Merge's Blog

3 Valuable Lessons Dolphins can Teach You About Teamwork

 Lessons in teamwork from dolphins

Most of us think of dolphins as playful and cute. They’re also very smart.

In fact, Dolphins can teach us quite a few lessons about teamwork, leadership, and life that can help us grow as leaders—and as members of a team.

Continue reading

Systematize how you handle failure; you will create a powerful tool for employee learning

In today’s blog post, I’m back with another idea in our ongoing series of specific things that leaders can do to encourage and support employee learning.  Today’s tip: systematize learning from failure.

Normalize failure and systematize how you learn from it

At some point or another, we all fail.  Sometimes it’s a new process that doesn’t work out quite the way we’d hoped or intended.  Other times it’s an idea we tried to sell to others but they weren’t buying.  And on occasion, it’s a calculated risk we took that crashed and burned.  Whatever it is, whenever it occurs, it happens to all of us, even the best of us.

So if we know that at some point or another, failure is inevitable, then it’s time to embrace it and learn from it.  What I’m really saying is that failure is a great teacher – it shows us what our strengths and weaknesses are while motivating us to correct them.  So it’s time to systematize learning from failure.  Make it normal and make it consistent!  Make it an acceptable and regular form of employee learning.

Consistency is key

You can do this in a variety of ways, Continue reading

What does it (really) take to get promoted? Hint: it’s not sucking up to the boss!

So what does it really take to achieve career success in the workplace?  To get promoted?  To be recognized for both your current work and the potential you have to grow and rise in the ranks?  I’ve often heard people say that the only way to get ahead in the world of work is to “suck up” to the boss. But is it possible that what some people call “sucking up” may simply be learning how to work with your specific supervisor or manager?

In my leadership training and mentoring practice, I have had the opportunity to dialogue with tens of thousands of managers in organizations across the country, and they are unequivocal in their assertion that they can tell the “actors”; they know when their employees’ actions and behaviours are self-serving and when they are selfless. So if this is true, then “sucking up” is clearly not the reason why certain employees get ahead. Which raises the question – “What is?” And that is exactly what I address in my latest column in The Globe and Mail.  Gathered from my tens of thousands of conversations with the people who should know the answer, I list out nine specific things you can do to rise in the ranks.

What does it (really) take to get promoted?

G&M0081219

If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column 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/2Tuhg1U

So … do you agree?

So, as always, I’d love to hear about your experiences, both as an employee and as someone in a leadership position.  Do you agree with what I have found to be true, or have you observed that “sucking up” is really what it takes to get promoted? Either way, I’d love to hear from you.  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 past columns I wrote for The Globe and Mail to be helpful:

 

A leadership lesson from how owls hunt

leadership lessonNature abounds with lessons, and I am always fascinated to discover that many of those lessons offer insights into leadership.  I was recently reading about owls, and I was excited to discover yet another leadership lesson.

Did you know that owls don’t hunt by sight or smell, they hunt primarily by sound?  And nature has given them a very sophisticated and elegant way of ensuring that they can catch prey to survive and thrive.

The ears of many species of owls are asymmetrical, with one ear slightly higher but directed downwards and the other somewhat lower but facing upward. As a result, sounds that originate from below eye level are heard louder in the left ear, while those that come from above are heard more clearly in the right.  The differences in volume and frequency allow to owl to find its prey, even in complete darkness.  The owl’s success lies in its ability to pay attention to what is happening both below and above it.

And therein lies the leadership lesson

Which is not unlike what it takes to be successful as a leader.  Leaders have to pay attention to what is happening both below and above them. Continue reading

Employee growth comes from allowing your people to struggle

For the past several months, I’ve been offering up specific ideas for employee growth, things that you, as a leader, can do to help your people develop and grow into leaders themselves.  So today I have strategy #17 in this series.  Today’s tip is to allow your people to struggle.  This may sound counter-intuitive, so let me explain.

Allow your people to struggle

Consider the process of how a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis.  You may not realize it, but this is a complex, highly-sequential, and intricately choreographed process.  First, the insect’s abdominal muscles contract to increase blood pressure in the head and thoracic area causing the pupal coat to split along a line of weakness.  Next, the flexible and still-folded adult butterfly crawls out.  The blood pressure then relocates to the wings, legs and other soft parts to expand the body into the final, familiar butterfly form.  For the next few hours, the adult butterfly remains at increased blood pressure levels until its coat gradually hardens into the new shape.

What may surprise you is that any attempt to “help” the butterfly leave its cocoon is doomed to certain failure.  Continue reading

The Importance of Powerful Positive Phrasing

positive-phrasing-in-communication

There are many different things which can get in the way of employees acting on a message.

And if you’re struggling with trying to get your employees to act on a message, you’ve reached the right place.

Today, I’ll be talking about the one, most important thing you should be doing to get your employees to do what you ask of them – the one thing that can really get them acting.

Can you guess what it is? Continue reading

Seeking employee development strategies? Implement a tuition reimbursement program

For the past several months, I’ve been sharing specific employee development strategies on the blog via short videos: each time, one explicit, pragmatic, and actionable idea you can use to help your employees develop and grow into accomplished professionals and the future leaders in your organization.  Today’s advice: implement a tuition reimbursement program.

Implement a tuition reimbursement program

A tuition reimbursement program is a great way to support learning that isn’t provided in-house, and to provide assistance to employees who want to further their education. Such programs are usually external learning curriculum provided by colleges, universities, professional associations and vendors in relation to industry certifications.

Now it’s true, an employee who takes classes may not finish the degree for several years.  Continue reading

Boiling the ocean will not result in good decisions

good decisionsAs a leader, it is your responsibility to make good decisions.  In your department or organization, you are likely called on repeatedly to evaluate and implement a variety of projects.  And many of these initiatives will probably require investigation and research in order to determine alternatives and make recommendations.  But exactly how much research should one do to be able to make good decisions?  That is a conundrum that many leaders face.

There are certainly situations where leaders have been known to make decisions too quickly, without considering all available information.  But in my experience, it is the opposite that is much more likely; in their quest for more data or analysis, the job or project is made unnecessarily difficult, and decision-making is delayed.

Don’t try to boil the ocean!

The apt metaphor in this situation is that of boiling a pot of water versus boiling the ocean.  Continue reading

Eight steps to finding a mentor

You’ve heard it before: to further your career, finding a mentor to guide you is important.  Mentors are people who have experience and knowledge in your desired vocation, and who are willing and able to share what they know.  But how exactly does one go about finding a mentor?  It’s certainly not going to happen if you wait around hoping that a mentor will miraculously find you.  Successful mentoring relationships are intentional, and the impetus for action has to come from you.

In my latest column in The Globe and Mail, published in this morning’s print and online editions, I lay out eight important steps that will help you get the mentorship that you desire.

finding a mentor

Eight steps to finding a mentor

The above link takes you to the online version on The Globe’s website.  But if you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find it on page B7.

Occasionally, The Globe places my columns behind their paywall; if that happens, here is a link to a pdf version we have archived on our website: https://www.turningmanagersintoleaders.com/PDF/G&M_ManagementPrint_070819.pdf

I would love to hear from you!

Well?  Please don’t be shy, I’d love to hear from you.  What have you done to find mentors to help you further your career?  If you’re actively seeking mentors right now, what is working for you?  And what are your challenges?  Are you in a place in your career where you are able to mentor others?  If so, what are potential “mentees” doing right, and what are they doing wrong?  Please share your perspectives by adding your comments below.

Employee growth and development occurs when we give our people the tools and resources they need

It’s been a while since I last posted in our video series focusing on ideas for employee growth and development, so I’m back with Tip #15.  Today’s advice: give your employees the tools and resources they need to succeed.

Set your people up to succeed by giving them the tools and resources they need

As leaders, we give our employees tasks to complete and obligations to fulfill.  But occasionally, without meaning to, we inadvertently set them up to fail.  “How?” you ask?  We do it by giving them the responsibility for the job, BUT not giving them the authority or the resources they need to get the job done.

So we ask an employee to process invoices online but it takes three days for him to get the system access he requires to do it.  We’ve set him up to fail.

We bring a new employee on board but there is insufficient time to get her fully trained to do what she needs to do.  We’ve set her up to fail.

A staff member is responsible for conducting inventory in the warehouse, but rather than giving him a handheld scanner, we hand him a notebook and a pencil, and tell him to do a manual count.  We’ve just set him up to fail. Continue reading