It occurred to me, as I was watching three days of recorded nightly news, that we are in the most exciting time of history! Annoying of course, but exciting. For those of you who want to tangle and fight over politics–please don’t read any further. This is about The Digital Divide of Generations, and I am using politics to illustrate a point.
Let’s start with the obvious:
Bernie Sanders is bringing to a head the reality of the digital divide. His lifetime of actions — worn on his very transparent career sleeve– is one big Millennial Hug! Bernie is old with a young heart filled with passion for doing the “right thing.” If you accept that it is “his” right thing, then his record–illustrated so nicely in 25 + years of videos, is not the norm. He took his punches all these years holding his ground and fighting for his values. No one paid much attention to him until America lost its footing.
As for the rest of candidates, we have a series of complex maneuvers. A whole generation of “adults” who are more than willing to forgive and forget all the changes of opinion and irrelevance that our elected officials spew on Twitter and their favorite news outlet. Today they may support the “Hispanic” audience and tomorrow they may just throw them back over the border despite years of living here and paying taxes. Political “positions” mean nothing!
I think the most telling example of the generational divide in this election was a comment by woman, a baby boomer from Wisconson, who was asked about a statement that Donald Trump made and she said:
“I can’t believe he would punish women….but oh, I wish I could put a piece of tape on his mouth sometimes…”
Saying what you mean. Doing what you say. Walking the walk.
Companies and leaders of those companies must do what they say in their mission statement and employee handbooks. The idea that subordinates or the public for that matter, are on a need to know basis, with mostly the companies and leaders, never feeling that we “need to know,”–well hang on to your hats cause that just isn’t gonna work that much longer. Millennials want transparency. We all want transparency!
We want companies to speak the truth and then back with action. Things marked “organic” should be, water tested by government agencies must be accurate and disclosed, and when people lie or change their minds we cannot merely put tape on their mouths to resolve the problem.
From Boomer To Bust
Older generations “forget” or have just accepted that our government officials do not do what they say Election after election, we have overlooked the failings of our elected leaders to do what they say and now we have roads that are collapsing, water that is hurting children, gas leaks destroying entire neighborhoods, and an election that has spotlighted a cancer that needs to be removed. Saying “you are the best” is not the same as being “the best.”
Old School Vs New School
In my line of work, I am oftentimes seen as a disrupter. I recently sat in a room of high-level professionals facilitating a discussion about the opportunity to connect with their community –making them advocates for their important and incredibly stressful line of work. I, of course, brought up using social media to help. Still reeling from the crash of 2008–like so many businesses and professionals–with reduced budgets that didn’t get refilled when things began to turn around, they felt burdened by their inability to reach the decision makers. Why is that? I wanted to say to them. Why do you think the budgets remain slim?
The battle is not about money. The battle is about value, vision, and purpose. Years of “need to know” pulled the cord in ’08. Managers were managing managers and nothing was getting done. CEO’s and Politicians were changing strategy and cutting budgets without regard to the original goals.
And I asked one telling question that I ask in every group, every industry I speak with: When was the last time you went down through your company/department and met with your staff and talked about the mission and purpose of your work? Deer in headlights for half the room.
When did our “work” become so important that we forgot to communicate and support our “subordinates”? In this case, they are called “direct reports,” a term that just cut into my soul –as if they were numbered prisoners.
Innovation cannot work if we do not communicate at the very basic level of our most valued assets–the people who work with our customers.
I know that I am disruptive–a role I have come to accept. I live on both sides of this generational/digital divide. I climbed the ladder but I failed miserably because climbing to the very top didn’t mean I was successful. I read our mission statements and took it to heart that we had a purpose. Eventually, I had to go out on my own because at a “certain age” people just expect that you want to climb up the next rung on the ladder. I was too busy circling the desks and inspiring the masses.
The Election Is a Mirror
Holding on to what we had has always been the job of the outgoing generation. They feel “owed” and justified in moving on, hanging on and complaining about the young guns without experience. But this time the young guns don’t really need what is being offered because they have redefined success. They don’t want to climb ladders to nowhere, they want collaborative teams with goals and support for their efforts.
I remember telling my sales team that the “big bosses” were busy solving the big problems, and that is why they didn’t once attend our customer events—but who were we kidding? They were busy holding on to their rung on the ladder.
Using Social Media to connect is scary because it means you have to declare something and then hold true to it.
