April 26, 2018

How Entrepreneurship Can Get Generation Y Back to Work

We talk every day about the men and women ages 45-60 who have lost their jobs, yet very little is being discussed about the Generation Y Demographic (born between 1977-1997) and their struggles to find work.

People just shrug it off and say “Oh…they just want to live at home and watch T.V. and live with their parents.

This is simply not true.  Generation Y is being forced back home, because they are having a really tough time finding work.  When you apply for a job, and you are competing against someone with 20 years of experience, guess who usually gets picked.

So, The Young Entrepreneur Council has formed a movement called #FixYoungAmerica.  The group of Gen Ys are spreading the word all over the world, and they have developed a solutions-based book and movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work — for good.

So, please visit #FixYoungAmerica to learn more, get involved and pass this post along to everyone you know.  A donation to their mission would also be of great benefit…anything…just $10 or $25.  I have three adult children, one is employed and two are looking for work.  While things are starting to turn, it is super competitive out there, and we need our brightest, most talented young thinkers out in the world doing everything they can to turn things around.

The 7 Critical Mistakes Most Leaders Make When Leading Knowledge Workers—And How You Can Avoid Them

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know that we are no longer living in the Industrial Age. You remember that era…a time where machines and things were the drivers of our economy and people were there to simply “run and churn” those machines.  Machines, things and people were replaceable.  It did not take a brain surgeon to run machines.  It just took an able body who acted like a robot to turn on a machine, run the machine or work an assembly line.

Well, here we are today…the year 2011, and while some companies have truly “gotten” that we are now in the era of the knowledge worker, many modern day companies are still trying to lead based on the rules of the Industrial Revolution.

Those rules included:

  1. Start at the bottom, working on the assembly line or in the mail room and hope you work your way up to the top (a hierarchical form of leadership was the norm).
  2. Pay your dues for 20 years and then ask for a promotion.  You may get it or you may not.
  3. Don’t rock the boat!  We have about five people who are making decisions, and you will do as we say, and you ARE replaceable.
  4. No feedback meant all was okay, and then suddenly, a worker was called in and handed a pink slip for “not supporting the way we do things…we are a hierarchy, and you are trying to fight that!”
  5. People were treated like commodities…disposable commodities, so trust was not par for the course.
  6. Command and control styles were encouraged.
  7. Just be quiet about what you have seen and know, and do your job, and you will be just fine.
  8. Passion, purpose and voice were “too touchy/feely” so they were never discussed.
  9. The worth of a person was measured by the number of hours they put in and how quickly and effectively  they could run a machine or assemble a product
  10. The more hours your worked, the more loyal you were, the more valuable you were to the company.

I could go on and on about the rules of the Industrial Age.  My point to you is that the above set of rules is  outdated and not in sync with today’s knowledge worker.  Information, creativity and brain power are now our most valuable assets, yet companies are not leading based on this idea.  The following will spell out the 7 most common mistakes I see leaders make with today’s knowledge worker and how you can not only avoid them but shift your strategies so that you get the most out of your knowledge workers.

1.     Discouraging knowledge workers to find and then use their own voice. The new employee wants to know that they can be truly authentic in your organization and be able to bring their own unique voice to your company.  Giving your knowledge workers permission to speak up and to use their own voice will inspire them to actually contribute new ideas and strategies to help your company thrive.

2.     Not offering current, up to date training. Today’s knowledge worker was raised on a diet of knowledge, and they actually crave more knowledge.  Because of the internet, the knowledge worker knows that at any hour of the day, they can go online and find more new information.  Offering training in a second language, leadership or managerial skills or marketing and sales skills and delivering this training using digital media and shadowing will hold the attention of the knowledge worker and will actually help the knowledge worker build out their skill set for a stronger career down the road.

3.     Training the knowledge worker using old classroom-style training methodologies. The Industrial Revolution brought the world a lecture/chalkboard/classroom format, and it worked.  But times have changed.  We now have the internet, social media sites, cell phones with texting and internet capability and digital mechanisms to enhance learning.  It is critical to understand that the knowledge worker of today often comes to the workforce with an environment induced form of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).  This is not to suggest that the new knowledge worker has ADD, but the majority of young men and women between the ages of 22-32 will admit that because of their use of social media, cell phones and instant messaging (and using them all at the same time), their brains have been trained to focus for a short period of time and then flip to a new thought or activity and that this occurs hundreds of times each day.  By using new media, shadowing and experiential training, you will be able to grab and hold the attention of the knowledge worker much better and for longer periods of time than in using the classroom/lecture/power point method of training.

