Merge's Blog

Category Archives: Self-development Tools

Three things you can do right now to stay disciplined

say disciplinedDistractions are, unfortunately, a reality in our professional lives nowadays.  In fact, I’ve previously blogged about how often we lose focus at work by the well-known (and notorious) “squirrel” and I’ve subsequently asked you how you minimize distractions and stay disciplined.  Which is why I am thrilled to welcome our guest blogger today.  Mark Black is my professional colleague and my friend, but he was also only 24 when he found himself lying in a hospital bed clinging to life, praying for a life-saving heart and double-lung transplant. Three short years later, he was crossing the finish line of his first of four marathons.  So if anyone can give us practical advice on how to stay disciplined, manage distractions, and help us build resilience so that we can thrive in challenging times, it is Mark!

“Stay disciplined” may not be popular, but it works!

What do you think of when you read the word “discipline? If you are like many people, it probably brings up negative emotions. When most of us think of discipline, we think of experiences from our childhood where our parents “disciplined” us. It’s no wonder then, that most of us associate it with punishment and have a negative impression of it. That’s too bad.

Discipline is actually a very positive word. If you look at its origins, the word discipline comes from the Latin word “disciplina” which means: “”instruction given, teaching, learning, knowledge”. To be disciplined then, means to be someone who accepts teaching and seeks learning and knowledge. Sounds good to me. 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.

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.

What bungee cords are preventing you from moving forward?

moving forwardLast April, here on the blog I asked the question: What’s stopping you from moving forward?  And to answer it, I used the metaphor of paddling a kayak.  Today, I have another metaphor to address the same question.

Imagine a bungee cord

Imagine a bungee cord.  One end is attached to a fixed object and the other is hooked to the back of your belt.  As long as you stay close to the stationary end, the cord remains loose and there is no tension.  But as you walk away, the slack in the cord will begin to tighten and you’ll feel a pull on your back.  Continue to step away and you’ll find that eventually it will be a struggle to keep going. In fact, not only will the bungee cord hold you back from moving forward, but you will also be at serious risk of either losing your pants or getting smacked by a broken bungee.

All of us have bungee cords attached to us, links to the past that hold us back from moving forward.  And the more we try to get ahead, the more the stress and tension grows forcing us to stay where we are.  And often the fear of losing our pants or getting smacked by the broken bungee keeps us from continuing to try. Continue reading

Work-life balance is a myth, seek work-life blend instead

For years, nay decades, there’s been talk of work-life balance – that delicate equilibrium between the time you spend at work and that which you dedicate to family, social and leisure activities, and personal interests.  In fact, I too have often penned posts (such as this one) that seek to achieve just that.  But work-life balance is a myth, a non-achievable nirvana that few (if any) have realized. So it’s long past the time to let this obsolete idea go. Instead, it’s time to embrace work-life blend.

In my latest column in The Globe and Mail, I explain how the word “balance” implies that a negative – work – needs to be offset by a positive – life. But there shouldn’t be anything negative about earning a living.  Work-life blend acknowledges that trying to isolate work from life is not only impossible, but also places immense amounts of anxiety and tension on those trying to do so.

Work-life balance is a myth

work-life blend

Shifting to work-life blend doesn’t happen overnight

So what will it take to reposition from balance to blend?  That’s exactly what I address in this column which published in yesterday’s print edition of The Globe.  If you get the print version, 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/2zIvkMH

So I’ve already heard from several readers on The Globe‘s site who are not impressed with my point of view.  They believe that my suggestion of work-life blend is just another way to further reduce “life” time.  But I’d love to hear what you think as well.  Do you agree or disagree with my perspective?  Please add your thoughts below.

Dealing with adversity – wisdom from mom!

Dealing with adversity is a subject that I often address in my blog posts.  Two that come to mind right away are A mental approach to coping with irritants and An ageless folktale about dealing with adversity.  Here is yet another thought on this subject.

Face your adversity head-on

personfacingsun

When you turn and face the sun, your shadow will always be behind you …

Said my mom to me on numerous occasions during both my childhood and adulthood.  Her point was that the best way to deal with a problem was to address it directly.  The unfortunate reality is that as long as I tried to keep evading the issue at hand, either by skirting around it or by avoiding it completely, the shadows would also linger, and eventually the outcome would be sub-optimal.  As usual, my mom was right.  And it turns out that my mom’s counsel is not bad advice for leaders either.

