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INVOLVE YOUNGER GENERATIONS IN SUCCESSION PLANNING

To achieve long-term success, it is extremely important to align succession planning with the strategic focus of the organization. Too often firms are not clear on their strategic focus, succession planning or both. Further, when these are undertaken, many important stakeholders are left out of the process. Organizations need to think in terms of both generational and other diversity challenges – two of the most difficult challenges in business continuity because both are totally human challenges.  These types of internal issues may also relate to client needs and preferences, so they can’t be ignored.

A Role for Younger Generations

The crucial alignment of the generations with organizational objectives will require a greater focus on people at all levels, a greater representation of all ages and types of diversity, and a greater effort to harness the wisdom and institutional memory of the senior professionals and executives – all this while capturing the hearts and imagination of the best mid-level and junior-level people that the firm has.

Most people think that succession planning is a top-down activity involving management and seasoned professionals. I strongly suggest that it is better to involve the younger generations as well so they can help create a vision for what the organization aspires to and for what it is looking for in long-term leadership – looking forward, not backward to a world that no longer exists. In order to retain the most talented young people, they must have a voice.

If you think of succession planning as a continual process, one way to involve the younger generations in the firm is to hold at least periodic meetings with junior employees (professionals and staff), invite them to ask questions, and encourage their input. By tapping into the collective wisdom at all levels they will learn a lot about what can make their firms more successful and what professional attributes and skills the organization needs to continue developing.

The younger personnel have a longer future ahead of them, and they see and experience the world in different ways. By engaging them in this ongoing dialogue, the firm will be more likely to retain the best talent.

At the same time, management should also be looking for leadership qualities among the younger generations. They need to encourage and allow junior people a chance to volunteer and take on responsibility for significant internal projects. In that way, they can prove themselves beyond mere technical competency. That initiative must be recognized in a way that is meaningful to both junior and senior personnel.

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

Note: This article contains excerpts from Chapter 34 of The Rainmaking Machine by Phyllis Weiss Haserot (Thomson Reuters, 2014 edition.)

HOW TO UNBLOCK THE GENERATIONAL GRIDLOCK PROBLEM

 

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I am frequently asked about the potential for conflict between older and younger people in the workplace “Why won’t those Boomers realize it’s time to go?” some of them think.

Boomers are sticking around for two credible reasons: 1) they like the fulfillment, feeling of making a contribution, challenge and social opportunities work brings; and 2) they may very well need the money. In some cases there is a third reason as well: uncertainty that successors are well prepared to shoulder their greater responsibilities.

Economic reality meets career desires. The Great Recession had given many organizations a breather from brain-drain threats. At the same time, many Boomers would like to keep on working for a long time more, even if they can afford to retire. Surveys in 2004 and 2005 when the economy was robust and retirement funds were healthy revealed that about 80% of Boomers wanted to keep working after age 65 in some capacity – reinventing retirement.

While personal priorities will dominate each individual’s decisions, there’s a bigger picture need for restructuring. Even if we should see a booming economy, things won’t go back to what they were 20 years ago because the generational cohorts have different worldviews and expectations for their careers and work lives. And, significantly, they don’t understand each other’s perspectives and influences very well. When that understanding is achieved and accepted on an emotional level, we can move to greater cross-generational respect and collaboration.

REMOVING POTENTIAL CONFLICT

Achieve role shifts and transitioning that benefits clients/customers and the organization as a whole. I am not in favor of involuntarily removing productive people, who do not wish to retire. Yet for the sake of providing opportunities to the generation waiting in line, senior professionals’ and executives roles and responsibilities need to shift at some point.

Shifted roles must come with respect attached. The transitioning process requires employers to rethink value and compensation for functions that were assumed to be provided gratis in the context of professional roles. Too often financial rewards come only from performing other functions that leave little time for knowledge transfer, mentoring, training and coaching. Financial disincentives need to be eliminated to reduce conflict.

And oh by the way – a word to Boomers and senior professionals: Gen Y/Millennials have discovered and seek out role shifts and lateral/lattice moves that keep them learning and doing new things. It energizes, engages and provides more choices and marketability for the long term. So why not take a lesson from them and explore that avenue to extend a career while giving those experienced and waiting a chance to move up? Consider it an opportunity.

The trick is to capitalize on Boomer knowledge and experience without alienating the bottlenecked Gen Xers and later, Millennials. One answer is to pay Boomers still in place now to transition their valuable acquired wisdom, contacts and skills before they up and leave with these precious assets or fail to pass on the baton and client bonds. That will prepare Gen Xers to thrive when the bottleneck opens as Boomers transition out over time.

If knowledge transfer and coaching is not built into transitioning roles which are made attractive by according them respect and providing work/life flexibility and engaging challenges, how will the next generation of leaders and managers get prepared to succeed? Willingness to prepare the next generation and shift roles through gradual transition can avoid generational conflict as both generations reap the benefits.

The real enduring challenge is building sustainably strong organizations that engage and retain the most productive talent of every generation. It will take frequent dialogue, listening, mutual mentoring and empathy. Organizations have to assess and re-think the connections between attitudes and expectations and the policies and financial and non-financial incentives that foster attitudes in order to prevent tensions among the generations and provide continuing opportunities for all to make meaningful contributions.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

 

Birth of a Vision: THE ORIGIN OF CROSS-GENERATIONAL CONVERSATION DAY

Have you ever found yourself literally bolt up awakened by an idea that just kept coming and wouldn’t quit?

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My inspiration for Cross-Generational Conversation Day was the stunning example of determination and resiliency of a 36-year-old friend and star teacher, Karri Ankrom, to jump back into life after episodes of a series of daunting illnesses. The idea of declaring a “Day” literally woke me up with a fountain of details pouring out of my head. It was the morning after celebrating an almost miraculous “recovery” of her then most serious set of medical complications.

Somehow my subconscious associated the two – or probably relieved of the immediate worry, freed me to birth the idea I had conceived of two months before, told one person, and then forgot about. The mind can be full of surprise associations!…. I felt if she could persevere facing all her difficulties, I can be committed enough to implement my vision. It and she continue to inspire me.

Once it was quickly outlined in mind-maps and notes on two pages of lined yellow paper, I was determined to take the concept to reality 

I know in my gut that the world and virtually every organization need cross-generational conversation as an integral part of its culture and business model. I had been working on programs and using the phrase in consulting work, writing and speaking for several years. What would create more awareness and urgency for more action in all types of organizations? We needed something dramatic – a focal point, a trigger that would capture attention… So unanticipated, the “Day” concept was born!

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Think about it! What is it worth to you to invest a day or even half a day of your team’s time if the outcome would be greater insight, productivity and reputation as a best place to work for the top talent in all generations? 

Contact me to find out more about Cross-Generational Conversation Day and prepare to participate in this groundbreaking process of multi-generational insight and collaboration to grow engagement, competitive position and revenue. 

pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com    www.pdounsel.com

SOUND BITES FROM THE WISDOM OF VERY SUCCESSFUL WOMEN LAWYERS

A panel of senior (in status) Boomer and Gen X law firm partners and corporate counsel imparted, with both wisdom and humor how they mastered their career trajectories at the Women in Law Empowerment Forum’s (WILEF East) March 19, 2014 program. The women, in several cases, described how their careers evolved in surprising ways, sometimes the opposite of what they thought they wanted until they gave it a shot.

Here is a collection of sound bites (not necessarily in their exact words) from the discussion that I found both appealing and valuable for the lawyers in the audience and even beyond the legal profession/industry.

  • Opportunity favors the prepared.
  • Listen for your boss’ priorities.
  • Have your boss’ back so he/she can trust you.
  • Propose solutions; don’t just do the rote thing with an assignment.
  • Be your authentic self and try to assure that everyone perceives you the same way.
  • Never say “never.”
  • Don’t consider what you at first perceive as failures to be failures.
  • Don’t cover up mistakes. Own up to them and immediately suggest a solution.
  • Show you are constantly thinking beyond what is required.
  • Never confess (especially to a man) what you don’t know. Go find it out.
  • Always look for both mentors and for opportunities to mentor others.
  • Wisdom only comes from an accumulation of experiences.

 On the theme of POWER:

  • People give up power by thinking they don’t have any
  • Men define power as control. Women define power as influence.
  • Assert yourself from the beginning when you negotiate compensation.
  • People perceive power from symbols
  • Project a sense of self-respect to be perceived as powerful.
  • Power is when people more experienced than you respond and do work for you.
  • Act confident and you will attain power.

Which ones resonate with you, whether you are a lawyer or not, a woman or not? Share your thoughts in comments here.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot            www.pdcounsel.com

HAS THE MISSING PIECE ELUDED YOU? – Find the Inter-Generational Solution

Generational differences in attitudes inform and influence attitudes and behaviors toward all the other types of diversity and individuals’ worldviews. They are integral, “joined at the hip,” so to speak.

  • If you are approaching attracting and retaining clients of different generations all the same way
  • If you are approaching attracting and retaining employees of different generations all the same way
  • If you are pitching your fundraising, member drives and engaging alumni of different generations all the same way
  • If you think the members of multi-generational teams all have similar wants and expectations
  • If knowledge transfer among generations has more speed bumps than fast lanes

then you are missing the piece that makes the ultimate difference to your long-term success rate. 

