TL:DR and I am bored in class

I spend a lot of time with Millennials.  You could say they are a hobby of mine. My biggest challenge is creating a learning environment where people are not bored. In fact, after a course I recently taught, one of my Millennial co-workers explained to me the difference in our approach to things.  It taught me a lot and went a little something like this:

Coworker: “I have finally figured out the difference between our approach to things!”

Loren: “Do tell.”

Coworker: <Slams a water bottle on the table> “This water bottle is a building and it’s our job to knock it down.  I am all like where’s the bulldozer? <insert crashing and blowing up noises here> But you, you are all like: <takes a step back and a deep breath> “Hmmm, which way will it fall? Who will it impact? Where will the dust go? And I am still all like WHERE’S THE BULLDOZER?”

This was an interesting moment for me, an opening into a conversation about how much learning has changed over the past 10+ years. We spent a lot of time discussing the influence of social media, the instant gratification needs of new young learners and how to avoid the TL;DR (for you non Millenials that means too long; didn’t read).  We talked about the importance of quick hits, 10 minute modules and small bite readings (like tweets or texts). This got me thinking about the concept of the flipped classroom and how trainers, teachers and instructors can enhance learning rather than forcing people to go at  a prescribed pace, by using social media platforms to meet students where they are or to create situations where students can do more collaborative learning.

I’m just branching out with this, but here are my initial thoughts.  Feel free to add more in the comments.

Flipped Classrooms: eLearning Platforms, You Tube, Brain Shark

Lesson reflections: journaling or blogging on line (using Word Press or Black Board, or even a shared Google Doc)

Sharing project work via Pinterest or Instagram with their classmates

Collaborating with Google Hangouts

What ideas do you have? Leave a comment.





Stop the Train-It Won’t Make the Station

Need to know whether training will help? Check out this Blog. It will help you understand when the train will make the station and when it won’t.

Continue reading

My Child My Boss

The Millennials are coming!  The Millennials are coming…run…hide…they’ll take your job or worse…they will be your boss!

The Millennial worker is underestimated by many of their elders.  If they are not underestimated they are feared or minimally intriguing.  These “kids” born between the late 1970s and early 2000s are taking over the workplace. We fear them because of their relationship with technology and we admire them for it as well.

This generation has been exposed to technology since the day they were born.

Technology is something they don’t think about because it has always been there. They are great at technology but don’t have much leadership experience yet. It is predicted that Millennials will be half of the global workforce by 2020.  You better be ready for your baby to be your boss.

Us oldies need to get prepared by understanding how to translate the Millennial work-style into our definition of work.  In the future, there will be more focus on how work is done and not where it is done. There will be a lack of trust in the hierarchical structure that we are used to. There will be more democratic leaders who appreciate the collaborative approach to accomplishing goals. This generation will want to share the power rather than hoard it and they are much more accepting of diversity–not just of race but of thought.  They appreciate meaningful work and will focus on activities that help others find meaning in theirs.

If you are currently  developing a Millennial leader, focus on just in time training and make it specific to the work they are doing.  Classroom training does not always work, especially in group settings because this group gets annoyed by someone who is learning more slowly. While more flexible and resilient than their counter generations, they are antsy to make progress quickly.  These are innovators who have entrepreneurial mindsets and  who want to have the facts and data in real time.They value openness transparency.

They have a reputation for wanting to check the box and move up fast, which is counter to what we have been  brought up believing: the more experience you have the better you will be at your job.  We need to change our minds.  In fact, according to a Careerbuilder study, about one third of US workers say their boss is at least ten years younger than they are. These new bosses tend to value expertise over experience, and will allow someone doing a job well to work autonomously. For Boomers and Traditionalists who are focused on putting in face time but are not really producing quality work, this could be the beginning of the end.  Strong Millennial leaders want their teams to work smart!  The winds of change they are a blowin’!

