Merge's Blog

Coping with disruption – practical strategies at an exciting event this June!

Coping with disruptionI am thrilled to be one of the featured speakers discussing “Coping with disruption” at the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta Elevate Your Mind Professional Development Conference being held in Calgary AB this June 7.  And just as excited to be featured in the Spring issue of Dividends Magazine, going out to over 29,000 CPAs in Alberta.

This year’s conference poses the provocative question: Have you ever wondered what the brink of a technological revolution signifies for the profession and how your role as an accountant might change in an era of constant disruption?  The answers are to be found in a variety of presentations at this event, all focusing on the future of the profession in relation to the digital age.  My session is titled “How to Prosper – Practical Approaches to Thriving in Disruption” and it will address coping with disruption – specific strategies to survive and thrive in age of rapid transformation.  Here is a link to my interview that was published in Dividends magazine.

So … are you going to attend?  It is THE place to be if you are and Alberta CPA.  Do drop me a note (or just add a comment below) to let me know if you’re going to be there.  I look forward to seeing you!

Last summer, I wrote a column for Canadian Accountant titled How to prosper in the age of accounting robots, which addressed many of the issues that will, no doubt, come up at this event on June 7.

Five tips for specific constructive feedback to develop your employees

Since the beginning of this year, all my video blogs have been focused on specific and practical tips to develop your employees.  Today we’re up to Strategy #10: offer constructive feedback.

Offer constructive feedback

A sure-fire way to grow and develop your employees is to make it a point to offer them constructive feedback, information that they can use to change their behaviours and actions to give them better outcomes and results.  The key word here of course is “constructive”.

In order for feedback to be constructive, there are some definite dos and don’ts.  Here are five specific things to take into account: Continue reading

Four ways to turn organizational politics into a positive force

We’ve all seen and heard it: when we win on an issue in the workplace, we call it good leadership. When we lose, we call it organizational politics.  But in reality, it’s likely neither.  Whether or not our position prevails on workplace matters is more a function of two other dimensions – your organizational acumen and your perceived integrity – two factors identified by researchers Simon Baddeley and Kim James in the 1980’s.

If you come from the school of thought that says (organizational) politics is a bad word, then it’s time to find a way to make it work for you, instead of against you.  In my latest column in The Globe and Mail, published in today’s edition, I offer four specific ideas to help you stride forward in the direction of good leadership rather than the rocky road of organizational politics.

Organizational politics

Making the most of organizational politics

If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find it on page B8.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link: https://tgam.ca/2VKyAjt

I’d love to hear about your experiences with organizational politics.  What is happening where you work?  What deliberate and specific actions are you taking initiate and cultivate relationships to build your integrity and your understanding of the dynamics in your organization?  Please share your perspective and your experiences by adding your comments below.

Why accountability matters: a leadership lesson from a fortune cookie

Last year, I did an entire video series focusing entirely on effective and powerful employee motivators; strategy #19 was to delegate responsibility, authority AND accountability.  I was reminded of this important leadership tenet a few evenings ago in the most unexpected spot … following dinner at a Chinese restaurant!

Leadership wisdom from a fortune cookie

accountabilityI admit it … I love cracking open a fortune cookie!  It’s the excitement of the unknown … what great wisdom is about to be imparted in the palm of my hand?  And the other night, after a delicious bowl of noodles and spicy green beans, the opportunity arose once again!  I held the ends of the crisp cookie between each hand, and pulled it apart with great anticipation.  The sage insight that fell out on to the table:

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly Plato-worthy!  But nevertheless, it still caught my attention … because it actually contains a great leadership message. Continue reading

Three things you can do right now to stay disciplined

say disciplinedDistractions are, unfortunately, a reality in our professional lives nowadays.  In fact, I’ve previously blogged about how often we lose focus at work by the well-known (and notorious) “squirrel” and I’ve subsequently asked you how you minimize distractions and stay disciplined.  Which is why I am thrilled to welcome our guest blogger today.  Mark Black is my professional colleague and my friend, but he was also only 24 when he found himself lying in a hospital bed clinging to life, praying for a life-saving heart and double-lung transplant. Three short years later, he was crossing the finish line of his first of four marathons.  So if anyone can give us practical advice on how to stay disciplined, manage distractions, and help us build resilience so that we can thrive in challenging times, it is Mark!

“Stay disciplined” may not be popular, but it works!

What do you think of when you read the word “discipline? If you are like many people, it probably brings up negative emotions. When most of us think of discipline, we think of experiences from our childhood where our parents “disciplined” us. It’s no wonder then, that most of us associate it with punishment and have a negative impression of it. That’s too bad.

Discipline is actually a very positive word. If you look at its origins, the word discipline comes from the Latin word “disciplina” which means: “”instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge”. To be disciplined then, means to be someone who accepts teaching and seeks learning and knowledge. Sounds good to me. Continue reading

Strategy #9 in our series on employee development ideas: make it safe to make mistakes

In strategy #8 in our continuing series on employee development ideas, I said that a great way to help employees grow was to find opportunities to showcase their strengths.  While that may seem paradoxical, the logic is that when staff are given chance to shine, it boosts their self-confidence which then carries over into other more difficult situations.  So following from that is Strategy #9 in employee development ideas: make it safe to make mistakes.

