Merge's Blog

Category Archives: Communication Tools

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

How to communicate sensitive messages

TimBreithauptSometimes you will have to make decisions that will not be liked by your staff; it’s one of the responsibilities of leadership.  While you can’t avoid making unpopular decisions, there are things that you can do to help your team understand and accept the new reality.  Which is why I am so pleased to welcome today’s guest blogger.

Tim Breithaupt is first and foremost my professional colleague and friend, but he is also the founder and president of Spectrum Training Solutions. As a leading expert in the area of sales development, Tim delivers real-world wisdom to foster a level of sales confidence that boosts sales results to exciting new levels.  Today he joins us on the blog with some specific advice on how to communicate sensitive messages.

Communication is fraught with challenges at the best of times. Ample research suggests that managers and leaders struggle with the task of communicating sensitive messages.  One such example: unexpected changes to job descriptions and responsibilities. By tweaking your delivery (or as I like to say, your bedside manner), you will experience a smoother flow to your message and elevate your communication confidence. To that end I share a proven four-step model that helps to mitigate stress and communicate with impact. 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

Regular one-on-one conversations support employee growth

In our last video tip in our ongoing series on developing and growing employees, I said that it was critical to offer constructive feedback to your people.  Key to continued employee growth though is that this constructive feedback be frequent and consistent.  So today’s strategy for employee growth builds on the last tip.  It is to schedule regular one-on-one conversations with each of your staff members.

Schedule regular one-on-one conversations with your staff

When thinking about regular one-on-one conversations with each of your direct reports, there are two things you need to consider – frequency and content.  So let me address each one separately.

How often?

Continue reading

Five tips for specific constructive feedback to develop your employees

Since the beginning of this year, all my video blogs have been focused on specific and practical tips to develop your employees.  Today we’re up to Strategy #10: offer constructive feedback.

Offer constructive feedback

A sure-fire way to grow and develop your employees is to make it a point to offer them constructive feedback, information that they can use to change their behaviours and actions to give them better outcomes and results.  The key word here of course is “constructive”.

In order for feedback to be constructive, there are some definite dos and don’ts.  Here are five specific things to take into account: 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

Employee engagement comes when you actively seek input from all levels of the organization

Jeffrey SharpeJeffrey Sharpe is a Project Manager at one of my client organizations and someone that I’ve had the privilege of working with for several months.  He is not only very good at what he does, but also a thoughtful and intentional leader, constantly seeking positive and productive ways to get more accomplished through others.  When I asked him if he would contribute a guest post here on Turning Managers Into Leaders blog, I wasn’t sure that he would agree.  But he did!  His post below gives first-hand practical advice on how to build employee engagement, both now and for the long haul.

The Importance of Engaging with Workers at All Levels of an Organization

Have you ever wondered what your workers really think of your company? How they would improve it? What they would do differently? Have you ever wondered what your senior management is planning and how it could affect your career?

The answers to these questions are within reach, but only if you are engaging your workers and customers to solicit this information. You could ask them nicely, or demand they tell you. But either way, it’s difficult to seek the truth without each party sacrificing something in return.

When I was young, my father worked at a shipyard as a welder. He would tell me stories about co-workers that were frustrating to work with, bosses who had no clue what was going on with their own front line, and “The Engineer”, a fellow so out of touch with how things operated in the real world and at the job site, it would make your head spin. Naturally, after graduating as a Civil Engineer, I was given a speech that ended with “Don’t let that Iron Ring on your finger cut the blood off to your brain”.   Now I could have taken offense to this message, or I could choose to learn from it. Continue reading

Customer loyalty – easy to lose, but just as easy to keep

Just a few months ago, I blogged about a specific situation I experienced where a few ill-chosen words by a bank manager were able to destroy long-term customer loyalty in a matter of minutes.  Well, I’m sad to report that it’s happened again, another situation this time, but ironically still involving a(nother) bank.

One Friday afternoon in February, I was catching up on my banking and processed four transactions within three hours of each other.  Two were deposits into an account and two were transfers out of the same account.  What is key here is that all were intra-bank transactions, moving funds from one Royal Bank account to another.

Fast forward to last week when I was reconciling my bank statement and realized that I had been charged an account overdraft fee of $4.09.  Puzzled, I called customer service to find out what happened.  Turns out that while the two transfers out of that one account had been processed before 6 pm, the first deposit into the account had been posted at 6:01 pm and the second about 30 minutes later.  Apparently the rule is that transactions posted after 6 pm are recorded on the next business day, in this case on the following Monday.  So, in the system, the withdrawals were logged on Friday and the deposits were logged on the following Monday, three days later.  Ergo, the overdraft fee.

Customer loyalty is easy to lose …

While the overdraft fee was logically accurate because of the computer algorithm, it clearly didn’t make common sense, at least from a customer service perspective.  It was a simple timing error, and one that had zero impact to Royal Bank as all funds had been moved between Royal Bank accounts.  So I fully expected the phone agent to willingly acquiesce to my request to have the amount waived.  Imagine my surprise when he “put me on hold to talk to a supervisor”. Continue reading

Communicating upward? Think bullet points

I’ve written in the past about how it’s important to modify your approach when you’re communicating upward, including in this column – How to persuade and influence senior management – that I wrote for CFM&D Magazine.  I was reminded of it recently when I overheard a leader in a client organization giving advice to one of his staff.  He said:

“When a senior manager asks you the time, don’t describe how a watch works”.  

I chuckled to myself because it was such an apt description for the deep pit that so many subject matter experts stumble into.

Don’t “vomit data”

As managers rise in the leadership ranks in organizations, by necessity, they need to focus more on strategic issues and less on the minutiae.  So they count on the subject matter experts around them to study the details and make recommendations.  Continue reading

Active listening is a critical leadership skill

As regular readers of our blog know, active listening is an essential skill in leadership.  And like most aspects of leadership, it’s a learned skill.  Which is why I’m so pleased that Jackie Edwards is guesting on the blog today with this great piece focusing on the value of active listening.  Jackie is an editor and writer, who previously worked as an HR Manager for a small finance company.  She currently focuses on writing about the world of management and business.

Managers: Are You Really Listening?

When you’re talking to someone, naturally you want to know that they are listening. As in, really listening. This is especially true when it involves your place of work. As a manager, you have a huge part to play in your team’s happiness at work. Being a good listener is key to this. Employees want to know that their manager values their opinions, takes their points on board and responds accordingly. Seeing as we retain half of what we hear (at most), all of us should work on improving our listening skills. To be an effective leader, this is vital.

Be an active listener

The best listeners are active listeners. Active listening means not just hearing what someone says, but focusing on the speaker and showing that you are listening – whether that be through verbal or nonverbal cues, or both. Active listening can be practiced and developed over time by following a few simple steps: Continue reading