In case you want to know how Millennial you are, the Pew Research Center created a quiz.  It helps determine how aligned you are with the Millennial way of thinking.  You can access it at

Once you know where you stand, you should probably get started on:

  • Understanding technology and social networking better
  • Starting to text (a lot)
  • Play games on your phone
  • Stop watching so much TV
  • Tweet and tweet a lot
  • Become more moderate politically
  • Become less change averse
  • Share share and share information (personal and professional)
  • Value diversity more (and when you think you value it enough….value it more)
  • Create stretch assignments for your young workers to keep them engaged
  • Create opportunities for innovation and collaboration
  • Be ready to replace young workers if you don’t value them because according to research done by Future Workplace, 91% of Millennials expect to stay in their role for less than three years.

After I took the quiz, I was relieved to find I was 89% Millennial Minded….even without a piercing or tattoo (but the tattoo is coming)

Go Forth and lead with Passion!

T*R*U*S*T – Takes Practice

“It takes 20 years to build a relationship and five minutes to ruin it.”– Warren Buffett

Trust. The word alone strikes a chord in people whenever it is mentioned. The response to discussions about trust are usually emotional and passionate. But wait a minute, isn’t trust something that is black and white? You either trust someone, or you don’t.

When we trust people we allow ourselves to be seen and thus become vulnerable and exposed. Trust in the workplace allows us to feel as if we belong.  We are part of the team and we have friends. But so often that trust is broken and then the drama begins…

I decided to ask my Facebook friends how they defined trust within the context of work relationships and want to share some of the responses: 

“I think it means (or depends upon) open, sincere, and productive communication. That’s not the same thing as unanimity, but trust certainly requires great communication.

Like relationships between a parent and a child, trust lost (in peers or supervisors) takes time to be restored. And, in fact, may never be. /rant off”

“There are many components but one thing that seems to be harder and harder to find… I need to trust that they will do their job well, meaning the job will be done on time, the material/data will be accurate, it will be presented in a professional manner, and it is error free. Too many times things are “done” only for me to find I have to re-do them.” 

“I think it depends on the person. I do not trust all of my coworkers the same way because of many factors like how long we have worked together, the behaviors they display, our positions or roles at work, my gut feeling.”

“Trust is someone who is there no matter what, who will stand by your side even when people who say they will aren’t, won’t judge you by what you say, do, or if you screw up. They will always be there and have your back no matter what.”

“To me it’s those few people you know will always be there, no matter what. The ones I trust the most I don’t even need to talk to all the time. Don’t have to. Lives are busy and it’s hard to always communicate. Thing is you do when it matters. That trust takes time to grow. Once it’s there it always will be, no matter how hectic life can get.”

Everyone has an inherent need to be liked, and by our very nature we want to be trusted, even when we aren’t trustworthy at all.  How do we work at being better with trust so that we may be trusted and build long lasting relationships that impact our work in a positive way consistently?

1. Tell the truth

Telling the truth is an important part of being a trustworthy person. Many people would rather avoid confrontation or disagreement than tell the truth. If we stick to the facts and focus on the behavior or situation rather than on the person when giving feedback, it gets easier over time and we are less likely to resort to passive aggressive non trustworthy behaviors. Tell the truth, all the time, even if you are not going to benefit from it.

2. Be emotionally intelligent

Understand what information you should share and be aware of the right time, place and context.

Never share someone’s personal information. Think before spewing judgmental statements as they do just the opposite of building trust. Understand that “I’m sorry” after destroying someone’s credibility or shaming someone in public will rarely be enough for you to regain someone’s trust.  If you are going to share information that is “just between us”, then don’t share the information with others.

3. Walk the talk

Let your actions speak. If you are trustworthy, then you act with integrity consistently.  Be who you say you are. Do what you say you will do. Keep your promises. Look people in the eye when you talk to them.  Steer clear of self-promoting behaviors. Nurture great relationships and welcome constructive feedback with open arms.

