Merge's Blog

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

Continue reading

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

A liquid metaphor about achieving goals

At this time of the year, there’s a lot of thought and conversation about setting and achieving goals, and as a result, I often blog on this topic, often finding metaphors in unusual places.  Like the time my unexpected encounter with a sea otter offered some insights.  Today’s musings … about drinking water.

It’s a lot easier to drink water when you have a glass

glasswater3Potable water … absolutely essential to survival, but unless it is contained – within a glass, a bowl, or even a cupped hand – almost impossible to drink.  Sure you could kneel and lap at a running stream just like other members of the animal kingdom, but it’s a lot easier if it is in a vessel of some sort.  Even animals appreciate drinking from an enclosed source such as a pond or a puddle.

If you are focusing on setting and achieving goals and targets for your professional and personal life, this liquid reality offers an apt metaphor.  Think of water as representing dreams and aspirations, the goals and objectives that you hope to accomplish over the next twelve months.  Just like a liquid takes less effort to drink when it is contained within a vessel, desired targets are easier to achieve when they are surrounded by a solid structure.  So what is this vessel that lets you move goals and aspirations from mere dreams to concrete reality?  The outer form of the vessel may differ from situation to situation, but it must always be constructed of three components – it must be specific, it must be measurable, and it must have a deadline.

Here is an example

Let’s say that one of your leadership objectives Continue reading

To improve your productivity, write things down!

Earlier this month, I promised that in 2020 I would specifically focus on a video series on productivity tools for leaders.  In each video blog, I plan to give you one practical and useful technique to reclaim control of your time, to improve your productivity, or to even get more done through others.  Today, I am excited to kick off this brand-new series with one specific suggestion that I hope you’ll take to heart and implement right away.  And of course, expect more productivity strategies to come in the weeks and months to follow.

Write things down!

Today’s tip: write things down.  It’s simple, but don’t let the simplicity fool you into thinking it is lightweight.  It’s not.  Writing things down is a very powerful to improve your productivity.  So get into the habit of making a to-do list.  Whenever you think about something that needs to be done, stop and make a note.  Right then, not later, because later often means never.  The benefits of writing things down to improve your productivity are many. Continue reading

Doing your job or doing your work?

jobAre you doing your job or are you doing your work?  Job and work.  Is there a difference? Absolutely.

A restaurant owner’s job is to produce great food.  But the best restaurants are the ones that also focus on giving their patrons an enjoyable dining experience.  That’s the owner’s work.

The front-desk receptionist’s primary responsibility may be to answer the phone pleasantly.  That’s his job.  But he also needs to think critically to solve problems, and adapt to shifting priorities.  That’s his work.

What about a doctor?  Sure, her job is to diagnose and cure diseases.  But the best doctors are the ones who ask questions, listen to the answers, and take the time to invest emotionally in their patients.  That’s her work.

Job versus work

The job is the hard skills, the expertise or the technical knowledge to get things done.  It’s what most of us study and train for.  But work incorporates the soft skills.  Continue reading

Want respect at work? Here are eight ways to earn it

Respect.  Unequivocally, it is the one thing we all want.  And respect at work, even more so.  Yet, many people unknowingly engage in self-sabotage, behaving and acting in ways which cause others, both bosses and co-workers, to lose respect for them.

Respect at work is earned

Respect at work is earned.  If you are the go-to person who is sought out for input and advice, it didn’t just accidentally happen.  If, when you speak, others listen, then rest assured that it’s not a coincidence.  If others make it a point to regularly keep you in the know, then it isn’t just good luck.  Respect at work is earned, and if you’re wondering exactly what it takes, then my latest column in The Globe and Mail answers the question.  Published this morning, I share eight specific ways you can earn the respect you desire.

Here are eight ways to earn respect at work

 

respect at workIf you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column on page B9.

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/2tQRXhM

Please, tell me if this subject – respect at work – and the eight tips resonate with you.  What have you observed in your workplace?  Who gets respect, and who doesn’t?  I’d love to hear your perspectives.  Please add your comments below.

If you want to be deliberate and thoughtful about ways to position yourself for career growth and success, you may also find these links to recent past columns I wrote for The Globe and Mail to be helpful:

  • How to survive the ‘extreme’ narcissist and make your workday bearable
  • The informational interview: A solid way to boost your career
  • Seven lessons learned as a first-time entrepreneur

Productivity tools for leaders

Brand-new video series for 2020

I’m so excited to kick-off another brand-new video series for 2020.  For the last few years, I’ve focused on a different subject each year.  Last year the topic was “How to develop and grow your people” – we did 25 videos.  And in 2018, we put out 33 specific tips on how to motivate your employees.  So this year, I’m going to focus on … drum roll please … Productivity tools for leaders.

In my leadership training and mentoring practice, a frequent refrain I hear from my clients is that they start their days with the best of intentions only to get to the end feeling like they’ve gotten nothing substantial accomplished.  So you tell me.  Have you ever felt that a full day has gone by, yet time seems to have escaped you?  Or that instead of checking things off your to-do list, it seems to be longer than it was at the beginning of the day?  If so, then I think that this year’s video series is tailor-made for you. Continue reading

On hiatus for the holiday season until January 9

As the holiday season approaches, here at the Turning Managers into Leaders blog, we’re taking a short break to celebrate. But rest assured, we’ll be back, enthused and energized, ready to share and learn, on Thursday January 9, 2020.

As I reflect over the last ten years, all the way back to August 2009 when this little blog first started, I am so grateful to each and every one of you for being such an important part of its creation and its growth.  Here we are, over ten years later, almost 1,000 posts in, and I am humbled by the quantity and quality of the learning that has happened here.  Ideas have been exchanged, dialogues have been started (and continued), and leadership excellence has been developed and achieved.  I am excitedly looking forward to another fantastic year of conversations and quarrels (positive ones, of course!) in the pursuit of becoming even better leaders than you already are!

Until January then, my best wishes to all of you and your loved ones for a festive, joyous, rejuvenating season with family and friends. I hope you’ll continue old traditions and find the time to create new ones!  See you in 2020!