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Tag Archives: working with others

Use Cunningham’s Law to get people involved and talking

When seeking to solve an issue or a problem, or charged with evaluating or implementing a new initiative, you’ve probably approached your employees and co-workers to elicit ideas and engage in discussion.  But often, it is difficult to get people involved in the dialogue.  Usually, it’s not because people don’t have anything useful to offer; more likely it’s because they have other priorities and the assumption is that “someone else will respond”.  But the ultimate outcome still is that you don’t get the participation levels that you’d like.

Cunningham's LawConsider a contrary approach

So consider a contrary approach.  It comes from an unusual source – Cunningham’s Law.  Rather than asking an open-ended question, seed your question with misinformation or an opposing viewpoint.

So instead of: How many staff members should we bring on shift for the Grand Opening? 

Ask: What do you think about having two people on shift at the Grand Opening? 

Because two people on shift for a Grand Opening is clearly not enough, your team members will be quick to speak up and contribute their input to the discussion. Continue reading

Teamwork: Lessons from the Meerkat

teamwork lessons from a meerkat

This article was originally published on March 13, 2014 and has been updated

When you think of teamwork, the last thing you probably think about is meerkats, those strange little denizens of the Kalahari Desert.

By rights these cute, squirrel-sized members of the mongoose family shouldn’t be able to survive in such an inhospitable, dry and scorching environment.

They’re defenseless—surrounded by predators.

To add insult to injury, they have to dig for food—not just a little digging, but up to several times their body weight, just to get at one small morsel of caterpillar or beetle larvae.

Yet—cute, frenzied, tough and tenacious, survive they do, and quite successfully.

Their secret? Teamwork.

That’s right.

Meerkats are one of the few animals on Earth that can work together as a team—almost as well as humans. Continue reading

How to work with someone you don’t respect

When you have little professional respect for a client, a co-worker, an employee, or even your boss, it can be difficult to stay motivated and get things done.  But the unfortunate reality is that sooner or later, you will have to work with or for someone you don’t respect — people whom you may find difficult, distasteful or downright unbearable.  While it’s certainly easier to work alongside those you like, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can only do a good job if you respect your workmates. In fact, you can function effectively with (almost) anyone if you keep just a few things in mind.

It is possible!

How to work with someone you don’t respect is exactly the subject I address in my latest column in The Globe and Mail which published this morning.

How to work with almost everyone — even those you don’t respect

If you get the print version of The Globe, you would have seen it on page B9.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link: https://tgam.ca/2B9JDKz

The reality is that sometimes you’re just going to have to work with people you don’t like and respect – it’s all part of being an adult in the world of work.  You’ve read my suggestions.  What is your advice to handle these kinds of situations with poise and equanimity?  I’d love to hear from you.  Please share by adding your Comments below.

Strengthen social bonds at work by using music

Strengthen social bondsBack in July, music therapist and my professional colleague Jennifer Buchanan guested on the blog with a post on boosting productivity at the office by using music.  Because this is an area that not many people are knowledgeable about, I was delighted to give our readers an opportunity to learn more about how music therapists use music to curb stress, boost morale, and restore health, and what leaders could learn that would benefit their workplaces.  Her post was so well-received that I was thrilled that she agreed to contribute a second post to the blog.  Her contribution today is about music can be used to strengthen social bonds at work.  And as leaders, we know how important it is to nurture and strengthen social bonds between employees – it leads to increased morale, higher productivity and less turnover.

Music: the culture connection that can strengthen social bonds

There is no doubt that music plays a role in our wellbeing. But researchers now suggest that music also plays a significant role in strengthening social bonds. In a 2013 review of the research on music, music psychologist Stefan Koelsch described several ways music impacts our ability to connect with one another—by affecting systems involved in empathy, trust, and cooperation. Here are some ways music can strengthen social bonds at work and hopefully get us back on track: Continue reading

Here’s what Google discovered about team effectiveness

Business SeminarIn my practice, I am routinely asked by leaders in organizations for the definitive factors that lead to team effectiveness.  After all, leaders in every organization want to know what it takes to create high-performing work groups that not only exceed objectives but also play well in the sandbox together.  Well Google wanted to know the answer to this question as well, so in 2012 it embarked on an ambitious two-year project to codify the secrets of team effectiveness.  Code-named Project Aristotle, this sizeable initiative, in true data-crunching Google style, set out to study and analyze over 180 of Google’s internal teams to figure out why some stumbled while others soared.