4. Be a good leader

Ask the right questions and be genuinely interested in the answers.  Live in the moment and be present with your staff and not distracted by email, phone or other priorities.  Focus on the goals and solutions rather than complaining about the people. Set your own standards high and meet them.

Trust means that people can count on you consistently to be a safe place to share and learn. Trust is an important part of a functional team environment and when people do not trust their leader, productivity, profitability, engagement and team effectiveness all plummet. People become risk averse and innovation stops.

So how, you ask, do I make changes and become a more trustworthy leader?  The answer is counter-intuitive: Let go of control. When you do not trust your team, you try to keep control of people and situations at all times. This makes you a Micromanager.  Micro-managers are the number one management type employees most often complain about.  It comes down to knowing yourself well enough to recognize the fact that you may be so risk averse that you fall into this trap.

The truth is, even if you micromanage; you are not in control of other people. You can influence them, or strongly suggest that they do things a certain way, but at the end of the day, YOU are the only person you can control.

Trust requires your investment in someone else’s success. It is a process and takes time to develop. It must be given from your heart and without restraint. It must be practiced early and often, but once you have it down, it becomes part of who you are.  I promise you will not regret it.  Go forth and lead with passion!

Everything I know about Monday I learned from my Mommy

Buzz Buzz Buzz….It’s Monday morning and the beginning of the work week.  Are you jumping out of bed ready to get the day started or are you reaching over to hit the snooze button? Your reaction likely has to do with how your office environment makes you feel and whether or not you have meaningful work.

Coming back after a weekend away can be rough. Monday sets the tone for the rest of your week, so if you can start it in a successful way, you are more likely to be productive and able to handle shifting priorities and office chaos. Want to stay in control?  Here are 10  healthy tips.

Hint hint, these are probably just the things your Mommy told you about setting yourself up for success in grade school.

1) Make your bed! This is one of the first things you have control over every day.  Advice given at a graduation speech by a Navy Seal at the University of Texas started with this directive and it went viral.  I cannot say much more about this other than the fact that the advice is great.  Here is the direct quote:

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right. And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

2) Eat a healthy breakfast!  It is yet another thing you have control of in your day.  If you eat an unhealthy breakfast, you will be sluggish and likely less motivated to get work done. I’m a coffee person so mine definitely includes caffeine but it is usually some sort of fruit and protein.  For me, a carb heavy breakfast makes me want to sleep the day away. In general, most people can handle a  high quality carb (like oatmeal, fruit or whole grain cereal) and some sort of protein. So kickstart your day with a healthy breakfast.

3) Drink water! Years of research have found that when people are dehydrated they have  difficulty with focus. Dehydration impairs short-term memory  and the recall of long-term memory. That information alone should be enough to make you grab your non PCB containing water cup and head to the water cooler.

4) Exercise! Get your circulation going and give yourself more energy by adding a little exercise into your day. If time is an issue here are a couple suggestions

  • Wake up early and do it before work
  • Walk around the outside of the building on your lunch break
  • Find an accountability buddy and keep each other motivated

5) Get to work early.  Driving to work on Monday is usually terrible if you work in a big city.  If you get to work early you can beat the traffic. Arriving early also allows you to accomplish many tasks before the rest of the work world arrives.  It allows you the time to organize, set your agenda for the day, review what you have on your calendar and to plan for unexpected priorities that may arise.

6) Smile and be nice (even though you may not want to). Smiling and being nice helps improve other people’s morale.  If you improve the morale around others, you will in turn improve your own.  Believe it or not, morale is contagious.  Think about that.  It only takes one person to turn it around for someone else.  Let that person be you.  Eventually it will come naturally. By smiling and being nice you create a sense of team and help others relax into their stressful days.  Say hello to people in the halls and elevators. Create the sunshine.

