END SILOS: THE CASE FOR A COALITION ON INCLUSION AND TRUE OPPORTUNITY
In the month of Love (Valentines Day) and Leadership (Presidents Day), I am making a pitch for breaking down silos and creating a coalition on inclusion and true opportunity.
A primary reason dealing with intergenerational challenges at work is so crucial is that not only do they directly affect bottom line revenues, but also they intersect with other diversity factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation (and much more) that organizations already admit have an impact on their market position, workforce hiring, retention and productivity.
The big data folks and the politicians know this is true, and realize it is complex. And they are better at crunching the numbers and exhorting than marshalling coalitions to work constructively and productively for change.
I will continue my writing and speaking about breaking down the affinity silos and creating coalitions for inclusion and changing workplace structures in the future. I welcome anyone who is interested to come on board with me (firstname.lastname@example.org). We can achieve much more progress together.
SLICING AND DICING THE BOOMER GENERATION and the workplace implications
Here’s an illustration of what we mean when we say the generational cohorts are defined by “formational Influences.” And we need to look beyond “convenient” Census Bureau definitions by birth year.
Humorist P.J. O’Rourke turned to his Boomer generation (he’s an older cohort Boomer born in 1947) for a book, The Baby Boom: How It Got that Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault). In an article for AARP magazine he drew on interviews with Late Boomers and other observations to distinguish between the ends of the Boomer generation. The older half he calls the “loudest” generation. Many of he younger segment are quieter, more conservative, have no memory of Woodstock, and have considerably different formative (political, social, economic and cultural) influences according to Pew Research Center findings. They constitute one-quarter of the Boomer population.
O’Rourke claims to have lived all the stereotypically wild, “let it all hang out” experiences of Boomers and wrote “These youngsters turning 50 are a mystery to me.”
While he took a light-hearted approach, his examination of the subject reinforces the significant point that the typical definition of the Boomers needs to be sliced and diced for a more accurate view of their general attributes (true also of Gen X and Gen Y). And even members of a typically defined generation need the insights gained through cross-generational conversation - within their own generation!
In some ways the late Boomers more resemble the older Gen Xers: more individualistic and transformed from a (likely misinformed) slacker reputation to become very serious. O’Rourke wrote that the late Boomers are “like the quiet youngest child in a big family of older siblings. They grew up in the baby boom universe and take it for granted. They may not know there was ever another cosmos.” The older Boomers were born into the world of what we now consider “inappropriate behavior and wrongheaded social norms (as portrayed in “Mad Men”). And the older Boomers destroyed it utterly,” wrote O’Rourke.
So what does this mid-generation transformation mean for workplace succession planning? What kinds of conversations need to take place between older and younger Boomers?
Will the Late Boomers and Early Xers feel for urgency to go beyond vocal expression of beliefs and act tenaciously on them?
Will they make significant strides to change work cultures and policies to sufficiently satisfy Gen Y/Millennilals before the latter succeed in pushing them out of their way?
Who will initiate meaningful and ongoing cross—generational conversation?
Today (July 4th) I watched the full, original, uncut version (3 hours long) of the 1972 film “1776” - a serious and funny musical film I have always loved. This time I found it more mesmerizing and powerful than ever. I was moved to tears in parts and so drawn into the wonderful dialogue that captured in a very astute and entertaining way the full array of characters who comprised the Congress that debated, attacked and insulted each other, displayed their humanity and in the end compromised to create and approve the Declaration of Independence.
Serious history and seriously entertaining and powerful on this day
P.S. The age range of the representatives in the Congress was 32 to well into the 80s. (Jefferson was second to youngest, and Franklin was the oldest.) Talk about cross-generational conversation and diversity of thought!
For the last three years I have suggested topics on inter-generational relations at work for my externs and interns to write about, and I have published a selection of them on this blog. My extern in January 2014 was Danielle Kronenfeld, a junior at the Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations School. One of the topics she chose to write about is what her generation desires in leaders. Below are my questions and Danielle’s responses.
Phyllis: What attributes are you and other Gen Y/Millennials looking for in leaders?
Danielle: I think that Gen Yers are looking for our leaders to act as mentors. We are extremely eager to learn, so we want leaders who are willing to teach us and help us grow. More specifically, we want our leaders to be intelligent and to have respect for us.
We are incredibly driven, more educated than previous generations, and probably a little bit too arrogant. This makes us believe that we have all of the solutions, despite our lack of real world experience. Of course, we do realize that we do not literally know how to solve every problem. However, our overall confidence makes it that much more important to us that our leaders have faith in our ideas and are willing to listen.
While conducting my summer internship search over the past semester, I spoke to many previous interns and recent graduates who had just started working full time. When I asked them about their favorite experience during their internship or since they started working, most of them told stories of when a senior manager invited them into his or her office to answer their questions or give them advice. Gen Yers are happiest when our leaders are willing to give us that kind of time and attention.
Phyllis:Do you think business leaders will be younger than in the past?
Danielle: Despite the fact that we like business leaders who are more experienced, I think that leaders will be younger than in the past. With the recent and continuingly rapid growth in technology, younger people are more knowledgeable and able to adapt to the most current trends.
Phyllis:What skills other than technological savvy will they have and/or need?
