4 Dangerous Myths About Managing Millennials

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Millennials. The stereotypes come at us fast and furious, and most of them are not particularly complimentary.

But what does the research actually show? Are they really that different? We decided to take a look at what is being said about managing millennials and offer some insight into what is true and what is myth.

MillenialsMYTH #1: Millennials are completely different from the way ‘we’ were at that age

This is the grand-daddy of them all. While it is true that millennials are different from the generations that preceded them, that is also true of every generation. Every generation looks at the generation that follows them and complains about how they are (fill in the blank here with a negative term). Research conducted by Jean Twenge, a professor of Psychology at San Diego State University showed that although there were some shifts in the attitudes of millennials toward work when compared to other generations, those shifts were relatively small, and they are not what you think. What is different about millennials is the way that they react to work environments that were tolerated by other generations. Millennials do tend to be more vocal and far less tolerant of leaders and companies that they perceive as not meeting their standards.

MYTH #2: Millennials are primarily concerned with making the world a better place

According to Twenge’s research, millennials are no more concerned with altruistic work values than the generations that have preceded them. You should not read the former statement to mean that millennials are not interested in volunteering and working for a cause. That is something that has always been valued by US workers, although it may be true that millennials are slightly more vocal about their motivations. What is true is that millennials are less tolerant of organizations that they do not believe are engaged in meaningful work. However, meaningful work can be defined in many different ways.

MYTH #3: Millennials are all about work-life balance

The research does not support this conclusion either. While Gen X and millennials are slightly more interested in work life balance, the differences are not nearly as great as managers often believe. The differences more often than not are attributed to the fact that managers have forgotten what it was like to be young, or they were not particularly normal workers themselves before they were promoted. That last piece may sting a little, as we all like to think of ourselves as normal, but the fact that only a small percentage of the workforce occupies leadership roles puts the lie to this notion.

MYTH #4: Millennials need to be treated with kid gloves.

Peter Cappeli, Professor of Management at Wharton, has a strong opinion about this: “It’s ridiculous” he says. He recommends relying less on age bias to determine how we are going to manage people, and that we should focus more on their individual needs. While there is no question that managing a person from a different generation will require you to be flexible in your approach, it in no way means that you cannot or should not keep your performance expectations high. Understanding generational differences is helpful when looking for where a leader can and should be flexible, but we should always remember that we do not manage generations – we manage people. When an entire generation of individuals is denigrated, it is not only unfair, it is unproductive.

So here is the challenge: Let’s put a skewer in these millennial myths and get back to the hard work of winning an incredibly gifted generation to your cause. To that end: Now that we have skewered what is not true, make sure you check back here for future posts on what is different with managing millennials – and how to lead them most effectively.

We have found that most leaders are frustrated that they experience the same problems day after day. We have a process that helps leaders create a Performance Acceleration Plan so that they can move past those problems and start making radical improvements in their business results. 
For more information please click here or on the box below:
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Firing Yourself is the Answer – What was the Question?

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While the New Year brings boundless opportunity and the possibility of a fresh start, most of us find ourselves starting the New Year without a clear plan.
Why? Because while a New Year offers the opportunity for a fresh start, we also drag the past into the future with us. What I mean by this is that the longer that we stay in the same job, the more likely it is that we see that job from a stale perspective. There is old saying that goes something like this; “Do you have five years of experience? Or the same year five times?”
While it is easy to see that a peer or another employee has started to take their job for granted, it is much harder to see this challenge in ourselves.

The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask.
When we have a ‘stale’ perspective the questions we are asking are often not helpful. In other words, a salesperson could continually ask “Why can’t I sell more?” or a manager may ask “Why can’t I find more engaged employees?”. While neither of these questions is inherently bad, they are also not helpful. This is because they are too often asked from a stale perspective. We are not really seeking an answer. We are actually seeking to change our circumstances without changing the only person that we can change – ourselves.
Which leads us to the best question I have ever come across when I am seeking to plan the next year.

