Amazing video, make to sure to watch this without fail!
Amazing video, make to sure to watch this without fail!
Found an interesting article today….
|Soft skills enhance your technical skills.|
In almost all jobs, your people skills – also known as “soft skills” – have as much of an impact on your success as your technical skills. That’s especially true when you’re in a management or leadership role.
The importance of having solid people skills transcends industry and profession; so, whether you lead people, aspire to lead people, or work within a team of professionals, you need to apply people skills to achieve your objectives.
So, how good are your people skills? Take this short quiz to assess your current skill levels. Once you’ve answered these questions, we can then point you toward specific tools and resources that you can use to develop and improve this important area of competency.
How Good Are Your People Skills?
|1||I ensure that I display the same standards of behavior that I expect from other people.||1||2||3||4||5|
|2||When providing feedback, I wait until I’ve observed enough incidents of a behavior to make a generalized statement that is accurate.||5||4||3||2||1|
|3||I go along with others’ decisions rather than inject my ideas into the mix.||5||4||3||2||1|
|4||I say “thank you” to the people I work with.||1||2||3||4||5|
|5||During times of conflict I think about how to preserve the relationship and still get my needs met.||1||2||3||4||5|
|6||While actively talking with someone, I have composed my answer before they have finished speaking.||5||4||3||2||1|
|7||I look out for myself at work and do what is necessary to get ahead.||5||4||3||2||1|
|8||I think about how others perceive a problem or issue.||1||2||3||4||5|
|9||I speak first, and think later.||5||4||3||2||1|
|10||I collaborate with others to solve problems using a variety of problem solving tools and techniques.||1||2||3||4||5|
|11||I cause more harm than good when trying to resolve a conflict.||5||4||3||2||1|
|12||When someone gives me feedback, I ask him or her to provide examples so that I can better understand the issue.||1||2||3||4||5|
|13||I pay attention to other people’s body language.||1||2||3||4||5|
|14||Where team agreement is necessary, I figure out the best solution to a problem and then explain why it’s the right decision.||5||4||3||2||1|
|15||I study my audiences’ needs, decide what I want to say and then figure out the best way to say it.||1||2||3||4||5|
|16||I make sure everyone knows about my contribution to a positive outcome.||5||4||3||2||1|
Now add up the scores you’ve circled.
|My score overall is:||out of 80|
|16-36||Your technical skills may have taken precedence over your people skills in your career to date. You aren’t making the most of the relationships you have at work, and this may be limiting your career growth. It’s time to assess how you can work better with others in the workplace and develop a more collaborative, understanding, and open approach to getting your needs met – while still achieving team and organizational objectives.|
|37-58||You recognize that working well with others in the workplace is important; and you are trying to work collaboratively while still making sure your needs are met. There is room for improvement, however, as old habits may creep in during times of stress and pressure. Make a plan to work actively on your people skills so that they form the natural basis for how you approach workplace relationships.|
|59-80||Your people skills are good. You understand the give and take involved in working well with other people. You might not always approach situations perfectly, however you have a sufficiently good understanding to know when and where you need to take steps to rectify things. Keep working on your people skills, and set an example for the rest of your team. And take some time to work on the specific areas below where you lost points.|
The quiz assesses your skills according to the four main themes below. Review your scores for each theme, and read more where you need to.
Interpersonal Communication Skills (Statements 6, 9, 13, 15)
For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.
|Total||Out of 20|
Very many people spend more time working with other people than they do working on their own. This means that they need to communicate well with others, and this means that communication skills are some of the most important skills in the workplace.
Some of the key communication stumbling blocks to be aware of include:
Managing Differences (Statements 3, 5, 8, 11)
For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.
|Total||Out of 20|
People can seem to disagree about almost anything – what caused a problem, how to solve it, what values are right, what values are wrong, what goals should be pursued; the list goes on! On top of this, you have the personal, non-job-related differences between people that lead to obvious differences in outlook and approach.
Because of this, respecting and managing the differences between people can be one of the most important skills you can develop! Indeed, it can be a huge advantage if you can learn to celebrate and enjoy differences, and make them work to your advantage.
