A friend of mine helps people with “deep interviews” for key positions. He is a master at pulling out insight about a person’s capabilities from a long-view-life interview.
So, I asked him…if a person has developed a rather undesirable trait from the earliest days of childhood, how difficult is it to make a true mid-life, genuinely overcoming correction.
His answer was not encouraging…
“I’ve never found in my whole life that you could convince someone who doesn’t want to work hard to work hard.”
This is one of those childhood traits issues, isn’t it? You either learn to work hard very young, or you spend a life-time forcing yourself to try to work harder.
This may be the ultimate life and career challenge. Take a true, utterly honest personal look: what undesirable traits have you had for as long as you can remember.
Tackle those, conquer those, and you will have done something worth celebrating!
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
In my role at SGR, I conduct a lot of reference checks. A question that I often ask is how a reference deals with pressure and stress. Answers vary from remaining calm to breaking down larger projects into smaller tasks to creating an enjoyable and fun atmosphere that alleviates stress and pressure.
When asking this question to others this week, I wondered what people would say about me if they were asked this question. Walks around looking like she is going to explode? Furiously creating task list after task list? Eyebrows constantly furrowed?
A city manager recently told me that in their review, they were told “spend time taking care of yourself.” In a way, a personal statement like that seems odd to include in a professional review. However, it is extremely important for an organization for their leader to be able to handle pressure and stress.
When you are relaxed, you are comfortable in your role and can focus on the tasks at hand and the strategy of the overall organization. When stress invades, it is hard to see the next task, much less the strategy behind each decision.
When I am stressed, I am always running behind. When I am stressed, I wake up in the middle of the night to add something to my task list. When I am stressed, I am checking my phone constantly and thinking about what I need to be doing instead of talking to my toddlers.
When I am at my best, I find that I am usually eating clean, exercising regularly, organized at work, and spending quality time with my family.
You may have different things that you do to stay at your best and to relieve stress, but, generally, these things seem so simple. Why is it that we only do these things when we have free time? Why do we dedicate so little time to them each day?
I know a number of very successful city managers that schedule a run each work day. It is scheduled as a meeting on their calendars and everyone knows that is sacred time.
I challenge you to spend a few moments reflecting on what gets you to your best. Then, find the time each day on your calendar to ensure that happens.
Take care of yourself – your organization will be better because of it.
Executive Search Manager
Last week we talked about what millennials look for in jobs and what they require for engagement. We looked at some of the ways they are different from Generation X (my generation) and baby boomers, who they will outnumber shortly. Some of you may have read last week’s post and thought, “Oh great. Another blog post about millenials. This topic is soooo tired.”
But, please, allow me to belabor the point a bit longer. This is a topic managers need to pay attention to because they need to be proactive in how they address future changes in their organizations. Boomers and Gen Xers are still trying to acclimate to the influx of millennials in some fields and learning more about how they will handle management roles can help us with succession planning. As boomers retire, millennials will be moving more into supervisory positions but, according to studies, there are some skill gaps that must be addressed before we can expect a successful transition in management.
(You may be asking “But what about Xers? When are THEY going to get those supervisory positions?” We’ll get to the plight of the poor, maligned, and outnumbered Gen Xers another time. For now, let’s consider skill gaps.)
Mind the gaps
According to “Multi-Generational Training in the Public Sector,” a survey by CPS HR Consulting, millennial participants described themselves thusly:
- I value balance and teamwork.
- I am sociable and like collaboration.
- I am resilient to change.
- I value diversity and inclusion.
- I like to be challenged.
- I like flexible working hours.
- I like to learn new things and see a career as a learning environment for self-fulfillment.
- I would rather send an e-mail or text message than pick up the phone.
- I like positive reinforcement and feedback that is direct, respectable, and goal-focused.
The survey revealed that millennials lack skills in the areas of customer service, oral communication, and critical thinking. They also, like their boomer and Xer elders, lack skills in the areas of conflict management, stress management, change management, written communication, and time management. Millennials and Xers both have trouble with supervision and leadership. How do we address these gaps?
Bridging skill gaps
Different generations have different learning styles and process information in different ways. Boomers can help bridge the supervision and leadership skill gaps by conveying their knowledge and offering advice through mentoring and collaboration efforts but other approaches may be needed for the other deficiencies. The CPS survey suggests that in-class and online training may be the key to addressing each generation’s learning needs. :
This can be in-class training or online, or a hybrid of the two. In-class training remains the most effective method across all age groups. Millennials are very comfortable with technology which expands their options when it comes to training delivery: self-paced online training is almost as effective as in-class training for this group, and Millennials also fared better in remote/virtual live training.
The importance of mentoring and coaching between the generations cannot be stressed enough but training should be considered a necessary component of employee development in all organizations. One of the great things about millennials is that they are highly adaptable and, due to their comfort level with technology and openness to coaching and mentoring, there are many options for training them. Gen Xers can also benefit from various forms of training but HR, like marketers and the media, may be less inclined to acknowledge them as a unique subset of the population with their own unique learning needs and skill gaps (we will look into this more in a future post).
