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Welcome to Merge's Monthly Mega Minute – a bite-sized, yet substantial and practical, nugget of information that you can use immediately to enhance your professional and personal success.

The tale of the Vasa: one king's folly

In 1626, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden ordered the building of the Vasa, a new warship that was intended to become, for that era, the most powerful marine vessel in the Baltic Sea. As was common in warships then, the Vasa was to have a rank of cannons on each side of the boat so that soldiers could easily fire at their attackers, no matter what direction the assault came from.

King Adolphus considered himself something of an expert boat designer so he took an immense interest in the actual design of the ship. About mid-way during the ship's two year construction, he learned that Poland, his greatest archenemy (and rival to take control of the Baltic Sea), had stepped up their naval firepower by building warships with ranks of cannons on two levels. Well, Adolphus wasn't going to be outdone! There was no way that the Poles could have more firepower than him! So the king ordered that the Vasa should now also have cannons placed on two decks, lower and upper.

In vain did his advisors attempt to explain the flaw in the new design — specifically that the Vasa, given that it was already partially built, did not have enough ballast to support two heavy decks with cannons. But the king was adamant. So the construction continued and the number of cannons were doubled.

In 1628 the ship was finally finished and the shipbuilders conducted a safety test. Thirty sailors were selected to run back and forth from side to side on the ship to ensure that it was stable. The premise was that if the ship didn't tip over and sink, then all was well. Except that the ship starting tilting and rolling so much that the test was abandoned mid-way. You'd think that this would be the end of the story. Except that it wasn't.

On August 10, 1628 the mighty Vasa took to the sea for her maiden (and what turned out to be her final) voyage. She didn't get much more than a couple of miles out of port before the wind picked up and sent the ship on her side; she started taking on water rapidly, and within a matter of hours, she sank. The Vasa was lost.

The good King Adolphus was surrounded by a bevy of advisors, all there because at some point the king had determined that it was important to seek advice. Yet when the time came, he chose to ignore what they had to say. One school of thought is that if you believe in something strongly enough, you shouldn't pay attention to the nay-sayers. But there is an alternate point of view: if you've taken the trouble to surround yourself with people who are experts in their fields, then it's worth stopping to consider what they have to say. Certainly in this situation, history tells us that the latter approach would have been the wiser course of action.

So ... which school of thought do you subscribe to? Single-mindedly stick to your goals and see them through to the end, or listen to the experts who might tell you otherwise? I'd love to hear what you think. Please share your thoughts on the blog at:

P.S. A subsequent royal investigation into the sinking of the Vasa determined that it was an "Act of God" (probably because no one in their right mind was going to blame the king!) which promptly closed the file. The ship remained undersea until just the last century when, in 1961, she was raised and ultimately placed in the Vasa Muesum in Stockholm. Today, the museum hosts over one million visitors a year.

Braving the tides of the shifting retail industry

Merge's latest column for The Globe & Mail was inspired by two significant, yet polar opposite, events that occurred just recently in Canada's retail industry. The impending closure of a Canadian institution, Sears, contrasted with the almost-manic expansion of the online retailer, Amazon. In What it takes to thrive in a shifting retail industry, Merge uses the evolution of the quarterback as a metaphor to explain how traditional retail is being replaced by options that promote less interaction with people and more interaction with systems.

We have a whole new series of video tips planned for 2018!

This past year, by popular request, Merge posted a whopping total of 30 video blogs offering specific and practical ideas on how to make the switch from a non-supervisory to a management role, how to lead virtual teams, and how to make long-distance leadership work. The feedback has been so overwhelmingly positive that we've decided to keep it going. In 2018, Merge will be highlighting ideas to motivate your employees. Specifically, zero and low-cost ways to inspire, encourage and excite your people — to greater positivity and productivity, to higher performance and greater commitment. Hear about what she has planned.

The first-ever Customer Service Leadership Summit was a roaring success!

On November 15, Merge was privileged to share the stage with three of her exceptional speaker colleagues at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary AB. Jeff Mowatt, Michael Kerr and Tina Varughese joined Merge to present a day jam-packed with practical, relevant and thought-provoking ideas on how to turn your customers into raving fans. This year's event is now just a spectacular memory, but if you'd like a taste of what each speaker covered, you can find it in the short videos in this blog post from early November. There are plans to do this again in 2018, stay tuned for locations and dates.

Turning Managers into Leaders

That Merge is privileged to have worked with over 270 client organizations?

Sales managers, service managers, and government managers; C-suite executives, association executives and not-for-profit executives; franchise owners; academic leaders, student leaders, armed forces leaders, and healthcare leaders in just about every industry in countries all over the world are just some of the people Merge has worked with. And she'd love to work with you! Here is a partial client list.

Merge's professional practice is focused entirely on turning managers into leaders; on helping great people become exceptional leaders by turning people power into real and tangible results. Whether you need a keynote or a break-out session at your next conference or convention; customized leadership skills training; a fun and educational team-building event; help with facilitating a high-stakes meeting; consulting support on your people-related issues and projects; or one-on-one mentoring for your high-potential leaders; Merge can help!

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