Most firms treat different types of diversity as separate silos and approach their programs as if one solution fits all and will make the crucial emotional connection that is necessary for attitude and behavior change and cultural transformation.

In the last several years, many organizations have realized that something different is going on and not going away, and their personnel need to learn about generational differences. Usually they bring in a speaker (sometimes that’s me) for an hour or so to explain the basics– and then check off the box that they addressed the issues.

It’s a good first step…but for real change to occur deepening understanding, repetition and practice is necessary. Savvy organizations are undertaking yearlong or longer initiatives and community building to address inter-generational challenges locally or globally, as relevant. That type of dedicated effort will earn them an advantage in recruiting and retaining both engaged employees and loyal clients/customers.

IBM and American Express have realized how central inter-generational initiatives are to productivity in their core businesses. IBM is leveraging learning resources and building employee communities in person and online in many countries to strengthen collaboration. With surveys and other means, IBM is assessing what different generations need and is providing recommendations to business units globally on attracting, developing and retaining talent of different generations. American Express, realizing that its shift in business strategy away from travel to financial services and other technology-oriented businesses required younger demographics, also has been focusing on inter-generational challenges.

Educational institutions are getting sensitive to the large demographic changes as at least a third of their faculty and administrative staff heads toward retirement age. For example, Cornell University’s Alumni Affairs & Development department, having done some generational programming in the past, is starting on a yearlong generational focus as one of its diversity initiatives required of all colleges and administrative units by the University.

Some of the strategies to include in your cross-generational diversity initiatives are:

  • Small facilitated group discussions
  • Educational materials and interactive courses appropriate to different markets
  • Mutual and reverse mentoring and mentoring circles
  • Significant roles for senior management as advocates and participants
  • Knowledge transfer and succession strategies

As firms, other organizations and institutions develop affinity or employee resource groups (ERGs) or business resource groups (BRGs) and other internal and cross-cultural communities, they need to be sure to cross-pollinate them. Just as gender diversity groups focused on furthering women’s careers and as leaders greatly benefit from bringing men into the conversation, diversity and inclusion initiatives for each specific focus need to bring all the generations into the conversation. Cross-generational conversations will facilitate understanding of all the views and attitudes that must be part of the solution and the pursuit of harmonious change.

Instead of “siloing,” make the cross-generational perspective the foundation piece.

 

Please comment and share your thoughts. Do you see this as a business imperative?

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

TIPS FOR GEN Y MANAGERS WITH AN OLDER TEAM – Part Two

Part two follows a previous post about stories of some CEOs who were faced with the upside down reporting relationships early in their careers and happened upon a formula that became one of the pillars of their considerable business success.

In anticipation of the younger manager/older staff challenges, over the last five years I have written articles, done videos and webinars and conducted workshops and delivered talks on this topic as a component of professionalism, succession planning and cross-generational conversation.

Lessons

Here are 7 more learnings we can take away from the two young manager success stories:

  • Senior managers were willing to take risks on these young new managers and thought they could do the job.
  • “Sink or swim” is a tough initiation for a leader or manager but a great learning experience and can build confidence and resilience.
  • Include. Don’t try to boss.
  • Build relationships through inclusion.
  • You aren’t expected to have all the answers. It’s better not to think you know better or you know everything.
  • Be confident enough to show some vulnerability. People will help you.
  • Respect breeds mutual respect.

Reminder to the older members of the team who might feel discomfort:

  • Keep focused on the common objective and the external or internal client or customer.
  • Collaboration will benefit all long-term.
  • Your mentoring and coaching can also be your reward.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

(WORKFORCE) DISENGAGEMENT BELLS ARE RINGING

What if they all stayed – those 52% of all full-time U.S. workers who said in a new Gallup poll that they are not involved, enthusiastic or committed to their work? And worse, the 18% who are actively disengaged? What if they conveyed their attitude to customers/clients? What if their frustrations caused by differences with managers and work colleagues of different generations meant they had checked out mentally or even undermined their colleagues’ and team’s work?

Obviously that’s bad for morale, but what does it cost? Gallup estimates that due to declines in quality control, lost productivity, turnover and high absenteeism, actively unhappy workers cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion a year. Those are difficult numbers to relate to, but each organization with disengaged workers is likely to be leaving a substantial chunk of change on the table. 

The Gallup stats indicate that women, managers and new hires record higher levels of engagement than other segments of the workforce. Company and team size looks to be one of the best predictors of engagement. Small firms and teams of fewer than 10 people report the most engagement. (Note: Other studies have come to different conclusions about who is more engaged.)

