leadership lessons

Who are you? Who Who?

You used to be sick? Or you ARE a survivor?

You used to be a marathon runner? Or you KNOW the power of endurance?

You used to be an artist? Or you have the ABILITY to create something beautiful?

You used to be successful? Or you understand what it FEELS like to win?

You used to be a screw up? Or you UNDERSTAND the importance of mentors?

You are what you’ve learned. The power of those lessons are buried within you.

Never let them go.

Let your learning inform your leadership.

Pay It Forward Mentoring

This is a guest post from LGL Tribe Member and Winning Well Advocate, David Oddis.

Years ago, on a beautiful summer day in Salt Lake City, Utah, I learned one of the most important things a leader can do: express the importance of “giving back.” As my mentor and I met for a casual lunch, he asked me if I had “ever received a bill” from him. Like a confused puppy dog, my ears perked up and my head tilted left. Perplexed, I asked him what he meant.

He repeated the question, “Have you ever received a bill from me…have I ever charged you for the knowledge I share with you?” “Of course not,” I replied. “That’s right,” he said… “And that’s why you are 100% obligated to pass your wisdom on to someone else.”

“Have You Ever Received a Bill from Me?”

He went on to explain that at some point in my career I was going to have opportunities to give back what was given to me. It was important that I understand this concept as an obligation and not a choice, pointing out that this is how the cycle of mentorship works. It was probably one of the single greatest lessons I learned about mentorship and one of many key elements of what makes a great leader. To this day, I share that story with various colleagues, mentees, and just about anyone with whom I have leadership conversations. It was a powerful lesson learned long ago that still carries true today. And by adopting this advice and accepting this obligation, my life has changed in so many ways and it can also change yours.

The Mentorship Pedigree

“We have to continue mining the discipline to look for those key frameworks, those techniques, those tools, those mindset gems that allow us to learn and grow and create environments where problem-solving and effective execution strategies contain values needed by our customers.”  – David E. Oddis

By adopting this concept and creating the cycle of giving back, investing in others what someone has invested in you, we actually create a mentorship pedigree. You hear this when champions are discussed…from racehorses to the NFL where they often refer to the bloodline or pedigree of NFL coaches.

For example: Mike Tomlin, current head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, worked under Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay in the 90s; Tony worked for the Pittsburgh Steelers under Chuck Noll during the 80s; Chuck worked under Don Shula and the Baltimore Colts in the 60s. As you follow their bloodline, they are all ultimately tied to the Sid Gillman coaching pedigree. By the way, all of these coaches were championship level coaches, winning AFL and NFL division titles and Super Bowls. Think there is something to that? It is their pedigree…all sharing what they were taught with the next mentee and inspiring them to do likewise as they become mentors. Thus the cycle of mentorship goes.

This for me is the magic of mentorship and one of the key elements of leadership.

Do you know your mentorship pedigree?

Are you familiar with who your mentor was mentored by and so on? Do you know your mentorship history?  In some cases I have met people that can track their pedigree back multiple decades which is a really awesome story.

What values have been carried forward over the years or decades?

Have you asked your mentor who influenced his or her values? If you haven’t yet, give it a shot.

Do your mentees understand the obligation of giving back?

  • Have you had the pay it forward conversation?

Maybe this practice starts with you. Let the cycle begin!

To All the (Jerky) Managers I’ve Known Before

I had asked the group to share their teachable point of view on leadership in the form of a TEDdy Talk (e.g. “learn to improve your speaking Karin Hurt style”.) Ultimately everyone would have their 5 minutes of TEDdy Talk fame, but tonight we were just practicing “Wow” openings. “Carrie,” who hadn’t said a heck of a lot before this, stood up and gave the most impassioned imitation of a horrible boss I’ve ever heard– as her “wow” opener. “Why can’t you do anything right!” She screamed (pretending to be her bully boss). “Everyone tells me you are smart, but I just can’t see it!”

And then she shared: “This was my morning today.”

The entire room fell silent.

After giving her a hug and a copy of my Overcoming an Imperfect Boss book, I realized I’ve never dealt with that. Close…but by that time that jerk surfaced her ugly head,  I was too seasoned for that crap. This was “Carrie’s” first serious job and she knew it was wrong. She planned to leave my book on his desk the next day as a conversation starter. (I know… I’ve already said a little prayer.) Either way, growth comes through bravery.

