Meetings: Another Clash Point

Older workers expect a phone call or a visit on important issues and will immediately schedule and plan a meeting to involve significant stakeholders. This frustrates younger workers, who want to meet on the spur of the moment, as soon as possible.

When I’m coaching older leaders, I listen to their complaints and they have a point. But so do younger workers.

For example, younger workers see nothing wrong with texting superiors and peers instead of scheduling face-to-face meetings, and they like to communicate and solve problems virtually. When faced with a need to meet, they try to contact everyone immediately and begin video conferencing, chatting, texting, talking and tweeting—often all at the same time.

Older team members prefer to find a time and day that fits everyone’s schedule—which can delay meeting for days or weeks. They fit things into their routines and calendars. To Gen Y, the ritual of workplace scheduling is stifling, unproductive and a waste of time.

The younger people may have a point. But to older colleagues, a seat-of-the-pants approach is irritating. They also have a point: It doesn’t give them enough time to think things through, nor to adequately prepare for a politically influential outcome.

Clash Point #4: Learning

Older generations are linear learners, comfortable sitting in classes, reading manuals and pondering materials before beginning to implement new programs.

Newer workers learn “on demand,” which to Boomers means they just want to “wing it,” figuring things out as they go. Gen-Y learning is interactive, using the Internet, Wikipedia and blogs. They rely on Google and web searches to find answers.

Gen Y doesn’t hesitate to call a friend or send an email directly to the CEO. They ask questions and get their information instantaneously. They are easily bored by training sessions, manuals and programs that spoon-feed information over time.

Issues You Can’t Ignore

Here’s why your team can’t afford to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done, hoping people will work out the details among themselves:

Gen X is a smaller generation, almost half the size of the Boomer generation. Gen Y is large—very large. This newer generation is much larger than the 77 million Boomers. Combined, Gen X and Gen Y already out number the Boomers and Seniors, making the 40 and younger crowd the largest segment of the workplace. Boomers no longer hold the majority vote, although most hold positions of power and responsibility.

This transition in power and influence is not something organizations can avoid or ignore. Leaders must learn to leverage each generation’s strengths for the benefit of all, or risk becoming less efficient and productive because of the inherent conflicts.

There is no room to allow tradition and convenience to hinder changes that boost performance and productivity. There’s also not much room for generational judging or complaining.

Leaders must create opportunities for a multigenerational workforce to share its differences. To hire and retain high performers, leaders must also provide flexible options. Look for ways to benefit from each generation’s assets to inspire understanding, collaboration and creativity.

Have you implemented strategies to integrate the generations on your team? Please leave a comment.

The Clash of the Generations: Ethics and Communication

By 2021, Gen X will be the senior members of the workforce, and both Gen X and New Millennials  will be in leadership positions. Big changes are already beginning to appear and, in 10 years, the world of work will be significantly different.

In my coaching practice, I’ve often listened to common complaints. Here are a few:

Clash Point #1: Work Ethics

Older workers talk about “going to work” and have always had a specified work schedule like 9-to-5. In the manufacturing economy, everyone used to be under the same roof, at the same time, to achieve maximum productivity, but times—and jobs—change.

Younger workers view work as “something you do,” anywhere, any time. They communicate 24/7 and expect real-time responses. The rigidity of set work hours seems unnecessary and even unproductive in the information age.

To younger workers, work ethics aren’t defined by how many hours one spends at a desk. Success is defined not by rank or seniority, but by what matters to each person individually.  Younger workers want to cut to the chase and define their true value. They don’t want to be paid for time; they want to be paid for their services and skills.

For younger employees with working spouses and children, work-life balance and flexible conditions have greater priority. Is someone who arrives at 9:30 a.m. necessarily working less hard than those who arrive at 8:30 a.m.? Differences in generational attitudes must not interfere with progress and productivity.

Clash Point #2:How We Communicate

Ask anyone over the age of 40 about younger workers, and you’ll hear stories about texting, cell phones and ear buds. Common complaints include:

  • They can’t spell or write.
  • They multitask, so I’m never sure they’re paying attention.
  • They’re attention-deficit kids, unable to focus for long.
  • They expect instant feedback and email responses.

