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Alicia Blain

Archive for February, 2011

“I don’t have time to dilly dally & play around.  My deliverables don’t leave time for anything else”. 

With that comment, Jack, our VP in Finance,  voiced the first Yeah-But to corporate innovation – lack of time.   Ann, the VP of Customer Service, chimed in, ” I agree with Jack.  If you’re not crazy busy, you’re not working on the company’s top priorities”.

“Wanna put your money where your mouth is?”  I asked  “Neither one of you are spending 100% of your time on top priority activities.  In fact, I bet  you are actually wasting a lot of time on non-essential stuff.

“I’ll take the bet. What’s the wager?”.  Ann, you in”?  I knew Jack would take the bait.

“What are we wagering? ” she said as they both looked at me.

“Ok, for the next month, you & Jack have to track all work activities in your day. Down to the minutes & hours spent on even the most trivial stuff. You need to be completely honest & methodical in capturing all the details. Deal”?

“Yeah, But (there it is again!) what’s the wager?  Jack asked.

“At the end of the month, if you don’t find at least 20% of your time is wasted on non-essential stuff, I will put you at the top of the list for the new IBM laptops we’re rolling out .

If, on the other hand, you find that 20% of your time is being wasted then you assign someone from your teams to work on an idea we’re testing out in my team”  Do we have a deal”?

Jack & Ann practically said “I’m in” at the same time.  

“Great. Let’s touch base after 2 weeks to check our progress”?  I asked.

“Good idea.  I can’t wait to be the first show off my new laptop “.  Jack was smiling.

The day before our lunch, Jack & Ann walk into my office.  “Jack says, ” Carla will work on your project”.  Then Ann says ” Bill will represent my team.  Just let me know how long you need him”.

The shock registerd on my face.

“You won”, said Jack.  “I never thought we’d lose but what I discovered almost makes losing worth it”. 

“Me,too” added Ann. “I kept a detailed log of everything I did & last Friday I reviewed it. What struck me were the useless meetings I was attending. Either the meetings had no bearing on my deliverables or, they were better suited for my direct reports.  This week I decided to be selective in the meetings I attended.  I freed more than 20% of my time.

“For me, the time wasters were the interruptions in my day”.  Jack was sharing his discovery. ”People stop by and chat.  Five minutes here, ten minutes there, it adds up.  Early this week, I moved to a conference room where people couldn’t easily find me. I was more focused & productive. Between the meetings & the interruptions, I wasted way more than 20% of my time on stupid stuff”.

Ann’s next comment was the best.  “I realized that there is time to try new things. You just have to want to do it & you find the time.”

Can you relate to Jack & Ann’s discovery?  Are you really so busy you can’t try new things or do you just think you are?  How open are you to test yourself? 

Try a quick experiment.  For the next 2 weeks:

  • Keep a log of all activities during your working day.
  • Be honest & make sure you capture ALL activities.
  • At the end of the first week, review your entries & evaluate your findings. 

If you find you are not as productive as you thought,  you have 2 choices. You can re-direct the  time to your priority projects or use the time to try a new idea or new way of doing things in your team.  Remember what Ann said: There is time for innovation.  You have to want to do it & you’ll find the time.

Here’s a great quote to help keep this innovation Yeah-But at bay: 

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler    Source: www.TimeMan.com

I was talking to some Gen Yers this week & we were talking about TV.  Just like every generation before me, I get amazed at how much the younger generation takes for granted. In the case of Gen  Yers, their world has been so technologically rich from such an early age that they can’t even relate to the limited technology choices many of us had growing up.  Not that we saw it as a limitation.  Quite the opposite.  I was sharing how excited I was when as a young teenager, my parents bought me my very own small COLOR TV.  This meant that I no longer had to watch TV in the gigantic TV fixture in the living room and could watch whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

I had to explain to them that “whatever & whenever” were extremely limited back then and didn’t mean thousands of cable channels, TIVO, Blockbuster options we have today. I had to explain that we only had 3 or 4 Network stations to choose from and that they didn’t run 24/7.  The idea of having a  “Late Show” & “Late, Late Show” & then nothing more was difficult to grasp for a group that knows no boundaries or limitations in TV selections.