7) Make a list.  Make a list of your to dos for the week and then set goals for yourself.  Make sure you have set both daily and weekly goals.  By accomplishing and crossing items off your list you will ensure that you feel productive. Be sure to target some of the big goals for early in the week.  We have a tendency to push off the things that take more time and effort and if we continually push them to the next day or week over and over, they either do not get done or cause us to feel stressed and like our work life balance is out of whack. I like to tackle the big tasks early in the morning, before everyone is working, so that I can dedicate what I call a “Rock Block” to them.

8) Plan for Rock Block and rest periods.  A Rock Block is a predetermined period of time you spend working on a large deliverable.  During that period you promise yourself that there will be no multitasking allowed (e.g. emails, instant messages, chatting etc.). After the period of time is up you can relax for a specified period (read email, step away and get some water, etc.).  I like to plan 60-90 min Rock Blocks with 10 minute relax periods when I am working on a really big task.

9) Understand that you can say no sometimes. I will admit this is my hardest piece of advice for me to follow. There are so many distractions at the beginning of the work week that it is easy to get caught up in what needs to be done or what others need from you to do their jobs. My advice is to say no to people who need your time on Monday mornings unless previously scheduled (a directive from your boss is a different story). Offer a later time in the week to handle whatever the need is from your functional area partners or coworkers.  If you are able to accomplish the goal earlier, then you have made someone happy, rather than promising to do something on Monday and not getting it done.

10) Tomorrow, Tomorrow I love ya Tomorrow. Remember that you may not get everything you set out to do accomplished on Monday. That is ok, because you have a plan set with goals for the whole week.  Take time to reassess at the end of the day Monday and don’t dwell on unfinished goals.  Make your Tuesday list before you leave.

And remember, no matter whether you succeed or fail on Monday, your bed will still be made.

Go forth and lead with Passion.

Millennials: They’re not just our kids anymore

Managing Millennials can sometimes be challenging to traditional managers, but if we shift our thinking and embrace this up and coming generation we can become even more successful more quickly.

It is estimated that Millennials will be 75% of the global workplace by 2025 and we  have got to change the way we think about these “kids” born in the 80s and 90s.  We need to shift our leadership styles and flex toward them and not away from them. We must understand that we can learn as much from them as we can teach them. Attracting, engaging and retaining the next generation of talent will be imperative in bringing organizations to the next level and we must transform the traditional manager into to a true, intentional and mindful leader so that our organizations can thrive.

Let’s take a look at where most traditional managers see the issues with this generation

Every time I walk past his/her desk he/she is always online or playing on a phone.

This is the generation of instant information gratification.   In the olden days (did I just use that phrase) we had to go to the Library to research information.  Sometimes we actually had to talk to people (the horror). Millennials  are not used to waiting for information and if they are curious about something they look it up. All hail to the World Wide Web!  Their communication styles and methods are not what traditional business is used to.  However, this does not mean that it is wrong.  This group catches on to the latest means of communication faster than any other generation and they are driven by the need to feel connected.  In traditional business we tend to think of work life balance as a true separation of work and life.  For the Millennial, it is blended and work life balance means that they need to feel connected: connected to work and connected to life at any/all points in time. To work effectively with a Millennial you need to ask questions and listen to the motivators driving them.: in most cases it does not come down to dollars.  For Millennials the top indicator of career success is meaningful work. If their leader is providing meaningful work and direction and can get over the fact that they have to check in on their personal life throughout the day, I guarantee that they will give you more than 100%.

But they expect to move up really fast and don’t want to wait their turn

In traditional business there is a lot of focus on tenure and earning your way.  The Millennials often have different skill sets and rather than focusing on what they can bring in terms of innovation, leaders get hung up on making a millennial wait, usually because the leader had to put in their time. Since this generation is, by nature,  impatient, it is better to leverage their skills sets and let them make contributions early and often.  Give them recognition and watch what they can do. If you can’t promote them, give them a stretch assignment or the ability to use their technical or innovative skill to lead a project. Share your vision: not just the what and the why but also the impact to what they are doing and how it impacts their work and the organization as a whole.  The one thing the educational system did for the Millennials is to engage them in a collaborative culture.  They love to work in groups and showcase their talents alongside other equally brilliant innovators.  They just want recognition for their piece of the contribution and they want to contribute where they can. Making them  “wait their turn” will hinder their ability to do good work and will have them easily baited by the next recruiter.

