Merge's Blog

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.

Look backwards to move forward – a leadership message from the Sankofa

sankofaDo you know what the Sankofa is?  I heard it referred to briefly at a recent conference I attended, and it stirred me to research it further.  Turns out the sankofa is a metaphorical bird, generally depicted with its feet facing forward and its head turned backwards, lifting an egg from its back.  It is of great symbolism to the Akan people of Ghana, as it expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past in order to make positive progress forward.  Look backwards to move forward – what a great message for leaders everywhere!

As leaders, we need to draw upon and learn from our failures in order to avoid making similar mistakes and missteps in the future.  And just as important is a willingness to learn from others, and to use their experiences as stepping stones to move forward and onward.

Are you being like the sankofa?

It has been my observation that most people are disposed to learn from their own mistakes; after all, it’s not often that we tend to apply exactly the same method that we know has failed us previously.  But regrettably, a lot more infrequent is a willingness to take what others have done and build upon it.  The reasons vary.  Sometimes it’s because we like the sense of victory and satisfaction that comes from taking a project or initiative from start to finish solo.  Other times it’s because we don’t respect or like those who might have relevant experience.  Either way, we choose to go it alone and start at the beginning.  Which is a pity!

Ironically, we would achieve greater success by building upon what is already there – past experiences, others knowledge, an awareness of ours and others strengths – to create a solid foundation upon which to build even more.  The Sankofa obviously knows this.  Even the ancient Aztecs understood the value of this approach.  Isn’t it time that we all did?

So, what have been your experiences?  Are you being like the Sankofa?  Are you observing or working with people who don’t get this important concept?  Please share your perspectives by commenting below.

Crisis leadership – who’s doing it well, and how

In times of crisis, leadership is tested. And how you behave in difficult circumstances is what will ultimately define you as a leader. The COVID-19 pandemic is a living case study of how to lead (or not) in the face of calamity. Examples of good (and bad) crisis leadership abound.

In my newest column for The Globe and Mail, published just this morning, I not only offer several examples of the good and the bad, but I also outline four specific actions and behaviours that constitute exceptional leadership in times of crisis.

What does it take to lead in times of crisis?

If you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also access the column behind their paywall through this direct link: https://tgam.ca/34cwyxo

So I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences.  Do you have great (or lousy) examples of crisis leadership to share?  Please also tell us what action or behaviour is happening (or not) that makes your situation notable. 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:

 

Use a “parking lot” to help you achieve objectives in your meetings

In our last edition of our video series on productivity tools for leaders, I talked about how the time-keeper is a very important role in a meeting in order to achieve objectives.   You might recall that the time-keeper’s job is to let participants know when the allotted time for an agenda item is over.  But sometimes, an agenda item crops up that really does require additional discussion beyond the time frame allotted in the agenda.  Which brings me to today’s tool to improve your productivity so that you can still achieve objectives.  Use a “parking lot” to make your meetings more effective.

Use a “parking lot” to achieve objectives

Let’s say you are chairing a meeting and you have a great time-keeper who is making sure your meeting agenda stays on track.  But now the allotted time has run out for something under discussion that still warrants further conversation.  When this happens, you, as the chair, needs to step in and offer two choices. Continue reading

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