Key to this is recognizing that, in many cases, conflict is not “bad”. In fact, conflict often causes significant, positive change. It spawns creative and novel approaches to problem solving, and can actually improve organizational performance if managed properly. In article Resolving Team Conflict, we discuss how you can build stronger teams by facing and embracing personal differences. And then, with article Conflict Resolution tool, we outline how to use the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach for solving interpersonal issues. Both of these articles outline how you can emerge from conflict with strong and healthy relationships.
When resolving conflict, it helps a lot if you can understand other people’s needs and points of view – this can often help you find solutions that may otherwise not have occurred to you. And when you take the time to understand another person’s perspective, you are demonstrating your willingness to work together to find a solution. Articles on Empathy at Work and Perceptual Positions can help you develop this aspect of people skills.
Finally, you need to be appropriately assertive if you’re going to manage differences effectively. Aggression is clearly counter-productive if you’re trying to resolve conflict, but also, if you fail to recognize your own needs in a situation, you run the risk of agreeing to a solution that works against your own interests. Again, it’s important to remember that differences aren’t necessarily negative, so suppressing your thoughts and ideas just to come to an easy agreement isn’t efficient. You can read more about assertiveness in the article here. And Yes to the Person, No to the Task is a useful approach to use in everyday situations where you need to manage differences assertively and effectively.
Managing Agreement (Statements 2, 10, 12, 14)
For statements in this category, fill in your scores in the table below, and then calculate your total.
|Total||Out of 20|
While managing differences may be an obvious application of people skills, managing agreement may not seem to be. However, helping people come to agreement is important, and it needs a great deal of skill!
“Synergy” is one of the most important things that you’re looking for with teamwork. This is where the team’s output is better or greater than the sum of each individual’s input. To achieve synergy, you need to get people working together collaboratively.
If you’ve ever participated in a team decision-making process, you probably realize that reaching a decision by yourself can be much more straightforward! The problem with individual decision-making, though, is that you miss out on all of the insights that other people can give. With strong people skills, you don’t need to back away from collaborative situations: you can approach team meetings with a genuinely positive attitude!
When you’re engaging in group decision-making, make sure you avoid the common pitfalls. See article on Groupthink for more!
Part of this involves feeling comfortable with different kinds of questions, and with when to use them, and how. In article on Questioning Techniques, we look at open and closed questions, as well as other common types of question that you can use to keep conversation flowing and get the specific information you need.
As well as this, it’s useful to have a good selection of Problem Solving Tools in your arsenal. When you are confident in your ability to find solutions you will be more likely to participate in these conversations and add value to your team. In article Opening Closed Minds, we can see how to get your point across effectively, so that you can reach the agreement you are seeking. These types of tools will give you the confidence you need to confront differences, knowing that you can also manage the agreement side of the equation.
Another aspect of managing agreement relates to feedback. When given poorly, people reject feedback: it’s viewed as destructive criticism, and it can damage relationships. Delivered well, however, feedback can lead to an improved understanding of one another’s needs and perspectives, as well as improving performance and productivity. Look at this in detail in article, Giving and Receiving Feedback. Also, in article looking at the Johari Window we outline a great technique for increasing interpersonal understanding through self-disclosure.
The bottom line is that, to develop strong people skills, you need to be able to accept what others are saying and learn from this. Not only will this help you personally, it will help you relate openly and honestly with others.
Personal Integrity (Statements 1, 4, 7, 16)
|Total||Out of 20|
Integrity is the cornerstone of people skills. Integrity means basic honesty and truthfulness when dealing with others. It also means working with people openly, and in such a way that people’s interests aren’t compromised for the sake of the team or the organization.
Basic courtesies like saying “thank you” often, and giving credit where it is due, are the types of people-oriented behaviors that can make all of the difference to other people. Whether you are in a leadership position or not, recognizing your teammates’ contributions and acknowledging their efforts will go a long way towards creating a positive, harmonious, and productive team climate.
With well-developed people skills, you can communicate effectively on an interpersonal level; manage conflict positively; work productively with others to find solutions and reach agreement; and work with integrity and ethics to motivate and inspire others.
These are all skills that can be learned and developed. As such, even the most technically-oriented worker can begin to incorporate people skills in his or her work setting.
Best of all, people skills are not limited to the workplace. When worked on actively, they will enrich all aspects of your professional and personal life.