Here’s The Question: Why should I be hired to do this job next year?
What if you fired yourself? I don’t mean literally – I mean as a mental exercise. What if did not have your job and you had to apply for your job right now? How would you look at things differently?
Why should you be fired?
What are the reasons why you are fireable? How have you missed expectations in the past year? What skills have you neglected to develop? What has happened that should not have? What opportunities were missed?
Why should you be re-hired?
Now that you have fired yourself, you will need to get yourself rehired. When you start a new job you have to interview for it. Pretend that you are preparing for that interview. Ask yourself what you learned last year that may you more capable in your job. Do you have the qualifications to achieve the objectives of the job this coming year? Also, when you interview for a new job you have to provide references. What would your boss, customers and peers say about your performance this year? You may want to rewrite your job description. What do you need to change in terms of your skill, behavior or attitude? What do you need to optimize that you have been doing the same way for some time? What could you eliminate? What do you need to do a better job with? Why do you want this job? What is your commitment as you start your new job?
You need to accept the job.
If you are going to accept the job this year, then you must be clear about what you are committing to. If you have done this exercise properly, then you should find your excitement level and motivation is higher than before you started this exercise!
Remember when you started this job – you were excited. There is no reason why you cannot recapture that excitement as you plan for the New Year.
Make sure that every year is the best one yet by making every year a brand new start.
So go ahead – fire yourself.

LeaderShift Live Leadership Workshop

Connecting Learning to Performance

THE CORRUPTION OF EMPATHY

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The other day I was coaching a leader that was complaining that his boss lacked empathy. In this case, the boss was demanding an increase in the level of performance of the team. The manager (I was coaching) felt that the boss was not paying attention to the circumstances surrounding the lack of performance. Then it happened… the manager shared his real concern: “I feel that by I have more empathy than my boss. Maybe if he understood what was happening in our business, he would be less focused on the numbers.”

I have found that most leaders are almost always playing a role – they are either the boss in the above example – or they are the manager. To understand which one you are, and what to do about it read more…

Empathy.

It sounds sort of wimpy to a lot of leaders. To others leaders it can become a rationale (or excuse) for not holding their team accountable to reasonable expectations of performance. However neither of these responses is accurate or appropriate when using empathy in a leadership context.

The Corruption of Empathy.

Empathy can be defined as ‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another’. Based on this definition, it is actually not possible to have ‘too much empathy’ – however it is possible to allow your empathy (whether it is high or low) to become an obstacle to effectively managing a team.

In fact, the word empathy was hardly ever used prior to 1950, and then it’s use ramped up rapidly. The understanding of how to use empathy in a leadership context has been evolving over that time. When human resource professionals started to try and address their low scores on workplace engagement surveys, they often determined that part of the problem was that leaders had little or no empathy for the people they were seeking to lead. Since leaders seemed to be completely focused on the numbers, some HR professionals determined that if only we could make them ‘nicer and gentler’ versions of themselves then we could have both business results and happier employees.

I call this the corruption of empathy because empathy does not necessarily involve being nicer and gentler. Often it involves very frank and honest conversations that hurt at the time – however we can all attest to the fact that we are better for having had a leader that cared enough to speak the truth with love.

The Accountability-Support Continuum:

One of the concepts we teach in LeaderShift is a model called the Accountability-Support continuum. In this model, Accountability Focused Leaders tend to be more preoccupied with the numbers, while Supportive Leaders tend to be more aligned and understanding of the situation that the people they seek to lead are experiencing.

Which one is better? The answer of course is BOTH. As a leader, you are accouable for achieving results. However, in order to achieve those results you must understand the how your employees ‘see’ the problem so that you can more effectively coach them into different behaviors in order to achieve better results.

When we ask leaders where they would rate themselves on that ‘Accountability-Support Continuum’, most leaders says they are about in the middle.

An therein lies the problem, as very few leaders truly can strike a balance between accountabilty and support – especially when they are under pressure. Now, I am not saying it is not possible – just that most leaders make assumptions about where others would place them.

Who Really has Empathy?

So who really has empathy? It would appear at first glance that the Supportive Leader is more empathetic. But are they?

It may be that Supportive Leaders are no more empathetic than their Accountability Focused cousins. If empathy is understanding and seeing as others see, then Supportive Leaders may be as guilty of prideful arrogance as anyone else. Think about it. Essentially Supportive Leaders are saying that ‘they get it’ and their boss and/or peers do not. What they really have for their employees is sympathy, as they have ‘bought in’ to the way their employees see the problem. In doing so they have abdicated their position of leadership, and can no longer help their employees navigate their way through the problem.

So while there is no question that an Accountability Focused leader needs to increase their empathy by reaching out and making more effort to understand the challenges associated with changing results, the Supportive Leader must also not use their Empathy as a crutch to excuse poor perfromance.

How do you balance Accountability and Support? 

  1. First you must find out what your natural orientation is, especially under stress – Accountability or Support. Do not presume that you know the answer to this question – I have seen too many leaders get this wrong! By the way, if you are a Supportive Leader you cannot task your employees for feedback on this question. The will inevitably tell you that you are a balanced leader. And if you are an Accountability Focused Leader you cannot ask them either because they will reluctant to be completely truthful. Instead find some peers and ask them – as well as your boss.
  2. Once you know where you reside, start working on developing the muscle on the other end of the continuum. If you are a more Accountability Focused Leader, start with reading this blog post USING GOAL SETTING AS A DEVELOPMENT TOOL. If you are a more Supportive Leader, you will likely encounter a fair amount of defensivess when you attemt to speak with them about their lack of production. Consider starting with this blog post HOW TO COACH AND DEAL WITH DEFENSIVENESS EFFECTIVELY.

Empathy is a critical skills for you as a leader to develop – you can never really have too much – but you can use it inappropriatley!

Here’s to your success!

Andrew

We have found that most leaders are frustrated that they experience the same problems day after day. At the LeaderShift Workshop we teach leaders a process that helps them create a Performance Acceleration Plan so that they radically accelerate their business results. To learn more click here or on the icon below.

 

CAN YOU REALLY GET SOMEONE ELSE TO CHANGE?

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Can you really ever get anyone else to change? For those of us in leadership, the answer to that question had better be a resounding ‘yes’. However, the degree to which we are successful in getting other people to change is certainly a different question altogether! In this post we will investigate the one critical question that will determine your success or failure in leading others to change. Often when we conduct our signature LeaderShift Live Workshop participants are confused when we ask them if they ‘Celebrate failure to the extent that ongoing learning takes place.’ Their confusion stems from the fact that most high achieving leaders would never consider celebrating failure. Failure is to be avoided at all costs! And yet we know that almost every success we have experienced in life involves learning, and in many cases, mistakes. So while we ultimately do not want to fail, we recognize their will be small failures along the way in any undertaking. So, while it may sound strange to you, in order to get another person to change you need to create the expectation of failure – not of the entire change process but that there will be failure along the way. This leads us to a fundamental question: How do we (as leaders) approach the change/failure dynamic – and what might we need to do differently to encourage the team we seek to lead to change more consistently and positively? Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, has researched this question and finds that there are essentially there two ways that people approach change:

  1. A Growth Mindset: This way of looking at the world says that people (ourselves included) can and do change all the time.
  2. A Fixed Mindset: This way of looking at the world says that people (ourselves included) don’t really change that much at all.

People who have a ‘fixed mindset’ believe that their abilities – and those of others – are essentially static. In other words, we are good at some things and not as talented in other areas. In this mindset your behavior is a good indication of your natural abilities. This leads to an avoidance of challenges because failure would reflect badly on your true ability level. In this case, negative feedback is seen as a threat – and you definitely don’t want to be seen as trying too hard – just in case you fail. That way if you fail – well – you always have the defense that you didn’t try that hard. The ‘growth mindset’ believes that abilities are like ‘muscles’. It’s not that some people are not more talented than others – there is not question that Michael Jordan is a truly talented individual. However, we can and do develop our abilities (and talents) through practice. With a growth mindset you will accept more challenging assignments. You are more likely to accept negative feedback, in fact you may seek it out, because you know that it will eventually make you better. Once you understand this critical difference in mindset you can start to recognize the ways that we inadvertantly reinforce a fixed mindset with others. Here are just a few examples:

  • Telling our kids ‘You’re so smart!’ or ‘You’re so good at_______’
  • Telling employees that they are so good at speaking, presenting, or organizing etc.