They want a flexible work schedule

Again, work life balance means something different to a millennial, there is not really a separation.  a little flexibility on your part can mean a lot more work on theirs.  You know how you complained before that they were always checking their phone?  They do that all the time, even when they are not at work, and they are checking work email as well as personal stuff.

Ask your team of Millennials how and when they prefer to communicate. Many millennials work well into the night  and  probably check their email before getting out of bed in the morning. Embrace this  24/7 connectivity  but ensure you set  expectations and boundaries. If someone wants to go to spin class at 2:00 every day and will make up the missed time later in the day, what’s the harm? Of course flex time for one means flex time for all.  If you look at the research, people in more flexible work environments have better loyalty and productivity than people in jobs who don’t offer flexible schedules.  You can always negotiate what works for your organization and come to a mutually beneficial decision.

Why should I shift toward their needs?

The workplace is shifting and technology is a big driver . Millennials have the ability to be flexible and shift with the technological changes that other folks in the workplace may not.   Technology has been a part of their life since birth and they are a mobile generation.  They work well across cyber time and space. They turn to the internet and can find whatever they need and probably faster than any other generation. They will do research on your company and on you.  This small fact will mean that leaders must be more transparent about who they are, what they are about and what decisions they make. Truly authentic leaders will rise to the top and the Millennial will want to follow them, especially if they make the workplace fun.

Now go forth and lead with passion


You must give the class a closed book final assessment of the training class, however, in the real world they can look up the answer.  Does this make sense?  Maybe or Maybe not.  Sometimes how you frame the outcome can make all the difference in the world.

Today I had the opportunity to give someone another chance based on the outcome of their final assessment from a training class and it got me thinking about how to give feedback and vet this situation out in a respectful way.

I knew this person was smart and I knew they were struggling with portions of the class and were well outside their comfort zone. After the final assessment was failed, I pulled this person aside to chat.

I know that people learn and retain information in different ways.  I wanted to give the testee the opportunity to answer the questions orally, in case test anxiety was the issue.  I made it conversational and it sparked a discussion of how the role was not really “what I signed up for”.  Yes, the role had changed, but the individual had not.  Did that make them a bad employee?  Did that make them less smart? NO!

As we discussed the situation further, I asked “Do you want to do this job?”  The answer was not really, and when we got to the root, we were able to move forward and find solutions.  It was a productive and honest discussion and it got me thinking about giving tips on sharing feedback and getting to the root cause.  Here are my philosophies and rules of the road.

1) No matter what you think of someone, they deserve respect. Be sure to focus on behavior or results and not the person.

2) Set the stage quickly, do not make people wait to hear feedback.  That is not being respectful.

3) Plan for the discussion ahead of time.  Plan for what you will say, but also be ready for possible responses. This will help you steer away from emotion and focus on facts.  Facts are what keep difficult conversations from getting personal.

4) Ask questions and listen to the answers.  Remember that constructive feedback should be building a person up and making them even better.

5) Be prepared to receive feedback in an open way.  If you are going to give it, you should be prepared to get it back.

Giving feedback the right way can keep even the worst situations from escalating and most of the time things will end on a positive note.

Just my two cents….Go forth and lead.

Leading teams- Lessons from the Todd Worrell experience

Today I had the unique opportunity to hear sports great Todd Worrell share his thoughts on functioning well in the work place.   That really was not the title of his discussion, but it should have been.  We got to hear about his life, his work, his beliefs and his future.