Google’s Project Aristotle

Julia Rozovsky is an analyst in Google People Operations, and here is what she had to say about Project Aristotle.

Over two years we conducted 200+ interviews with Googlers (our employees) and looked at more than 250 attributes of 180+ active Google teams. We were pretty confident that we'd find the perfect mix of individual traits and skills necessary for a stellar team -- take one Rhodes Scholar, two extroverts, one engineer who rocks at AngularJS, and a PhD. Voila. Dream team assembled, right?  We were dead wrong!

Continue reading

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

When you offer to help, you enhance your relationship with your manager

Last week, in my second post in my recent ongoing series about how to improve your working relationship with your manager, I gave you a “don’t” – don’t correct your boss in front of others.  Today, I want to cover one last (at least for now) piece of advice in this series – look for ways to help.

Offer to help

Build a stronger relationship with your managerAsk your manager if she needs assistance with any project or initiative she has on the go.  Many bosses have very full plates, and like most of us, they’re not always good about asking for help.  But when you offer, when you ask if you can lend a hand, your swamped manager will often gratefully accept.  Sure, you’ve likely got enough to do already, but when you show a willingness to push beyond the day-to-day and take on more than your core responsibilities, you’re sending a very positive message about yourself.  And it’s a message that carries a great deal of weight when it comes to advancement opportunities. Continue reading

If you want a stronger relationship with your manager, don’t correct him in front of others

Earlier this week, I resurrected a topic that I’ve covered in the past, specifically some ideas on how to build a stronger working relationship with your manager.  Monday’s post was about putting yourself in the boss’s shoes.

Don’t correct your boss in front of others

Building a better working relationship with your manager

Today is a “don’t” – something you should never do – which is, correct your boss in front of others.  Now I’m not saying that your manager is always right (that’s simply not possible!), nor am I saying that you shouldn’t correct him; what I am saying is choose the time and place to advise him of his error.  And the time and place is always later, privately.

Going back to Monday’s post for a moment, put yourself in the boss’s shoes.  It can be embarrassing to be corrected by a subordinate (or for that matter anyone) in front of other people.  This is true even if what you are saying is a legitimate correction.  Continue reading

Build a better working relationship with your manager by putting yourself in his shoes

Last year I did a series of three posts on the blog about specific actions you could take to build a stronger working relationship with your manager.  A recent conversation with two staff members at a client organization brought this topic to the top of my mind again, so I thought it was time to add three more to the list.

Put yourself in your manager’s shoes

Build a better relationship with your manager

Today’s tip – when dealing with a particular issue, put yourself in your boss’s shoes.  See things from his perspective.  What is his concern or challenge with the proposed course of action?  What alternatives or solutions can you offer that will mitigate the negative impact?  Anticipate the questions that your manager might ask and make sure you have thoughtful answers that demonstrate that your objectives mirror his.  Do this often enough and you’ll be perceived as a reliable go-to person on the team.

Your relationship with your manager will improve if you understand his pressures

In much the same way, when your supervisor or manager does or says something that you think doesn’t make any sense, put yourself in her shoes.  Continue reading

One more reason to create a customer-focused culture

jeffmowattWhen it comes to customer service expertise and creating customer-focused cultures, my professional colleague and friend Jeff Mowatt didn’t just read the book – he wrote it!  He’s the author of the best-selling business books, Becoming a Service Icon in 90 Minutes a Month and Influence with Ease.  In a recent conversation, I realized that while Jeff has guested on the blog previously, the last time was in December 2010 when he penned Use your intuition to make better strategic decisions.  Needless to say, it’s been wa-a-a-ay too long, so I was delighted when he agreed to write a guest post again today.  Jeff, let’s not wait this long the next time!

How do I get my staff to get along?

“I can accept it when one of my employees makes a mistake. What I don’t have patience for is when my employees don’t play well with one another.” This was a client, a business owner with 45 employees, who explained, “When there’s a problem with a customer, employees focus more on blaming other departments and covering their own backsides than stepping-up to help each other to resolve the problem. We need a stronger commitment to teamwork.” Continue reading