My favorite question as a consultant is “Why do Millennials leave a new job after a few months?”
It’s not an answer most businesses want to hear. Bosses want it to be about the “Me Generation” with self-centered kids who don’t know how to do anything without their cell phones. But that is not true. Millennials have not only figured out that they are a numbered and expendable commodity in the workplace, but they feel empowered to leave before they turn into the huddled and afraid “direct reports” like their parents were before they got laid off after years of loyal service.
So Donald, Ted, Hilary, and Bernie…
…you are at the tipping point in history when it comes to elections, and most likely, our culture too. This will be the last presidential election where you say whatever you must to get into the office and then back pedal your way into the next election. We want change. We want communication and support. We want you to speak your mind…and hopefully, what comes out of your mouth will be a passion , purpose and real plan of action to make our country stronger…without the use of tape!
Maria Bereket is a Marketing & Social Media Consultant. Her work is focused on bridging the gap in the digital divide, and her passion is working with small business owners because she feels that their work is going to change the world making it a better place to live. E @mbear88 or email me if you need a different perspective email@example.com
Originally posted on LinkedIn
When Your Life Experiences Matter
At a recent conference, I was stopped after my talk by a woman who thanked me and then told me that what I said didn’t apply to her.
Ok. My topic was Using LinkedIn to Build Your Personal Brand. She was convinced that she had “no brand” and that when someone (like her) worked in so many different fields and jobs, there was no way to build a brand.
Now I was on the stairs of an old mansion, people were shuffling up and down between presentations, and although I gave her my card and doubted a follow-up, her comments really resonated with me.
No person ever has the same training and background.
That in itself is what makes all our work an amazing opportunity to see and do great things– because our own, unique perspectives make finding solutions possible. My whole life has brought me to this moment and there is no one else out there like me, with my unique perspective of problems.
I worked in several industries–none specifically related to each other. I had different titles, different paths, needed different skills—but each one held an element of my marketing passion. Each one was a perfect fit, at the time, because they filled a need in my process of growth, and I showed up just as they needed someone, like me, to solve their unique problems.
Every job we have ever held holds the keys to our current success.
All our experiences form for us the ability to solve problems with “new thinking.” Where we grew up, who our friends were, the places we traveled, the books we read, the summer camps, the concerts, the classes we enjoyed, our hobbies, our grandparents stories, our part-time jobs, and our internships all form who we are today.
It is a matter of tapping into that wisdom of our collective experiences that make the personal brand so powerful.
Some generations worked hard and felt rewards of just doing. Some generations were given clear paths to success, and some generations grew up with technologies that defined their perspective of the “one-world-with-a-million-possibilities.” Just accept that we are changing in every generation and that every generation offers solutions.
The conventional wisdom isn’t always the right solution
Look at Nokia or Blackberry. Focusing on the best solutions with the best thinking of the time put them out of business. They mocked the “other guys” as computer makers and forgot that their customers didn’t know what they didn’t know. Had they brought in a team of people from other industries they might just have been innovative enough to still be strong and successful. An outsiders view of an insiders world can make all the difference.
So to the lady who stopped me on the stairwell…
Embrace every single experience, job, position, and different opportunity you have ever had. And find someone who sees the possibilities of that power you have to see things differently. Learning how to leverage who we are as a unique individual is what personal branding is all about. YOU. Your unique gifts. Your super-power. Your collective perspective of the world.
Maria Bereket is a Marketing & Social Media Consultant. Her work is focused on bridging the gap in the digital divide, and her passion is working with small business owners because she feels that their work is going to change the world making it a better place to live. Follow @mbear88 or email me if you need a different perspective firstname.lastname@example.org
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have… It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
The Innovation Myth
I have just finished yet another article on innovation in the workplace. I find it interesting that companies, so very focused on “innovation” of new ideas and problem-solving, have not taken a moment to sit back and see that their new “initiative” to be creative and think-out-of-the-box is so intricately tied to one of the biggest problems they are trying to solve: retention and recruiting.
I can put the article trends side-by-side and an interesting pattern emerges. Leaders in companies want to grow their businesses in new ways, but they are burdened with a workforce that is divided. Older workers who are burnt out and younger ones that don’t want to stay. Making our workplace more innovative is indeed the process for change, but the problem may lie not in the workers, but in the leaders trying to “solve” the problem.
