Merge's Blog

A unique employee team-building idea from one of my client organizations

Three weeks ago, I shared a fantastic idea from a client organization about a unique way to acknowledge and motivate employees – to hold “fake” retirement parties.  Well, today I’m thrilled to tell you about another great example of employee team-building and motivation from another client organization.

Monthly culture “moments”

employee team-buildingThis particular company has a very diverse workforce with people from a variety of different ethnicities and cultures.  So as a way to build understanding, to strengthen teamwork, and to have fun, their Corporate Finance team created monthly culture moments.  At their monthly team meetings, over a period of several months, they’ve showcased the different cultures and nationalities represented in their department.  Even though they’ve called it culture “moments”, it is in fact the theme for the entire meeting.

One or two employees (who are from that culture) make a short presentation sharing the background and history of their heritage countries.  They also tell the rest of the team about a core societal value and a common workplace behaviour.  Continue reading

One of the best ways to develop your staff? Let them train others!

Last week, in our series on specific actions you can take to grow and develop your staff, I said that you should thoughtfully communicate your long-term goals and plans to them.  Today’s idea: Let them teach others.

Let them teach others

This one is so brilliant that I am always astonished when people seem surprised to hear this!  For thousands of years, people have known that the best way to understand a concept is to explain it to someone else. In fact, the Roman philosopher Seneca is credited with saying “While we teach, we learn,” in the 1st century AD.  And this notion is absolutely applicable in the workplace, to great advantage.

If you want to grow and develop your staff, get them to train others.  Sure, the obvious benefit is that it will help them develop greater depth in whatever their area of expertise is, but the advantages go far beyond that.  Continue reading

When it comes to managing the rumour mill, partial information is better than no information

rumour millThe ancient philosopher Aristotle said Horror vacui, or “Nature abhors a vacuum.” His point was that if a vacuum exists in the physical world, it is only momentary, as it immediately fills with the material surrounding it, without any regard as to what the substance is.  It doesn’t matter if the neighbouring material is similar, or of the needed quality, or even if it is suitable for the purpose, it immediately moves to fill the vacuum.  The same principle is at work in organizations, specifically to do with communication and more specifically, the organization’s rumour mill.  In fact, I wrote about using the company grapevine to your advantage in one of my regular columns in The Globe and Mail, back in March 2015!

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, people in organizations also abhor vacuums … in information. When there is a lack of knowledge – about people, about processes, about upcoming plans and changes – information, accurate or not, immediately moves in to fill the vacuum.  And ironically, the larger the vacuum, the more incorrect and outlandish is what moves in to fill it.

Managing the rumour mill

Which leads me to the point of this article.  The best way to combat rumours, misinformation, and the general distortions and fabrications that seem to take hold in just about every organization is to continually and deliberately offer correct, quality information to fill the void.  Even if it is incomplete!  Continue reading

Enhance leadership development by thoughtfully communicating long-term plans

In my last instalment in this video series on employee leadership development, I explained how showing your people that you’re vulnerable will create an atmosphere in which continuous learning is encouraged and supported.  Today’s strategy is to regularly share information with your employees on your organization’s long-term goals and plans.

Let your employees know about long-term goals and plans

There is an old saying – “If you don’t know where you’re going, don’t be surprised if you don’t get there.”  And it certainly applies here.  If your employees don’t know what your goals and intentions are for the long-term, then they will not be in any position to help you get there.  In fact, they may inadvertently work at cross-purposes to your plans, simply because they don’t know any better.

But … if you share this information with them frequently and regularly, then the opposite will happen.  Continue reading

Three open-enrollment training events in Alberta coming up at the end of the month

CPALast fall, I was excited to tell you that we were beginning our fourth year of partnership with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta) to deliver a series of open-enrollment training events – full-day leadership and workplace communication training programs in Edmonton and Calgary. Well, the last three events in this series are coming up at the end of the month!  If you live in or near Calgary and Edmonton, don’t miss this opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development at a very reasonable cost (which includes breakfast and lunch!), and a fraction of what it can cost through some commercial vendors.  And … if you register early enough (two weeks out), you can take advantage of early bird discounts!

Calgary:

Edmonton:

Open-enrollment means “open to the public”

Because these are open-enrollment training courses, you DO NOT have to be a member of CPA Alberta to register.   Which is a great advantage if you happen to work in a smaller organization that doesn’t normally have the budget to bring in onsite leadership training programs.   Do not miss out on this cost-effective opportunity to get the leadership skill development you need! Click on any program link above for further information or to register directly at the CPA Alberta site. You will need to create a secure account on their system in order to register, a very quick and easy process.

And please, let me know if you’re planning on joining me for any of these upcoming events. That way I know to look forward to seeing you there!

Take charge of your professional development

Your professional development is something that you need to own and champion for yourself.  Sure, good leaders should offer their employees support and direction, setting clear goals and targets, giving regular feedback, and offering concrete tools and suggestions for future growth and development.  But unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  Usually citing lack of time and other resources, the one piece that tends to slip most often is advice and emphasis on continued learning and professional development.

It’s up to you to take the wheel of your professional development

So it’s worth remembering that while your immediate manager and organization can certainly support you by providing feedback, advice, tools and resources, you are the only one behind the wheel of your future.  It’s up to you to jump in the driver’s seat and start steering for yourself.  It was with this in mind that I wrote my latest column in The Globe and Mail which published yesterday morning.

