Merge's Blog

Tag Archives: building synergy

Who should you have by your side?

stephaniestaplesStephanie Staples is a recovering burnout nurse and a serial entrepreneur who has founded three businesses.  As she says, 🙂 two of those were successful, and one a nightmare … but you can’t win them all! She is a speaker, radio host and consultant, and I am proud to also call her my professional colleague and friend.  Today she guests on the blog, with a wonderful metaphor about who you should have by your side, as part of your personal support structure, to help you achieve great things in your life and career.

Who’s in your Front Seat – and Who should be in the Back?

No man is an island, it takes a village to raise a child, we can’t go it alone … All these clichés to say we need people to get through this crazy thing called life. 

Not just any people though – top-quality people.  Some people call it their dream team, their empowerment team or their board of directors – I call it front seat passengers.  The special people we want to ride with us on this journey of life and we want them in the front seat – helping us navigate, advising us as necessary, encouraging us when we are not sure and cheering for us when we avoid an accident or make a great move.  Some people are in the front seat of our cars because they are family, some are there because they have been there for a long, long time, some are there because they put themselves there. Still others are there out of habit, obligation, fear or plain laziness on our part to get them out. Continue reading

Build synergy and goodwill – the metaphor of compound interest

YogaClassThere is a classic Aesop’s fable about the value of synergy – when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  I was reminded of this fable when my yoga instructor said something to our group while in practice the other day that caught my attention, and stayed with me long after the hot and exhausting session was over.  She said to think of every practice as a deposit into your metaphoric health bank account.  And as sequential deposits build up the total balance, the impact of the compounding interest becomes increasingly visible.  As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that it’s very true, but not just in the context of physical health; it also applies in the workplace environment.

Think about workplace relationships.  When you invest time and energy into building individual relationships with your staff and co-workers – show empathy, lend a helping hand when required, offer a kind ear when it’s needed the most, engage in meaningful small talk – you essentially build goodwill.  Ergo, you make deposits.  And when you make many deposits, the value starts to compound and the goodwill you build grows exponentially, much like compound interest does in a financial bank account.  And goodwill matters!  Continue reading

What long-nosed bats can teach us about teamwork

I often blog about what the animal kingdom can teach us about teamwork – Canada geese, meerkats, crabs, ants and penguins have all come up in the past. So regular readers of the blog will not be surprised by today’s post about long-nosed bats. 🙂

LongnoseBatsLong-nosed bats, endemic to Central America, have a unique approach to discouraging predators. They feed primarily at night, so during the day they roost in a number of places, one of which is the surface of tree trunks. However, most trees are usually out in the open, so in daylight, the little bats can become very tempting morsels to predatory birds. Enter teamwork. Before settling down for the day’s nap, groups of eight to sixteen bats arrange themselves in a roughly vertical line, to take on the appearance of a long snake. When a hungry bird approaches hoping for a delicious delicacy, the bats’ defence mechanism is to individually move back and forth within the vertical formation to create the combined effect of a large snake about to strike. The cautious bird, vigilant of poisonous snake venom, flies off to find easier prey. Brilliant!

So what are the lessons here for leaders about teamwork? I see at least three. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

There is great strength in teamwork

This is a clever video I came across several months ago that emphasizes the importance of teamwork (demonstrated by crabs, ants and penguins, no less!). If I recall correctly, it is actually excerpted from a series of advertisements for a company that offers group insurance, but I have not been able to verify that. Nevertheless, the underlying message is “Union is strength; it’s smarter to travel in groups”. Take a quick look, and as you’re watching, think about what lessons in teamwork leaders could learn from these.

So what are the lessons here for leaders? Here are the ones I came up with: Continue reading

Four lessons about teamwork from the meerkat

Meerkats – denizens of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa – by rights, they shouldn’t even be able to survive. They’re tiny; living in an inhospitable, dry and scorching environment; for all practical purposes, defenseless; and surrounded by predators. To add insult to injury, they have to dig for their food – and not just a little digging; but up to several times their body weight just to get one small morsel of a caterpillar or beetle larvae. Yet, cute, frenzied, tough and tenacious, survive they do, and quite successfully. Their secret? Teamwork.