Restoring Commitment to Prevent Resignations
|Be alert for signs of unhappiness.|
Which members of your team would you miss most if they left tomorrow? And what makes them so valuable?
Chances are, they’ve been there long enough to know exactly how the organization works. Highly competent at what they do, efficient, organized and with excellent soft skills, they know who to talk to in other departments to solve major problems. As such, they’re the “go to people” whenever things get difficult.
When you’ve got these kind of people around, your team achieves more – not only through their direct contribution, but because they set the standard in attitude, behavior and results for everyone else.
As a manager, you really want to keep these valued players happy, so that your team continues to benefit from their exceptional performance.
But what if you notice signs that some of your leading people may feel that their futures lie elsewhere? If you get to the point where you receive their resignations, your team is likely to be in trouble. Just a few of the consequences are loss of knowledge, disruption, lower collective morale, and the time and effort wasted recruiting and training replacements. All in all, it might take months – or years – to rebuild your team.
Understanding how to handle this sort of situation, or even better, being able to avoid it happening in the first place, is critical to keeping valued team members happy, effective and engaged.
This article helps you to recognize and avoid the issues that might push a team member to leave. Use step-by-step approach to help avoid potential pitfalls, so that you can continue to get the best from your team’s star players.
Step 1: Identify the Warning Signs
The sooner that you detect that someone might be thinking of leaving, the better chance you have of changing their mind. This is why you should always be on the look-out for significant changes in the behavior of members of your team.
The kind of signs that you might need to be concerned about include:
Be aware that any change in behavior may be significant when it comes to making sure that valued team members are happy. In some cases, a seemingly positive change may be just as much of a warning sign as an obviously negative one. For example, a team member whose productivity suddenly increases may perhaps see this as a way of impressing a potential new boss in another department, or she may be anxious to leave with a clear desk and a clear conscience.
Similarly, a colleague who used to stay focused on his work, but who begins to chat at colleagues’ desks, may be avoiding doing work that he no longer enjoys.
There’s no need to become cynical about such changes, but do consider them in the context of that team-member’s performance and behavior. Then you can decide the best way to sustain that person’s contribution to the team.
There are particular times in the calendar year when you need to be especially alert to changes in people’s attitudes. When people have longer periods away from their jobs, such as during summer or end of year vacations, they may be prompted to rethink their situation.
Such “moments of truth” can also occur at the signing-off of long projects, or even at the end of the financial year. Team members who’ve been in their role for some time may feel a responsibility, or even a moral obligation, to make a move only when one activity is finished and the next hasn’t yet started.
Step 2: Understand Possible Problems
Of course, it can often be difficult to link the symptoms of unhappiness with their underlying causes. For example, one team member may withdraw from office chit-chat because she feels overworked. Another with the same problem – feeling overworked – might take refuge in muttered discussions at the coffee machine.
However, there are several tools that can help you understand why someone might want to leave a job.
Salary is traditionally given as an example of a job hygiene factor. However, in an economic climate where people’s pay expectations have decreased, other hygiene factors – such as good relationships with supervisors – will often be more important.
Herzberg’s model also states that, even when there are no hygiene factor problems causing a team member to be dissatisfied with their job, they won’t necessarily be satisfied with their work. To experience job satisfaction, “motivating factors” need to be in place. Typical motivators are the content of work itself, recognition of effort, and the availability of growth opportunities.
Often the reasons for a valued team member “wanting out” involve a combination of inadequate hygiene factors and missing motivators, so make sure that you consider both when looking for early warning signs that someone might be considering leaving.
So, when you’re considering someone who appears to be de-motivated, look for situations in which the link between effort and outcome has been broken. Was a project they were working on cancelled just before implementation, for example? Are results no better, despite the team member working hard to implement new initiatives? Or has the bonus pot been slashed?
|Although this step involves “guessing” what the problem is, when it would clearly be more efficient to ask this straight out, it helps to spend a little time up front to consider what might be going on: this gives you the opportunity to prepare responses. Time is often of the essence in fending off a resignation – especially if the person involved is already interviewing elsewhere. You want to avoid having to say “I see, well, let me go away and think about how I can help with that, and we’ll talk again next week.”|
Step 3: Talk to Your Team Member
Once you’ve thought about what the issues might be, it’s time to have a friendly chat with your team member to see if anything’s troubling him or her. Use informal, open questions, in a private, one-to-one session.