Nine easy ways to take charge of your professional development

professional development

If you get the print version of The Globe, you would have seen it on page B10.

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/2VhfJMb

So I’ve put forward my top nine ideas in this column.  But I’d love to know what specific actions you are taking to take control of your own continuing professional development.  Please share by commenting below.

Acknowledge employees by holding “fake” retirement parties

In 2018, I did an entire series of  video blogs (33 in fact!) that focused on specific ideas to motivate employees.  But the fortunate reality is that the possibilities are endless.  Which is why I was so excited to learn about yet another tip just last week.  I was working with a group of leaders in a client organization, and one of them told me about this absolutely fantastic idea to acknowledge employees: “Hold “fake” retirement parties,” he said.  I was so intrigued, I had to ask him to explain further.

Hold “fake” retirement parties

Once a month or so, perhaps at your regular department meeting, set aside 15 or more minutes for a “fake” retirement party.  To understand what a fake retirement party is, you have to first ask yourself what usually happens at a retirement party.  Well, there are speeches about the departing person honouring and highlighting his or her strengths, accomplishments, and legacy to the organization.  Well, the fake retirement party is exactly the same thing, but it’s “fake” because the person isn’t actually leaving.  Instead, it’s an opportunity to acknowledge employees – their worth, their value, and their lasting legacy to your department or your company. Continue reading

Leaders who exhibit vulnerability create an environment that nurtures employee learning

Today I’m continuing our ongoing series focused on creating workplace environments that foster employee learning and help you develop and grow your employees.  My last strategy on this topic was to set an example by being a positive role model for continuous learning.  Following from that strategy is today’s tip: show your people that it’s okay to be vulnerable.

Show your people that it’s okay to be vulnerable

If you get it wrong, admit your mistake.  If you make an error in judgement, apologize.  If things didn’t work out exactly the way you’d hoped, ask for feedback from those involved.  Sometimes, the feedback you will need will be from your staff.  But that’s not a bad thing.  Every time you demonstrate vulnerability as a leader, paradoxically you show great strength of character.  And the real bonus for developing and growing your people is that it creates an environment that encourages openness and honesty, which nurtures employee learning.  When employees know that it’s okay to show vulnerability, they are more open to listening and considering alternate approaches to problems and issues.

As a leader, when you are willing to admit mistakes and move forward, when you demonstrate that you’re a continuous learner who is open to feedback, you show your employees that vulnerability is actually a sign of strength.  It may seem contradictory, but it’s the irony that makes it so powerful.

So, I often get pushback on this one when I bring it up in my live leadership seminars.  What do you think?  Does this make sense, or is it a recipe for disaster?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please comment below.

Blocking internal transfers and promotions is a bad idea!

Demotivator on Warning Road SignSometimes, managers deliberately and consciously take actions that while logical, create situations that are non-productive and hugely demotivating. Unfortunately, this is more usual than not.  In fact, this was the very topic of a one of my regular The Globe & Mail columns back in November 2014 titled Why do smart managers do stupid things?

I continue to see examples of this dysfunctional behaviour repeatedly in my leadership development practice.  Last week I had a very positive conversation with a group of leaders in one of my client organizations, but it reminded me of this very negative situation that I came across (and blogged about) back in 2016.  In fact, it stirred up such dialogue in this group that I felt it was worth bringing up in the blog again.

I got a call from an employee at a large client company, very upset because his manager had blocked his internal transfer.  This organization has an online internal job bulletin board that permits employees to apply for internal jobs within the company.  This particular employee had, with his manager’s knowledge, applied for a job in another department.  Since he has been in his current role for over three years, he was seeking different challenges and new learning opportunities.  The interview process went well and he was optimistic about getting this new assignment.  Imagine his surprise to learn that he did not get the job because his manager had blocked the transfer.  Turns out that there had been some other recent unexpected personnel changes in the department, and his manager felt that his move would be too much change, too fast. Continue reading

Employee growth and development tip #3

It’s been almost two weeks since I posted our last tip in our new video series for 2019 on creating an environment that fosters employee growth and development.  Tip #2 was to support your employees’ career aspirations.  But I’m back today with Tip #3: set an example by being a positive role model for continuous learning.

Set the example as a continuous learner

Don’t just tell your people that you believe in employee growth and development, show them.  If you expect them to continue to develop and grow as employees, then be prepared to also walk the talk.

Demonstrate that you are a continuous learner by attending training programs – both shorter lunch-and-learn sessions, and longer full-day or extended programs.  Display that you’re open to new learning by listening to what the subject matter experts on your team have to say.  And ask intelligent questions about the information they are sharing to show that you value their expertise.  If you’re not completely up to speed on the nuances of social media, ask your tech-savvy staff to reveal some of their favourite tips and tricks.  Even better, have one of them do a short presentation at your next team meeting.

My point is that if you want your staff to buy into employee growth and development, then you need to set an example by doing the same.  So be a positive role model.

I’ll be back next week (I promise) with the next strategy in this series.  But in the meantime, I’d like to know what you think.  What gets in the way of you investing in continuous learning?  I’ll tell you what I hear most often – lack of time for supervisors and managers.  Is that true for you as well?  How do you get past it?  Please share your experiences by commenting below.