These tech-immersed young workers are just as frustrated with older workers, who respond days later and think setting up a team meeting is the answer, when a few text messages could get faster results.

Older workers can’t expect the newer generation to digress into the past. Technology needs to be understood and used by everyone to improve productivity.

Communications and relationships remain essential, regardless of how technology is used. Both sides need to use and benefit from each other’s strengths in this domain.

Have you felt any of these Clash Points in YOUR team? I would love for you to share!

Are Younger Workers Different? Yes!

What happens when generations don’t share the same values and beliefs about workplace success? Older managers become baffled and confused when what used to work, no longer motivates new workers. In the work I do with teams, I get asked about this frequently.

Business consultant Cam Marston presents insights into managing across the generational divide in Motivating the “What’s in It for Me?” Workforce(2007, John Wiley & Sons).

Now, more than ever, American workers born after 1965 aren’t following in their elders’ footsteps. They have different workplace values and definitions of success.

Most positions of power and responsibility on organizational charts are occupied by baby boomers.  So if follows that, today’s corporate management practices still reflect the systems and values of their predecessors, the veterans.

Gen Xers and Millennials therefore present unique challenges for Boomer managers. They aren’t interested in time-honored traditions or “the way things have always been done.” Rather, they’re single-mindedly focused on what it takes to get ahead to reach their perceived career destination.

This group shuns past definitions of success: climbing the company ladder and earning the rewards that come with greater responsibility. The company ladder, in their view, is irrelevant.

Mature workers and Boomers in managerial and leadership positions struggle with these differing values and beliefs, wondering how to motivate their younger colleagues. If promotions, raises and bonuses fail to motivate, then what does the trick?

We can identify several differences in values. The new generation of workers has:

  1. A work ethic that no longer respects or values 10-hour workdays
  2. An easily attained competence in new technologies and a facility to master even newer ones with little discomfort
  3. Tenuous to nonexistent loyalty to any organization
  4. Changed priorities for lifetime goals achievable by employment

The most significant changes in perspective involve time, technology and loyalty.The most common clash points at work involve generational differences in the definition of work, modes of communications, meetings and learning.

Have you had issues with these differences on your team? What solutions have you found?

The Generation Gap is Deepening

Older generations’ complaints about the next generation are nothing new. Conflicts replay throughout every decade. However, because of technology,  this current generation gap is bigger than we’ve ever seen. I hear about these frustrations frequently in my work.

No generation is better or worse than another, and prevailing attitudes are neither right nor wrong—just decidedly different.

Every leader must master ways to bridge generational gaps because learning how to work, live and play together is crucial. Managerial survival calls for a coordinated, collaborative strategy to leverage each generation’s strengths and neutralize its liabilities.

Who Are the Generations?

First, a quick review of how the generations are grouped in the modern workplace:

  1. Veterans, born between 1922 and 1945 (52 million people). This cohort was born before or during World War II. Earliest experiences are associated with this world event. Some also remember the Great Depression.
  2. The Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 (77 million people). This generation was born during or after World War II and was raised in an era of extreme optimism, opportunity and progress. Boomers, for the most part, grew up in two-parent households, with safe schools, job security and post-war prosperity. They represent just underhalf of all U.S. workers. In the workplace, they value loyalty, respect the organizational hierarchy and generally wait their turn for advancement.
  3. Generation X, born between 1965 and 1979 (70.1 million people). These team members  were born during a rapidly changing social climate and economic recession, including Asian competition. They grew up in two-career families with rising divorce rates, downsizing and the dawn of the high-tech/information age. On the job, they can be fiercely independent, like to be in control and want fast feedback.
  4. Generation Y (the New Millennials), born between 1980 and 2000 (estimated to be 80–90 million). Born to Boomer and early Gen Xer parents into our current high-tech, neo-optimistic times, these are our youngest team members. They are the most technologically adept, fast learners and tend to be impatient.

Gen X and Y comprise half the U.S. work force. Baby Boomers account for 45%, and the remaining 5% are veterans (many of whom are charged with motivating newer employees).

How has this widening gap impacted your team? I’d love to hear your comments.

What is most important for me as a leader to focus on during these challenging times? (part 1)

What we need from leaders, now, is their ability to instill hope and to maintain and strengthen a culture of trust. This can be a very challenging, precarious dance. Many of us wrestle with this every day as we make hard decisions, deliver bad news, or choose between two equally worthy programs or ideas. Women everywhere are faced with this same dilemma at home. This dance requires new vision and new courage for instilling hope. Transformational shifts in direction come from those who are willing to act outside of the status quo.

Here are some of the principles and habits to practice in order to lead with hope:

1. Create tomorrow, don’t maintain yesterday. Anything that doesn’t support your vision for your organization, home and community needs to be abandoned. Be innovative!

2. See your challenges as opportunities. Welcome unexpected difficulties because they represent opportunities to make something better. View problems in the context of the larger vision. Imagine the possibilities.

3. Abandon scarcity thinking for abundance thinking. Practice gratitude daily and stop watching the sensationalized news.

4. Be willing to risk. When you move out of your comfort zone, you move into a place of new possibility.

5. Take action. Thinking about it isn’t enough. Be bold!

Why Coaching?

(Part 2)

Through out the years the majority of people I have worked with have been plagued with regrets for the life not explored. Even the most successful amongst us have regrets and blind spots. Each of us is limited by our own assumptions and beliefs. People whom we are close to us often collude with our assumptions and blind spots because they care so much about us, do not know what else to do and just want to ‘make’ us feel better. With the coaching process you have the opportunity to  explore and expand possibility and be held accountable for your forward movement from a neutral person (the coach) from a place of non judgment or bias. Through the coaching process clients explore what matters most to them and identify how they can and will live in alignment with those values. Coaching offers the possibility of living your life with clarity and intention leading to living authentically – a life of not regrets.

A coach champions your dreams, goals, movement and progress. The following quote captures the essences and power of the coaching process from a client perspective. “Coaching is powerful. I have certainly seen that in my own life. It has been fundamental for me in exploring my own possibility. More specifically, through, it has been your coaching – your compassion, your lack of judgment, your knowledge of coaching concepts and your guidance in helping me to apply those.”

A coach can be a powerful asset, but the key is that it is a co-active alliance with you, and you determine where you want that alliance to be directed. As with many things in life you get out of the coaching experience what you put into it. Coaching can be rigorous, challenging and deeply rewarding.

Tomorrow: How to Get the Most Out of Coaching

A Call to Intentional Leadership

This is a good time to check in on how each of you are doing living from the perspective of curiosity and possibility. What have you noticed when you approach life this way? How has it made a difference? How have others responded to you?

In considering these questions, think also about how you view yourself as a leader. Do you even see yourself as a leader? I believe that each of you are leaders, not by the positions you hold, but rather by how you influence those around you.

Leadership can be both formal and informal; what is most important is who you are and how you show up each and every day, with everyone you meet. How you are in relationship with others can be very powerful. Leaders are individuals who are able to win the hearts and minds of those they want to influence by engendering trust and operating from a base of honesty, consistency, integrity, authenticity and vision. Leadership is about intentional influence, guiding, structuring and facilitating activities. It is about how you are in relationship with others individually and in groups or organizations.

Women have many natural gifts that lend themselves to leadership. We are good at team-building and collaborating by encouraging participation. We are more inclined to be facilitative when leading groups, which leads to the empowerment of others. Open communication seems to come more naturally to women as a result of focusing on relationships, which encourages feedback and sharing of information and power. We often do not recognize ourselves as equipped or educated enough to call ourselves leaders, when the fact is our natural way of being offers us the possibility to inspire others when we embrace ourselves as leaders. (When the fact is our natural way of being encourages us to be wonderful leaders.)

There is great opportunity in our daily lives to lead by example, simply by demonstrating the attitude and behaviors we hold toward ourselves as well as others. If you think about how you are with those you come in contact with every day (i.e. your partner, children, co-workers, service workers) you might discover that are a leader every day.(that you have the opportunity to act as a leader every day.)

The challenge for each of us is to live integrity-based, value-focused lives, which will allow us to be a leader who consistently demonstrates the ability to do the right thing.

How do we work toward putting that in place? Think about the following:

* What do you stand for?

* What is unique about you? How do you stand out? How do you capitalize on your uniqueness? Or how do you hide it?

* How often do you have the courage to tell the truth? Can you take the heat for an unpopular decision?

* How open and personal are you with others? Do you let them see the real you, or just parts of you?

* How often do you “play the role” or “go on automatic pilot” in your work?

* What keeps you from telling the truth to yourself and others?

These are important questions as we explore leadership in our lives. Consider also this passage from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles (Harper Collins, 1992). May you be inspired to claim yourself as a leader and be mindful of how you show up in relationship with others.

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson

Embracing Accountability

Previously, we talked about showing up as a leader from a perspective of curiosity and possibility. Has this perspective led you to any discoveries about yourself or others? Are you taking risks and stepping into that space of possibility?

Today we’ll look at a related area, which many of my coaching clients struggle with in their role as leaders: accountability. People and organizations often suffer from individuals not accepting personal responsibility for solving problems. They point fingers, blame others or become the victim of another’s actions or inaction. Yet, each of us fails everyday. To fail is human. There is failure all around us, at home, at church, at work and in government.

The critical issue is not failing itself, but how you respond. When you do fail at something, do you pause to recognize and accept personal responsibility for the failure and then take corrective action? Let’s say you have forgotten to do something, like empty the dishwasher. Do you feel compelled to find a “good excuse” for forgetting to do that task, maybe blame someone else for distracting you, or do you acknowledge it, correct it, and move on?

You probably see this at work everyday. How many times have you witnessed people blaming others for their mistakes, for simply forgetting something, or for their own lack of accomplishment? It is easy to get into a downward spiral when you take a wait and see position, do something to cover yourself, or point fingers. If you allow others to address problems, and then tell you what to do, you may resent that direction. Not only do you come to feel like a victim, you also become ineffective. Your world view becomes one of scarcity, with your options becoming more and more narrow until your creativity and possibility is shut down.

At what point, then, do we each have a responsibility to show up as creative, resourceful leaders and become a part of the solution to a problem regardless of whose “fault” it is? Every day that we do not take ownership of being part of a solution (whether or not we were part of the problem in the first place), we short ourselves. We do not need to allow these opportunities to define us, because we have the choice of entering into a world view of possibility and optimism. It takes a great deal of courage for a person to take responsibility and embrace problems that arise. In taking responsibility, you recognize and acknowledge that something has to change, and you face any fear and resistance to change.

The Oz Principle (Connors, Smith and Hickman, 2004) states that accountability is: “A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results – to See It, Own it, Solve It, and Do It.” I dream of living in a community where everyone was personally accountable and took responsibility for being part of creating solutions for the greater good of all. From a place of curiosity and possibility, I challenge you to embrace being accountable to See It, Own it, Solve It, and Do It, for the next thirty days. Apply this to at least one situation/task/problem that arises each day. These failures or problems can vary from forgetting to take out the garbage to not completing a vital task at work to not making arrangements for an upcoming trip. No matter the situation, or how large or small it seems, be aware of how taking personal responsibility in this way affects you as a person, as a leader and in relationship to others.

Being Called Forth

A few years ago, I had the honor and privilege of spending four days at the Whidbey Institute with Sharon Daloz Parks. Sharon is an associate director and member of the faculty. She taught at various Harvard graduate schools, including its Divinity School, the Business School, and the School of Government for 18 years before moving to Whidbey Island and becoming a leadership consultant, speaker and facilitator at Whidbey Institute.

I noticed that once I entered the forested grounds of the Whidbey Institute I knew I was in sacred space. It is breathtakingly beautiful and so peaceful. I stayed in a very small hermitage and had a lot of time to ponder life anew.

Sharon believes that leaders are formed gradually over time and through deliberate effort. Her gift of facilitation is to ask provocative questions that one can ponder for hours or days, deepening one’s understanding of oneself in relationship to others and the environment, and how this relates to answering one’s call to lead. Do we have the courage to step up to lead in these times?