Sometimes all it takes is a question like “How’s it going?” or “How do you feel about project X?” to get the person to open up. Make sure that you listen carefully, and that you both have enough time for everything that needs to be said.
Step 4: Fixing the Issue
Work on a plan to improve the situation together.
Try to find a solution which plays to your valued team member’s particular strengths. This can often be more profitable for both the person and the organization than focusing on eradicating weaknesses in performance. Using the Reflected Best Self™ Exercise is a good way to help team members define exactly what their strengths are, helping them to go even further with their current job.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
In the long term, remember that there are a number of things you should be doing on an ongoing basis to keep people engaged, productive and happy. These include:
At the end of the day, you need to accept that there will be some factors that you just can’t influence. For example, a team member may wish to work in another city or country for personal reasons. Or someone may accept a career promotion, which means a move to a different part of the organization, because your department simply can’t offer a similar opportunity right now.
Understanding that these kinds of factor do exist, and that you can’t do anything about them, will help you manage these departures so that they minimize the impact on other key players. Explain the situation to your team, and use the methods outlined in this article to keep the rest of your valued team members on board.
Keeping valued team members means not only maintaining the right work environment, but also being sensitive to signs of change. You can avoid resignations by paying attention to factors like team trust and job satisfaction. By appropriate monitoring of changes in employees’ behavior, and careful analysis of the possible causes, you can handle problems with less effort and more success.
Leading – and Succeeding – in a Downturn
Don’t leave your team stranded.
“The truth is that no one factor makes a company admirable. But if you were forced to pick the one that makes the most difference, you’d pick leadership.“
Warren Bennis, Organizational Consultant and Author
As organizations adapt to changing business environments, the need for effective leadership is especially critical.
When times are good, leading a company or a team is exciting. Resources are plentiful, customers are satisfied, and opportunity is everywhere. However, when the economic conditions are challenging, this excitement and positive energy tend to weaken. People often feel the pressures of work, and they fear for their job security. These worries and fears present a major challenge for leaders who want to keep their teams on target and productive.
Good leadership is good leadership, regardless of the economic climate. However, during difficult times, top-notch leadership skills become even more important. Second-rate leaders might be able to keep a company going in a strong economy, but you need high-performing leaders to succeed in tough times.
Of course, you need leaders who can control costs and conserve cash. However you also need leaders who see opportunity – and who will strive to seize that opportunity – despite all the negativity. You need leaders who remain committed to their people. And you need leaders who can transfer their own positive outlook to the people around them.
Create New Opportunities
In an economic downturn, you need to conserve your resources so that you can survive. However, you also need to position yourself to benefit as competitors falter, and to be ready when the economy recovers. An economy in decline is often an opportunity to regroup, rethink, and renew. To take advantage of new opportunities, consider doing the following:
Commit to Your People
Negative messages are all too common during economic downturns. People are losing their jobs, unemployment rates are going up, and personal and corporate bankruptcies are increasing. This can weaken morale, both in the workplace and in society as a whole, and it can tip people into panic, severely damaging their productivity.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t abandon your people. Use this time to reinforce how important they are, and build the skills they need to help the company survive.
For more ideas on building motivation in the workplace, and improving individual motivation and performance, see Herzberg’s Motivators and Hygiene Factors.
Project Positive Energy
Good leaders provide hope and vision. These two qualities can keep a workplace going, even during tough times. People need someone they can trust – someone who is inspiring, and knows how to get things done. As a leader, make it a priority to do the following:
Leadership during good economic times has its challenges. But those challenges increase when the economy is tough, and staff are worried about keeping their jobs and paying their bills.
In these conditions, leaders and managers must keep a sharp eye on their environment, prepare for recovery, support their people, and project enthusiasm and energy. By remaining positive, supporting your people, and looking for new business opportunities, you can help your company survive – and succeed – through the difficult times. Leadership performance is critical to organizational success, so use all of the assets available to you.
Leading With Generosity
Good leaders help others shine and grow.