The leadership journey is fraught with minefields – unexpected setbacks, difficult clients and co-workers, or just simply situations where the best-laid plans go awry.  When things go wrong, it can be tempting to retreat, to search out cover, and get out of the line of fire.  At first glance, this may not be a bad idea, since withdrawal allows you to re-evaluate and reassess the state of affairs.  But while pausing to reflect may be appropriate for the short-term, it is definitely not a long-term solution.  Continue reading

Reverse mentoring: working one-on-one with a younger colleague can help you stay relevant

reverse mentoringI often discuss the value of one-on-one mentoring relationships with my clients as well as here on the blog (in fact, one-on-one mentoring makes up a significant portion of my professional practice).  The assumption with mentoring is often that it is a one-way effort – veteran staff mentoring younger employees.  However, there is just as much value in reverse mentoring – where senior employees benefit from a one-on-one learning relationship with someone who is much younger.  The value can come in many aspects, but the most beneficial is likely in the area of technology.

When it comes to technology, there are many tools and resources out there that you may have never heard about.  So if you are over 35 years old, it’s worth considering a reverse mentoring relationship with a younger work colleague.  Ask your younger mentor what trends they are observing and what new technologies they are trying out.  Ask them to show you how these tools work.  Tell them about the work-related challenges you are facing and see if they have solutions to offer that you may not have considered, or for that matter, even know about. Continue reading

4 steps to finding a personal brand

Last month, reporter Sarah Ovaska-Few from Financial Management magazine reached out to me for an article she was writing on what it takes to find and build a personal brand.  As regular readers of the blog know, I have spoken and written on this subject before (see Five ways to build a kick-ass brand) so I was delighted to see if I could be of value to her.

Taking time to reflect on your personal brand can help focus your career goals

Here is a link to an online copy of her article which published earlier this month:

4 steps to finding a personal brand

personal brand

In it, Sarah interviews not only yours truly, but also Dima Ghawi, an executive who went through a personal branding process.  The premise in this article is that if you refine your personal brand, it can help you weigh your career options, highlight your skills, and thus eventually focus your career goals.  Definitely worth a read if you’re thinking about where and how you want your career to grow and progress.

What are your thoughts?  What advice do you have to offer those who are seeking to define their own personal brand?  I would love to hear about your experiences and decisions.

Could artificial intelligence replace accountants (or any other profession)?

Just this past April, in my regular column in The Globe and Mail, I put forward the premise that artificial intelligence is the next frontier in the evolution of customer service.  But of course it isn’t just customer service that is being impacted by artificial intelligence (AI); just about every profession and business process is affected.  Which led to the subject of my latest column for Canadian AccountantHow to prosper in the age of accounting robots.

Professionals should embrace (rather than fear) artificial intelligence

Given the significant proliferation of artificial intelligence into the world of accounting, the question being asked by many accountants is whether the accounting profession itself is being threatened.  Could accountants be replaced by automation, just like the switchboard operator, the film projectionist and the elevator operator?  And if so, what can accountants do to not only protect their careers, but prosper in the age of the accounting robots? Continue reading

What does it take to be recognized as a high-potential employee?

Last month, I told you all how excited I was to be one of the featured speakers at the Elevate Your Mind conference presented by the Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) of Alberta in Edmonton at the Shaw Conference Centre on May 14, 2018.  This is an organization that I have partnered with for several years on a variety of learning events, so I am very excited that they are welcoming me back to “elevate
the skills of professionals in any stage of their career.  My session on May 14 is titled Are you a HiPo?, and I am looking forward to giving attendees specific high-energy and fast-paced ideas to get recognized as a high-potential employees in their organizations.

Registration is open now

Registration is open now, so if you’re thinking about attending, don’t delay!  This link will take you directly to the registration page.  Even though this event is organized by CPA Alberta, registration is open to anyone from any organization.  If you belong to a profession that requires ongoing professional education credits, then this may be a perfect (and fun!) way to get a head start on 2018’s requirements.  Here is a link to the Conference Agenda page, with additional links to more information.

Wondering what a HiPo is?

P.S. In case you’re wondering, HiPos are those employees who have been tagged as the Continue reading