We have a new generation of workers who want something different from their lives and careers. Just like every new generation. But this new group is forcing change. They don’t buy into the “Climb The Ladder” model that anyone over 35 was spoon fed from their parents, teachers, and TV shows. Climbing the ladder means that you are always looking above for guidance, and looking behindyou to see who is catching up. It worked for many years keeping us all in line, nicely ordered and managed by a whole team of “middle-management” professionals who got paid nice sums of money to manage the managers.
Then 2008 cut that entire “middle-manager” layer out of the workforce. If you were lucky enough to keep your job you lived in fear of being discovered that you were not really “managing” anything, or anyone for that matter. Work became a battle to keep what “you had” so our 40-hour weeks turned into 50+ without any overtime, and then vacation days started rolling over or were lost entirely, and the executives, who were struggling to figure out why productivity and sales were stagnant, began discussing methods of innovating business and workflow.
Innovation is New Thinking
It all made sense, but innovation is not a solution when being led by people who are still climbing the ladder. Looking up is not an advantage when all the people below are moving on (and out) fast and furiously. There are companies who do not understand why someone would leave two weeks into a job. And there are stacks of articles complaining about millennials workers who were coming into the workplace asking for “perks” and “favors” before the ink was even dry on their application. And loyalty? Well, most companies just “assume” it is a problem with their generation.
Millennial Worker Demands:
- They want a culture of collaboration and inclusion.
- They want continual training and development programs.
- They want their lives and their careers to have an impact and purpose.
- They expect to be given what is necessary to do their job.
- And they want feedback from their bosses and their peers.
So is that such a horrible list?
Hell no! Isn’t that what we all want?
And take a closer look at that list. Are these not the outlined results of all those mind mappings exercises that are included in the leadership workshops?
How can we operate in the workplace when the management is busy climbing their career ladder while the workers are circling their desks trying to share ideas?
- Your entire team wants to be given the opportunity to share creative, “innovative” ideas with you and without fear of being shunned. When people are heard they feel valued and then they work harder to contribute even more creative ideas.
- Your entire team wants to feel they like they know what they are doing and that the “what” is being done correctly. How do you expect them to do their jobs to the company standards when you are not offering any training? (and I am not talking about the department budget for “extra” outside training) Every company needs to train their employees about the mission, the purpose, and the process of the job. “Sink or swim” is not a training method!
- Your team (and the world) want to feel their work has a purpose other than your next promotion or bonus check. Put your company or department behind a local cause and let the people on your team work to support it and you will see a change in the way your department runs….yes, even if that means you have to pay them to do a few hours of volunteer work outside of the office.
- And who doesn’t expect to be given all the tools necessary to do their job? Think about it–how do expect your team to operate when they don’t have everything they need? Budgets are not an excuse. If you do not have the tools to provide your team to do their jobs effectively then maybe there are people on that ladder whose salaries and bonuses should be reviewed and reinvested into the budget.
- Feedback, really? Doesn’t your entire team deserve feedback and acknowledgment for their efforts by you whenever possible? And not in an annual review from a survey written in 1988, but through regular meetings with goal setting—do you honestly think that your team doesn’t notice that you never notice?
I repeat the quote from above
Innovation is easy. It’s removing the outdated ideas that are the problem!
It is hard to change.
Hard to see the forest from the trees. But something really dynamic is happening in the workplace today. Driven by this “problem generation” we now have possibilities to make real, innovative solutions. It just takes an ability to see things from a different perspective. Get down off that ladder and actually have a conversation with your team. Think about how you felt at the same stage. You wanted to be included. You wanted to be heard. You wanted to make contributions bigger than yourself. You would have loved a high-five once in awhile, right?
Every parent comes to the realization that they were once young and idealistic. And it is usually on that day that things begin to change. When we put on the shoes of those around us, our journey becomes more important; because for the first time, it is shared.
Maria Bereket is a Marketing & Social Media Consultant. Her work is focused on bridging the gap in the digital divide, and her passion is working with small business and entrepreneurs because she feels that their work is going to change the world making it a better place to live. Follow @mbear88 or email
Reprinted from LinkedIn. The above image is courtesy of a Trends Webinar by Getty Images.
I don’t know about you, but when I saw this image I immediately loved it. The child’s expression just made me so excited. The cool color of the glasses! The future! Just think of all the possibilities that this small child was going to experience!
My enthusiasm, however, was not met with same excitement by the many people I shared it with, in fact, I was even more surprised with their reactions then of my own incredible delight!