Though age diversity tension factors were not studied in this poll, we’ve observed that inter-generational dynamics are a significant factor too. Differences in attitudes by generation - how one approaches work, demeanor, communication styles and media, perceived work ethic, definitions of teamwork and work-life flexibility  - can and do reduce engagement and productivity in many organizations if not diagnosed and addresse

In fact many polls and studies confirm that generational influences underlie and inform attitudes and opinions on other aspects of diversity and cultural conflict.  Organizations and managers who recognize that, surface the tensions and gaps and adapt workforce friendly methods that facilitate cross-generational conversation and collaboration can emerge as the frontrunners for talent recruitment and retention and great customer relations.  

Wouldn’t you want yours to be one of them?      Please comment.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

WISDOM REQUIRES LETTING GO

What do we lose by continually cramming more data into our brains? Most of us are doing that these days, and perhaps Gen Y/Millennials most of all since it is a hallmark of their education.

Let’s look at the contrarian view: How we gain by subtracting.

Matthew E. May, author of “The Law of Subtraction: 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything,” quoted the teaching of 2,500 year old Chinese philosophy Lao Tsu. “To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day. Profit comes from what is there, usefulness from what is not there.”

In support Mays quoted management guru and author Jim Collins: “It is in the discipline to discard what does not fit – to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort – that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.”

Mays’ advice as given in the New York Times Preoccupations column (1/20/13) in a nutshell is to:

  1. Create a prioritized list of your goals and your projects and tasks.
  2. Create a “to do” list referring to the first list and eliminate the bottom 20% of the items entirely – he says forwever.
  3. Ask all the stakeholders in your life that matter to you what they would like you to stop doing.

Mays says when you remove the right things in the right way “good things happen.”

To really simplify and achieve this you need the stakeholders’ perspective. It’s best not to rely only on your own assumptions. It’s hard for us to let go of ideas, “bright shiny objects” that distract us ,and no longer useful to us activities and involvements. I confess to being guilty of that hardship.

Does this approach feel like a relief or threat to you?  Please comment and also share your experiences with trying to subtract from your work and life.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot   www.pdcounsel.com

TRANSITIONING TO LEADERSHIP

Many CEOS and coaches give their definitions of leadership, and there are many similarities. I pass on this one from the Corner Office column in the New York Times Sunday Business section (1/6/13) from an interview with G. J. Hart, CEO and president of California Pizza Kitchen.

  1. Be the best you can be, including honest about your good and bad qualities and things to improve.
  2. Dream big. Stretch or you don’t get started, even if you never get there, it’s a motivation.
  3. Lead with your heart first, showing your compassion.
  4. Trust the people you lead. Let go when appropriate. Allow others to grow. Leaders pick people back up if they fall down.
  5. Do the right thing, always, including giving a second chance to people you believe in.
  6. Serve the people you lead. Put the cause before yourself, and be willing to see it through.

Hart says #4 is often the hardest for young people. It takes time to build confidence in yourself and get over the insecurity that may come from lack of experience as a manager or leader.

What do you think of these steps or principles? Do they resonate with you? What would you add or subtract?

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com

GENERATIONS & MONEY TALKS

Whatever generation you belong to, whatever stage of your business as a trusted advisor, you are more likely to encounter inter-generational challenges than ever in the past. That’s because external forces and formative influences have resulted in greater differences in how the generations view money, lifestyle, investing, philanthropy and relationships.

Money may not be the root of all evil, but it often leads to the primal “fight or flight” response.

Talks about money are often the hardest discussions among work colleagues, family members, friends and even in instances of our own self-talk. It’s an emotional thing tied up with perceptions of our self-worth or somebody else’s. For some people money is more important as a scorecard than the actual value of what they can do with the money. In families it’s tied to how much one is loved compared with others 

So it’s easy to see why money talks are avoided, even before taking such huge steps as marriage, living together and having children. Yet it’s been documented that relationships turn out happier when money conversations do take place before major decisions.

As I work with financial services professionals, I witness the tensions that can occur over money. Advisors often find it difficult to get their clients to talk with family members or business associates about money in order to do estate planning and decide how they would like to donate money philanthropically. And advisor teams may have their own money conflicts when they neglect to discuss in advance their attitudes, expectations, transitioning and exit strategies.

 So, yes, money discussions can be volatile, but it’s worse to avoid them. Instead:

 *    Establish a shared language about money.

 *    Identify and avoid “trigger words.”

 *    Understand what key words connote for each party.

 *    Identify and be aware of your own “trigger words.”

This last point may be the most important for anyone trying to facilitate the discussion, whether among clients or family.

 Phyllia Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com

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