So what can we do differently?As leaders, we need to start praising the effort rather than the natural skill. While many leaders will object to this insight – it seems a lttle too touchy feely to many – I am not saying that we should not pay attention to results. Nor am I saying that we should not hold people accountable to results. To the contrary, what we are suggesting is that while you recognize the results (or lack thereof) you attribute the results to the effort rather than talent. Let’s use an example to reinforce this point: Employee A: Does all the right things/the right way but gets crappy results. You know this is because the circumstances that particular week just did not line up correctly. Employee B: Does not do the right things/the right way but gets great results. You know this is because the circumstances that particular week lined up in a way that promoted positive results. Which employee would you rather have in week 2? If you answered ‘A’ then you need to consider how you provide feedback and direction to your employees. In other words – Can you celebrate failure to the extent that ongoing learning occurs? Because if you can’t – then you will surround yourself with fixed mindset team members that have already reached the extent of their potential. And that is not a future that I would wish for you!

We have found that most leaders are frustrated that they experience the same problems day after day. We have a process that helps leaders create a Performance Acceleration Plan so that they can move past those problems and start making radical improvements in their business results. 
For more information please click here or on the graphic below:

HOW TO COACH AND DEAL WITH DEFENSIVENESS EFFECTIVELY

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One of the most insidious challenges we must deal with as we continue our daily trek is the fact that most people would rather blame others for their circumstances than place at least part of the blame where it certainly belongs: With themselves. We even have a term for this: Defensiveness.

When I speak with audiences there is an almost universal agreement that this is one of the core challenges that they deal with on a daily basis. Whether they are speaking with a family member, or a peer, their boss, or perhaps an employee: we all struggle with the desire to help someone make progress. Unfortunately, too often they seem preoccupied with deflecting responsibility onto someone or something else.

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Some years ago one of my mentors, Bob Proctor, taught me that when we are presented with a new idea – or at least one that conflicts with what we believe to be true, we have a choice to make. We can choose to learn from that idea or we can choose to attack that idea and defend what we know to be true. But we cannot do both. Now if we were to be honest, most people would have to agree that it is hard to be open minded about ideas that are presented to us that conflict with what our experience has shown us to be true. And yet that is the very challenge we are faced with when people we seek to influence are defensive with what we communicate to them.

What we really want is for them to be open minded – in other words we want their mind to be open to the possibility that they could learn and that the idea may actually help them. Unfortunately, our process for getting them to change their minds is flawed.

Instead of opening their minds to the possibility that their understanding of what is happening is flawed, we instead encourage the very defensiveness that frustrates our ability to assist them in making a positive change. In other words, we try to argue people into changing their minds. Rarely does this work, so we up the ante and increase the volume and intensity of our dialogue. Even if this results in a temporary change in behavior – it is too often short lived, and the person reverts to their previous behavior pattern.

Note: To identify the areas you may need to help the team improve complete our Complimentary Team Assessment.

So then how do we coach positive change in another person?

It is actually easier than you may think.

As a leader, we are often told to ‘walk the talk’ or ‘model that which we expect from others’.

Unfortunately, we tend to interpret this in the narrowest sense – we should arrive on time if we want others to do so, we should work hard if we want others too etc. While all of these habits are a great start – they are really just the price of admission to being able to ‘lead effectively’.

So what should we do?

The answer is to model the very behaviors we desire in those we seek to lead. So, if we want people to be in ‘learning’ mode rather than ‘defensive’ mode – we need to model that behavior ourselves.

When faced with this challenge, leaders often look perplexed as they believe they already are in ‘learning’ mode. And, of course, they often are. The question is – are the in ‘learning’ mode when they are interacting with the people they seem to model the behavior for? That’s when it counts – when they see you making an effort to learn (interpret this as understand) their perspective on a change you are seeking them to make.

Try this experiment next time you are faced with defensiveness from another person: Set aside the need to be right and ask questions to understand their perspective. That does not mean they are right and you should accept their answers as facts, however it does mean that you listen and really try to understand why they feel the way they do. You will find that the emotion in the dialogue decreases, they open up and you actually can have a conversation rather than an argument.

The reason this works is that when we are in ‘defensive’ mode we are almost always talking. When we are in ‘learning’ mode we are almost always listening. So, to model ‘learning’ behavior we must listen. Only then will you understand how the other person sees the issue.

To learn how to increase your leadership skill and reinforce the core attributes of high performing teams, use our Complimentary Team Assessment and learn:

  • Whether there is sufficient trust for open dialogue
  • Whether your team engages in constructive conflict
  • Whether the team feels there is commitment to team decisions
  • Whether the team feels there is true accountability for results