“Danger, danger Will Robinson!”
The reference here dates me of course, but it was the most similar comparison I could think of when faced with all the brick walls of opposition I received. What is our work if not to advance the world to a better place? I thought. Herein lies the future of so many possibilities yet just being faced with the moment of its reality shut down so many people’s capacity to experience it, even if just for a moment. Why did people react so harshly? Could it be that the joys of innovation were blocked by our brains hardwiring to reject it? “Danger, danger Will Robinson!” I can still see that robot’s huge robotic arms waving wildly back and forth.
So What is “Better” When it Comes to the Future?
Let’s google it of course…
I suppose like most things, a definition depends on usage: a verb or noun can make a huge difference. Virtual reality is “life-like”, a simulated environment that is similar to the real world. Gamers know what I am talking about. Moving your head around and being in the midst of whatever the title happens to be–war, space, a skiing trip down the powder side of a mountain. It’s virtual, like you are there, but you are not. Cool, very cool.
But is it better?
Can these glasses make a child’s life better, “improving on or surpassing” their life as it is today?
Here lies the difficulty of change.
We move through life, going back and forth along preset lines, mastering tasks, accomplishing internal goals; and then we are faced with something different. A new path, a feeling, a sound, another way of doing something. The right brain and the left brain begin to analyze the experience in milliseconds. Our reptilian instincts are alerted and we stand ready to “understand” what is ahead. Lots of pathways are forging this battle between the right and left brains. Memories of childhood or a movie that struck you deeply for several days after you saw it. Conflict in accepting change is not really about logical facts and figures, it is usually based in some emotional response that triggers a memory. That’s why we break up with the perfect mate, or eat a third piece of pizza while we are on a diet—our memory is flooding us with the responses of what it felt like before. Not logical responses, but deeply rooted emotional ones of pain and pleasure.
Change lies in the hands of those who see all the possibilities, or sometimes, it is born mearly from accidents.
Either way, change is inevitable .
I like the wheels in the mud analogy. What are roads to progress, if not the paths paved by pioneers who dared to go in a different direction? Sometimes they were caught in the rain and cursed their choice, and sometimes they just were determined enough to get through the obstacle knowing it would become easier the next time around.
Our highway system is just a paved version of mud hardened ruts in fields where horses pulled wagons. Someone had to dare to cross first! And then someone else followed along the path, and then mechanical machines hobbled along those same muddied grooves making their mark on history, connecting us to each other in ways we never thought possible.
Change, when viewed from the rear view mirror always seems like a blessing!
So what about our child experiencing virtual reality through those cool colored glasses? Today this is an advertisement for a new kind of video game, but tomorrow? Tomorrow it could help millions of people overcome fears of heights, or water, or even spiders crawling on the bathroom wall. Or how about medical students navigating intricate surgery? It’s all here now in some form or another, but what about spending an afternoon with your Mom after she has passed away? Would that virtual moment help us to heal a pain so deep that we might just move forward into a better future?
Somebody has to see the possibilities in order for there to be progress, but more important, somebody has to get stuck in the mud of change if we are to be able to pave the way for a better future. What were all the objections to the picture above in 1910? Probably many people shaking their heads and feeling confident that the horses in their barns were the best and only way for travel. Every great bridge of progress had its celebrity naysayer and we all know how those turned out.
But how do we get people to embrace change?
I suppose that it happens like most changes do, over time. As our right-brain fights with our left-brain, pulling up memories of past fears and delights in milliseconds, eventually, we imprint upon those neuro pathways the possibility that something can exist. And as the two sides begin to pull up that new data our “fight or flight” response isn’t activated and eventually we see things as they are, not as they felt in our memory. That is why coming together to talk about change is so powerful. If we can see someone else’s reality, then perhaps our neuro-response might be to just listen. Then we can decide if their definition of “better” can be shared with ours. And maybe, just in sharing information, a whole new definition can be created, together.
Change needs ideas, naysayers, collaboration, facts, emotions, and possibilities.
No one person can make change happen. It takes a collective of ideas to make it take hold. I think that is why I like sharing images that delight me with so many people–even when I know that some of those people will lecture me about the impracticalities of what I have shared. I can see the forest in the distance because I am an innovator who embraces possibilities. But without seeds being planted along the way there cannot be a tree let alone a forest. But if I can light just one darkened memory to the possibility of a change, then I know that the change has already begun…and if that little baby has the possibility of spending an afternoon with someone she loved and lost, one day in the future, then those glasses cannot come soon enough for me.