I think that adaptability is one of the most valuable qualities that a leader can have in today’s workplace, and one of the most distinguishing qualities that Gen Yers have mastered. Studies show that because we grew up during this time of rapid advancements, our generation is much less loyal than previous generations.
Whether it’s to our current routine in school or at work, our favorite shampoo brand, or our significant others, Millennials feels less attached to the status quo are more likely to switch to a different practice. Gen Yers are always looking for the best possible option, and are usually not afraid to leave something behind when a superior alternative comes along.
Phyllis: To our readers: Please give us your comments. Agree or disagree? What attributes do you think leaders in a Gen Y-prevalent work world will have? Will be needed?
ACROSS GENERATIONS, LEADERS LACK INTERACTION SKILLS AND BEHAVIORS
A recent DDI study, Driving Workplace Performance through High-Quality Conversations, found both front-line and senior leaders lack fundamental interaction skills and behaviors required to be effective leaders. The study report concludes that what’s missing “is the ability to facilitate effective conversations, something that should be mastered by every business leader as part of a core set of interaction skills in order to build relationships and get work done.” This is at least as true of senior leaders as those with less experience according to the study.
The need to learn the skill of conversation is a challenge to the fast-paced, just get it done, data-driven world we are living in. Even some technology thought leaders are sounding the alarm. We have been champions of cross-generational conversation as necessary for business productivity and profitability since it is essential for knowledge transfer, attracting and retaining both clients and employees and enabling work teams to achieve high performance.
Organizations need to recognize that the skill of conversation is not typically part of business education, and they must require or provide training, especially as all generations increasingly communicate electronically and often neglect context.
Please comment and share information on any organizations you know are providing this training in-house. If you would like to learn about Cross-Generational Conversation Day, contact us (email@example.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.
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.
TIPS FOR GEN Y MANAGERS WITH AN OLDER TEAM – Part One
“Older workers reporting to younger managers” is not a totally new phenomenon. But it is a growing and potentially problematic trend, as the large generation of Baby Boomers stays on in the workforce longer and the large generation of Gen Y or Millennials eager for promotion rise along with Gen Xers. They bring new management styles and often anxieties owing to lack of management experience and training.
For some guidance, young managers can look to the 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.
Bob Pittman, chairman and chief executive of Clear Channel communications was 19 when he was given about a dozen people to manage as the programmer of a radio station in Pittsburgh. He had no idea how to manage people but realized he was functioning as a team leader. The command and control model would have been ineffective: “ When you’re 19 no one’s going to accept you as the big boss.”
He saw his job as the team leader who needed to sell his older team members on his ideas and “to keep selling them, listen really well, let everyone have a voice and to let there be some dissent.” As told to Adam Bryant for his New York Times Corner Office column that was the origin of the style he has used ever since.
Another younger manager/older workers story comes from Amy Errett, chief executive and co-founder of Madison Reed. When she was 23, she was plopped into a huge job of managing hundreds of people in a bond-processing department of a bank. “I had no idea what I was doing,” she said. “There were all these people who had been there a really long time, and I was probably half their age. I was just terrified…Where do I even start? I set up a meeting and nobody came.”
Following her instinct, Errett learned that the essence was the relationships and trust she could develop. It was about including them. She reached out to each person and said, “I want you to tell me in the most honest way what you don’t like about your job.” In this way she started to really understand their ideas and implement those. While the first reaction from many people to that question even today in another industry is “Can I trust her?” it actually started the trusted relationship.
The next post, Part Two, will provide lessons and tips for succeeding as a younger manager with older staff and a few reminders to help the older generations in this situation.
THOUGHTS FROM "WALL STREET'S HONEST MAN" (so dubbed by Forbes)
Yesterday I attended an interview style talk with JAY S. FISHMAN, Chairman and CEO of The Travelers Companies,
Inc., at Baruch College's annual program named for prominent alum Burton Kosoff and set up by his wife, Phyllis. Fishman was notably straightforward, authentic, down-to-earth - and interesting. Here are some nuggets for all four of the generations attending and beyond.
“No one plans to go into insurance. I just
wanted to pay the rent on my apartment.”
“Life is always two ways.”
“Sandy Weill (one of his mentors and bosses) was unbelievable about asking
everyone ‘What do you think?’ He understood collaboration.”
About experience: You need touch points and
instincts to have the capacity to be accountable in an organization. This is
separate from intellectual capacity. (slightly paraphrased)
“As a leader, be careful what you ask people to
do. They will try ther best to do that. You might not like how they do it.”
(i.e., what they do to accomplish what you ask them to do)
Fishman worries about our being a generation of
“here and now,” wanting the newest thing all the time. Not saving.
People need to be involved and engaged, not just
contributing to charitable giving.
In response to the question: What is the best
mentoring role we can play? “Honest feedback is a gem.”
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.
Be the best you can be, including honest about
your good and bad qualities and things to improve.
Dream big. Stretch or you don’t get started,
even if you never get there, it’s a motivation.
Lead with your heart first, showing your
Trust the people you lead. Let go when
appropriate. Allow others to grow. Leaders pick people back up if they fall
Do the right thing, always, including giving a
second chance to people you believe in.
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?