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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.

How complacency can freeze you

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. So said St. Augustine in the 4th century. And it's a doctrine that I've taken to heart.

However, one of the most exciting things about world travel can also be the most trying … I speak of course about the lack of amenities in some developing parts of the globe that we simply take for granted in countries such as Canada and the United States. On a recent overseas trip, I spent a few days in a rural community in India where I was harshly reminded that some of what I consider to be the basic necessities of life are actually luxuries in other parts of the world. I am so used to twirling a tap to get water or flicking a switch to get electricity that I have come to expect these conveniences without even giving it a second thought. In fact, I have become so complacent in expecting these services, that it led me to make some very poor decisions.

Before I left for India, I checked the daily temperatures – they ranged from 7 to 15 degrees Celsius (45 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) – in the areas that I was traveling to. Thinking as a girl who's spent most of her life in Canada (where we have central heating almost everywhere), I said to myself — "that's pretty good weather". And I packed accordingly. What I failed to take into account though was that most (all) buildings in these rural communities do not have central heating. Seven to fifteen degrees Celsius seems wonderful only because you can periodically return to a warmer house or office. But when you're in those temperatures, continuously, for several days, usually in concrete structures, you get chilled to the bone. After two days, I felt like I was completely frozen, and would never warm up again! Most people who live in these communities dress warmly during the winter, but I didn't take enough warm layers when I packed my bags! Oh yeah, it didn't help that the electricity was only intermittent, and as for hot water – oh, that was an extravagance. Sure, I can complain about what happened (and I did ), but at the end of the day, the ultimate responsibility was mine – I had become complacent about certain things, so much so that they were now baseline expectations, and as a result I made some very poor (packing) decisions.

Which brings me of course to the workplace. What aspects of your business and your department have you become complacent about? As a leader, what do you take as a given? Perhaps it's an assumption that a certain reliable employee will always be there (no matter how difficult circumstances get). Or that your product or service will always have a competitive advantage (it won't). Or that your customers will continue to forgive your product shortages or your service breakdowns (loyalty only lasts so long). The danger with becoming complacent about these so-called absolutes is that when they shift (and they always do), you will make inferior decisions (as I did). Good leaders fight complacency by playing the devil's advocate and asking provocative (and sometimes unpopular) questions. They deliberately and regularly question assumptions. They watch themselves (and their teams) to ensure that they don't become overconfident.

So, what examples of complacency have you observed that would serve as a lesson to leaders? What have been your experiences, both negative and positive? Please share online at the blog at:

Lessons from the United Airlines debacle (or how not to destroy your brand overnight)

You'd have to be under a rock or in a dark cave some place to have missed the firestorm that is United Airlines which ignited one Sunday night in early April. After all, it's not every day that an airline literally beats up its customer! Merge provided a great timeline and a summary of CEO's Oscar Munoz' mistakes in her April 12 blog post Essential leadership lessons from the United Airlines public relations debacle. But this was a topic that got so big that it simply wouldn't go away. Which led to her follow-up column Lessons from the United debacle (or how not to destroy your brand) which published in both the print and online editions of The Globe & Mail on April 19.

Leading virtual teams — launch of a new video tip series!

Earlier this year, Merge did a short series of 2-minute videos offering specific tips to help people make the transition to a first-time supervisory role. The video format was so popular that Merge decided to kick off a new video tip series a few weeks ago, this series on the challenges that are inherent in long-distance leadership — leading employees who are physically remote or "virtual". This series is not yet over (Merge is doing about one a week), but here are the links to the first four.

Mark your calendars for November 15, 2017

If you live and/or work in Southern Alberta, then I am thrilled to announce that I have just been confirmed as one of seven exciting experts who will be speaking at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary on November 15. In one power-packed day you and your leadership team will learn smart practices and fresh ideas to attract new customers, and turn current customers into raving fans. Enrolment is limited so register early.

Turning Managers into Leaders

  • Hire for attitude, not skills.
    You can't change a person's fundamental outlook on life, only they can. But you can teach them new skills. So hire for attitude!
  • Skills vs talent? Focus on skills.
    Continuing from a previous discussion about skills vs attitude, this explores the relationship of skills vs talent and which one a leader should focus on.

That Merge offers one-on-one mentoring to high-potential leaders?

Sometimes being in a leadership role feels like you're caught between a rock and a hard place! Your managers have increasing demands of you – greater productivity, improved customer service, and stronger leadership. Your staff have unrelenting questions and problems — process bottlenecks, escalating workloads, and interpersonal conflicts. And all the while, your time and resources dwindle. You know you're capable of getting things done; after all you have a proven track record that speaks for itself! But, things just aren't falling into place the way they normally do! At times like these, all you really need is a shot in the arm — someone to stand by your side and support you as you assess specific issues and determine your options and consequences. This is exactly where Merge can help! Find out more at our website, or read this Mentoring case study to get a better idea of Merge's approach.

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