The Gen Yers were clearly appalled.  One of them looked at me and said “How did you survive all those years without your own TV? Another one asked “You mean TV had a curfew back in the day”  A curfew!  I had to laugh because for Gen Yers that would be tough to get used to but for us, it was wonderful to be able to stay up late & catch the “Late, Late Show” in the summer.  One of them had a laptop handy so I thought it was a good time to show them what life was like back in the day.  I told him to enter the “Past is a Blast“  and click on the 1950′sFun Facts tab.  When the page came up, they all circled around it and starting commenting & giggling at the highlights of the time. 

Such things as CBS started broadcasting in color, there were thousands of drive-in movie theaters, Walt Disney’s Cinderella debuted in movie theaters and my personal favorite, an attachment for 45 RPM records became available.  I still have  a fairly large collection of 45s that I keep in a very cool 45 record case in my garage. And yes, believe it or not, I still own a stereo that can play 45s & “LPs”. 

The Gen Yers couldn’t believe I had 45s. “What’s an LP” ? one of them asked me. I had to chuckle.   Since none of them had seen a 45 record, I promised to take a picture of one of my 45s & text it to them.  They were totally excited and I know the next step will be a visit to my home so I can actually play the 45 records on my stereo. Oh, show & tell!  It’s wonderful thing.

So what are your memories growing up in the 50′s?  It’s amazing how much you forget until you go back in time by either talking about your childhood or visiting sites like the Past is a Blast. We have great stories to share & I think it’s valuable to share them with Gen Yers.  I think it puts things in perspective for them & they appreciate how far things have come and how lucky they are to live with so many conveniences.

Happy Friday, everybody!!

Apparently I’m not the only one who has been asking this question lately.  In reading the latest online copy of the McKinsey Quarterly, Olivier Sibony, a Director in McKinsey’s Paris office interviews Dan Ariely and they imbed the video of the interview in the online copy.  The name of the article is “Dan Ariely on Irrationality in the Workplace“ .  Dan Ariely is a Duke University professor and best-selling author who has written a couple of books on the subject of irrationality.  I like the way McKinsey divides the interview into sections & gives a quote from Dan Ariely as a highlight of what is contained in each section.  As I hovered over each section, the very first quote immediately caught my attention.  Dan Ariely said ” I am baffled by why companies don’t do more experiments”.

It was as if this Duke professor had read my mind.   I’ve been baffled by this for quite some time now.  Over the last few years I’ve been working with clients & speaking on the topic of harnessing the talent of Gen Yers in the workplace.  As part of that, I share my C.A.R.E. System of Leadership with corporate leaders.  What the C.A.R.E. system does is it offers a proven methodology that leaders can immediately implement to help them understand, value & harness the Gen Y talent that is sitting untapped right under their nose.  The system also provides techniques to help leaders modify outdated leadership practices that they’ve held on to. The last component of the system is the “E” which stands for Experiment.  This is where I show leaders how to introduce & nurture experimentation in their teams. 

After witnessing it first hand with myself and seeing it with my peers & then later with my clients,  I see that leaders clearly don’t focus on trying new things & experimenting with new ideas & concepts. As I struggled to understand the baffling group we call Gen Y,  I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to shift my thinking & do things differently than I had in the past.  But it was hard for me to do that at first. But slowly & surely I did. One of side benefits of trying was getting comfortable saying “Why not?  Let’s try it”  At first, I fought it.  Things had worked just fine for me in the past so why shouldn’t it work going forward?  Well, the reality is that the going forward bore little resemblance to the past & staying stuck in the past wasn’t getting us anywhere different.  As I slowly got comfortable trying new things, I realized just how stuck I had been & how ineffective it was to just keep doing the same old thing.

