started

In my last instalment in our series on productivity tools for leaders, I shared a tip on overcoming procrastination.  Go public got such positive feedback that I decided to share a couple more in our next two videos.  Today’s idea on overcoming procrastination is take advantage of the Zeigarnik effect.

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage

The Zeigarnik effect, so called because it was observed by Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Continue reading

Working remotely? Out of sight does not have to be out of mind

Long-distance relationships can be hard.  Just ask anyone who has ever been in one.  And right now, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of people across the country are engaged in a long-distance relationship of a different kind.  With their boss.

Working remotely comes at a cost.  It takes more effort – more communication, more attention, more energy – to keep the bond with your boss strong.  If you plan to grow and progress in your career, then be aware that out of sight can quickly become out of mind.  So, if you’re working remotely, it’s essential that you take conscious steps to not only stay connected to your boss, but also let him/her know how well you’re handling crises and achieving organizational objectives.

It is possible to successfully build your reputation from afar

In my newest column for The Globe and Mail, published in Saturday’s print edition (on page B5) and on their website just this morning, I explain the single deliberate action you must take to make working remotely a success; the six steps that will keep your long-distance relationship robust.

How to maintain the long-distance relationship with your boss

 If you’re a paid online subscriber to The Globe, here is a direct link to the column on their site: https://tgam.ca/2WmthcM

If you’re working remotely, whether it’s due to the recent pandemic, or even if you’ve been doing it for a while, I’d love to hear what you’re doing to make sure that “out of sight” with your boss, doesn’t become “out of mind”.  Please share your strategies and experiences so that we can all learn from one another.   Add your comment below. 

I write a regular monthly column for The Globe and Mail Report on Business, under the banner of Leadership Matters.  Here are links to some of the more recent ones:

When it comes to decision-making, “perfect” is the enemy of good

Leaders have responsibility for decision-making.  And as regular readers of the blog know, I routinely blog about tools and challenges that come with decision-making.  Today’s blog post illustrates the decision-making trap called “perfect”.

decision-makingThere are at least six different routes I can take to get from my home to the airport.  One is on a highway and it’s the fastest, particularly during rush hour traffic, but it has a toll fee.  Another is also on a highway, but at peak times, it’s often bumper-to-bumper and moving slowly.  The others go through an assortment of neighbourhoods with different marked speeds and varying number of stoplights and playground zones.  They all get me to where I need to go.

There really isn’t a perfect route to take.  Continue reading

Straight roads do not make skillful drivers – the importance of continuous learning

continuous learningWhen my youngest niece graduated from high school, the class valedictorian at the  convocation ceremonies celebrated the group’s accomplishments and encouraged his classmates to further learn and challenge themselves. During his address, this quote by Paulo Coelho, celebrated Brazilian lyricist and author, caught my attention.

Straight roads do not make skillful drivers

– Paulo Coelho

True for both high-school students and adults in the workplace

From the perspective of the graduation ceremonies, it was obviously directed at the young people in the room who were about to embark on their adult journeys and adventures. But it occurred to me then that this piece of wisdom was just as applicable in the workplace, particularly in the context of continuous learning. Continue reading

Virtual leadership requires that you shift from process to results

virtual leadershipJust a little over a month ago, most of us had no idea that working from home would become the new “normal”.  Yet the COVID-19 pandemic has created a world of work that, for many of us, has shifted to “remote”.  Which means that if you have staff, virtual leadership is now a necessary tool you need in your leadership toolkit.

Virtual leadership is not new, in fact, I’ve been blogging about it since 2013 (Leadership from afar – 4 keys to making it work)!  But compared to how it was before, the pandemic crisis has made working remotely the norm.  If you are in a leadership role, then the reality that you must face that is unless you take deliberate and thoughtful steps to give your virtual team a greater degree of support, the physical distance between you and your employees will make them feel increasingly isolated.  But it isn’t just about making sure your employees feel good about the long-distance relationship.  Leaders repeatedly tell me that there is one mental roadblock that they themselves have to overcome.  And it is the concept of process vs results.

In the office environment, you could visually assess processes and outcomes – how the work was done and what was accomplished.  But in a remote environment, you can only assess outcomes.  Continue reading

To overcome procrastination, “go public”

Are you guilty of procrastination?  If so, you’re not alone.  Strategy #7 in our ongoing series about productivity tools for leaders is a tip on how to overcome procrastination.

As a leader, you’re constantly juggling many priorities, and there are always a few items on the to-do list that seem to slip from one list to the next.  Usually, the procrastination is either because the task is so large that the even the thought of tackling it is overwhelming.  Or it’s because the task is just something that you don’t really want to do.  Either way, the end result of procrastination is that the task gets pushed further out into the future.  And sometimes it simply just doesn’t get done. So the idea I want to give you today to overcome procrastination is “Go public!”  Let me explain.

“Go public” to overcome procrastination

When I say “Go public”, what I mean is that you should publicize your time frame.  In other words, establish a deadline and then tell others. If you announce to your colleagues that you’ll have a first draft completed by Thursday, your credibility is now at stake and you’ve just made yourself accountable for action. So tell your client that you’ll have a proposal to them by Monday afternoon.  Or commit to getting a report to your boss before you leave that day.  When you publicly voice a deadline, you have given yourself a powerful motivator to overcome procrastination.  This approach works superbly if you have a tendency to get easily distracted.  So try it.  And let me know how it works! Share your success (or failure) by adding your comments below.

If you’re finding this series on productivity tools for leaders to be helpful, here are the links to previous instalments that focused specifically on making meetings more productive:

Or just access this whole series and others in our Video Archives.