My Best Communication Advice For Jerky Bosses

I know you’re out there. There’s a reason my “Dealing with Difficult People” course has a waiting list (note pretty much all anyone wants to do is talk about their bosses).  But I also know there’s a bat’s chance in hell the bad guys are reading this.

So it’s up to the good guys to spread the word.

If you’re looking to help someone turn their temper into a productive conversation, here’s a process to leave subtly on their desk.

Start Here

First, I’m going to assume you are right, and that your frustration is well-founded. Someone did something stupid after at least 17 times of you trying to help them. You didn’t START thinking they’re stupid, but now you’re starting to wonder. What do you do next?

1. Connect

Connecting gives your adrenaline time to chill. Remembering you’re talking to another human being will go a long way in ensuring a productive solution.

2. Acknowledge Reality

Don’t sugarcoat. State the problem and implications clearly. Most folks appreciate calm, straight talk.

3. Inspire Confidence

What you need right now is people who believe they can fix this, not bruised egos doubting their abilities. Be specific about why you believe they can do this.

4. Ask Questions (and LISTEN) to the Response There’s likely more to this situation than you understand. Slow down, ask open-ended questions and then shut up and really listen to the response. Repeat.

5. Link to the Bigger Picture: Explain why this matters. Provide context. People always work harder when they know why.

6. Set a Clear Goal: Be clear about what must happen next and by when.

7. Involve Them In the Solution: You need as many brains as possible to fix this. Include them.

8. End on An Encouraging Note: There’s a reason that half-time locker room speeches work. Be sure they leave inspired to go-get-this, not fearful of what will happen when they don’t.

No one wants to be a jerky boss. If you know someone who lets their reaction get in the way of their leadership, do us all a favor, and pass this post along.

To All the (Jerky) Managers I've Known Before

I had asked the group to share their teachable point of view on leadership in the form of a TEDdy Talk (e.g. “learn to improve your speaking Karin Hurt style”.) Ultimately everyone would have their 5 minutes of TEDdy Talk fame, but tonight we were just practicing “Wow” openings. “Carrie,” who hadn’t said a heck of a lot before this, stood up and gave the most impassioned imitation of a horrible boss I’ve ever heard– as her “wow” opener. “Why can’t you do anything right!” She screamed (pretending to be her bully boss). “Everyone tells me you are smart, but I just can’t see it!”

And then she shared: “This was my morning today.”

The entire room fell silent.

After giving her a hug and a copy of my Overcoming an Imperfect Boss book, I realized I’ve never dealt with that. Close…but by that time that jerk surfaced her ugly head,  I was too seasoned for that crap. This was “Carrie’s” first serious job and she knew it was wrong. She planned to leave my book on his desk the next day as a conversation starter. (I know… I’ve already said a little prayer.) Either way, growth comes through bravery.

My Best Communication Advice For Jerky Bosses

I know you’re out there. There’s a reason my “Dealing with Difficult People” course has a waiting list (note pretty much all anyone wants to do is talk about their bosses).  But I also know there’s a bat’s chance in hell the bad guys are reading this.

So it’s up to the good guys to spread the word.

If you’re looking to help someone turn their temper into a productive conversation, here’s a process to leave subtly on their desk.

Start Here

First, I’m going to assume you are right, and that your frustration is well-founded. Someone did something stupid after at least 17 times of you trying to help them. You didn’t START thinking they’re stupid, but now you’re starting to wonder. What do you do next?

1. Connect

Connecting gives your adrenaline time to chill. Remembering you’re talking to another human being will go a long way in ensuring a productive solution.

2. Acknowledge Reality

Don’t sugarcoat. State the problem and implications clearly. Most folks appreciate calm, straight talk.

3. Inspire Confidence

What you need right now is people who believe they can fix this, not bruised egos doubting their abilities. Be specific about why you believe they can do this.

4. Ask Questions (and LISTEN) to the Response There’s likely more to this situation than you understand. Slow down, ask open-ended questions and then shut up and really listen to the response. Repeat.