Infusing a spirit of experimentation into my management style & into my team made a significant impact to our productivity and innovation .  Giving employees permission to try out ideas & remove the stigma of failure,  freed them to bring up ideas or issues they saw from their unique point of reference.  The team was allowed to carve out time to test ideas & try out different techniques to see if they worked.  With time, I realized that we had created an idea incubator in the team.  It worked very similar to how venture capitalists work with startups.  Venture capitalists understand that not all ideas will bear fruit & make millions of dollars.  But they know the importance of seeding ideas & nurturing them with funding to see what happens.  Nine ideas may flop and not go anywhere but that tenth idea is a home run & will make them millions.

The same thing happens when you infuse experimentation within a corporate setting.  There were many ideas that we tried out that didn’t work but we learned a tremendous amount from them & we were able to apply that knowledge on other projects.  Then there were the 5 to 6 great ideas we developed over the course of a few years that were gold.  They not only contributed positively to the team’s bottom line but they put us ahead of other corproate regions & similar departments.  Over the years, my team proudly delivered many “firsts” for our region. We were the team others called on for advice or help.  Others were baffled by our ability to do what we did with a relatively small team. They couldn’t replicate our track record because they never realized that they had to embrace the unfamiliar and unknown to find the innovative solutions.  They had to break out of their comfort zones & try what had not been tried before even if it meant failing from time to time.

In my next blog, I’ll go over the top 5 reasons why corporate leaders DON’T experiment.

In the meantime, what can you do today to take a baby step into your discomfort zone?

One of the things I enjoy most is highlighting stories of Gen Yers that are making an impact by doing things differently. In my January blog titled “How Gen Yers are Reinventing the Future” I was highlighting a speech given by Rachel Botsman at  TEDx Australia.  She gave a fascinating talk about collaborative consumption and you can read about it in  my January 24th blog.  A few days after I posted the blog, I received a comment from Jonah Halper letting me know about another talk from Nancy Lublin that I would probably find interesting.  As it turns out, I’m a big Nancy Lublin fan so I went to visit the site to see her talk.

When I got there I was more curious about the site itself than Nancy’s talk (it’ll be our secret..).  As it turns out the name of the site is “NextGen:Charity.com” and what a great concept they have.  The description on the site explains what they do better than I can so here is what it says, “NextGen:Charity is a conference on non-profit innovation aimed to help you run your organization more effectively and efficiently, and connect with donors and your community more powerfully”.  The Gen Y founders,  Jonah Halper (my blog commenter), a professional fund raiser and marketer and Ari Telman, an award winning comedian & founder of JCORPS, an international volunteer organization, joined forces & started NextGen:Charity.

Here’s the beauty of their idea.  They saw the power & following that the TED talks generated & wanted to bring that to the non-profit sector, which as I can attest, needs it desperately. Visit their site & see the sponsor lineup supporting them: Fast Company, AMEX, Pace University.  Not too shabby, huh?  Then there are the speakers:  Seth Godin, our friend Nancy Lublin, and many more top name experts in the non-profit world.

The NextGen:Charity conference event  takes place in NYC on November 17&18 but the founders have Meetups scheduled all across the country from now until the summer.   Cool idea and worth attending if you’re in one of the cities: DC,Boston, Miami, LA & Chicago.

For all  my non-profit friends & clients, check out the NextGen:Charity and block those dates.

NextGen:Charity is just another example of Gen Y’s creativity at work.  It also showcases their innate desire for collaboration and helping others/giving back.  So next time you think Gen Yers are lazy & unmotivated, think of Jonah & Ari & think again.

Oh and BTW, I did get to see Nancy Lublin’s video & it was very good — I knew it would be.  :-)

I always like to read about unique perspectives that people can apply to leadership in the 21st Century.  I was reading the February 4th edition of strategy+business & came across this article titled “Reaffirming Corporate Commitment“  which is a research study conducted by Hal Ersner-Hershfield (Northwestern University), Adam D. Galinsky (Northwestern University), Laura J. Kray (University of California at Berkeley), and Brayden G. King (Northwestern University). In the strategy+business excerpt of the research study, it talks about the effectiveness of conducting “what-if” scenarios of a company’s early days to boost employee morale.  They used FedEx as an example to illustrate what they meant. 