Continue reading

Empty Your Email Inbox and Fill Your Team – Part II

DeriLatimer2As promised, Deri Latimer is back as a guest on the blog today, continuing from her post earlier this week in which she gave us ten specific ideas to reduce the amount of time you spend managing your email. Now that you have all this free time :), Deri’s post today focuses on eleven things you can do to invest in your people.

Now that your inbox is less full, and you are less imprisoned by a deluge of email, start instilling practices to fill your team. Some of the many possibilities include:

  1. Help. Give your team what they need most. Often you will find that what they need is some simple assistance from you. A vote of confidence to make a decision, certain tools to do the job properly, permission to vent (and then problem solve) about a frustrating customer/client experience. Continue reading

Great teams make it “look easy”

Earlier this month I spoke at the PMAC Conference in Moncton NB.  As it is with almost all my speaking engagements, it was a delightful experience – a receptive and participatory audience, helpful and cheerful staff, great networking and relevant content – overall, a meeting that was well-designed and perfectly delivered.  What most people were not aware of though was the feverish and furious activity that was going on behind the scenes.  You see … just the previous week, seven short days before the biggest and most important meeting of the year, the primary meeting planner for the conference had left this organization. So for the past week, a small team of staff had stepped in to fill the void.  Frantic and frenzied, they pulled together, figured out what needed to be done, and set out to flawlessly deliver.  Sleeves were rolled up, job descriptions went out the door, and the team pulled together to make it look easy.  No doubt there were a myriad of crises, small and large, happening from moment to moment, hour to hour, but as a team, the staff dealt with the issues and shouldered forward.  Did everything work out as perfectly as they would have liked?  Probably not.  But all in all, what I observed was a testament to great teamwork, and I extend my compliments to the staff for a job well done!

I have always believed that the true sign of a great team is their ability to make it “look easy”, despite chaos and mayhem behind closed doors.  Building a great team is your job as a leader, but the proof of your success (or lack thereof) will be seen in times of crisis.  What do you think would happen if your team were faced with such a crisis?  Would they band together and come through in the crunch, or scatter like rats on a sinking ship?   What are some of the things that you do, consciously and deliberately, to build a better team?  Please share.

Is it better to go fast, or is it better to go farther?

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together

– African proverb

A business colleague sent me this quote today … and it struck a chord. Last week I was exploring coaching skills with a group of professionals, most of whom didn’t have any staff formally reporting to them. One of our many conversations centered on how it was a lot easier to get things done by yourself. After all, involving someone else usually means that you have to invest time in explaining things, even if they have the necessary skills and knowledge. And if they don’t have the relevant background, then it takes even greater time and resources to train them. “Far simpler and less complicated to just do it myself,” several of them said. But of course the problem with this point of view is that it is short-term thinking. Yes, it is faster to go it alone, but what happens when situations arise in the future where you have other more pressing priorities? If you haven’t invested energy in building others’ knowledge and expertise, then you’re on your own! Long-term sustainability depends on building relationships and fostering teamwork, on developing capabilities in others so that you can count on support when you need it.

What do you think? Is it better to go fast, or is it better to go farther? I would love to hear your perspective.

Three lessons in teamwork from the world of dolphins

Dolphins feeding
Dolphins feeding

Dolphins usually live and travel in pods, in groups of up to a dozen individuals.  This social behaviour serves many purposes, not the least of which is foraging for food.  Dolphins employ techniques called herding and corralling to be more effective and efficient in their hunting.  Behaving much like sheepdogs, a pod of dolphins will circle and herd a school of fish into a tightly-packed “bait ball”, and if possible, even corral them into shallow water.  Once there, the dolphins then take turns plowing through the bait ball, gorging on the fish as they sweep through.  Scientists have observed that the dolphins have such control of this method that it is almost impossible for the fish to escape until all the dolphins have had their fill.  Working as a team, the dolphins are much more successful (and skillful) than if they worked alone.

What can we learn about teamwork and collaboration from dolphins? Three things.  Continue reading