Whether or not the group had the same beliefs from a faith perspective as Todd, the takeaways were worth sharing with the world.  If you have followed any of my (very few) blog posts, you know I am passionate about leadership development and feel the world has too few good leaders.  My goal is to share good information and bring the passion back into the leadership world.  A lot of what Todd had to say will help you lead with tact and diplomacy, whether you are in a formal leadership role or not.  I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing and adding some comments.  Enjoy!

1) Motivation is relational-that is how God designed it.  We were designed to be in relationship with others.

2) Respect and integrity are part of a person

3) You should ask yourself if you really want to play for your manager.  If not, you will not do well, no matter how great YOU are.

4)    Stand behind the people you believe in no matter what.  This means standing behind them even when they are struggling.  Give them the opportunity to figure things out.

5) Motivation has an element of responsibility and accountability.  If someone does not have these, it’s a different issue.

6) Understand that slumps happen

7) Some people are NOT motivated by a kick in the butt.  Sometimes that shuts people down.  The leaders who do this are not relational people. This tactic works for the few but not for the many.

8) DO NOT wear out your great people

9) Do not put people in the wrong place

10) Make it clear to people that you have a vision for the team and then make it clear to each individual their role in this vision. Oh, and if YOU picked the wrong spot for them, change it so they can be successful.

11) Some people filter high pressure well and others do not.

12) Tell the truth about performance success and failure

13) Always play to the player’s best fit and help them work on their struggles

14) You do not have to like everyone in the locker room but you DO have to respect them. This means that some people will leave and that is ok

15) Real motivation comes from passion.  Is your job providing a place for you to do what you do best?

16) Never apologize for your faith- motivation is temporary and it is connected to what you believe in.

17) Do not be afraid of the underdog position because it provides opportunity for what can happen next.

Any idea what you are going to do next?  I know I have plenty to think about!  Go forth and lead with passion!



I Learned to Be a Leader Playing with Makeup

Everything I learned about true leadership came from a job I had in my early twenties as a Counter Manager for a department store cosmetics company. It seems pretty scary, that after spending so many years in the corporate world, that I have not really learned anything  that was more effective than what I learned in this job, that some might consider less than professional. The reality is that this company really knew what they were doing as they created their leaders.The fact that I learned more about leadership in retail than I did working for major corporations  led me to ponder what makes people successful as leaders of cohesive well functioning teams.  I also wonder how we can in turn breed more leadership success?

Being a good leader is not difficult.  You need to be decisive: decide who you are as a leader, what you will stand for and what you won’t stand for. Give people the tools that they need to be successful.  Tell them what you need done and then give them the autonomy to do it.  Be there to guide but not to stifle. Allowing your direct reports to teach you as much as you teach them, makes you  the kind of leader who inspires and engages your team. Being a leader who has the ability to change your mind when given new information helps your team respect you. Sticking to your guns but explaining your rationale works well too. In a nutshell, being a good communicator is one of the best ways to create a successful team.

Since I am a  big fan of the female adventurer who defies the odds and often competes with men in a rascally fashion, I created my leadership Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) for success with Picara as the acronym.

Comfort with the success of others
Risk (influencer)
Awareness of self

PASSION: A Passionate leader is a driver.  They love the people, they love the work and they want everyone to do well. They are driven by the way they feel but have the balance of the other KSAs to keep them from becoming overly emotional about everything.

ACCOUNTABILITY: An Accountable leader is not afraid to fail. They make mistakes but they don’t make the same mistakes. They stand up and say, “yes, I thought it was a good idea at the time”, or “yes, I was responsible for what went wrong.”  The key is that when something is successful, they are not the ones who take all of the credit.

COMFORTABLE WITH THE SUCCESS OF OTHERS: A leader who is comfortable with the success of others is not concerned with rightness or control of every situation.  They instead understand that their team’s success says a lot about they way they lead. When a leader knows this, they create a team of people who have different strengths than they do and then leverages those strengths to create a highly productive and cohesive team.

ADAPTABILITY: Adaptability  is more important now than ever.  With everyone espousing change management and change leadership a leader that is hesitant to change is not going to be very successful in driving it.  As the old adage says: the only constant we have is change. A good leader welcomes and embraces change and understands that sometimes we need to have a funeral for the old processes in order to get our people to move forward.

Risk Taker/Influencer :A good leader is not afraid to take risks or be an influencer.  Calculated and well planned risks may be something that happens daily in a leadership role. Part of taking risks is understanding the importance of giving constructive feedback to your team.  Many leaders fail because this is not a risk they are willing to take. People want and value feedback, so if this is an area you struggle with, this is one risk you cannot afford not to take.

Awareness of self : The ability to be self aware is a very important trait in a leader.  It is a sign of emotional intelligence and the ability to understand where your passion and emotion is taking you. It is being mindful and focusing on the facts. It is also recognizing whether or not you are “in the moment” with a team member or colleague.  With everyone claiming that they cannot succeed without multitasking, it is important for a leader to understand how they pay attention.

In a nutshell, great leaders communicate effectively and understand how their team functions best.  They have positive attitudes and are not afraid to ask questions and give feedback.  They are focused on results and on people. I’ll sign off by sharing a couple of my favorite quotes on leadership!

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” — General George S. Patton

“Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” – Thomas J. Watson Sr.

Talkin’ About My Generation

Lately everyone has been talking about the different generations in the workplace and everyone has an opinion about who is the worst group to work with. Like it or not, there are currently four generations working together and they don’t always see eye to eye.

How do you motivate people with conflicting ethics and/or work styles? What do you need to know to get everyone working toward the same goal?

Let’s start by defining the generations.  Keep in mind that dates may vary by source and for this purpose we will use the following:

Traditionalist- Born 1920’s -Mid 1940’s

Baby Boomers- Born Mid 1940’s – Mid 1960’s

Generation X- Born Mid 1960’s -Mid 1980’s

Millennial/Generation Y- Born Mid 1980’s – Mid 1990’s

Research shows that organizations with high levels of generational diversity have worse employee engagement and satisfaction scores than organizations where people fall into similar age categories.  Are we in trouble?

The group that seems to get the most flack is the Millennial group also known as Generation Y. In my business life, I enjoy the fresh-faced Millennials with their grand ideas and their tenacity, but not everyone does.

I set out to see if what research says about the challenges from generation to generation hold true in how the groups think about each other.  This is not scientific research but merely a recap of a focus group of people I have direct exposure to.  If you are one of those science people hold your thoughts and commentary until the end and I will note it!

The Millennials shared that the Generation X leaders they report to are: bitter, jaded, aloof, and unable to delegate tasks. The Generation X folks told me the Millennials were needy, demanding overly confident job hoppers who were entitled and incapable of a good work ethic. Interestingly enough, the Traditionalists had the same thoughts about Millennials but they added that kids today are too focused on social media and that they have a blatant disregard for corporate structure and hierarchy. A few of the Traditionalists mentioned Attention Deficit Disorder. The Baby Boomers had similar sentiments but added that kids today are so eager to rise to the top that they want a checklist and think they should be promoted once the boxes are all checked. All groups agreed on the technological expertise of the Millennial group.

What did the Millennials think of the other groups? They said Baby Boomers are rule bound, unable to innovate and limit themselves by being slow to adapt to social media. They mentioned that Traditionalists were rigid and incapable of changing their minds and were inaccessible as leaders.

Where did Gen X fall?  They were quite vocal about the Baby Boomers overstaying their careers; micro managing and liking Millennials better because of their technological expertise.  They felt “skipped over” and lost because the Boomers have to “die before I can be promoted”. The Gen X group said Millennials are antsy to move up and are often selected because of technological skill.  The Traditionalists and the Baby Boomers really did not have much to say in the exercise, they were more focused on making sure goals were met and work was done.

Take a moment to think about each generation and you will get a better understanding of where their thought process comes from.  Traditionalists grew up during the depression.  They saw the sacrifices that their parent’s made and watched the Government create jobs and programs for the poor and elderly.  They are patriotic and loyal.