4.     Excluding the knowledge worker from team decisions. This is one area that is a constant concern with the knowledge worker.  They feel that their opinions, ideas and contributions are not valued, so they are deliberately excluded from strategic meetings which could be enhanced by their contributions.  The new knowledge worker wants to know that they are helping the companies they serve be better, “make a difference”, be more profitable or help to conjure up the next big idea that will put your company on the map.  At the end of the day, the new knowledge worker needs to be invited to sit at the table senior leaders, and it is critical that you take their ideas, suggestions and contributions seriously.  These men and women will be your future leaders, and it is imperative that you show them that their minds and ideas do count and you want them in on your most critical discussions.

5.     Treating the knowledge worker like a disposable commodity. If you are a leader, and you are seeing your knowledge worker as a commodity to use for a short period of time and then send them out the door, you are not only doing a disservice to your employees, you are building a brand that says you value things more than people.  This attitude simply won’t fly in today’s world.  Consumers are watching companies more and more to see if they can spot that you have a high level of emotional intelligence, and your knowledge workers will be the first to know if you are “using” them just to drain their brains and then send them packing.  The knowledge worker wants to be treated as a valued member of your team…a human being and not a machine or a thing.

6.     Trying to inspire the knowledge worker by offering more money. This is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a leader or manager of the knowledge worker.  Young hires between the ages of 22-32 truly have a different set of values than those of their parents.   While they all agree that they do need enough money to be able to live, they truly value time over money, friends over big titles and promotions and opportunities for ongoing learning over getting paid overtime.  When trying to inspire the knowledge worker, offering them two hours off on Friday to spend time with friends, to contribute back to the community or to take an extra course at a nearby location will be much more valuable than offering them a few extra bucks to work harder and longer hours.  This demographic of workers have watched their parents work their fingers to the bone just to keep up with the Joneses, and then watched as their parents were downsized, laid off or fired.   To work longer hours just to please the boss and make overtime pay is not the carrot you will want to dangle under the nose of the knowledge worker, but time off or extra learning will have the knowledge worker’s mouth watering.

7. Discouraging dreams and passions. In my experiences, I have been quite saddened to see leaders throw water on a burning passion of the new knowledge worker.  The new worker of today will come to your organization with big ideas, dreams and passions, and these should be encouraged, cultivated and woven into the decision making for your company.  If the knowledge worker feels that her dreams are being supported, she will stick around your company much longer than if she is told to “be realistic” and just put that dream on hold.

At the end of the day, a leadership process where senior leaders are communicating the worth, potential and possibilities to their new knowledge workers, the future for your company can be bright and limitless.

How Do You Keep Your Top Talent Excited About Staying With Your Company?

Watch This Guy In the Video…Watch Him Very, Very Closely

 

Did you get very, very sleepy?  I know I did.  Thank God the video was only 18 seconds.  The pencil tapping and fiddling with the keyboard were my first clues, but when he started nodding, leaning on his hand and YES! Finally fell out of the chair…I knew!  THIS POOR GUY IS BORED OUT OF HIS MIND! And the odd thing is, the employees in the background just kept on about their business as if this is a normal scene in their workplace…probably so!

How many of us, and how many of our employees feel just like this guy?  Just looking for an excuse to head to the coffee pot, to run an errand or get a terrible stomach bug in the middle of the day.

So, the question is “How in the world do you keep your top talent excited about not only staying with your company but literally dancing out the door to get to work every day?

The answer: RADICAL INNOVATION!

Radical innovation is going to be a critical component in a leader’s toolkit in the future, and this does not mean that you “try innovation” over a week-end brainstorming retreat. It happens by disrupting the current environment, challenging old assumptions and even turning the culture upside down so that you can move ahead and start being highly competitive.

Each day I meet leaders, and the first question I ask is “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being super sticky, how stuck are you?” Most people laugh, and they usually respond by saying “I’m a 20 or a 25!” So, when you are stuck, you have to break up the pattern, turn a table upside down and figure out a way to still use the table as an eating surface, roll out of the bed on the other side, shave with the hand you don’t normally use…do something to be disruptive. This is the same for companies.  What would happen if you do the opposite of what you’ve always done? What would you do if you totally destroyed your most profitable item and had to start from scratch? Or, how would an artist, physician or scientist suggest that you change your company?

To keep your company relevant, a culture must foster a sense of psychological safety for employees to not only feel comfortable but be encouraged to challenge the status quo and bring fresh, radical ideas to the table and feel safe that they are not going to be criticized or made to feel silly in the process. Everyone in the company needs to be brought up to speed on the vision and direction of the company, and the leader needs to make a statement that the game is now on!  Everyone is going to be challenged to think radically, innovate, think strategically and that a part of this is to be open to divergent thinking and to allow open debate to get to the root of the issue. You have to be willing to get very uncomfortable…to laugh nervously and feel the sweat bead up on your brow.

Staying ahead will also call leaders to design an environment that includes a diversity of people, a mix of cultures, ages, ethnicities and religions can bring new, more creative ideas to the table. It will also be very important to add a Chief Knowledge Officer to your staff is someone who has their finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world and how your company fits in and how competitive you are to people who are thousands of miles around the world from you.

THINKPAK Deck by Michael Michalko

To get started, I highly recommend the book Thinkertoys and a Thinkpak set to get your team thinking in a radical direction.  What WOULD a ballerina do if she were asked to build a skyscraper.  What WOULD a scientist do if he were asked to design the next trend in the fashion industry.  And finally, what WOULD your age 22-30 employees do if they were asked to take your company to the billion dollar mark in profits.  Think I’m crazy?  Just look around you at a few people you may have heard of like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg who turned the world upside down before they were 30.

Tomorrow is already here. Are you relevant, or are you becoming obsolete? Only you can answer that question!

“Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress”

-Ted Levitt, American Economist and Professor-Harvard Business School

Self Directed Leadership Defines a New Era for Egypt and the World

Today, Jeannette Paladino wrote a great blog post about the protests in Cairo and the new era of leadership...one that is community driven…not lead by a dictator directing the lives of others (more about this subject below).  Over the last six days, the anti-Mubarak protesters (those men and women who want to see drastic change in the Egyptian government)  have reportedly been peaceful and cooperative.

But today, the scene took a turn for the worse as pro Mubarak groups prepared to “take over the crowd” by storming into Cairo on the backs of horses and camels.  Bearing sticks and knives, the pro government group looked a bit archaic.  They  resorted to not only beating the protesters but attacking Americans like news CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Hala Goroni.  Apparently Cooper was struck in the head at least ten times and after being confronted, pushed and hit, Goroni was escorted to safety by a protester.

As Jeannette mentioned, the use of social media and a new thought pattern about community leadership have come together to send us a huge message in our world…our next generation of thinkers and leaders want freedom and a voice.  They know how to drive change by taking a stand (the early group of protesters were primarily men under the age of 30) and by using technology to pull together large crowds of people to drive their cause.  They are sick and tired of being told what to do by government and leaders that are driven by archaic leadership styles.   The fact that pro government groups charged into Cairo on the backs of camels and horses tells me that the current leadership in Egypt is operating with old thinking, and yes…it is time for change, and that change is going to get worse before things get better.  Change hurts, and the majority of changes do often come with a bit of pain and sorrow.  Just ask anyone who was involved in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.

In May of 2008, by Byron Reeves, Thomas W. Malone, and Tony O’Driscoll wrote a compelling article in Harvard Business ReviewLeadership’s Online Labs.   In the article, the authors speak of a future type of leadership…a form of leadership they predict will be more of the norm based on their observations and research obtained by watching members of Generation Y (born 1977-1997) play online games like Eve Online, EverQuest, and World of Warcraft.  In their studies, the authors predicted a type of leadership that would be similar to watching young men and women play games  in a three-dimensional virtual world, using the best headset from this sades sa 902 7.1 review…one in which thousands of players collaborate with and compete against one another.  With this new type of leadership, the authors also observed an interesting repeating pattern…there was no one leader in these virtual worlds…the groups were self-directed and would evolve even when a player was away from the game or taking a break for several days.

The organized protesters in Cairo are looking a great deal like the type of leadership described in this article.  So, it is no surprise that Egypt is in turmoil and that many of the groups gathering have no true leader…Gen Y does not follow the leader…they follow groups, especially those which are creating change .  What is disturbing is that this “peaceful protest” has now turned into violence.

I encourage you to continue to watch as this process unfolds to see how Generation Y is going to respond.  And, expect to see a change in the way our world leads as a bi-product of this truly historical event.

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