The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
– Nelson Henderson
I am holding in my hand a graceful, inspirational book entitled “Ramban’s Ladder: A Meditation on Generosity and Why It is Necessary to Give” by Julie Salamon. The book is based on the teachings of Ramban, a physician and philosopher who, more than a thousand years ago, developed Ramban’s Ladder, which outlines the various forms of giving from the lowest – handing out money begrudgingly, as one might to a panhandler – to the highest, helping someone become self-reliant. I have long been meditating on the whole issue of generosity as an important quality of leadership: observing leaders who had it, and those who lacked it.
When we think of generosity, our thoughts automatically drift to gifts of money or charity. In the context of leadership, there are other gifts that don’t have a monetary value, but whose value is beyond price. These include giving someone a chance; giving someone the benefit of the doubt; and giving others a reason to want to work for you. It entails giving others latitude, permission to make mistakes, and all the information that they need to do the job. It’s giving them the authority that goes with responsibility – it’s giving them due credit for their ideas. In a nutshell, all of this translates to generosity of spirit, a quality we admire in leaders.
Generosity, a word which once meant ‘of noble birth,’ used to be associated with members of the aristocracy who, by virtue of their privileges, were expected to show generosity towards those in lesser standing. A leader too, by virtue of her position, and the power and privileges that she holds relative to those she leads, has the same expectations and obligations. A prime obligation is to lead with a generous heart, and to be guided by a nobility of mind. A leader’s generosity has a positive spreading effect – conversely, its absence has a series of negative consequences that, if a leader paused to reflect on them, may stop her in her tracks.
I am a firm believer that people need more than just ‘a nice job close to home.’ Most people want to find meaning in their jobs – they want to feel that they are a part of something bigger and something better. They want to know that what they do matters. A leader with a generous spirit understands this need, and connects the dots for people – the dots that help them see how the work they perform, no matter how small it may be in the scheme of things, has a bearing on the ultimate vision of the company.
There is a well-known anecdote that is related by Tom Peters about a hospital in the US that treats cancer. During a series of staff interviews, an interviewer asked the housekeeper what her job entailed. She responded, “I help to cure cancer.” Somewhere in that hospital, a leader connected the dots for this individual, and made her feel that she was an integral part of the hospital’s mission. Do you do that for the people who do the work in your unit or organization?
There is a lot of talk these days about lack of engagement in the workforce. Imagine how engaged people are when their leader makes them feel that they are a fundamental part of the success of the organization; that everyone, from the receptionist or mail clerk to the Vice President of Product Development, constitutes a binding thread, tightly interwoven into the company fabric – each equally doing its part to give the fabric its strength.
A leader with a generous spirit delegates not just routine work, but understands about delegating worthwhile work that becomes a gift of development and growth for someone else. How we love those leaders! These are the leaders that make us want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work to give that person the very best that we have to offer. These are the leaders who get our discretionary effort, every day.
And what about gifts of information? In a survey on effective motivation published by 1000 Ventures, one of the top items that individuals want in the workplace is the ability to be ‘in’ on things. This was rated 9 on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. Managers ranked this item as 1! This is a large chasm in understanding. The quickest way to satisfy this need in constituents is to share information. We have all come across some leaders who are inclined to hoard crucial information as the currency of power. Leaders with a generous spirit give employees a chance to get under the hood and to be a part of the inner circle. Freely and generously sharing know-how, expertise, and ideas is not only beneficial for employees – it’s a smart way of doing business.
Albert Camus said: “Real generosity toward the future consists in giving all to what is present.” How often, as leaders, we are so focused on future achievements, on realizing the vision of the organization, that in the process, we neglect the people who are there. A leader of a successful software firm confessed to me once that she woke up one day realizing how much she had disconnected emotionally from the people who did the work in her organization, while focusing on the strategic imperatives of the company. Today, we have a tendency to be too self-absorbed. We become self-involved to the point where, without intending it, we exclude others; and we often only consciously notice that we have excluded them when they have become disengaged. Self-absorption inherently prevents generosity. Once in a while, it helps to stop and ask oneself: “Am I giving enough to the people around me?”
There is an African village where the greeting words for ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’ are: “I am here if you are here.” Imagine the gift we give others when we are fully present with them – when we truly see them. Perhaps this is what Ralph Waldo Emerson meant when he said: “The only gift is the gift of thyself.” Bill Clinton recently ended a speech to a 6,000-member audience with an exhortation to “see more people.” This preceded his reference to all the people who do the clean-up work behind the scenes after the audience leaves. Do we give a thought to the people who are unnoticed in our organizations, those who quietly work in the background?