Make it safe to make mistakes

The old adage – you polish your skills by doing it right, but you learn from making mistakes – fully applies.  Development and growth only happens when people are willing to push the envelope, to go beyond the tried-and-true, to step outside their comfort zones and do something different.  But that comes with risks – that things may go wrong, or not work out as hoped or intended.  The risk is that when people go beyond what is currently being done, they may make a mistake, or even, in the harsh light of hindsight, fail.  But if it becomes dangerous to make mistakes, employees simply will stop taking risks of any sort. And then, they will ultimately stop learning and growing. Continue reading

Employee performance = ability X motivation

employee performanceI often address the issue of problem employees on the blog.  In the past, I’ve talked about the difference between performance, behaviour and attitude issues, the importance of articulating the problem, and the single most important question to ask yourself before you ever raise the issue with your employee. It’s always worth stepping back and taking a big picture perspective.   Let’s focus on what makes up employee performance, both good and bad.

Employee performance consists of two components

Employee performance is a function of two things – ability and motivation.

Performance = ability X motivation

Ability is the physical, intellectual or emotional capability of your employee to get the job done. Is your employee even able to do what is required in the job?

Motivation however has to do with desire and commitment. Does the employee WANT to do the job at the level and competence that is required?

Why should you care?

Why does this matter? Because you need to assess both factors when trying to get at the root cause of a performance problem. Someone who is highly motivated but at a reduced level of ability can often achieve above-average performance. Unfortunately the opposite is not always true. But don’t be fooled into thinking that motivation can overcome ANY lack of ability – the two are still necessary requirements for exceptional (or even adequate) employee performance. In my experience, you can operate tolerably at 50% ability, but anything less than 75% motivation will get you nowhere.

So what do you think? What are the minimum required levels of ability and motivation to have an adequately performing employee?

Strategy #8 in our video series on developing your employees

In my last instalment on ideas for developing your employees, I suggested you ask further questions in response to questions asked by your employees.  Today’s tip in this series: find opportunities to showcase your people’s strengths.

Find opportunities to showcase your people’s strengths

An important component of developing your employees is to build up their self-esteem and their confidence, and when we, as leaders, can find ways to highlight and showcase their strengths, we set our people up to succeed!  Every employee has certain things they are good at.  Perhaps one of your staff members is very strong analytically, and a second is good at doing presentations.  Maybe one of your people is very detail-oriented, and another has a knack for seeing the big picture implications of a situation.  Yet another has demonstrated expertise in complicated negotiations.

Whatever an employee’s strengths, when you give assignments that emphasize those attributes, you also give the employee an opportunity to shine.  And when employees get the satisfaction that comes with not only doing the job well, but knowing that others also observe them at their best, their self-confidence climbs.  Continue reading

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to overcome procrastination

procrastinationAre you guilty of procrastination?  If so, you’re not alone.  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.

If you think it’s time for the procrastination to end, then consider how you can use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage.  So called because it was observed by Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, the Zeigarnik Effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage

To better understand the connection between procrastination and the Zeigarnik Effect, some background information about Zeigarnik’s research is useful.  In a series of experiments, she asked individuals to do several simple tasks such as solving puzzles and stringing beads.  For some of the tasks, the participants were allowed to complete them, and for others, they were interrupted about half-way through.  Interestingly, she discovered that people were twice as likely to recall the tasks during which they’d been interrupted than those they completed.

So …. if you want to overcome procrastination, the best thing to do is to get started.  If you just initiate the task and get it underway, the Zeigarnik Effect will kick in.  Because the project will now be incomplete, you won’t be able to forget about it.  And you will seek to relieve the tension by bringing closure.  Ergo, getting the job done!  Item checked off the to-do list!

So … I’m curious to know.  Have you used the Zeigarnik Effect to your benefit?  Perhaps you’ve been using it all along, but you just didn’t know that it had a name!  Do share your experiences by commenting below.

P.S.  If you want even more insights into to how to overcome procrastination, then you may find this helpful: A 9-point plan for overcoming procrastination, which I wrote as one of my regular columns for ProfitGuide, the online portal for Profit Magazine.

Six steps you can take today to work towards a leadership role tomorrow

If you aspire to be a manager or supervisor, your success in a future leadership role will depend significantly on making a critical mental shift from task management to people leadership. Let’s be clear – the two are not the same. In fact, the skills that lead to accomplishment as a “doer” of tasks are the very ones that will cause you to fail as “leader” of people. Because in a leadership role, your success no longer rests on just you; your success now depends on how well you can get things done through others.

So what do you need to do to position yourself for a future leadership role?

While still delivering results as an individual contributor, there are things you can do today to position yourself as a future leader, in the eyes of those who can help get you there.  And in my latest column for The Globe and Mail, I lay out six specific steps you can take.

Six steps to take today, toward a leadership role tomorrow

leadership role

If you get the print version of The Globe, you would have seen it on page B10 in Monday’s edition.

So these are top six ideas I share with my young (to leadership) clients.  But I’d love to hear your input.  If you’re a veteran leader, what advice would you offer?  And if you’re relatively new to leadership, what have been your experiences?  Please share by either commenting below, or if you wish, you can comment directly on The Globe’s site.