They showed how in the 1970′s, Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx , literally gambled on the future of his company. Not  having enough money to pay for airline fuel, Smith flew to Vegas for a weekend, went to a blackjack table & gambled the company’s last $5,000. He was able to turn the $5,000 into $24,000 & was able to keep the company afloat.  In their research the authors correlate that gamble & conviction by the founder to keep the company afloat to the fact that  FedEx consistently ranks on Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

The authors call this counterfactual thinking which looks at what might have been if past events had turned out differently for a company .  Being the movie buff that I am, I couldn’t help but correlate the concept of counterfactual thinking with that of  the great classic Frank Capra movie “It’s a Wonderful Life“.  Remember the story: Jimmy Stewart was bitter & frustrated with his existing life & all the  sacrifices & challenges that life had thrust upon him. In a moment of desperation, he angrily wishes he had not been born.  The rest of the movie shows Jimmy witnessing the dire consequences of that wish &  how so many people had benefited from his being in the world .  In the end, Jimmy is ecstatic to be alive & comes to appreciate his life, warts & all. 

A powerful, uplifting story & one that makes us as viewers appreciate what we have & how we’ve touched people.  To me, counterfactual thinking can be the corporate version of  “It’s a Wonderful Life” .   What would have happened if Fred Smith had not gone to Vegas to save the company? FedEx would probably have folded & would not be on the 100 Top Best Companies to Work  list today.  That’s a powerful message to share with employees.  Do you think after listening to that near miss, the employees would appreciate working for FedEx even if it had a wart here & there?  You bet.  Just like Jimmy Stewart did.  Counterfactual thinking challenges employees to think about what would happen if their company had not been founded or had folded early on.  Very much like the reaction “It’s a Wonderful Life” gets from viewers everytime they see the movie, employees get a boost of appreciation for the company & their commitment & morale increase. 

It makes perfect sense but how many times do companies share their version of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” story with employees?  How many times is counterfactual thinking utilized by companies to increase employee morale?  According to the authors when this unique perspective is applied,  the palpable postive effect on employees is still evident two weeks later. The authors suggest that in today’s uncertain economic times, organizations can use the past to foster employee commitment to the current & future state of the company.

This made me wonder how many companies today were effective in keeping their corporate history alive?  How many of them do so consistently and as part of their corporate communication strategy? How well versed is the leadership in knowing the company’s past? Can you, as a leader,  provide your team with stories of critical turning points in your organization that changed its direction for the better?  What about a visionary leader who showed tremendous conviction despite incredible odds & saved the company from ruin & extinction?

Everyone is touched by stories & what better way to touch employees than by sharing the rich corporate history that most organizations have locked up in their extensive archives.  Get out those dusty archives & communicate key events in your organizations history that made a difference & contributed to its staying power. The authors of this research say it best when they say that “ By having employees focus on how things might have turned out differently and where they would be without their company, firm leaders can help foster a more positive view of the workplace and higher morale”.  

Employees today are desperate to hear good news & feel positive about their companies.  Maybe experimenting with a counterintuitive strategy or message can do the trick.  It certainly couldn’t hurt…

I was reading the February edition of Success Magazine and an article written by Beth Douglass Silcox titled “Perception is everything: As a salesperson, your social skills can open doors – or slam them shut” caught my interest As  you can tell by the title, the article centered around selling techniques.  As I reading the advice that the sales gurus were sharing, I realized that a lot of the advice was relevant to leaders.

According to one of the sales experts, Gary Hankins,  author of  “The Power of the Pitch“  perception is reality and the difference between a successful salesperson & a mediocre one is that the successful ones know how to control another person’s perception & understands the value of building relationships & social behavior.  That made me wonder how many leaders truly sees themselves as their employees do?

When working with leaders & their teams, I see this disconnect time & time again.  The leader always thinks the team sees him/her in one way when they actually see him/her in a very different way.  The team’s perception is usually not as flattering as the leader’s perception of him or herself.  The article is full of great advice that I think leaders can apply just as much as salespeople.  I would actually add that in today’s world, leaders are salespeople, too, because they need to constantly influence others – stakeholders, clients, bosses & employees – to get the work done.  The more we show the love, the more successful we will be.  I’ve heard leaders actually say they don’t have time to show the love.  They are too busy getting the work done.  Well, as the article shows, the more you show the love, the more people will want to work with you and actually, the easier it will be for you to get the work done.

So, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day today, and we show the love to our spouses, parents, children & all the special people in our lives, let’s remember to show the love to the people we spend a lot of time with everyday: our employees.  Here are some great ideas gleaned from the Success Magazine article that I think leaders can apply immediately to show their appreciation of their staff;

  • Foster relationships with your team by giving rather than receiving
  • Take an interest in WHO your employees are & not just WHAT they do or can do for you
  • Listen empathetically to what your employees say
  • Put your social ego aside & be natural with your employees
  • Lighten Up! Bring a little fun & humor into your relationship with them
  • Ask them questions & enjoy the dialogue
  • Focus on building a relationship with each employee rather than just “managing” them

The more we, as leaders, can connect with our team,  the more we can show them the love, the more we help them succeed and consequently, the more they will help us succeed.  In the end, that’s a beautiful legacy for a leader.

So what about it?  Ready to show the love to your team?  Today, Valentine’s Day is a good day to start.

Happy Valentine’s Day , everybody!

    Any time there is an opportunity to have Gen Yers share how they feel about their corporate experience, about work or the future of work, my ears perk up. It’s so important to give Gen Yers a way to express their views  &  it’s even better when it’s done in a collective fashion. That’s why I have to tell you about an exciting opportunity for you, Gen Y, to share the good, the bad & the ugly about work.

    Stacey Randall, founder of SBR Consulting, LLC in Charlotte,  NC shares my passion for listening to Gen Ys and leveraging the amazing talent you  bring to the workplace.  Her company is an employee engagement HR consulting firm specializing in understanding generational diversity. 

    During the month of February,  her company is conducting a survey to determine how you, Gen Y,  feel about working in corporate America,  about future employment decisions, what’s important about work and the future.  Much has been said about your generation in the past five to 10 years but has the recession and slow recovery changed your thoughts, perceptions and behaviors in regard to work? 

    The survey taking place now is actually Phase II of  the project.  In January,  2010 SBR published their  findings from a national survey of Millennials who had been laid off in 2007, 2008 or 2009.  To find the results and download the whitepaper visit www.sbrconsult.com & register to get a copy.

    In Phase II,  you get to weigh in on how you feel about work today & what you want it to look like in the future.  It’s your turn to tell everyone what you think instead of letting them tell you what you think or think you should think – :-) .

    So here’s the deal:  The survey is for Gen Yers only – those born between 1980 & 2000.

    Here’s the link:  bit.ly/fnN2tF 

    Don’t worry.. The survey is completely confidential & you won’t get spammed.

    The important thing about surveys is the number of people that complete it – the more, the better the results. So feel free to share the link with ALL your friends – the more, the better.  Do it today so they can share it with their friends & everyone can give their opinion before the end of the month.  The survey will be live through March 1st so hurry…

    Don’t miss this great opportunity to share your opinions & make a difference.  Take the survey & be counted!

    Can’t wait to see what you say as a group… I’m sure it’ll be eye opening !!!

    It’s been a while since I added to this series that looks at the trends in corporate America that I think are pointing to its inability to retain top talent in the future. The third trend that threatens to keep corporate mediocrity alive & flourishing is the fact that better alternatives to corporate now exist.

    Those alternatives haven’t existed for that long.  You could argue that anyone who wasn’t satisfied with corporate has always had the choice to leave & open up their own business.  That’s true and many people have left corporate to do that very thing. But in recent years, the availability of options to do that have skyrocketed.  The Internet has blown away many of the barriers to entry in industries that were once dominated by large corporations. Social media tools like Facebook and You Tube give small business owners direct access to markets they simply could not penetrate years ago.  Internet marketing has made millionaires of startups who have taken their products & messages directly to consumers.