5. Link to the Bigger Picture: Explain why this matters. Provide context. People always work harder when they know why.

6. Set a Clear Goal: Be clear about what must happen next and by when.

7. Involve Them In the Solution: You need as many brains as possible to fix this. Include them.

8. End on An Encouraging Note: There’s a reason that half-time locker room speeches work. Be sure they leave inspired to go-get-this, not fearful of what will happen when they don’t.

No one wants to be a jerky boss. If you know someone who lets their reaction get in the way of their leadership, do us all a favor, and pass this post along.

Leading through Influence: A Frontline Festival

 

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seeds of either success or failure in the mind of another. – Napoleon Hill

Chantal Bechervaise of Take It Personel-ly shares that one way for leaders to make a positive change and influence is to put their people first–to move from a mindset of ‘me’ to a mindset of ‘you’ or ‘we’ and focus on what their teams and employees need to be successful instead of their own needs and wants. Follow Chantal.

We sometimes underestimate the influence we have via our social media channels. In this post, Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited takes an inward look at the kind of social media manager she would hire–to run her personal pages for good. Follow Beth.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership calls influence a boss’s super power. Use it wisely and for good. Follow Wally.

Bruce Harpham of Project Management Hacks reminds that until you are trusted, your influence will be significantly limited. Learn how to build trust at work over time by using direct communication and consistently delivering results. Follow Bruce.

The people you surround yourself with influence your behaviors, so choose friends who have healthy habits. – Dan Buettner

Liza Heidelberger of MyLeaderSphere asks “How do you build influence in a high stakes meeting when you’ve never had the chance to first develop a relationship?” She provides a formula to “microwave relationships” when the pressure is on. Follow Liza.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement has an intriguing take. He shares, that to improve the management of our organizations does not require discovering new ideas never thought of before. What we need to do is use our influence to systemically adopt good practices that have been known for decades (but are rarely seen in most organizations today). Follow John.

Kirsten Jepson of Sykes Enterprises shares that Leading by influence is both the same and different than leading direct reports. Here are the 5 Keys to success. Follow Kirsten.

In the post, Why your way of leading isn’t working, Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog shares that the higher up the food chain you go in an organization, the more your job is not about doing specific tasks. It’s about influencing. Influence is the key to getting things done, getting your ideas across, and honestly, getting ahead, and Lisa shares specific tips on influencing effectively. Follow Lisa.

Dan McCarthy of About.com Management and Leadership notes that the ability to influence and work collaboratively becomes even more important as a leader takes on more and more responsibility and the organization grows. Collaboration is no longer a “nice to do,” it’s a leadership requirement needed to get results and advance in any organization. Follow Dan.

Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another. – George Eliot

If you want to have more influence at home, at work, or anywhere, there is one key…love. Across time, research has proven that this single thing is the secret to great influence. Thanks, Matt McWilliams of Matt McWilliams Consulting. Follow Matt.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference relays that leading across generations requires setting an example. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report suggests Millennials have a giving mindset and are converting their influence to action. Follow Jon.

According to Jeff Miller of The Faithful Pacesetters, when a leader is fulfilling their call, they find gratification. This fulfillment is not a result based on power, but by the positive influence they can be to others. Follow Jeff.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership provides an examination of the motivating factors of obligation and commitment and how one of them can help leaders to promote the best in those they lead. Follow Tanveer.

Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com reminds us that we influence others by our actions. If they see us come to the table without excuses; they will too! Leaders go first! Follow Michelle.

Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about influence, impact, and inspiration. – Robin S. Sharma

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights asks, “Do you know the 5 principles of influence? Whether persuading a child to eat broccoli or negotiating a multi-million dollar deal, it’s important to know how to influence. Bestselling author Bob Burg of the Go-Giver shows how to influence others with power. Follow Skip.

FBI agents are rarely described as warm and fluffy, but neither are they the snarly, snarky shoot-from-the-hip of investigators often depicted on TV and in the movies. The reason is simple: there is a technique to winning an argument or calming down an individual to the point where they not only see reason, but agree to cooperate with an FBI investigation. Thanks LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center! Follow LaRae.

