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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.

What Canada geese can teach us about teamwork

If you live in Canada or the United States, you've no doubt seen the annual migration of flocks of Canada geese as they make the long journey each fall from the north to warmer climes down south. Maybe you've noticed that they always fly in a characteristic V-formation; perhaps you've even wondered why. The answer: because they know that teamwork pays!

When geese fly in the distinctive V, it's because each bird is taking advantage of lower air resistance and the free "lift" that occurs in the air upwash zones directly behind the bird in front. Essentially, all the birds (with the exception of the leader) are saving energy by freeloading off the air flow created by another flockmate. But the frontrunner isn't losing either. As the bird at the head of the pack gets tired, it falls back, and the bird behind takes on the leader role. Done repeatedly, it ensures that the flock is sharing the load. And as they make the long journey, the birds also honk at one another. Scientists hypothesize that they're shouting out instructions and warnings, or possibly even offering encouragement to one another.

If Canada geese can utilize these strategies to get farther faster, then so can teams in organizations. Imagine how much more successful workplace teams could be at accomplishing goals and achieving objectives if individual members came together to take advantage of group synergies. What if team members rotated the role of leader to not only share the workload but also foster commitment? And not only encouraged one another, but were also on the lookout for hazards and pitfalls that might cause team members to stumble? Sure, it's possible. I see it repeatedly with many clients in my leadership development practice. But in every case, it takes a leader who intentionally and deliberately creates an environment that cultivates teamwork, and consciously models what it takes to be a Canada goose.

So what is your experience? Are you (or have you seen) a leader who applies these lessons demonstrated by Canada geese on your team? Are there other lessons about teamwork that we can learn from our avian friends? Please share your experiences online at my blog:

This past month has been an eventful one in Merge's world of writing. On June 18, her new column for Profit magazine's online portal hit cyberspace; the very next day, on June 19, her latest column for The Globe & Mail was published online and it went on to the print edition on June 26. Also earlier this month, Food Service & Nutrition magazine published their Spring issue and featured Merge's article on motivating employees of different ages. Links for all these follow below.

Minimize distractions and maximize productivity

As a member of’s panel of business experts, Merge's latest column offers three practical strategies to minimize distractions, maximize productivity, and get more done. Read it here: How to stay focused by managing workflow interruptions.

Got a problem employee? Don’t whitewash

As you might expect from the title, this column in The Globe & Mail's Leadership Lab series is about "whitewash", a communication blunder that many managers make where they seek to address a problem behaviour by issuing a broad edict to many, instead of being direct and specific with the particular employee who is the concern. Not only does whitewash not achieve the desired outcome with the problem employee, but perhaps more damaging, it is demoralizing to the high-performers on the team. This article lays out the five key steps to structure your dialogue so YOU DON'T whitewash. Read it here: Got a problem employee? Don’t whitewash.

Motivating employees of different ages

What does it take to inspire and motivate employees of different ages? In the Spring 2015 issue of Food Service & Nutrition magazine (published by the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management), Merge outlines several specific ideas to answer this question. The key lies in understanding that different generations bring differing values and expectations to the workplace, and that results in divergent perspectives AND different workplace motivations. Read it here: The Age-Diverse Workplace: Inspiring the troops — all the troops.

Turning Managers into Leaders

That your opportunity to access leadership development training at TWO-THIRDS OFF (through a unique Canadian government initiative) will soon come to an end?

Earlier this year, the Canadian federal government launched a new national training initiative to build leadership competency in Canadian workplaces. Under this program, our clients located in Canada can get high-quality leadership development training for their employees at one-third of what it would normally cost. Yes, we said "one-third"! But ... the program is only in place until the funding runs out. Several of our clients have already taken advantage of this fantastic opportunity so don't miss out on your chance. If you've been thinking about giving your leaders the tools they need to communicate and work more effectively with their staff and colleagues, but an insufficient budget has held you back in the past, then contact us to find out how you can qualify.

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