How do you make change happen?
Maria Bereket is a Marketing & Social Media Consultant. Her work is focused on bridging the gap in the digital divide, and her passion is working with small business and entrepreneurs because she feels that their work is going to change the world making it a better place to live. Follow @mbear88 or email
What Happened to the Value of Experience?
Awesomeness. Excitement. The magic of selfies. Does that make you think of the youngest guy on your team?
Relevance. Research. The magic of taking notes in a spiral-bound notebook. Does that make you think of the oldest guy on your team?
It isn’t Them vs. US. It’s all about speed and value and it’s going to make a difference at some point. This point in time actually.
Now I can just see the eyes rolling back when anyone under 35 reads the headline. Even before all this wonderful technology invaded the workplace, younger workers were rolling their eyes back at the word “experience”. It’s what youth does. They are workers who give wings to ideas and passion and force the work environment to move forward at a greater speed. That is progress.
What is missing today is a coordinated plan to value those with 15+ years of experience.
They are not “outdated” in the value they can offer, even if they don’t have a profile photo and aren’t on Snapchat. In fact, if anyone under 35 would take a moment of interest in what that 15+ person thinks then perhaps you could offer to mentor them in the value of texting while they could mentor you with a few tricks on how to get ahead.
You see it isn’t that both generations don’t have much to teach other, it is that the workplace is so focused on optimization: salaries and office politics. I see that co-working environments have removed the cubicles but they also revealed the ugly truth about mentoring: mostly that there is none anymore.
Oh, it’s in the job descriptions. “Can mentor younger team member”, but when it asks for 3-5 years experience for a “senior” job position how is that an age when one can be a senior member who mentors?
Our lifeline of technology has overshadowed the importance of knowledge and experience. We value new and shiny as a workforce and have completely turned the reins of “business” over to the gadget gurus. Oh, we need gadget gurus, but we need a voice of one or two understands the value of time. There must be a balance, a bridge between the two!
Today, we are celebrating the 5-year anniversary of the IPad as if it were the answer to global warming. Everyone is happy and shocked at the five years because, well, what technology last five years?
We give the IPad and exception. People, on the other hand, well that is not the same value we have on people.
The younger Steve Jobs offered us so much as a society and a workforce, but aging the Steve Jobs, the one we lost, is missed for his confidence and long-term vision. His cockiness was tempered by his complete confidence in the value of his people to bring beauty and utility into our lives. For him, his age and experience brought us the ability to be new but also incorporate core principles and experience.
Look across your cubicle at the oldest and the youngest member of your team and stop seeing dollar signs and health-benefit calculations. Isn’t it time we fostered a workplace where both sides began to listen to each other?
Embracing technology is merely about being heard and valued for the older workforce. It is shoved in their face by the newest employees who immediately discard their value because they don’t text or have an Instagram account.
Is that what will change your business–everyone having an Instagram account?
Or would it be that side-by- side, the ones with a longer-term vision and the ones with a short-range technology passion start to listen to each other and share their own unique knowledge?
Perhaps if the 15+ employee wasn’t in fear of being fired in our “at-will” workforce and replaced by a lower salary in the 5+ category, there would be more sharing of core strengths. Just as the 3-5 employee wouldn’t feel the need to roll their eyes to management in an effort to be valued for something they know so much about. Both sides equal value to a company. And it would be a whole lot easier if management began to value the combination of youth and experience and not just the visual appearances of technological trends.
What we hate about Gen Y is their brashness and disconnection. And what we hate about the aging Gen Xers is their stubbornness and disconnection.
The insight here is that they are both disconnected from each other.
That is a management problem.
That is a mission statement problem.
That is a company culture that forgot why it does what it does problem.
Valuing employees shouldn’t be generational.
It should be focused on the value of their creative union. Some bring “awesomeness and energy” and some bring ” realism and practicality”.
That is what wisdom is. And that is what we all miss about Steve jobs…. his phenomenal, 15++ wisdom.
When was the last time you were asked to mentor someone? Is there a mentoring program at your workplace? Can you share how it works?
Maria Bereket is a Social Media Stress Reliever! She is a Social Media Trainer & Small Business Strategist who helps busy professionals and educators feel stress-free when setting up their social media profiles and marketing programs. And if you are curious, she is an Aging Gen-Xer with the heart and soul of Gen Y! Design Bear Marketing is her Social Media & Design Company. @mbear88 http://www.DesignBearMarketing.com
Source of photos: Dave Simons, The Economist; and Time Magazine.
Originally Posted on LinkedIn: http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/mariabereket
The world has changed a lot since the first personal computer hit the workplace. We are a more open, inclusive society. We are better educated, even if its just self education, and our ability to adapt to changing workplace has made us more resilient in hard economic times. But what about our leaders? Has the leadership of our companies changed?
All the talk, articles, blogs and news about engaging our customers through social media and relevant content….at what point do the leaders of companies make the same call to action for their own team? Isn’t it time we focused attention on engaging our employees?
When customers are emotionally committed to an organization or cause they are “engaged.” The same should go for the people who work for those organizations. What is happening today is that people are showing up to work and getting their job done, but I would say they are “involved”in their work, but engaged? If employees are not excited about what they are doing, then they are not committed or engaged in their work, and that, leaders, is a problem.
So what makes people engaged in their work? What motivate them? Daniel Pink, author of Drive, gives us a great example of how people become engaged in their work through the “Motivation Trifecta.”
He outlines the three elements: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.
Autonomy is giving people real control over the various aspects of their work. That doesn’t mean “free-for-all” management, it means, giving your team control over what they do in their job. Traditional management says that you order your staff to do certain things. It’s a big carrot to color between the lines so to speak. But what if you let go of the carrot and gave your team a more self-directed approach?
“Hey, it looks like you want to do some innovative things for your department, let me get out of your way and let you do them”
What do think would happen if we let people innovate?
And if you are wondering why your team doesn’t innovate now…well think about it. If your leadership style is to hold failure over the heads of your team with the added benefit of possibly being fired for the failure, then no one will take a risk. No one will offer you suggestions, be creative in their work, problem solve or innovate. In other words, when fear is a leadership style your team cannot possibly grow.
Mastery is a tricky one for people to understand, but if you are a Millennial you will totally get this principle of motivation. Mastery simply means that you get better at something, but as a motivator, it has to include the desire to get better first. Why is it that your whole department hasn’t yet learned how to use the new program you installed, yet they are absorbed for a full hour with Candy Crush on their lunch hour? Duh, it’s fun for one thing, and it makes them feel good when they get to new and harder levels! It is satisfaction over the mastery of the task, even when its computer game. We feel good about moving higher because at the end of each level accomplishment are rewards—OK, they are just virtual ones, but they make us feel good.
The computer software you bought, probably without asking anyone’s opinion, is necessary, but just too hard to even imagine spending time on. It is one more thing on the list of things to squeeze into their day. But what if you offered your team an incentive to get that done? What if offered them the chance to take 20% of their day to work on projects that matter to them? No limits. Sort of like “autonomy,” but with the added benefit of motivating the team to master the things are normally not so fun. GMAIL was the brainchild of an employee who used his “20% creative project time,” at Google. The rest of the day was spent on other company driven tasks, and this portion of his day was just fun time trying to figure out email. Fun time that ended up defining email as we know it. It can be done.
Purpose is the final part of the motivation trifecta. Purpose is and always should be the number one part of any job, any business. Leaders assume that their teams of employees know what the big picture is: the mission and the vision of the company. But where are employees expected to learn that? Is it posted anywhere around the office? Does management talk about it before meetings or at all?
Harley Davidson employees know that they are building and selling motorcycles, but that is not their purpose for coming to work. It’s on their website:
“Fulfilling dreams of personal freedom is more than a phrase. It’s our purpose and our passion. We bring a commitment of exceptional customer experiences to everything we do – from the innovation of our products to the precision of our manufacturing – culminating with our strong supplier and dealer networks.
We are Harley-Davidson. “
They are connected to a higher cause. They have an intention. They work with determination to give people that personal freedom they crave. Every single person who builds and sells a Harley doesn’t need a carrot to get their job done, they were given a purpose to show up and do good work.
I wonder if the whole corporate structure of leadership hasn’t been eroding over the last 20 years. In the climate of layoffs as a strategy for profitability, perhaps corporate leadership forgot that employees are people and not a line item in the annual budget. When people fear for their jobs, fear to speak up about ideas and problems that need to be solved, they are not motivated to do exceptional and engaged work.
