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Tag Archives: inspiring workplaces

Need to inspire and re-ignite your team? Harness the Diderot effect

What is the Diderot Effect?  Simply put, a social phenomenon in which, when a consumer obtains a new possession, it creates a spiral of consumption that leads to the acquisition of even more possessions.  These examples may sound familiar.  You buy a new piece of clothing, and immediately you start looking for new shoes, a new belt, or other accessories.  Or when you replace the carpet in your living room, suddenly the window coverings seem dated and tired, so you need to replace those as well.  Or you finally purchase a new car.  But now you need premium gasoline, and new floor mats (the ones from the old vehicle will no longer do), and other assorted car-related paraphernalia.  This is the Diderot Effect.

denis_diderot“Regrets on Parting With My Old Dressing Gown”

The effect was first described in an essay “Regrets on Parting With My Old Dressing Gown” written by the French philosopher Denis Diderot in 1769.  In it, he describes how he received a gift of a beautiful scarlet dressing gown which while he was initially pleased with, led to unexpected results, eventually putting him into debt.  Once he had a fashionable new dressing gown, the rest of his possessions seemed cheap, so he started making purchases to live up to the new level of elegance and style.  He replaced his old straw chair, for example, with an armchair covered in Moroccan leather; his old desk was replaced with an expensive new writing table; his formerly beloved prints were replaced with more costly prints, and so on.   He writes in his essay” “I was absolute master of my old dressing gown but I have become a slave to my new one.” Continue reading

What the earth sciences can teach us about creating a positive workplace culture

As regular readers of the blog know, I often discuss what it takes to create the right workplace culture.  A recent conversation with a manager at a client organization made me realize something that I (even though I instinctively know) have never fully articulated before – that the most powerful and positive workplace cultures are created over time.  Let me explain.

colcacanyonperuColca Canyon in southern Peru is one of the deepest in the world, and at a depth of 3,270 metres (10,730 ft), it is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States.  Looking at it from above, you might think that this colossal fissure on the earth’s surface was created by an earthquake or other cataclysmic event.  It wasn’t.  The Colca Canyon was formed by thousands and thousands of years of erosion of volcanic rock along the line of a fault on the crust of the earth.  Unceasing erosion – water erosion from the Colca River that flows through the mountains of rock; and wind erosion carrying away the loose sediment exposing even more surface area to the elements – created the spectacular geological formation we see today.  The Colca Canyon wasn’t the result of sudden dramatic change, it is the outcome of thousands of small changes, over time.

Small changes, over time, produce significant results

Small changes, over time, can produce significant results; it’s a thought worth considering as a leader in your workplace.  Continue reading

Is your customer service helping you laugh all the way to the bank?

MikeKerr1Later this year in November, I will be sharing the mainstage platform with my professional colleague, friend and all-round funny guy Michael Kerr at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary.  Which is why I am thrilled that he agreed to guest on the blog again today.  Well that, and of course, because his messages are always so on-point.  Last time Mike was my guest on the blog, he wrote about the Seven messages leaders need to deliver to their customer service team.  Today, he poses the question:

Is Your Customer Service Helping You Laugh All the Way to the Bank?

One way to exceed your customers’ expectations and stand out from the herd to be heard over your competition is to look for creative ways to add a bit of fun to your customer service. Here are just a few ideas from my latest book, The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank, to help you get your creative juices flowing: Continue reading

Seven messages leaders need to deliver to their customer service team

mikekerr3My professional colleague and friend Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker and the author of six books, including The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank.  He is also my guest blogger today, writing about what it takes to create an organizational culture that is focused on customer service.  Even though I’ve often blogged about specific situations that demonstrate what it takes to build (or destroy) customer loyalty (for example, Tilley Endurables, G Adventures, United Airlines, and Sahara Furniture), Michael’s post today comes at this subject from a more macro perspective.  Good reading, I hope you find it of value as well.

P.S. Michael and I will be sharing the mainstage platform (with two other exceptional speakers) at the Customer Service Leadership Summit in Calgary later this year on November 15.  More information about the Summit is at the end of this post below.

A young woman approached me after a talk recently and asked me the following question:  “I’m a brand new leader overseeing a large customer service department and I really want to drive home the importance of customer service,  so what messages could I deliver to help my employees embrace a service-first attitude?”

Seven messages you should heed

Here’s the gist of what I relayed to her –  seven messages I think any customer service leader needs to tell their employees around the topic of customer service. Continue reading

What can goldfish teach us about creating a positive working environment?

Goldfish in aquarium isolated on white background.

Creating a positive working environment is key if you want your department or organization to reach new heights and accomplishments.  And trust in the workplace is a critical component.  But a positive working environment comes from something much more basic and fundamental.  Let me explain.

Did you know that goldfish only grow to the size of their enclosure?

Which is ironic, given that goldfish are actually indeterminate growers, which means that unlike humans, they have the ability to grow until they die.  In fact, depending on the breed, goldfish can grow to a maximum of 4 to18 inches!  But most of them don’t.  They don’t because they are restricted, both by tank size, and the poor quality of their water.  Small aquariums and fishbowls usually have little or no filtration, and often infrequent water changes; as a result, the water quality is typically poor, and the goldfish’s growth is stunted.  So they remain, underdeveloped and constricted, held back from reaching their full potential.