While generosity in its pure sense is altruistic, you do still get something back from it: surprise dividends in the form of a recycling of goodwill, a surplus of cooperation, and the sheer satisfaction of seeing another benefit from our giving of ourselves, our time, our attention, our knowledge, and the very best that we have to offer those who cross our paths at work or life. We will never know what opportunities we may have missed in life by showing up tight-fisted. It is hard to receive anything if we don’t open our hands to give.
As a leader, giving people the gift of not just our appreciation for good work, but our genuine admiration for their talents, is generosity of spirit at its pinnacle. This is the difference between saying to someone: “Great job” versus “This was pure genius;” or “I appreciated your help” versus “I couldn’t have done it without you.” When it comes to genuine praise, like the sun at high noon, give resplendently. When you see good work, say it, and say it from the heart, just as you thought it. Free up the thought, and let it breathe – let it fly out there in the form of generous words, and watch what you get back. Giving is ultimately sharing.
Here are some practical tips to enhance our generosity of spirit:
Lead From the Front
There are many different power bases that a leader can use.
These include problematic ones such as the power of position, the power to give rewards, the power to punish and the power to control information. While these types of power do have some strength, they can put the person being led in an unhealthy position of weakness, and can leave leaders using these power bases looking autocratic and out of touch.
More than this, society has changed hugely over the last 50 years. Citizens are individually more powerful, and employees are more able to change jobs. Few of us enjoy having power exerted over us, and many will do what they can to undermine people who use these sorts of power.
However, there are three types of positive power that effective leaders can use: charismatic power, expert power and referent power.
This article teaches the technique of building expert power.
Using the Tool:
Expert power is essential because, as a leader, your team looks to you for direction and guidance. Team members need to believe in your ability to lead in a worthwhile direction, give sound advice, and co-ordinate a good result.
If members of your team see you as a true expert, they will be much more receptive when you try to persuade them to do something, and when you want to inspire them to make more of an effort.
And if they see you as an expert, you’ll find it much easier to motivate them:
Taken together, if your team sees you as an expert, you’ll find it much easier to motivate your people to perform at their best.
So how do you build expert power?
But just being an expert isn’t enough, it is also necessary that your people recognize your expertise and see you as a credible source of information and advice. Gary A. Yukl, in his book “Leadership in Organizations,” details some steps to build expert power. These are:
One common way of doing this is to display diplomas, licenses, awards, and other evidence of expertise in a prominent location in your office – after all, if you’ve worked hard to gain knowledge, it’s fair that you get credit for it. Another tactic is to make subtle references to prior education or experience (for example, “When I was chief engineer at GE, we had a problem similar to this one”). Beware, however: this can easily be overdone.
Team members can dislike unfavorable status comparisons where the gap is very large and obvious. And they are likely to be upset by a leader who acts in a superior way, and arrogantly flaunts his greater expertise.
In the process of arguing for what they want, some leaders lecture their team members in a condescending manner and convey the impression that the other team members are “ignorant.” Guard against this.
Bridging the Gap Between Younger and Older Leaders
Different generations, different approaches?
Picture this scenario: the leader of a long-established team in your organization has retired, and his replacement is a young manager straight out of business school. She’s anxious to get going – with fresh ideas and fresh enthusiasm – and your CEO hopes that she’ll bring some new life and energy into the company.
As the weeks go by, however, you begin to see growing discomfort and conflict between the older staff and this new team member. Your older colleagues think “the new kid” is overconfident, pushy, and too anxious to leave right at 5:00pm. The newcomer finds it hard to get support from her older colleagues. She’s concerned that they can’t (or won’t) multitask, they’re less confident with technology, and they’re unwilling to share their hard-earned knowledge. As a result, cooperation is suffering.
How can you bridge this generation gap? And why is this important?
There’s little doubt that the US workforce is at a unique point in history (we’ll look at other countries shortly). As “Baby Boomers” (people born between 1946 and 1964) begin to retire, the new generation steps into their shoes.