Leaders need to begin to reward their employees for being honest and creative, even when it doesn’t always work out. The best innovations were accidents—just ask 3M how they got Velcro! Perhaps America is not a manufacturing powerhouse today, but it is a thought leader. The same companies year after year are moving higher and higher in growth and innovations because they are treating their employees like the rare and exceptional beings that they are: creative problem solvers. By giving your team the ability to enjoy their work you motivate them to do the best job possible. I think we could use a little bit more of that nowadays.
Someone asked today why we are not talking about leadership more. I wonder if it’s because we need a new definition of what leadership should be. What is your definition?
Photo Source: Depositphotos.com
Starting a two day conference is a daunting task.
A room full of smiling faces with laptops and notepads, and me scanning their faces for signs of life as begin two days of rapid fire information.
Some of those faces are happy because they come with a two-day pass off of work, some of them came for the change of pace, and some, the ones I am looking for, came to learn something new and be inspired.
I work with the willing.
Never one to shy away from the front row of life, I have learned that passion and commitment to learning is a lifelong mission that pays huge rewards. Managing staff and teams of sales reps I saw that every person comes to work (and life) with their own agenda, and that agenda doesn’t always include a willingness to learn and grow. So I made a commitment, a long time ago, to work with the willing, and that is the only hurdle of success.
The willing are those on your team who are inspired by their work. They are creative and energetic in their daily routines. They reach out and rarely pull back. They are two steps ahead, and they are the ones who are probably sitting in the front row with pens already in their hands, ready to take notes.
Focus on these few and make them the focal point of your work. Keep them in your eyesight, and always clear your calendar when they ask for a moment of your time. For the willing are the superstars who will inspire your whole team because they are getting the attention of the leader, and that my friends, would be you!
Giving the willing your time and effort will set a tone in your organization that you value what they are giving: Energy, creativity, and results. Giving your attention to the willing will signal to every member on your team that you no longer are putting time and effort into drama and unnecessary complaints. Giving your attention to those who are present, engaged, and sitting in the front row, lets everyone know that you are engaged with the same passion and purpose, and together you will inspire and lead.
And when you focus on the willing, they stay engaged and grow. Their constant enthusiasm can, and should welcome others into the circle of energy and results, and the drama queens? They move on, feeling justified in their beliefs that everyone else is the source of their misery.
Over the course of my two day presentation, I saw the back feeders move back, but the middle seaters, pulled their seats more forward to engage with those of us in the front rows having a good time, learning and exchanging ideas. It was an exhilarating couple of days that assured me that the strategy of working with the willing does and can work in any environment. Those front two rows were exploding with engaged and energized people who didn’t want to leave when the clock chimed “seminar over.”
We hung together continuing the conversation, and making plans to network and grow. We left feeling like rock stars, and didn’t worry about those few in the back rows who snuck out at 5 minutes before the clock struck 5. They are not worth your time or effort. They are not the people who will give your organization the results you are looking for. Rethink your leadership strategy. Forget the old notion that everyone on your team deserves equal time. Are they giving you equal effort?
Do you think it’s hard to do—focusing on the willing? What challenges do you face when you keep spending all your time with the drama queens? Is it worth spending less time with your superstars? What are your thoughts?
Anyone who has ever worked with a team, or managed one, knows that teams are an amazing way to success. You probably have the poster hanging on your employee break room wall:
T – TOGETHER
E – EVERYONE
A – ACHIEVES
M – MORE
It is true, there is no “I” in Team, but in reality, without the “I” you have problems.
“I” stands for an Individual. One person leading, creating, inspiring, and living the mission of the business. If you take a look at your “team” right now, you can probably pick out the individuals on that team who are fulfilling that promise (about 20%.) They are the ones that not only get it done, but they are excited to do more! The other 80%? Those are your slackers, complainers, whiners, and mediocre paper pushers who are monopolizing most of your day with petty issues.
In theory when you put the two groups together you will have one cohesive team that will not only produce a higher level of results, but will incentivize the 80% to more productivity. In theory.
Cy Wakman, author of Reality-Based Leadership, points out that there is another, more real possibility when working with a team, that what you actually have is:
“the worst of both worlds: maybe no one is ostentatiously taking credit, but behind the scenes, everyone is still allowed to think that he worked harder than others and can shirk responsibility for mediocre results.”
We have all either been on that team, or managed them. Outside of the “team” environment, everyone is talking about who is really doing the work and who isn’t. Conflicts are internalized, complaints interrupt your day, and when the project they are working on fails you might have pushed a few of your superstars to start looking for another job. And what is left is the 80% who feel justified to complain at the water cooler about how much your business sucks.
And what happens when the team does succeed? When you take the “I” out and don’t give attention to the people who really did the bulk of the work they might stay, for a while but eventually you will lose them to a company that will recognize their achievements. Is that the goal of achieving more?
Teamwork does work. But a key component is missing. Cy Wakeman points out:
“The team either hit the mark or it didn’t, and it’s important for each individual to account for his actions, assumptions, behaviors and choices that contributed to the shortcomings of the team.”
This concept works in basketball, team after team, championship after championship. If corporate managers and small business owners operated their teams more like a basketball team the results would be astounding!
Think of your favorite basketball team. One cohesive group of athletes supporting each other, but within that team is a set of clearly defined individual roles, led by a coach. Each player has a designated position and expectations about what they are to do when on the court. The goal is winning, for the team, but for the individual players they have a clearly defined set of objectives they must each achieve in order for the whole team to succeed.
Sure there are superstars on the team, why not?
Who wouldn’t want to play with the top people in their field?
Focus on the “I”. It is not hard to organize a team around individual efforts and accolades. Management needs to give a clearly defined outcome and then, assess honestly the individuals involved so they can assign tasks according to their strengths. Once done there is a solid possibility that this team will not only succeed, but there will be a whole lot less water-cooler chit-chat.
One Final Step. Like your basketball team, there has to be accountability. They get called back in the locker room, with replays that point out both the good and the bad. In this setting, it is expected and required to win the championship. So why can’t your team run that way?
Be clear in your goals, roles and expectations. Assign tasks clearly. And then, pull everyone together when the project is done to review the outcome. Good or bad you can make the results of that final meeting a launching pad for the next big project.
What do you think of putting the “I” back in team?
A note about Reality-Based Leadership: Read it. Read it again.
Give it to all of your managers.
Reality-Based Leadership by Cy Wakeman.
I love when a message is received– especially when it makes the receiver feel good, and the sender successful.
I recently came across an AD that really opened my eyes (and heart) to the idea that sales should be a WIN WIN proposal. Unfortunately, all too often it is WIN LOSE. Even when we want the product or service, we walk away feeling a bit of regret or guilt. Mostly its because the sales side isn’t that friendly (but that is another story.)
So what if I see an AD on TV for a car dealer. Maybe I will go to them. Maybe not. But it might get me out to shop for a car. Depends on what buttons they push.
Now what if these businesses were to start thinking about the real needs of the customer without any sales as an intention?
Lets look at something a little less pricey than cars.
Take pet owners.
What do they need? Love, companionship, and a walk outdoors, right?
Well, a dog shelter in Australia was running typical, sad music, sad face puppy dog ads on TV.
Who wouldn’t want to run right over and adopt this cute little guy?
The usual pet lovers watched the AD and made their donations, while the rest of the country switched channels.
Who wants to think about a little pug dog imprisoned in cage?
Then they began to think about the customer.
Who buys the dogs? People.
Where do the people live and work? In our community, in those big buildings downtown.
Well, isn’t it kinda like the people are imprisoned behind those cubicles?
Hmmm. Perhaps we were focused on the wrong need.
The concept was simple: Introduce the Human Walking Program to area businesses by meeting in the parks across from the office buildings. Then ask people to walk the dogs.
Its like taste testing, only much more fun!
From the windows high above there was seen a gathering of dogs. A curious sign. People gathering.
“Can one of our dogs take you for a walk?” they asked.
Sure, why not.
People walked by and started to meet the pets.
Overjoyed with the attention, and new found purpose of walking the humans, the dogs were thrilled!
And the humans?
By introducing the people who worked in office buildings to the many dogs looking for a home, Lost Dog’s Home was able to find permanent homes for over 5,000 dogs living at the shelter.
No sad music. No caged up dogs with hollow eyes. No movie star endorsements.
Who Really Gets Saved?
The customers were identified incorrectly to begin with. It wasn’t just donations they needed to care for the animals, it was the desire to find homes–with humans–for these lost pets.
So think about your next advertising campaign. Why isn’t it working? Who is responding? Who should be responding? Are you reaching out to them in a fun, inclusive way? Turn it around a bit. Why would they most benefit from your product or service. Now think out of the box.