Baby Boomers, on the other had different exposure. They grew up focused on self.  Some studies even dub them the “me” generation.  They grew up in the Birth Control Era and saw Women’s Liberation come to fruition. Many were anti establishment. Looking at them in the workplace we see them as having an identity that is aligned to their work.  Many are loyal workaholics.

Compare them to the Generation X folks who were the first generation to have less than their parents and know it. Many were latch key kids raised in single parent homes.  They were taught that education was the key to success and they were the first mobile/ technological generation (think Walkman and really big cell phones). They lived in an era where technology changed quickly and job loss was rampant. They learned to always be ready for the rug to be pulled out from under them. In the workplace they see how they can fit any job because they have ‘”transferable skills” (even if they don’t). They have challenges with loyalty because they saw their parent’s lose jobs after 20-30 years of employment.

The Millennials are 80 million plus.  This is the largest group since the Baby Boomers. They were using technology by age two and technology changed and grew along with them. They grew up surrounded by Diversity.  In fact by the 1990’s 25% of new immigrants to the US were under the age of 19. Millennial kids were raised by Helicopter parents who hovered over them, scheduled them to death and got them involved with volunteerism, environmental consciousness and corporate social responsibility. This group was raised to think they could do anything and everyone got a trophy no matter how badly they played. They don’t understand the concept of compartmentalizing work and home because technology has always been accessible.

Interestingly enough, my focus group matched the research pretty darn well, with one exception. I found that the Millennials did not like the “everybody wins” mentality and that they prefer to be the stand out amongst their peers, even in a collaborative setting.

To help understand how to manage each group, I have some bullet points  that explain the main focus of the work life attitude. Please note that these are generalizations and they do not necessarily apply to all people in every group.

Work Ethic

  • Traditionalists- Hard workers who like a structured environment and a defined corporate hierarchy
  • Baby Boomers-Workaholics who are focused on quality and hoard information to protect their roles
  • Generation X-Self reliant workers who value autonomy, hate micro managers and are generally skeptical
  • Millennial/Generation Y-Tenacious workers who are goal focused multi-taskers who find it hard to separate work from life

Management Style (As leaders)

  • Traditionalists- Directive
  • Baby Boomers-Democratic
  • Generation X- Equality across the board
  • Millennial/Generation Y-Collaborative

Interactive Style

  • Traditionalists-Prefer 1:1 meetings
  • Baby Boomers-Love team meetings
  • Generation X-Entrepreneurial style-treat it like it’s your own business
  • Millennial/Generation Y-Lets collaborate, we are all in this together

Preferred Method of Communication

  • Traditionalist- 1:1 meetings, formal memos, telephone calls
  • Baby Boomers-In person meetings whenever possible
  • Generation X -Direct communication whether in person or by email
  • Millennial/ Generation Y – IM or Text

Here are a few simple rules to create collaborative cross-generational teams

1. Understand the differences in work styles, motivations and the way each group prefers feedback. In fact, when you hire a new employee ask how they would like to receive unpleasant feedback.  When the time comes and they need to be coached, remind them that they told you they preferred feedback in the way you are delivering it.

2. Seek a balance between building on the traditional procedures and looking at flexibility as an option.  Remember, it’s the Traditionalist view that built business as we know it today, but it’s the Millennials that are changing the world as we know it now.

3. Support the value that the Boomers and Traditionalists bring to the table. Recognizing that they are solid contributors motivates them.

4. Entertain new ideas and innovative thought processes.  Allow some thinking outside the box and changes in technology where you can.

5. Give opportunities for collaboration and ask employees to commit to a goal.

6. If all of this is new and you are just beginning to incorporate these tidbits of understanding you may want to decide what your vision and mission for the change is. Once you do that, be sure to communicate it.  We will be talking about this in a blog post all its own.

Happy Leading!