Now, we’re going to make some sweeping generalizations here – this topic demands them. Not everyone in these generations fits these generalizations, however enough do to make them useful!
Generation X, or Gen X (born between 1965 and 1976), and Generation Y, or Gen Y (also called “Millennials,” born between 1977 and 1998), have values and work styles that are completely different from baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and the World War II generation (born between 1928 and 1945). Finding ways to bridge the gaps within this new multigenerational workforce takes great skill and it all starts with understanding how leaders of different generations think, and what’s important to them.
|Four Generations at Work:
Today’s workforce spans four different generations.While the precise definitions of these generation vary, sociologists (starting with researchers Howard Schuman and Jacqueline Scott) generally define them as follows:
In the US, the drop in birth rate in the post baby boom years means that, by 2010, the number of people in the 35-44 middle management age-group will drop by nearly 20%. Many other major economies worldwide are facing similar demographic changes. One practical consequence of this is that organizations will have to work much harder to attract and retain good people.
“New generation” leaders are a scarce commodity, and should be nurtured as such.
And new generation leaders themselves need to understand the differences in outlook between themselves and old leaders, and manage their working relationships appropriately.
Different Generations: What They Care About
The new generations of leaders often have a completely different way of working from their older counterparts.
For example, while boomers and the World War II generation usually view long hours as evidence of loyalty and hard work, Gen X and Y tend to try to have more work/life balance. They’ve seen their parents’ lack of quality of life, and the lack of loyalty that companies showed to these hard-working parents in the 1990s, and they’re not impressed.
They want flexible hours, more vacation time, continuous training, and telecommuting options. They expect to leverage technology to work efficiently instead of staying late in the office to get it all done.
Boomers and the WWIIs have traditionally felt that you have to “pay your dues” to your company – and if you hate your job, that’s just part of life. Generations X and Y typically don’t accept this; they want rewarding, intellectually stimulating work – and they don’t want someone watching them too closely to check on their progress. These new groups are independent, creative, and forward thinking. They celebrate cultural diversity, technology, and feedback, and they prefer more of a “lattice” or individualized approach to management (as opposed to the traditional “corporate ladder”).
The new generations also tend to like teamwork. Studies have shown that colleague relationships rank very high on Gen X and Y’s list of priorities. Things like salary and prestige can often rank lower than boomers and WWIIs might expect, or might want for themselves.
Some people argue that differences between generations aren’t as strong as are suggested here, and that people’s life stages are often more significant (see our article on the Life/Career Rainbow for more on this.)
Our opinion is that people are complex, and are affected by a range of different factors; that life stage is, of course, important in the way that people think and behave; but that there are differences in attitude between different generations, and these can lead to sometimes-profound misunderstandings between people of different generations.
Attracting and Retaining the New Generations
Many have talked about how Gen X and Y seem always ready to leave one company and move onto something better, as soon as there’s an opportunity. While it’s true that they usually won’t stay with a job if they’re unhappy – as boomers often did – this doesn’t mean they aren’t serious or loyal.
It simply means that if you want to keep the best and brightest leaders in your organization, you need to offer them an environment that’s geared to their values.
Quite a few Fortune 500 companies are changing their entire organizations to meet the wants and values of these new generations. Here are some examples:
If you think these dramatic policies would never work and would be too costly, then remember – these are all very profitable, highly productive companies with low staff turnover. They’ve made new rules, and they’re successful.
So, what does all this say about the new generation’s leadership styles? Well, it’s easy to see that Gen X and Y are unlikely to lead in the same way the boomers and the WWIIs did.
The new leaders value teamwork and open communication. They’ll encourage collaboration, and they won’t give direction and expect to be followed just because they’re in charge. They want to understand their peers and other people’s perspectives.
They’ll spend more time building relationships with their teams than their predecessors did. Because they value their family time, they’ll also give their staff enough time for personal lives. As a result, corporate culture might become less rigid than it is now, bringing more flexibility and a sense of fun.
As a result, if you’re a member of a team whose leadership is being passed from an older generation leader to a new generation leader, you’ll probably need to adjust to having more autonomy delegated to you, and to finding that the boss may not be around as much to check on things.