    Even more interesting are the number of startups that are blossoming all over the world especially in lesser developed nations.  This shows the tremendous power that technology is putting in the hands of ordinary people with a dream & a purpose & desire to make money.  

    Then you have a pretty stable & robust venture capital industry that is helping fuel startups all over the world.  In the past, access to capital has always been difficult for an individual that was tired of working for a corporation yet had a dream he or she wanted to pursue.  Without capital,  a dream can quickly turn into a nightmare.  These days individuals have more funding options available to pursue their own business and many of them are doing so.  With corporatons laying off millions of people in this recent recession, many individuals, especially Baby Boomers, are looking at self-employment options especially since the chances of corporations re-hiring them in the future are slim to none.

    Finally, you have the Millennials.  Over the past few months, I have been conducting a series of Gen Y Interviews that I call Millennial Musings.  The reason for the interviews is that I wanted to get a pulse on how Gen Yers felt about their corporate experience.  The oldest members of the group are now in their 30s so they have had a good taste of what working for a corporation is like.  To my surprise, over 80% of the Gen Yers I’ve interviewed  thus far are extremely dissapointed with their corporate experience.  Many of them have left corporate and have either chosen smaller companies or have started their own businesses. 

    But here’s the really interesting trend I’ve seen with the Gen Yers that have opted to start their own business.  Many of them are teaming up with their laid off Boomer parents & starting a family business.  Now that’s a twist that has not been seen before.  The Boomer parents are bringing their tremendous experience & body of  knowledge while their Gen Y children bring their tech savviness, passion & collaborative networks.  The combination is proving to be quite powerful & profitable. As one of my Gen Y interviewees remarked   ”Why would I want to work for some corporate boss who is a jerk when I can work with my parents who are cool”  It’s always refreshing to see how well Gen Yers get along with their parents & how at such a young age, they are throwing out the box & coming up with creative ways to succeed in their own business instead of trading hours for dollars in a corporate job.

    The alternatives to working for a corporation have indeed expanded and are providing all generations with viable & certainly attainable options that don’t include corporate.  Newspapers, magazines & blogs are filled with stories of how very talented individuals who were laid off by their corporations after years of service have stopped looking for a corporate job & pursued their own businesses & are thriving. This is good talent that is now lost to a corporation forever.  In many cases, their Gen Y children, underwhelmed by their corporate experience are joining them outside the corporation & are contributing to that success.

    In the final installment of this series, we will look at Trend #4, the Millennials.  My favorite of them all.

    I came across this video on You Tube & thought it would be a great addition to my BIMD series.  The video showcases Mayor Hazel McCallion who has been the mayor of a city in Canada called Mississauga for 30 years & has won 11 consecutive elections. Can you believe it?  That has to be a world record. What a great example of the Veteran or Greatest Generation.  And the best part:  under her watch the city is one of the few in Canada or anywhere else that is debt-free.  I couldn’t believe that either. Debt-free?  Although that might have been more common back in the day, it certainly is extremely uncommon today.  By the way, Mississauga is the 6th largest city in Canada so they’re no slouches!!

    She is a breath of fresh air and what a ball of fire.  She’s a petite woman but has more energy than 50 Gen Yers put together. Watch the short clip to get a good start to your day.  What a great example of leadership, integrity & accountability.  And the people love her.  It’s easy to see why.  We need more Hurricane Hazel’s in this world. 

    Happy Friday, everybody!

    I am a big fan of the South Florida Business Journal & look forward to receiving my weekly copy in the mail.  Although I practically get all my news online these days,  I have to admit that I still like to get  the hardcopy copy of a handful of newspapers . The SFBJ is on that list.

    In the January 21-27th edition, there was a great article in Harvey Mackay’s weekly Swim with the Sharks column titled “Expand your mind to find better ways to address issues.  I like the practical, actionable advice Harvey gives every week in his column. Like many of the SFBJ articles, I always come away learning something new or in the case of this particular article, looking at something from a different perspective.

    In the article, Harvey challenges us to look at things beyond the tried & true.  He believes that conformity detracts from looking at creative solutions to a problem.  As always he gives the readers some practical steps we can take to stop thinking the way we’ve always thought.  Great advice & I encourage everyone to read the article.

