Merge's Blog

Another powerful strategy for developing your employees

Today’s blog post is another instalment in our continuing video series on specific ideas for growing and developing your employees.  Today’s strategy for developing your employees is to include them in the hiring process for new staff members.

Let your high-potential employees help you hire other staff

The benefits of this strategy are two-fold.  First, the more obvious one is that it develops their skills.  If you envision that your high-potential employees are going to be the future leaders in your organization, then the skills of recruiting, screening, interviewing and selecting the right employees are ones that they need to acquire and hone.  What better way to accomplish this than to include them in the process so that they can observe and learn from you and other experts in your company.  Not only will they develop these very important skills, but being actively involved in the process gives them a first-hand insight into what it takes to get the right people in the right jobs for the success of the organization.

The second benefit is that Continue reading

Influence employee behaviour by using the Convenient Fruit Principle

FruitBowlOne of my favourite hotels always has a large bowl of fruit sitting on the counter in their front desk area, available to any of their hotel clientele who want a quick snack.  Recently, as I checked in one evening, I mentioned to the front desk agent that I felt the onset of a cold.  She helpfully recommended that I boost my Vitamin C consumption.  To which I laughingly responded that their fruit bowl never contained oranges, only apples and bananas.  She paused, and then earnestly replied, “Oh, we tried adding oranges, but no one ever takes the oranges, just the apples and bananas.  So now we just leave them out.”

The convenient fruit principle

At first thought, you might assume that this discrepancy exists because most people like apples and bananas more than oranges.  But when you consider it further, the reason is much simpler.  Apples and bananas are easy to eat, but oranges are not.  As delicious as oranges are, you usually need a knife to eat them.  And if they can be peeled, most times they are quite messy.  So hotel guests looking for a quick and easy snack always pick the apples and bananas.  I call this the “convenient fruit principle”, and it applies just as much in the workplace as it does at snack time.

Use the convenient fruit principle to motivate desired behaviour

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Seven lessons learned as a first-time entrepreneur

Many people dream of taking the leap from employee to entrepreneur.  Whether it’s the idea of following a passion to make a difference, the appeal of being in control of your own destiny, or the flexibility of working for yourself, the desire to “go out on your own” is one that I hear repeatedly.

When I started my leadership development consultancy in 2002, I took a giant leap of faith.  I left the security of a thriving career as a financial manager in a multinational company to venture into the enormous abyss of building a company from the ground up.  “I didn’t know what I did not know” is an apt synopsis for my early years.  Today, almost eighteen years later, I have the benefit of hindsight.  So in my regular column in today’s issue of The Globe and Mail, I share seven distinct lessons that I learned as an entrepreneur.  True, everyone’s entrepreneurial journey will be different.  But if you’re considering the leap from employee to entrepreneur, then I hope that my lessons learned will help you avoid a few speedbumps along the way.

Seven lessons learned as a first-time entrepreneur

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If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column on page B10. Continue reading

Develop your staff in financial literacy and you will build your future leaders

Today’s blog post is Strategy #21 in our ongoing series on specific ideas to develop your staff as the current and future leaders in your organization.  And it is: regularly discuss and explain your financial results.

Discuss and explain your financial results regularly

If you are going to develop your staff as the future of your organization, then they need to understand the numbers.  Where are your revenues coming from?  What are you spending on?  How much do you pay in taxes? And what is left over for profit?  Even if you are a not-for-profit entity, your people still need to know what your funding sources are, where the funds are being spent, and whether and how you are in a surplus or deficit position.  If you are going to grow and develop your staff, then they need to be financially literate; they need to know about the dollars and cents.  And one of the best ways to build this financial literacy in your people is to regularly discuss and explain your financial results.

Do three things to develop your staff in financial literacy

At minimum, to develop your staff in financial literacy, you should be doing three things.  First, share your organization’s and department’s financial results monthly.  Now don’t just mass-distribute the financial statements; most people find them overwhelming and they’ll likely get ignored.  Instead give your staff simplified versions that report just on your company’s critical numbers.  Continue reading

Relevant and cost-effective public leadership training in October

A couple of weeks ago, I shared our exciting news – for the 5th year in the row, I am partnering with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta) to offer public leadership training in Calgary and Edmonton.  “Public” means that these programs are available to anyone from any organization … you DO NOT have to be a member of CPA Alberta to register.  If you work in a smaller organization that doesn’t have the budget to conduct an onsite leadership training program, this is your stellar cost-effective opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development!

Coming up next month … five to choose from!

Five of these are coming up in October so if you want in, now is the time to sign up (before it’s too late!)

Calgary:

  • How to Communicate with Confidence, Clarity, and Credibility – Thursday October 3
  • Productivity Skills for Leaders – Wednesday October 23
  • NEW! Building Bridges and Fighting Fires: Tools and Skills for Problem-solving and Decision-Making – Thursday October 24

Edmonton:

  • Coping with Stressors and Pressure at Work – Tuesday October 15
  • Productivity Skills for Leaders – Wednesday October 16

For further information on any of these courses, go to the Search page at the CPA Alberta site and enter “Gupta” in the Instructor field. You will need to create a secure account on their system in order to register; it’s a quick and easy process.