The leader sets the tone

Which takes me to the leader’s role in the workplace.  Continue reading

Sleep-deprived leaders aren’t very inspiring!

sleep-at-the-deskThis blog is all about what it takes to be an inspirational leader, and sometimes I even blog about how to inspire a certain category of employee (see my Globe & Mail article titled How to inspire the close-to-retirement employee).  Today though, my guest blogger and good friend Dr. David Merrell has a completely different view on the subject of what it takes to be a leader who inspires others – apparently one who gets enough sleep!  Turns out that the research shows that sleep-deprived leaders aren’t very inspiring!  Dr. Merrell is founder of the Merrell Clinic that, among other things, focuses on common sleep disorders, and I am delighted that he is joining us on blog today to talk about something that should (but usually isn’t) discussed a whole lot more!

x —————— x —————— x

Need an extra coffee to stay focused and non-combative in the meeting room?  Retail coffee outlets are struggling for market share and very grateful for your additional latte purchases.  Unfortunately, a caffeine boost is a temporary improvement for a growing and often chronic situation for leaders – Sleep DeprivationChristopher Barnes, at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, showed Sleep-Deprived Leaders Are Less Inspiring.  They tend to be less charismatic because they are less effective at regulating their displays of positive emotion.  Barnes group also looked at team members who were sleep deprived and showed they were more difficult to inspire.  They demonstrated that insufficient sleep makes for grumpier managers and team workers. Continue reading

Five ways to jump start a culture shift in your organization

MikeKerr2Earlier this week, my professional colleague and buddy Michael Kerr wrote a guest piece titled Creating culture shift.  I promised he’d be back with a follow-up piece and here it is – five ways to jump-start a cultural shift in your organization.

Here are five ways to help you jump start a cultural shift in your organization:

  1. Focus on the Important Stuff: Within less than a year the Denmark supermarket chain Irma transformed their culture (and saved their business) when the CEO decided to try a revolutionary new approach: putting people first. To achieve that goal the company focused on three areas: Leadership training based on personal development, open communication (including a very personal and heartfelt weekly newsletter that helped build trust and openness), and celebrating positive results. And yes, within less than a year Irma became profitable and today is recognized as one the best workplaces in Denmark and the best retailer to work for in Europe.        Continue reading

Creating culture shift

MikeKerr1Michael Kerr is my professional colleague (and a good friend) who helps companies create more inspiring workplace environments.  He’s a busy guy though; in fact the last time he guested on the Turning Managers into Leaders blog was four years ago in October 2010 when he wrote Subversive workplace humor can be a cover for some uncomfortable truths!  Fortunately he found time to return, not only today, but with a follow-up post later this week.  Thank you Mike!  Glad you’re here!

As I travel the world researching inspiring workplaces, a simple question I’ve put to more than 100 leaders is, “What has been the most important driver of your success, your business strategy or culture?”   A resounding 90% have answered, “Culture.”  As Kim Axelson, the passionate CEO of AFA JCDecaux (an outdoor advertising company that has received numerous accolades for its culture and business success) told me when we sat down together for three hours in his Copenhagen office: “The best business strategy in the world won’t survive in the long run without a strong culture to move it forward. For us, culture has been the key to success in every aspect of our business.” Continue reading

Motivating workers near retirement – 1310 News Radio Ottawa interview

Last month, I posted a link to my latest column in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series.  “How to inspire the close-to-retirement employee” got so much attention that it went on to publish in the print edition of The Globe‘s Report on Business on August 29.  1310NewsThis subject of workers near retirement struck a chord with leaders (and employees) across the country, and Ed Hand from 1310 News Radio Ottawa invited me to be his guest on his popular talk show Talk to the Hand.  Here is a link to an archived version of my conversation with him.  There is some advertising at the front end (just a few seconds) but the interview follows right after.  If you’ve got workers near retirement on your team (or if you ARE an employee that is close-to-retirement) then I think you’ll get value from this. Continue reading

How to inspire the close-to-retirement employee

My newest column in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series just launched into cyberspace this morning!

“How to inspire the close-to-retirement employee”

addresses this question that I am often asked in leadership training workshops and mentoring situations — “How do I elicit high performance from someone who is close – and coasting – to retirement?”


As most of you know, my last three columns in The Globe went viral; apparently the subject of millennials in the workplace can be quite controversial! 🙂  I of course was thrilled to bits that they stimulated so many conversations on the online boards, as well as around water coolers in organizations across the country.  But in today’s column, I decided to go in a another direction, focusing on a different demographic — Boomers on the verge of retirement who are either doing an adequate job (no more, no less), or in some cases, have mentally already left the building.

As always, and I hope it goes without saying, I’d love your perspectives!  The column should take you no more than a few minutes to read; I hope you’ll find it relevant and thought-provoking.  Add your viewpoint to The Globe‘s website, or if you wish, post your comment here, or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks).  Please … pass the link along to your staff and colleagues.  I suspect that they’ll each have an opinion as well!  And if you happen to be a Boomer on the verge of retirement (or managing someone who is), please jump in and join the conversation; I’d love your take on this topic.

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: