Month: June 2011

June 27, 2011

Advice to Millennials

I believe that you may belong to one of the greatest generations of our time. You follow in the footsteps of other individuals who accomplished amazing things before they were 30. Steve Jobs co-founded Apple at age 21. Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft at age 20, and fellow Millennial Mark Zuckerberg co-founded Facebook at age 19.

So be proud of your considerable talents and ambition. Use your mastery of technology, your competitive spirit and intensity, your creativity and your aptitude for collaboration and communication. These gifts prepare you well for success in life and work.

It is important to remember, too, that all great people have had great mentors who have inspired and guided them. Bill Gates views legendary investor, Warren Buffet, as a mentor, and Gates himself has been an important influence on Mark Zuckerberg. Similarly, you should find people from whose knowledge and wisdom you could learn. Buffet said the key to success is to know who to be the batboy for. Good mentors can teach you how to avoid the mistakes and landmines that can harm your reputation and career prospects. Additionally, they can arm you with the knowledge and skills to perform at your best.

Certain concepts are timeless: sacrifice and struggle for long-term success; going the extra mile to reach your goals; if you get knocked down seven times, get back up eight; and so on. Mentors can help you with these vital lessons, especially when you are struggling. They can give you the support and guidance to help you get back on your feet and embrace something Abraham Lincoln once said: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

June 20, 2011

How to Motivate Millennials

In my previous post, I wrote about the great potential of Millennials. How do we help them reach this potential and motivate them to perform at their best? I think it starts with respect. They have lots of ideas that they will want to share. They are not afraid to go to the CEO during their first week of work and to make suggestions. This happened to me recently, and the suggestions were good. Listen to them. Hear them out. You may need to advise them on the “how” and “when,” but do not dismiss them. Keep them engaged.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Millennials are not patient. They want a lot of responsibility fast, so give it to them. They will surprise you with what they can do. Empower them or risk losing them to another employer or losing their full commitment and energy. Approaches like Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership® II and Situational Self Leadership are structured ways that can help both managers and their Millennial team members. Managers can learn how best to lead and develop their people according to their needs. And Millennial team members can learn to develop effective self-leadership and self-reliance.

Here are a few tips for mentoring and coaching your Millennial team members:

  • Have an open door policy: Make them feel comfortable. They expect it, and it will strengthen the relationship.
  • Practice empathic listening: At times, they may be emotional and anxious when they push themselves so hard. Be there just to listen, and let them express how they feel.
  • Use a participative approach: They do not like to be told what to do. Millennials want to discuss things and participate in the decision-making process.
  • Create a personal development plan: Collaborate with them on a yearly plan that identifies development areas, goals, and the resources and actions needed to achieve them.
  • Have regular one-on-one meetings: Meet regularly with them to answer their questions, give feedback and discuss the personal development plan. They expect and like the focused attention, and a calm setting is conducive to coaching and constructive conversations.
  • Invest in training: Train them so that their skills catch up to their desire for more responsibility. The investment should pay off in the form of greater productivity and results.
  • Avoid comparisons: Avoid saying things like “when I was your age, I walked to school both ways uphill in the snow.” Such comparisons are not helpful or constructive.
  • Build confidence: Believe in them, make sure they feel supported, nurture their talents and give them opportunities to use them. If you do, their confidence will grow, and they will soar.

June 13, 2011

Millennials: Leading the Way

We have been blessed with some incredible generations that have built and maintained our country. The founding fathers fought for our independence and constituted the great federal and state governmental institutions that are still the engine of our country. The Civil War generation gave its life and blood to preserve our country and end slavery. The WWII generation toiled through a horrible Great Depression and led the defeat of Hitler’s Nazi regime and of Japanese imperialism.

The Millennial generation, which includes those born between 1981 and 2000, seems to get bad press. “Entitled,” “lazy” and having “unrealistic expectations” are words often used to describe Millennials. Indeed, every generation seems to underestimate the next. Plato wrote 2,500 years ago how his contemporaries worried that the next generation of Athenians were too soft, not hard working and wanted success without effort. Every generation since then has likely expressed the same judgments about the generation following it.

Yet, the young can do amazing things. Alexander the Great conquered most of the civilized world by age 26. Alexander Hamilton was 32, and James Madison was 36 when they led the writing and adoption of the United States Constitution. Albert Einstein was under 30 when he published the great theories that sparked a quantum leap in science and technology. We should never underestimate the next generation of talent.

I believe that Millennials could turn out to be one of the greatest generations of our time. They have three advantages instrumental to their success.

One, they have grown up during the tech revolution, making them the most technologically savvy and information-intensive generation of all time. The world is changing dramatically because of the Internet and digital technology, and Millennials understand it best.

Two, Millennials are achievement-oriented and used to working under pressure. Although this notion contradicts the popular view, Millennials study harder in middle and high school. Many take a plethora of advanced academic classes and study longer hours than did the baby boomer generation to which I belong. Today, getting into college is more competitive and puts greater importance on class work and test scores. In addition, many participate in intense, performance-based activities, such as club sports and dance, a fact that prepares them well for the highly competitive work world.

Three, Millennials know how to collaborate and communicate effectively with their peers to get work done. This skill is vitally needed in the real world and can make the difference between productive results and failure. I noticed my oldest would do school work with her classmates. I asked her if that was allowed since it had been considered cheating when I was in school; work was always done on your own. She said that the teacher encouraged them to study together. I realized the brilliance of this idea since one of the biggest difficulties at work is to practice open collaboration.

So here is a generation that is equipped with the skills to succeed today and tomorrow: superior in technology, competitive, high achieving and adept at collaboration and communication. The Millennial generation will lead the way to solving the most pressing economic, social, political and environmental issues in our history. And those of us from earlier generations who work with Millennials should not only encourage them, but also should collaborate and learn from them.

June 9, 2011

Cultivating Potential

A team member who follows Stephen Covey on Twitter recently sent me one of his posts: “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. Are you such a leader?”

Covey’s post makes me think of The Wizard of Oz. Behind the smoke and mirrors, the Wizard is an ordinary man whose true power lies not in magic, but rather in his ability to help Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion see the innate strengths already within them. I am reminded to be just this type of leader, one who helps people believe in themselves and in their ability to accomplish what might at first glance seem out of reach.

As leaders, we must ask ourselves if we are inspiring our teams to live up to their own greatness. At times, they may have doubts that they have what it takes to succeed.

Our role is to help our people cultivate their full potential by investing in their development and nurturing their talents and aspirations. And as our people gain confidence and grow, our businesses, too, will grow with them.

June 2, 2011

10 Ways To Motivate High Performance

Earlier in my career, I had talented people on my team who would perform excellently for a time, and then their performance would deteriorate. My approach was to look first at my own performance as their manager and to see how I potentially contributed to this deterioration.

That introspection taught me 10 things I could do to motivate my people to perform at their best:

  1. Create a safe, supportive environment that builds their confidence and capabilities.
  2. Empower them by delegating, and foster a sense of pride and ownership.
  3. Have regular one-on-one meetings to discuss their progress and provide feedback and coaching.
  4. Help them understand the big picture and their places in it. Then keep them in the loop.
  5. Give them challenging but achievable goals and hold them accountable to high but realistic standards.
  6. Praise frequently and reward jobs well done. Support them when they falter, and collaborate on the best course of action to get them back on track.
  7. Acknowledge things you need to improve. When you make mistakes, apologize and communicate how you will fix them.
  8. Solicit their feedback on how you can do a better job as their manager.
  9. Be clear and consistent in words and actions.
  10. Most importantly, lead by example. You are the role model.