Some of her questions have stuck with me, even months later calling me to go deeper. These, in particular, keep bouncing around in my head:

1. What does it mean for our society that so many people are living unaligned with their soul?

2. Leadership holds a lot of hungers. What may they be?

In considering these questions, it helps to know what Sharon believes is called for in successful leaders of today. Her description resonated with my experiences in my own life and in the lives of the individuals and organizations I have coached. What she says is called for and needed is adaptive leadership.

Adaptive leaders need to understand that leadership is spiritual in nature. It is about helping people move from the familiar and adequate to a more alive, life-giving way of being. As one leads, one needs to possess the gift of connectedness – there is no room for ego or visionaries, as we are all “in this together.”

Additionally, adaptive leaders have the courage to deal with and witness loss and grief. They must be willing to get involved with the difficult issues – and stay involved – yet at the same time not become a lightening rod for the issue, but to be able to take the heat when they speak courageously.

Sharon closed her discussion of adaptive leadership by asking us if we have the courage to lead a spiritual change. I felt the metaphorical gulp in the room when she posed that question. I ask this of myself every day, and work on having the courage to lead a spiritual change with the work I offer to the world.

Sharon also left us with a statement that I felt was a strong calling forth for myself and I share it as a calling forth that you might embrace: “There is a possibility created in all of us that can only come through you ~ it is lost if you do not answer the call.” What are you being called to do? Have you looked the other way when called to action? What gets in your way of being a courageous leader? Do you have absolute principles which guide you? How real are you?

Sharon draws some of these ideas from Leadership On the Line: Staying Alive through Dangers of Leading, by Ronald Heifetz, a former colleague. I invite you to join me in exploring the questions and thoughts raised by Sharon Parks, as you continue to think about and refine a relevant leadership style.

I leave you with the poem we read after walking through the wooded island, as a place to begin your own contemplation.

Lost

By David Wagoner

From Collected Poems 1956-1976

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

Discover Your Strengths

As you ease into the final half of the year, consider how you have been living from a perspective of curiosity and possibility. Has this perspective led you to any discoveries about yourself or others? Are you taking risks and stepping into that space of possibility? What has that been like for you? What has gotten in your way of living from a perspective of curiosity and possibility? There is still time for you to readjust your alignment, so that you are living more purposefully from this perspective into the end of the year.

Something that might help as you consider these questions is an awareness tool that will you help you discover your signature strengths. When one operates from – and leverages – their strengths, they function at their personal best. This holds the greatest possibility of living and working in flow, which often leads to greater satisfaction and happiness in all aspects of your life. You start noticing and focusing on the best in other people. In my coaching work, I have found that people who are clear about their core values, their life purpose, and who operate from their strengths, are the most likely to be grounded in their personal power and be effective in their daily lives.

The development of the Clifton StrengthsFinder is the result of research on top achievers, by Don Clifton and The Gallup Organization. Their research includes more than two million interviews with people from virtually every profession, career, and field of achievement. The result of their research points to three basic findings:

1. Top achievers understand their talents and strengths, and build their lives upon them.

2. They manage their weaknesses.

3. They invent ways of developing and applying strengths in areas where they want to improve,achieve, and become more effective and improve their performance.

Your strengths are the innate gifts or talents that you were born with, which means that when you get the results back from using them, they will not be a big surprise to you. However, naming the strength and claiming the strength, provides you with another choice about where you spend your time and energy. For example, operating from your strengths requires less effort on your part and provides an ease with activities that you are focused on. Your motivation and energy can be maintained. Consequently, you can sustain your efforts towards achievement and excellence, which can increase your overall success in being in alignment with who and what you are about.

You can discover your own strengths by taking a short assessment through the book Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. In addition to the strengths assessment the book fully describes 34 positive personality themes or strengths. The book explains how to build a “strengths-based organization” by capitalizing on the strengths of the individuals within the organization which can easily be translated into how we operate in others areas of our lives.

Once you know your strengths and begin to leverage them, think about what possibilities might exist for you, coming from a strength perspective. How might your day or life experience be enhanced if you operate from your strengths? Ultimately, how might operating from your strengths focus your curiosity and enhance your possibilities? I believe that we all want the opportunity to express the very best of ourselves and to be challenged to keep reaching for more. Equipped with knowing your core values, life purpose and strengths you have the best tools for stepping into the possibility of being your personal best.