And please, let me know if you’ll be attending – it’s always exciting to know who’s going to be there!

To motivate employees, thank their spouses and families

This blog post was originally written in January 2014, and has been updated since then. 

GiftBasketOver the years, I have posted many times about zero-cost or inexpensive ways to motivate employees.  Each time my focus has been on ways to create a positive workplace atmosphere.  If you can secure your employees’ cooperation and loyalty, you can improve productivity and performance.

In fact, last year, in 2018, I posted an entire series of video blogs (33 in total) that focused specifically on ideas to motivate employees.  Each video was a 2-3 minute specific actionable idea that leaders could use to build positivity, productivity and performance.  But it’s always very exciting to actually see these tips in action … even better when I experience them first-hand.

It happened to me!

Which is exactly what happened to me in January 2014 when a gourmet food hamper arrived at my front door! It was accompanied by a card – “Please accept this small gesture of my appreciation for your family’s patience and sacrifice during the company’s year-end close”.  It was signed by a senior manager of the company my husband works for. What a pleasant surprise! Continue reading

Encourage informal employee training by holding “Learn at Lunch” sessions

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a video in our ongoing series on ideas and tips to develop and grow your employees.  Today’s strategy focuses on employee training – specifically to hold “Learn at Lunch” sessions for your staff.

Hold “Learn at Lunch” sessions

In my leadership practice, one of the most common concerns I hear raised when it comes to employee training is the lack of time available to take employees away from day-to-day responsibilities.  In these situations, I often suggest a “Learn at Lunch” program.  These can be a great way to develop and motivate staff, while creating a collaborative, communicative and learning workplace.

So what is a Learn at Lunch session?  It’s usually a 30-45 minute informal presentation organized by your company for your staff over the lunch hour, led either by internal employees or external resources, as needed.  While they can pretty much be held anywhere, they’re often, held in the cafeteria, auditorium, or a conference room.  As an incentive to attend, most organizations provide lunch, but if that’s not feasible for you, you can invite your employees to bring their own lunch during the session.

What kind of informal employee training is appropriate?

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Open-enrollment leadership training announced for Calgary and Edmonton!

open-enrollment leadership trainingI am often asked about “public” or open-enrollment leadership training programs that are available to anyone, not just the leaders in the client organizations I work with.  Which is why, for the 5th year in a row, I am thrilled to announce our partnership with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta).  Over the next six months, I will be delivering twelve full-day leadership and workplace communication programs in Edmonton and Calgary.

And here is the best part! Open-enrollment leadership training means that  these programs are available to anyone from any organization … you DO NOT have to be a member of CPA Alberta to register.  If you work in a smaller organization that doesn’t have the budget to conduct an onsite leadership training program, this is your stellar cost-effective opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development! These one-day sessions are very reasonably priced at $450 per day (and include a light breakfast and lunch!), a fraction of what it can cost through some commercial vendors. Plus, I’m facilitating them … how could they get any better? 🙂

Five open-enrollment leadership training programs to choose from next month

I have five programs coming up next month in October in both Calgary and Edmonton. Continue reading

Use Cunningham’s Law to get people involved and talking

When seeking to solve an issue or a problem, or charged with evaluating or implementing a new initiative, you’ve probably approached your employees and co-workers to elicit ideas and engage in discussion.  But often, it is difficult to get people involved in the dialogue.  Usually, it’s not because people don’t have anything useful to offer; more likely it’s because they have other priorities and the assumption is that “someone else will respond”.  But the ultimate outcome still is that you don’t get the participation levels that you’d like.

Cunningham's LawConsider a contrary approach

So consider a contrary approach.  It comes from an unusual source – Cunningham’s Law.  Rather than asking an open-ended question, seed your question with misinformation or an opposing viewpoint.

So instead of: How many staff members should we bring on shift for the Grand Opening? 

Ask: What do you think about having two people on shift at the Grand Opening? 

Because two people on shift for a Grand Opening is clearly not enough, your team members will be quick to speak up and contribute their input to the discussion. Continue reading

The art of dealing with criticism at work

Criticism stings.  Sure, it is sometimes couched as gentler “feedback”, or offered as “advice”, or even presented as a “pointer”.  Yet criticism it is.  And most of us don’t respond positively to criticism, especially at first.  Dealing with criticism is difficult and sometimes hard to swallow.  But if you want to grow as a valued professional and a respected leader, it is to your benefit to open-mindedly evaluate the criticism you hear, even if it hurts or it isn’t what you believe to be true.  But how exactly does one do that?

So glad you asked!  Because that is exactly what I cover in my latest column in The Globe and Mail which published this morning.  In it, I outline a simple two-dimensional tool that I utilize in my one-on-one mentoring work with leaders in my client organizations.  I call it the “Valid and important” model, and it’s very useful when dealing with criticism.

Evaluating what matters: A better way to deal with criticism at work

dealing with criticism

If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column on page B10. Continue reading