    When I finished the article I couldn’t help but think how relevant Harvey’s message was as it relates to what leaders are facing in corporate America today.   Over the last year, as I’ve spoken at events & for organizations internationally, I have come to realize more than ever how stuck most leaders are in the tried & true.  There’s a big dose of conformity plaguing many organizations out there &  I think this will cost us dearly down the road if continues the way it has.

    Although I see conformity in a lot of areas of leadership these days, I see it most when the subject of Gen Yers in the workplace comes up.  All of a sudden,  everyone’s eyes begin to roll, they begin to groan & the criticism of their young workforce begins. Now mind you, Gen Yers have been in corporate for over 8 years now.  More & more of them will be entering the workforce over the next few years.  It’s not like the problem is going to go away any time soon, right?  But yet, for 8 years, as I’ve spoken at events & conferences, all I’ve heard is the same groaning & complaints.  

    It reminds me of the quote that says insanity is doing something over & over again expecting different results. I think it’s so applicable here.  Groaning & complaining about Gen Yers for the past 8 years hasn’t helped very much.  In fact, it’s probably hurt a whole lot of companies because Gen Yers are becoming disillusioned in droves regarding their corporate experience. Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to interview Gen Yers in corporate positions & their feedback is pretty dismal.  For some reason,  some leaders out there think that Gen Yers will be the ones to conform to the way the workplace has always functioned. 

    From one who has worked in that workplace for over 25 years, there’s a lot in that workplace that’s not working & needs an overhaul.  Why would you want to keep the status quo when much of it no longer applies & is actually holding companies back.  But yet, that is exactly what is happening in companies everywhere.  The new ideas & approaches that Gen Yers come equipped to contribute to the company are being squashed because it doesn’t “conform” to how things have always been done.  Well maybe it’s time to replace conformity with a little creativity & experimentation. 

    In my blog I’ve given many examples of how I had to let go of some of my conformist leadership practices in order to understand & unleash the talent of the Gen Yers in my team.  It wasn’t until I stopped repeating what wasn’t working & tried something new that  things changed.  I stopped leaving their talent on the table & began to leverage it with bottom line results.  It wasn’t easy to do but guess what?  Sticking to the status quo & being stuck in conformity was worse.  Trying new techniques not only moved me forward as a leader but it did the same for my team.

    So I have taken the liberty of taking Harvey’s practical strategies & putting it in the context of what leaders could do differently as it relates to their Gen Y staff.  Here they are:

    1. Look at the whole picture. It’s easy to think Gen Y is the problem but will that solve the problem? Can the problem be that you are following old rules that need to be re-examined?
    2. Put yourself in another time.  As seasoned leaders, I think we’ve forgotten what it was like for us as young workers.  I know that I had a lot of questions & concerns when I first started working in corporate.  Sometimes putting yourself in their shoes makes all the difference & helps us relate & understand them better.
    3. Reverse the Situation.  Instead of being the one with the answers, why don’t you ask Gen Yers questions instead?  All those unanswered questions often lead to misunderstandings & that can lead to unfair criticism. Getting answers directly from the source can clear up a lot of confusion.
    4. Bridge the gap.   Gen Yers can’t continue to be a source of frustration for you moving forward.  Pretty soon you will have many of them on your payroll. You need to understand where you are now & where you need to get to with your Gen Y staff.  The responsibility of building the bridge to get there is  yours as a leader.
    5. Write down your thoughts.  In our hectic, reactionary world, we as leaders, often don’t have time to even think.  Well, unfortunately, this requires a lot of our thinking so we can brainstorm new ideas & techniques we can use going forward.
    6. Speak Up.  I can’t stress this enough.  I just don’t see many leaders taking the time to really connect with their Gen Y staff. To really get to know them, to let the Gen Yers know them & to start a dialogue.  For me, that made all the difference in the world & it will for you , too.

    So what about you?  Ready to take Harvey’s advice & leave conformity behind as you search for ways NOT to think the way you’ve thought before when it comes to your Gen Y staff?