Merge's Blog

Tag Archives: employee success

Maximize introvert power by tapping into their strengths

Extroversion versus introversion.  Despite numerous studies and anecdotal situations that show otherwise, people still continue to assume that somehow extroverts are more successful in the workplace than introverts.  As I have blogged about in the past, that is simply not true.  Introvert power comes from tapping into what makes introverts different from extroverts, and not by taking on more extrovert traits.  In fact, in the past I have blogged about how introverts lead, and how introverts network.

Which is why I was delighted when my professional colleague Dave Byrnes agreed to guest on the blog today.  Dave is known as The Introverted Networker, and not surprisingly, he helps introverts use sales and networking to succeed in their business and careers.  Today he writes about how leaders (extroverts or introverts) can help their introverted employees maximize their introvert power and productivity.

Convert Your Introverts for Greater Productivity

There has been a lot of press about the power of introverts and their differences from extroverts in recent times. While better understanding is great as a leader, you may be asking yourself how this affects the bottom line.

How can you turn these insights into increased productivity from your introverts and improve job satisfaction so they stick around longer? Continue reading

Skills vs talent? Focus on skills

Last week I blogged about how one should hire for attitude, not skills.  My post prompted a few emails from readers, and it got me thinking not just about skills vs attitude, but about skills vs talent.  What exactly is the difference between attitude and talent?  For the definitive answer, I went to my dictionary.

Attitude vs talent

An attitude is a mental position, a feeling, or an emotion with regard to a fact or state.

A talent is a special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude.

So, an attitude is a state of mind, a talent is an aptitude, so innate or a natural ability which is inborn.

Last week, when I talked about skills vs attitude, I said that skills were teachable and attitude isn’t, and I still stand behind that statement.  When I compare talent to attitude though, talent, for the most part, is even more intrinsic than attitude.  At least a person can choose to change their attitude; but talents are there from birth and so while they can be honed and enhanced, they cannot be acquired over time.

Skills vs talent

skills vs talentSo it got me thinking about skills vs talent.  According to my definitions, skills are teachable, but talents aren’t.  Or wait a minute … are they?  A leader’s job is to effect change in people, by creating an environment in which people will choose to change.  If skills can be learned but talent is inherent, then as leaders, we should always assume that everything our employees are required to do are skills.  Because this assumption allows our employees to believe that the changed behaviour can be learned.  If we assume that the behaviours we desire are talents, then there is no room for people to learn.

This sounds circuitous, so let me explain why the skills vs talent notion is important.  Continue reading

When you set people up to fail, the pain lasts longer than you might think

Last month I got pulled over by local law enforcement and was issued a $310 ticket and a summons to appear in court.  The ticket was legitimate; after all I was (unbeknownst to me) driving around town with an expired registration.  But the whole mess caused me to ask the question: Are you (inadvertently) taking actions that set people up to fail?  My premise was that the province of Alberta made a unilateral change in its procedures earlier this year without notifying those who were directly affected.  And that’s a sure-fire recipe for setting people up to fail!  The change: vehicle owners would no longer receive a reminder that their registration was expiring; it was now their responsibility to track expiry dates and renew accordingly.  And, you might ask, how were people to become aware of this change?  The assumption was that people would find out through announcements in traditional and social media.  Unfortunately, and to my bad luck, I was traveling out of the country during the “media blitz” and was blissfully unaware of the change … until of course I got pulled over by one of the boys in blue.

So on July 20th I made my way down to the local provincial courthouse to do as the ticket had commanded – present myself to a Justice of the Peace to make my case, and if I was not successful, to pay the fine.  Simple, right?  Wrong.  When I arrived, there were approximately 75 people in line ahead of me, many of whom were there for exactly the same violation.  Continue reading

Are you (inadvertently) taking actions that set people up to fail?

Police_Giving_TicketSo I got pulled by a police officer the other day; and got a first-hand experience of what it takes to set people up to fail.  Turns out my vehicle registration had expired on April 30, and apparently I have been driving with expired plates for over six weeks.  Twenty minutes and a $310 fine later, I made my way to the vehicle registration office to renew the offending document.  Now you might ask why I was driving with an expired certificate (the officer did).  My answer – I didn’t know that it had expired!  You see, for the last more than 30 years, I have always received a notice in the mail a few weeks before the registration was due to expire, which was my reminder to make a visit to the renewals office.  This year though, there has been a change in procedures in the province of Alberta.  The applicable government agency made a decision in March of this year that effective April 1, they would no longer send out renewal notices via mail, a move designed to save the province (and taxpayers) roughly $3 million per year.  Instead, drivers are expected to go online and sign up for email notifications.  Hey, I’m all for saving money, but wouldn’t it have been more intelligent to send out one last notice in the mail advising people that the province was switching to email notifications only?  I get that email notifications are a more cost-effective solution, but how exactly was I supposed to know that I needed to sign up for this?  Making a unilateral change without a reasonable effort to advise those affected is inherently designed to set people up to fail! (See Are you guilty of setting your employees up to fail?)

Sure, the penalty is legitimate (I was driving with expired plates after all) and I’ll pay it.  Continue reading

Forced ranking of employees is a foolish approach

It’s up!  After a short hiatus from writing for The Globe & Mail, my latest column is out in cyberspace, and this edition addresses a subject that is controversial in many of my client organizations, particularly larger ones — the topic of forced ranking of employee performance.  In Forced employee ranking is a foolish approach, I make the case for why bell-curving and forced numerical ranking have absolutely no place in high-performance workplaces.

G&M051016So … you know my opinion on this subject, but I’d love to know what you think.  Forced employee ranking – brilliant concept or stupid management practice?  If possible, please share your perspectives directly on the The Globe‘s site since your point of view will get a much wider audience than if you choose another alternative.  But I’m always open to hearing from you directly as well, so you can post your comments here on the blog, or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks) with your thoughts too.

And one last thing — do me a HUGE favour – help me get the word out … share the link with your staff and colleagues (easiest directly from The Globe’s site using the share icon at the very top of the article).  My objective is always to get conversations started, so the more people that react to this column means deeper and extended dialogue, which is always a good thing!  In advance, please accept my thanks for your help.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere: http://tgam.ca/EOig

Is business networking difficult for you?

networkingThe benefits of business networking are invaluable. When you meet new people, you learn interesting ideas, build relationships outside your immediate circle, and create an environment that cultivates new opportunities. But, many people, particularly those who consider themselves introverts, find initiating conversations with strangers to be awkward and uncomfortable. In the past, I’ve addressed this in several posts including this one: Introverts can be great networkers too! Here are three more ideas to help get the dialogue going. Continue reading

Build resiliency in your employees

As leaders we care about our employees’ intellectual capital, and even their social capital. But we don’t always concern ourselves with our employees’ psychological capital. We should. If you aren’t sure what these three phrases mean, an easy way to understand it is to think of intellectual capital as what people know, and social capital as who they know. Psychological capital, on the other hand, is who they are, or who they are becoming. And there is a growing amount of research that shows that employees with high psychological capital are more productive and perform better in the workplace. The crux of psychological capital is resiliency, the ability to overcome challenges (both routine and traumatic) and bounce back stronger, wiser and more personally powerful.

eggRubberBallA powerful visual to demonstrate resiliency is to compare a raw egg to a rubber ball. When you drop a raw egg, it breaks, scattering yolk and albumen everywhere, creating an unpleasant mess that someone will have to clean up. Conversely, when you drop a rubber ball, it bounces back up within seconds, with no harm done, either to itself or those around it. As a leader, your role is to help your employees shift from being raw eggs and grow and develop into rubber balls.   Continue reading

Forced ranking is a foolish idea!

A few weeks ago, my blog post titled Ranking employees on a bell curve is a stupid practice! resulted a significant number of emails arriving on my desktop. Clearly this post got your attention! The vast majority who wrote were in agreement with me, and several went on to also talk about the practice of forced ranking. Forced ranking, in case you don’t know, is a “lighter” version of bell-curve ranking; it’s the process of comparing all your employees and putting them in order of best to worst. For the record, I think forced ranking is a foolish idea as well.

Let me be clear – I don’t have a problem with assessing an individual’s performance and recognizing that some employees are higher performers than others – I am certainly not a supporter of the “everyone is a winner” camp – but it’s the process of forcing every single person into a rank order that I find objectionable. My reason? Continue reading

Don’t let ego and pride get in the way of good leadership

curlingI don’t often follow the sport of curling, but something happened earlier this month during the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier that caught my attention – in fact, a prime example of good leadership in action. After a heartbreaking 8-4 loss on March 2 that put them in the dangerous position of not making the playoffs, Team Canada’s captain (skip), John Morris, made the decision to switch roles with Pat Simmons, one of the other three members on the team. He promoted Pat to the role of skip and took on the role of sweeper. Not only did John give up his leadership role, but if you’re familiar with curling, then you know that skips and sweeps do very different activities on the ice. When asked, John said “I feel we needed a bit of a spark out there and it felt great … I think this is our best chance right now.” It turned out to be the right decision. Team Canada won their game the next day, and subsequently went on to the win it all at the gold medal game on March 8.

What caught my attention was two-fold. First, that John Morris made the difficult decision to step down from his role as leader and hand the reins over to Pat Simmons, Continue reading

Ranking employees on a bell curve is a stupid practice!

BellCurveAs regular readers of the blog know, I am a huge proponent of measuring performance as a way to achieve goals. In fact, I shared my own personal experience about this last year in Want to achieve your goals? The answer lies in performance measurement. And so I am always pleased when leaders in organizations measure and track performance as a way to motivate employees and celebrate successes. But there is one aspect of the performance review process (particularly in large organizations) that drives me absolutely nuts. It’s this requirement in many companies that managers and supervisors fit their employees into pre-set slots on a bell curve.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, bell curving has its roots in the educational system where the objective is to minimize or eliminate the influence of variation between different instructors of the same course, ensuring that the students in any given class are assessed relative to their peers. At the end, a bell curve ensures a balanced and normal distribution of academic results. The problem is that this simply does not make sense in a work environment. It basically forces a manager to say that a certain percentage of his/her employees are sub-par. Repeatedly. Every year. Continue reading