Each of these “8 Portals of Influence” are doorways to non-authority based leadership. Developing each of these portals increases your ability to lead across reporting line. But as Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership says, “When we shift from authority-based to influence-based leadership, we have to accept that we are not always in control. However, the reality is that we actually never were.” Follow Jesse Lyn.

Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context says that without tools for handling complex challenges, people may make more mistakes than they need to. Some of those mistakes can be costly to the leader’s future and the organization’s reputation. Follow Linda.

Call for Submissions. The August Frontline Festival is about Effective Communications. Please send your submissions no later than August 14.  New participants welcome. Click here to join in!

The Power of A Second Chance

The planners of the 2015 National Speaker’s Association Influence conference had every reason to believe he was up to the challenge. After all “Sam” had just received the coveted CSP (certified speaking professional) certification (proving he was a seasoned speaking master). But as Sam took the stage in front of 1700 of his speaking peers for his five minutes of NSA fame, he went blank. After a few stumbles and restarts, he uttered the words that drew an audible gasp from the supportive crowd, “I knew this would happen.”

He’d just committed professional speaking sin #37 “When you screw up, for God’s sake don’t draw attention to it and make it worse. Keep going.” We all were watching our worst speaking nightmare play out before our eyes. Nothing worse than bombing in front of your professional community.

By Tuesday morning so much was going on, our brains were full, and “Sam’s” five minutes of angst had faded for most of us. What happened next sent tears down my face (I looked around it… wasn’t just me).

The music blared and large screens spread the message, “Welcome to Redemption Island.” The screens then REPLAYED that horrible moment where “Sam” had let his inside voice out, “I knew this would happen.” The MC announced, and “We are here to give him another shot.”

The crowd went wild.

He gave the speech. Flawlessly. He ended with thanking his peer who had encouraged him to give it another go, in fact he said “I love you.” (There’s nothing more powerful at work than peers who truly love you-with a little “l” and no sex.)

The Power of a Second Chance

First some context.

In yesterday’s keynote,  Mel Robbins described the NSA like this “It’s like you’re going camping by yourself and stumble upon a huge party down by the river with all kinds of people just like you who invite you to come play” (I may be paraphrasing, but that’s close… please don’t quote me, quoting her). So what’s surprising is not that they got to this answer, but how few other organizations I’ve been a part of would have handled it this way.

Why it worked.

1. No one judged

Okay, okay. Who knows, there might have been someone. But I watched the hush come over the crowd like a wave at a large stadium. I’d be willing to bet my next keynote fee that 98% were in his court. I’d venture to guess there were at least 100 prayers lifted up in his direction. There was no scolding. No, “We trusted you with a coveted spot” speeches. No, “Don’t ever do that again pep talks.” Or stories of “a long recovery.” It was more of “Well, that happened. It sucked. Let’s figure out how to move on.”

2. They let him try again.

Risky. If he had blown it again, it would have been a nightmare for him, and sent questions about the certification process. The meeting planners knew the risk. They went there anyway.

3. He was willing to.

It would have been easier to have a few drinks, call his wife, and obsess over this for the next two decades. He took the risk of getting back on the stage, and trying again.

4. He worked hard.

I don’t know how many times he practiced, but I’d be willing to bet my NEXT keynote fee, that he left nothing to chance. A humbling experience makes us stronger.

5. They acknowledged success.

A standing ovation.

What could have devastated his confidence, became a career highlight. I’ll bet somehow the moment of 1700 peers saying “I understand” will be in his “best of” highlights reel.

Failure feels like an island.  Can you imagine what would happen if we started with finding opportunities for redemption?

There’s awesome power in winning well.

Let it be so. #winningwell

The Most Important Question to Ask When Facing a Big Decision

What if you could pre-screen a movie of your life to help guide you in making your most pivotal decisions? Can you imagine knowing how your screenplay unfolds would guide your answers to the biggies:

  • Should I follow my passion and shift careers?
  • Should I relocate my family for that promotion?
  • Should I take the risk and stand up for what I  believe in?
  • Who should I seek out as a mentor?
  • Should I marry him?
  • Should I move to part-time while my children are little?
  • Who should I groom to carry on my legacy?

I was talking with LGL subscriber, David Oddis (below) after giving a Winning Well workshop for his organization. He shared a game changing question his mentor asked when he was contemplating taking on a new role.

davidHis mentor simply asked, “Is this move part of your story?”

Can you see the power of that question?

In other words, what is the story you are looking to write with your life?

Who are the central characters?

What values does your story represent?

How will you feel about that decision when you’re playing back the trailer?

If you make this decision, what doors does that open and close for the next scene?

David shared, “That question made it so simple for me. It was clear that move was not part of my story.”

Not all opportunities (no matter how good look on paper) take our story in the direction we want.

Of course we can’t write the whole story. No one invites cancer into their story. No bride marries knowing that divorce is in the next chapter. But we DO hold the pen as we write our response.

What does our story say about how hard we fight? What does our story say about how we show up for our children in the midst of the angst? What does our story say about how we find a new beginning?

When faced with a difficult decision ask yourself, “Is this part of my story?”

The answer may surprise you.

Are you interested in booking a Winning Well Workshop for your organization? Please call me at 443-750-1249.

How to Motivate Yourself

I had just finished reviewing the syllabus with my Masters level leadership class, and asked my typical follow-up question. “What else would you like to cover?” Lin raised her hand and asked sincerely, “Professor, you are so passionate about what you do, it’s oozing out of you. How do we motivate ourselves to feel like that?”

Oh boy, a challenge.

You see this is the debate my husband, Marcus, and I have been having for the last 12 years. He swears that kind of motivation is genetic, and therefore, unteachable. If you met my family, you’d see where his gene theory comes from. But still, I’m passionate about proving him wrong. Yes, the irony is not lost on me.

I do know one thing, you can’t give someone 5 steps to figuring it out. It involves miring in the muck of what drives you, what you value and why.

From Motivation Theory to Real Life

So last night, I told them to buckle their seat belts and took them on a tour of motivation theory. We started with the classics: content theories (what motivates), process theories (how to motivate) and of course good old reinforcement theory. We then moved to more current thinking like Sinek and Pink. I told them to take good notes because it would be on the exam (that’s always a motivator.)

Then the real work began. I asked them to break into small groups and come up with five ways to help someone motivate themselves (all of which had to be grounded in at least one of the theories).

They started miring in the muck. I overheard deep conversation about where they get stuck and why: Childhood memories of reinforcement motivation for which they blame their bad habits, frustration of sending out so many resumes they have a hard time mustering up the gumption to send one more, questions of how they had let themselves turn from an athlete to a couch potato.

And so today I bring  you five ways to motivate yourself, courtesy of BUMO 796.

5 Ways to Motivate Yourself

1. Love (my personal favorite)

Connect with the feelings of love and sacrifice others have made for you. Acknowledge that support. Go get more if you need it. And then, turn that love into something spectacular. (P.S. this might not be unrelated to gene theory).

2. Focus on Your Basic Needs First

Work your way up Maslow’s hierarchy. If you need sleep and food, get that first. It’s hard to be motivated to change the world if you’re exhausted.

3. Set Achieveable Goals

Expectancy theory seemed to resonate.

4. Create a Support Network

Don’t try to do this alone. Articulate your goals, and surround yourself with people who will help to keep you on track.

5. Reward Yourself

Give yourself something to look forward to at each milestone.

If you’re feeling stuck, perhaps a good mire in motivation theory muck will help.

Are you looking to take your team to the next level? Please give me a call for a free consultation.

Excited vs. Excitable: The Real Secret to Executive Presence

The situation would have sent any leader who cared running for aspirin. I asked Mark, the Senior VP, “Are you okay? Are you stressed? What needs to happen next?” Mark responded, “Karin, I don’t get stressed. There’s no use in that. But as it turns out I’m a stress carrier.”

In humor lies the truth.

Mark had mastered executive presence. Mark had excited but not excitable nailed. Deeply passionate about the cause, nothing rattled him. He’d taken on each new scene as if he’d seen it a thousand times before. His actions were values-based, consistent, deliberate and timely. And yet he knew that his calm words didn’t always have a calming effect on his team. In fact sometimes, the more calm he appeared, the wilder his VPs became– as if to make up for his lack of excitable.

Stress was still rolling down hill, even though Mark had tried to stop it.

Excited Energizes, Excitable Freaks People Out

In almost every company I work with, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern– things are remarkably calmer on the executive “floor.” (Thank goodness, not always a real floor these days.)

The stakes are higher, the decisions graver, these folks have farther to fall, and yet when the going gets tough (for the execs who get it) the volume doesn’t amplify.

In full disclosure, I didn’t learn this early in my career. For a long time I believed my excitable nature proved I cared. I confused stress with passion. Fired up is a long way from freaked out. Know the difference in yourself, and in those you lead.

Your team longs for calm in you and in them. Don’t stop with you.

How to Encourage Excited vs. Excitable

So how do you grow leaders who emulate calm, in the midst of a frantic context?

1. Acknowledge Reality

More than anything your team needs to know you get it. Otherwise they think your head is in the sand. When you calmly state the issue and the implications, I promise that your team will breathe a sigh of relief. They’ll move from trying to prove that the fire is real, to trying to figure out how to extinguish it.

2. Stay Consistently True to Your Values

Great leaders stay true to their values when the going gets tough. If “customer service is #1” has been your rallying cry and you start short-cutting when budget (or boss) pressures loom, your team will be confused at best. Don’t change course. Instead ask, how do MAINTAIN OUR COMMITMENT to a great customer experience with these new parameters?

3. Encourage Wacky Solutions

Chances are that someone is sitting on an idea that is so crazy it might just work. Give them an opportunity to share. Then help them calm down, ask great questions, and consider how they could best execute.

4. Use Failure as Learning

When the going gets tough, our  tolerance for failing decreases, and in many well-intentioned leaders, disappears. Ironically, it’s in the toughest times that we need it most. The 18th failure is much harder than the second. Help your team stay calm and keep learning.

5. Stay Real

When the going gets really tough, your team wants the truth. Share what you can and help them to make informed decisions.

Leaders who win well are excited, but not excitable. They have a strong vision and a strong sense of where they are headed. They expect disruption and leverage chaos as an opportunity to engage creative solutions.

Stay excited. Resist excitable–for you and those who care enough to follow your lead.

Managing Millennials: What’s Really Different

A working student in my evening MBA program approached me to talk about a work situation that was driving her crazy.

She gave me the gory behind-the-scenes view: a few apathetic employees were fully taking advantage of a system that had let them get away with ridiculous performance for too long. She was a new supervisor and knew what was right. Apparently her instincts had been reinforced in our class that night. But the situation felt difficult to reverse. She shrugged and said, “It’s probably because they’re millennials.”

I laughed, “Uh…you do realize YOU are a millennial. right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she acknowledged, “but I’m a DIFFERENT kind of millennial.”

Of course she is. Every millennial is.

Whatever your generation, I’d bet money you don’t feel like you fully fit the stereotype.

Don’t let generational labels and stereotypes screw up your ability to build a winning team. 

What Every Employee Needs

All this talk of the millennial situation is aggravating the perceived “generation gap.” It happens every time a new crop of growing leaders gains traction.  The truth is, the problem she was describing was not generational. It was a hard-core, poster-child example of weak expectations, exacerbated by low-reinforcement and no consequences.

I had those same slippery characters working for me when I was 26. Oh sure their names and contexts were different, but I recognized the story. Back then, I was a gen-Xer trying to manage gen-Xers (I even had to take a course on managing gen-Xers before I could move into management). I recall telling the trainer I was a DIFFERENT kind of gen-Xer.

Yes, we need to understand and value the millennial generation. They bring insights and values we may not understand.

For example, I was all ears when my informal millennial coaches (employees in my organization at the front lines who I specifically put on my informal board of directors to tell me the truth) told me how to become more trusted and accessible to the front lines: Stop wearing a suit and heels to the call centers–it was too intimidating; bring my humor to the next corporate video; and for God’s sake watch some TV every now and then so I can chime in on the break room small talk. It worked. Sure there are few things you can do to be more relevant to the masses.

But the truth is, it didn’t work because they were millennial. It worked because it was a way to meet people where they are. That wisdom has worked for centuries.

Figure out the easy things you can change to connect better at a broad scale, but never forget that teams are built of unique human beings. 

The next time you’re faced with a “millennial” problem, I encourage you to resist the label and dig deeper. What’s really going on at the individual level? Do they get the big picture, so they have the skills to do the job, are they confident and competent…? You get the picture.

Are you struggling with a difficult employee engagement scene? Please call me at 443 750-1249 for a free consultation.

Managing Millennials: What's Really Different

A working student in my evening MBA program approached me to talk about a work situation that was driving her crazy.

She gave me the gory behind-the-scenes view: a few apathetic employees were fully taking advantage of a system that had let them get away with ridiculous performance for too long. She was a new supervisor and knew what was right. Apparently her instincts had been reinforced in our class that night. But the situation felt difficult to reverse. She shrugged and said, “It’s probably because they’re millennials.”

I laughed, “Uh…you do realize YOU are a millennial. right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she acknowledged, “but I’m a DIFFERENT kind of millennial.”

Of course she is. Every millennial is.

Whatever your generation, I’d bet money you don’t feel like you fully fit the stereotype.

Don’t let generational labels and stereotypes screw up your ability to build a winning team. 

What Every Employee Needs

All this talk of the millennial situation is aggravating the perceived “generation gap.” It happens every time a new crop of growing leaders gains traction.  The truth is, the problem she was describing was not generational. It was a hard-core, poster-child example of weak expectations, exacerbated by low-reinforcement and no consequences.

I had those same slippery characters working for me when I was 26. Oh sure their names and contexts were different, but I recognized the story. Back then, I was a gen-Xer trying to manage gen-Xers (I even had to take a course on managing gen-Xers before I could move into management). I recall telling the trainer I was a DIFFERENT kind of gen-Xer.

Yes, we need to understand and value the millennial generation. They bring insights and values we may not understand.

For example, I was all ears when my informal millennial coaches (employees in my organization at the front lines who I specifically put on my informal board of directors to tell me the truth) told me how to become more trusted and accessible to the front lines: Stop wearing a suit and heels to the call centers–it was too intimidating; bring my humor to the next corporate video; and for God’s sake watch some TV every now and then so I can chime in on the break room small talk. It worked. Sure there are few things you can do to be more relevant to the masses.

But the truth is, it didn’t work because they were millennial. It worked because it was a way to meet people where they are. That wisdom has worked for centuries.

Figure out the easy things you can change to connect better at a broad scale, but never forget that teams are built of unique human beings. 

The next time you’re faced with a “millennial” problem, I encourage you to resist the label and dig deeper. What’s really going on at the individual level? Do they get the big picture, so they have the skills to do the job, are they confident and competent…? You get the picture.

Are you struggling with a difficult employee engagement scene? Please call me at 443 750-1249 for a free consultation.

Effective Delegation: An Easy to Use Tool

When you’re overwhelmed, stressed, and busy, you know the natural answer is to delegate more. But there’s a risk. When you’re moving fast it’s easy to get sloppy or overbearing in your delegation: (see 3 delegation mistakes you don’t have to make). That’s why I’ve created this easy checklist for you to use the next time your delegating an important task. I’ve listed the questions here, but you can also download in a checklist form:  free PDF for easy use with your team. 

Questions to Ask Yourself When Delegating

Before Delegating

  • Does the person I’ve selected have the knowledge, skills and resources necessary to do this task?
  • Does this person have bandwidth to do this task (do I need to help them prioritize)?
  • Are there any roadblocks (e.g. political, funding, approvals) I need to help remove to make this task possible?

In Delegation Conversation

  • Have I explained why this task is important?
  • Have I clearly articulated the “finish line”–what’s to be accomplished by when?
  • Have I left room for the employee to determine the best way to get the task accomplished (delegated outcomes, not process)?
  • Have I checked for understanding and heard the employee state what needs to be accomplished by when?
  • Have I established clear accountability checkpoints and a mutual appointment to review the completed task?

After Completion

  • Have I said “Thank you?”
  • Have we had any needed conversations about lessons learned or process improvements?

Note: This is an in-progress tool we are testing as supplemental resource to our book coming out in early Spring. Would love your feedback on how it can be improved.