This new generation values action, so they’ll work more efficiently and productively to earn time off. They’ll expect their team to work hard too, but they’ll also know when it’s time to leave the office and go play. One of the ways in which they gain this efficiency is by using technology. Although they themselves will usually get to grips with this easily, you may need to remind new generation leaders that other members of their team need more training and support than they do themselves, if they’re to get up to the same speed with new applications.
But they’ll also follow a leader who has heart. So if you have new generation managers in your team, then you’ll probably have to prove your worth before they’ll fully support you. But once you show them that worth, they’ll follow you all the way.
Here are some things you can do in your company to ensure that your new generation of leaders wants to stay.
There’s no doubt that the new generation of leaders has priorities that are often quite different from those of most leaders in place today.
So if you want to hire and keep the best and brightest people, the ones who will lead your company into the future, then you must create a work environment that’s tailored to their values and priorities.
“I Swear By Apollo”
Being Accountable to Yourself In Leadership“I swear by Apollo”… so starts the Oath of Hippocrates, an oath of ethical, professional behavior sworn by all new physicians – a promise to practice good medicine to the best of their ability, for the good of their patients. It essentially boils down to a commitment to “do no harm”. Wouldn’t it be great to have such an oath for leaders – an oath of personal accountability, not just for business outcomes and for leading others, but for leading oneself. I am reminded of the proverb “Physician, heal thyself”, suggesting that one should take care of one’s own faults first before correcting the faults of others – so I add to the above: Leader, lead thyself.
Any nuts-and-bolts leadership primer will explain that one of the key leadership competencies is holding others accountable. This entails, among other things, setting clear expectations and guidelines, clearly communicating goals and objectives, following up to ensure fulfillment of responsibilities, providing feedback on performance, coaching those whose performance is not up to par and, finally, taking any necessary corrective action. But a leader cannot expect to hold others accountable successfully if they are not holding themselves accountable first.
While this is an important dimension of leadership, it is easy to slip, when it comes to accountability for our own behavior. This can happen even to leaders who do a great job at holding themselves accountable for the big ticket items such as driving for results, whether in sales, operations, marketing or financing, identifying root causes for business problems, developing a vision and strategy and managing resources effectively.
Let’s clarify something before we proceed: no leader worth his salt wakes up in the morning deciding that he or she is not going to be accountable today. No one wants to do a bad job. But things happen during the course of the day that can divert the best of us from our good intentions and more often than not, it is unintentional, personal “slips”. It is about these seemingly innocuous personal slips that I want to talk. They take many, subtle forms. Let’s explore a few of the garden-variety ones:
Well, the list can go on. Some slips are due to personality preferences, others just from the sheer amount of work and stress that leaders often experience. The reasons are multiple and really not important. It’s the behaviors that are important.
They are all examples of behaviors you would not condone in others when you set out to hold them accountable. And as we all know, when there is a disparity between what you tell others to do and what you do yourself, people will believe your actions and not your words. The fallout of this scenario is an erosion of trust, one of the high prices we pay for lack of self-accountability.
Let’s also not neglect to mention that, as a leader, you sometimes have to take unpopular decisions and this can, by itself, elicit criticism. You are always in a fishbowl.
So what strategies can you adopt to be more careful, to be self-accountable – essentially to report to yourself?
For example: Puts the interests of the team before own interests; Shares credit for successes; Readily shares relevant information; Asks how am I doing; Treats others with respect regardless of their position; Fosters teamwork across all departments; Stands behind decisions made by the team; Provides honest feedback in a timely basis. Would others respond in this way about you?
Are you proud? Could you have done better? This will inspire you to plan your next day around your highest purpose. Getting into this habit of introspection will pay dividends in the long run.
To that end, consider reading John G. Miller’s book: QBQ! The Question behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability in Work and in Life. Reading the book inspires one to move away from the blame game we have all been tempted to play at one time or other and take ownership of issues.
Self-accountability, then, is staying true to ourselves despite difficult circumstances. It’s doing the right thing even when we are tempted to bend a few rules for expediency’s sake. Perhaps Deborah Lee put it best: “Self-accountability is who you are when no one is looking”. It’s also the best antidote to feeling victimized by circumstances and in so doing, frees up precious creative energy for us to accomplish what matters to us. Above all, it entails owning up to the consequences of our decisions and choices, because there is no choice without accountability.