When managing multiple generations, understand that you are working with a diverse set of skills and that your employees will be working at different levels of proficiency in certain areas. Also understand that it is possible to improve job skills and facilitate engagement through training, coaching, and mentoring. Most importantly, be aware of the possibilities that collaboration can offer your organization when you have a multi-generational workforce with a diverse set of experiences.
Next week, we will focus our attention on the plight of Generation X, consider issues that can cause communication problems between the generations, and look at ways to deal with these issues.
As we began looking at last week, according to Gallup’s State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders report, there are 5 characteristics of a great manager:
Great managers possess a rare combination of five talents. They motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company.” Gallup’s definition of a manager is “someone who is responsible for leading a team toward common objectives.
Statistically – and logically – engaged managers have more engaged employees. If you’ll recall from a previous blog on employee engagement, ultimately, female Baby Boomer managers with high school diplomas who live in Montana, in their first six months of work have the highest engagement in America! Furthermore, female employees working for female managers have the highest overall engagement (35%), while male employees who work for male managers have the lowest engagement (25%). Again, women are more engaged at work, and women are more engaged when they work for women!
Now, this is not a post about feminism or leaning in or girl power, but we do have to ask ourselves: if we desire employee engagement, which we all do, for many reasons, and it is proven that women managers cause greater engagement, why is there only 13% of women in top leadership roles in local government, the same percentage for 30 years!? Yes, you heard that correctly. The same percentage – 13 percent – of females in top local government leadership roles has not changed in 30 years.
We have an opportunity here. I’m not suggesting “reverse discrimination” by saying we should select more females than males just to change this number. According to the report that claims the 13 percent issue, there are larger pools of female talent in mid-level management positions to develop and select from (yet still far fewer than males). So I implore you to take a look at your applicant pool better the next time you’re hiring or promoting a manager. Are we passing by a great opportunity to blow the roof off our organizations’ engagement by passing by females for leadership roles? If so, why? Is there a cultural bias toward having males as managers? Perhaps. Is there some other reason that we don’t see more women step up and not even get considered for the top leadership roles? Why are women less prevalent in leadership if they are statistically more effective?
The issue was recently brought to light by an article in ICMA’s PM Magazine and is being explored in an ongoing series of blogs by the Emerging Local Government Leaders network in their #13percent initiative, which looks at how we can actually cause change in the unfortunate low percentages. Remember, women managers have greater engagement, so having fewer of them won’t fix the engagement problem.
I’ve had the benefit of working for four incredible female managers so far in my local government career. I’ve worked for more managers, but these four women were all exactly what I needed them to be so that I could grow, learn, and thrive in my position and career. These four did not hold the top positions in our organizations, but they could very well have. They motivated me, they built trusting and authentic relationships with me, they lived according to their own expectations and held our team accountable, and they were bold and guided our team through adversity, to success. Cindy, Kelly, Debi, and Krisa – thank you.
But, for most of us, we need to learn from others. And even if we chart a portion of our own course, we rely on those who went before.
Last Sunday, Fareed Zakaria had part two of his interview with David Brooks, prompted by Mr. Brooks’ new book, The Road to Character. Here’s a critical and enlightening portion of that interview (from the transcript). I’ve bolded a key portion:
You grow up in an ecology and you inherit a certain tradition, a certain gift from the dead of how to be good. And so, there are a whole bunch of things you can believe in. There’s a Greek tradition, a classical one, which emphasizes honor and courage and glory. There’s a Jewish one, that emphasizes obedience to law. There’s a Christian one on salvation and grace. There’s a scientific one, rational thought and thinking your way to a good life.
So there are all these different traditions. They have all been handed down to us, and I’m not going to tell a young person which one to believe, but pick one. Because we tell them you’ll come up with your own world view. Well, if your name is Aristotle, maybe – with your own real view. The rest of us, we have to learn from somebody else. So, the dead have given us this great gift and I just lay them out for the students and for the readers of the book and I say pick one. It will help you out to inherit a tradition, a full integration that greater minds than your own who know you better than you know yourself have left for us as presents.
I’ve just finished reading Becoming Steve Jobs. And, just last week, I completed reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, head of Pixar. I came away with this from the two books: though Mr. Catmull never quite claimed credit, it’s pretty clear that Steve Jobs learned much from him – considered him a mentor.
Steve jobs had a reputation that he was pretty much his own course charter. But, he learned from another – he was willing to learn from someone else, and Ed Catmull seemed to be the right fit, at the right time.
So, the question is, today and always, who are you learning from? Unless your name is Aristotle, you probably should develop a teachable spirit, and be on the lookout for your next mentor/teacher/guide.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis