Merge's Blog

Category Archives: Leadership Tools

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

Why accountability matters: a leadership lesson from a fortune cookie

Last year, I did an entire video series focusing entirely on effective and powerful employee motivators; strategy #19 was to delegate responsibility, authority AND accountability.  I was reminded of this important leadership tenet a few evenings ago in the most unexpected spot … following dinner at a Chinese restaurant!

Leadership wisdom from a fortune cookie

accountabilityI admit it … I love cracking open a fortune cookie!  It’s the excitement of the unknown … what great wisdom is about to be imparted in the palm of my hand?  And the other night, after a delicious bowl of noodles and spicy green beans, the opportunity arose once again!  I held the ends of the crisp cookie between each hand, and pulled it apart with great anticipation.  The sage insight that fell out on to the table:

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly Plato-worthy!  But nevertheless, it still caught my attention … because it actually contains a great leadership message. Continue reading

Strategy #9 in our series on employee development ideas: make it safe to make mistakes

In strategy #8 in our continuing series on employee development ideas, I said that a great way to help employees grow was to find opportunities to showcase their strengths.  While that may seem paradoxical, the logic is that when staff are given chance to shine, it boosts their self-confidence which then carries over into other more difficult situations.  So following from that is Strategy #9 in employee development ideas: make it safe to make mistakes.

Make it safe to make mistakes

The old adage – you polish your skills by doing it right, but you learn from making mistakes – fully applies.  Development and growth only happens when people are willing to push the envelope, to go beyond the tried-and-true, to step outside their comfort zones and do something different.  But that comes with risks – that things may go wrong, or not work out as hoped or intended.  The risk is that when people go beyond what is currently being done, they may make a mistake, or even, in the harsh light of hindsight, fail.  But if it becomes dangerous to make mistakes, employees simply will stop taking risks of any sort. And then, they will ultimately stop learning and growing. Continue reading

Strategy #8 in our video series on developing your employees

In my last instalment on ideas for developing your employees, I suggested you ask further questions in response to questions asked by your employees.  Today’s tip in this series: find opportunities to showcase your people’s strengths.

Find opportunities to showcase your people’s strengths

An important component of developing your employees is to build up their self-esteem and their confidence, and when we, as leaders, can find ways to highlight and showcase their strengths, we set our people up to succeed!  Every employee has certain things they are good at.  Perhaps one of your staff members is very strong analytically, and a second is good at doing presentations.  Maybe one of your people is very detail-oriented, and another has a knack for seeing the big picture implications of a situation.  Yet another has demonstrated expertise in complicated negotiations.

Whatever an employee’s strengths, when you give assignments that emphasize those attributes, you also give the employee an opportunity to shine.  And when employees get the satisfaction that comes with not only doing the job well, but knowing that others also observe them at their best, their self-confidence climbs.  Continue reading

Six steps you can take today to work towards a leadership role tomorrow

If you aspire to be a manager or supervisor, your success in a future leadership role will depend significantly on making a critical mental shift from task management to people leadership. Let’s be clear – the two are not the same. In fact, the skills that lead to accomplishment as a “doer” of tasks are the very ones that will cause you to fail as “leader” of people. Because in a leadership role, your success no longer rests on just you; your success now depends on how well you can get things done through others.

So what do you need to do to position yourself for a future leadership role?

While still delivering results as an individual contributor, there are things you can do today to position yourself as a future leader, in the eyes of those who can help get you there.  And in my latest column for The Globe and Mail, I lay out six specific steps you can take.

Six steps to take today, toward a leadership role tomorrow

leadership role

If you get the print version of The Globe, you would have seen it on page B10 in Monday’s edition.

So these are top six ideas I share with my young (to leadership) clients.  But I’d love to hear your input.  If you’re a veteran leader, what advice would you offer?  And if you’re relatively new to leadership, what have been your experiences?  Please share by either commenting below, or if you wish, you can comment directly on The Globe’s site.

Boost employee development by asking further questions in response to an employee’s query

In last week’s video instalment in our ongoing series on specific ideas for employee development and growth, I told you that getting your staff to train others is a very powerful way to improve their skill level.  Here is another.  Answer questions with another question.

Answer questions with another question

As leaders, employees often come to us with questions, and our natural instinct is to answer.  After all, we’re the leaders, right?  But in fact, we can significantly boost employee development simply by choosing to instead ASK questions of our employees instead of just answering them.  Let me explain.

When an employee comes to you with an issue or challenge, just giving them an answer may seem like the most expedient approach, particularly if you happen to know the answer.  But you will be losing out on a perfect opportunity for employee development.  Instead, if you make it a point to ask open-ended questions, you will actually help the employee think through the situation and arrive at an acceptable solution, all the while, helping them grow in skill and confidence.

So what are open-ended questions?  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!