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Creating Successful Leaders

Colleagues Applauding Senior Businessman

Since we spent the last month talking about Millennials, I thought it was time to flip the coin and address a topic that exclusively effects those in the Baby Boomer generation. (I’m also gathering information about Boomers in the workplace, so if you’d like to participate in my survey, please do so!)

So, you’re 45, 55, or 65 years old and looking for work? Don’t let all the younger faces in the workforce intimidate you or make you feel unworthy of nailing your dream job (it’s never too late!). Instead, freshen up your strategy and approach the job hunt and interview process with optimism and vigor.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of some helpful reminders for the older worker’s job hunt that will help you keep your best foot forward at all times:

> Never forget what you’re worth: Older workers are dependable, have advanced problem-solving abilities, and are just as productive as younger workers

>Stay enthusiastic and excited: No matter what your age, if you come off as exhausted, bored, resentful, or frustrated, you’ll give interviewers a bad impression

> Keep your exchange respectful, no matter your age difference

> Offer examples of your work that demonstrate your creativity

> Emphasize your past loyalty to your company

> Edit your resume: Avoid the “too old” impression by limiting your relevant experience to the past 15 years, excluding graduation dates, and paring down your list of employment experience by saying “5+ years” instead of “30 years.\”

> Share examples of your ability to learn quickly

> Take advantage of your expansive network—it’s still the best way to find work

> Keep all mentioned accomplishments current

> Make sure your dress is up to date, instead of dating you

> Avoid feelings of defeat or apology for your age—this is not a topic that should be on the table during an interview, nor is it relevant to the conversation

> Don’t limit your job search to exactly what you were doing before—consider a career change, why not?

> Don’t mention upcoming retirement hopes

> Stay current with new technology

If you’d like help relaying your skills, interviewing, and branding yourself during the job process, contact me today to learn how I can help.

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We’ve been gathering a lot of information about Millennials for the brand new book we’re writing about Millennials and leadership. The book will be a guide for Millennials, their co-workers, and the people who train or lead them.

We recently sent out a survey to dozens of Millennials asking them a variety of career-related questions and received some very insightful responses to our questions. Here’s what Millennials are saying…

millennials are saying

What does your ideal workplace look like?

“My ideal work place allows a lot of flexibility, and does not require me being chained to a desk all day. It offers variety in terms of working independently and in teams, and variety in location for meetings, training, or even the flexibility to work from home or a coffee shop occasionally.” –Laura, public health professional

“My ideal workplace is collaborative. I thrive when I have access to brainstorming sessions with whiteboards, and conversations that combine the Big Ideas with actionable steps.” –Jolene, grad school student & writer

“Ideal workplace would be in an ever changing environment.” –Amy, assistant archaeologist

What are the characteristics of an ideal manager?

“Someone that is more of a leader than a boss.” –Patrick, project geophysicist

“…kind, tactful, promotes equality, empathy, can look at situation from multiple sides, weighs risks to best they can, trusts employees to best they can.” –Laura, museum manager

They’ll mentor and guide you in positive ways, and will offer advice rather than constant criticism. – Brooklynn, project manager in marketing

“An ideal manager is supportive, knowledgeable, flexible, and open to letting me grow in my position.” –Anna, professor

What do you look for when job hunting?

“Am I growing as an individual? Am I learning things about the world that make it a richer place? Am I able to help people? Do I make a positive contribution?” –Lee, senior application scientist

“I look for openings with organizations that have a clear mission. I try to find jobs that fit with my big goals. I look for client ratings on various sites because if none of the clients don’t like that company, it’s a pretty good indication that there are many problems within the company.” –Mary, fundraiser

“Something that I’m passionate about. The last few jobs I’ve really sought after were ones quite different from each other, but they were all positions that I thought I’d do well in, and that I thought I’d enjoy and be proud to do.” –Nathan, newspaper editor

“Office culture that is cooperative.” –Tara, attorney

Do you care about leadership and titles? Why or why not?

“I don’t worry too much about whether I am a ‘coordinator’ or ‘planner’ or ‘manager’ I worry more about what my job responsibilities are.” –Laura, public health professional

“Proper leadership is important. Without dedicated people taking the helm, large, collaborative projects would never happen. They just wouldn’t. And as for titles, they’re just the names we give people to describe who they are and what they do (or at least that’s what they should be).” –Nathan, newspaper editor

“I do not care for the recognition or attention that comes with leadership roles. For me, titles can become meaningless and are only useful if they connote the roles or responsibilities of the one who holds it.” –Brittany, barista & editor

“I don’t care about titles. I’m annoyed with people who are obsessed with their titles and use it as an excuse to stay within the boundaries of their job description or fail to adapt when the job changes.” –Jolene, grad school student & writer

What are the advantages of frequently switching jobs? Have you done this in your professional career? Why or why not?

“I like to not feel like I’m ‘stuck’ or just going to work and punching the clock, I want to know that what I’m doing matters, and that it stimulates me, or I don’t want to do it and I’ll move on to the next thing.” –Laura, public health professional

“The longest I have stayed with a company is 2.5 years. Switching frequently has helped me experience different styles of leadership, given me exposure to a huge network of people, and also has helped me make more money. In my experience, I have learned that you can get a larger salary increase by finding a new job rather than getting a promotion at a current job.” –Brooklynn, project manager in marketing

“I guess an advantage would be you can’t get sick of your job if you switch often. I have been in the same job since I became a nurse. I enjoy what I do so I have not left yet but I have seriously considered it.” –Sarah, RN

What do you think a typical workplace will be like in the future?

“More collaboration, less defined boundaries. People working for fulfillment and sense of purpose rather than prestige of title.” –John, marketer

“Less defined by a physical space.” –Tara, attorney

“More teleworking, more VTCs, more conference calls. Less traditional office time.” –Marjorie, chief of safety and occupational

What are some of the positive features of the Millennial generation? Negative features?

Positive:

“We travel the world, we grew up with the internet and we’re really good at finding information, we want to collaborate and work together (because that’s what you’ve been teaching us to do since kindergarten), and we want our work to match our values.” –Jolene, grad student & writer

“Multi-task, women and racial equality, have a can-do attitude, are used to change” –Laura, museum manager

“Hopefully, once some of us are able to work in our field, we will be eager and hungry to perform well. Most of us have worked less-than-excellent jobs between graduating and a “career-type” job so we have an appreciation for a good job.” –Brittany, barista & editor

“I think early millennials are hard-working, responsible, and willing to learn. I think we are explorers, and volunteers, and teachers. We care about family values like trust, loyalty, dedication, honesty.” –Rain, graduate assistant

Negative:

“Some might have broken spirits and have become embittered after being underemployed.” Brittany, barista & writer

“We don’t know where to settle down, we know lots of information but sometimes lack deeper understanding, we need better models for collaboration that leads to results, we’re picky about where we want to work but during the recession we didn’t have a lot of choice…” –Jolene, grad student & writer

Instant gratification, too nice, sometimes can’t work on their own” –Laura, museum manager

“I think technology advances have been very detrimental to the success of our generation. Instant gratification and the ability to commit seem to be a challenge for many Millennials.” –Sarah, RN

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Young businessman in office looking at camera.

Let’s talk about a touchy subject: Millennials and loyalty. At first glance, the Millennial generation seems to be comprised of disloyal job-hoppers. Statistics show (according to Multiple Generations @ Work”) that a staggering 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. Such high turnover can be tough for companies and cripplingly expensive. In fact, close to 90% of the firms surveyed (according to an article from MainStreet.com) reported that the cost of replacing a Millennial employee was anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000.

These numbers seem overwhelmingly negative, but let’s take a step back and look at Millennials and loyalty from a larger scope.

First of all, consider the context. Millennials have entered the workforce during one of the worst economic periods in history. Companies are downsizing, outsourcing, and slashing salaries in an attempt to stay afloat. And even though cost-of-living and college tuition are increasing dramatically, paychecks are not. Says Rich Milgram, Beyond.com‘s founder and chief executive, “Younger job seekers don’t have it easy in the current economy and they’ve been put in a hole by the generations that have gone before them.” Oftentimes, Millennials practice strategic job-hopping because they know they could be let go at any time. It’s a defensive move and gives them a sense of security if they feel their current position is in danger of being snipped.

Secondly, Millennials’ definition of loyalty is often different from other generations. Consider this statistic for a moment from Philly.com:

More than eight in ten young workers (Millennials, aged 19-26) say they are loyal to their employers. But only one in 100 human resource professionals believe that these young workers are loyal.

Why the huge difference in perspectives? Many believe it has to do with the way Millennials think about loyalty. Many members of this generation do not necessarily pledge themselves to a company, but to a boss or co-workers. Cam Marston, author of “Motivating the ‘What’s In It For Me’ Workforce” says, “Effective bosses are the number one reason why Millennials stay at a job…They have great respect for leaders and loyalty, but they don’t respect authority ‘just because.’ This is why it’s so important to have exceptional leaders at companies to retain these younger workers. They don’t want someone who micromanages and thinks of them as just another worker. They want someone who inspires them to stay at a company.”

Another attribute that keeps Millennials loyal? Workplace atmosphere. A 2012 survey by Net Impact found that 88% of workers considered “positive culture” important or essential to their dream job, and 86% said the same for work they found “interesting.” Additionally, the same Net Impact survey found that 58% of respondents said they would take a 15% pay cut in order to work for an organization “with values like my own,” demonstrating that Millennials are not just content with “any old job,” but seek meaning in the work that they do.

The issue of Millennials and loyalty is a tricky one, but one thing is certain: We cannot just write-off this generation as disloyal and wishy-washy. With the right workplace atmosphere, excellent leadership, and by providing the right set of motivation tools (as mentioned in last week’s post), Millennials will stick around and perform the kind of innovative, creative work that they’re known for.

If you (or your company) needs help creating the right conditions for your Millennial workforce, contact me to discuss potential strategies.

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millennial cafe photo

Today’s new batch of workers are not necessarily motivated by old incentives: a decent salary, a benefits package, a few vacation days. In fact, 92% believe that business success should be measured by more than profit. Instead of luring your new hires in and trying to keep them with traditional methods, take the time to understand how Millennials think.

To be brief, Millennials are generally altruistic, enjoy flexibility, crave diverse and challenging tasks, appreciate a healthy work-life balance, and seek fun and camaraderie in the workplace. They also carry quite a bit of college debt and are generally well-educated.

So, how do all those features translate into keeping Millennials motivated and retaining them? What can your workplace do to be better compatible with the way Millennials think and behave? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Consider flexible work hours

According to Cisco Systems, Inc., a whopping 69% of Millennials believe office attendance is unnecessary on a regular basis. Many Millennials are task or goal-oriented and are perplexed by mandatory 9 to 5 office hours. By allowing Millennial workers to have flexible office hours or a couple work-from-home days each week, your company is more likely to mesh with their work styles. Frankly, some Millennials work better at nine o’clock in the evening and, with a flexible work schedule, that’s okay. Just make sure they have clear goals and are accomplishing everything they need to accomplish (which brings us to suggestion #2…).

  1. Give regular feedback

Millennials like specific goals and tasks and they also like to know how they are performing. Keep in mind, Millennials grew up with lots of measuring sticks—video game scores, report cards, standardized tests, social media performance data such as Facebook “Likes” and “retweets.” They need to know if they’re on the right track or performing to standards. On the same token, Millennials like incentives. Consider running inter-office competitions or giving out bonuses (or something as simple as a gift card to Starbucks) so that your Millennial workers have something fun to work toward.

  1. Have a heart

The Millennial generation is known for logging tons of volunteer hours and getting involved in both local and global causes. They care, and your company should too. For example, Dan Epstein, CEO of business consultancy ReSource Pro, allows his staff (which is comprised of 90% Millennials) to form committees and use company resources or time to organize their causes. “Whether it’s weekends with Habitat for Humanity,” Epstein says, “or time off to run in charity marathons, the company’s encouragement helps them feel good about the company.”

  1. Encourage creativity

Inc.com says, “Millennials are the poster children of innovation, and encouraging employees to find and utilize new solutions and outside-the-box thinking can have huge benefits.” The employee gets to learn a new skill or think about a problem in a unique way and the company benefits by tapping into the creative thought that Millennials are known for. One way to keep Millennials interested and encourage innovative thinking is to allow them to present self-defined project ideas to your company’s management. Progressive companies like 3M and Google often give employees time to work on projects of their choosing, which helps the employees feel more independent, engaged, and part of the fabric of the organization.

  1. Offer alternative compensation

Millennials are interested in incentives beyond money. Offerings such as public transit passes (or bicycle commuting credits), shares in the company, or bonus vacation days are all enticing to Millennials (who generally support public transit, like being a part of the larger company picture, and tend to travel far more often than their older counterparts). Another great way to entice Millennials is to offer loan repayment plans (give them a monthly stipend designated toward paying off student debt), or offer them continuing education opportunities (such as encouraging them to pursue an advanced degree or offering office-wide training programs, such as Insights Discovery or DiSC workshops).

Have questions about motivating your new hires? Contact me today and we’ll discuss some personalized strategies that you can start implementing in YOUR company this year.

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training millennials

Millennial workers are the future. The generation born between 1980 and 2000 currently comprises 36% of the workforce and 15% of all leadership roles in the United States, and will continue to grow as members of the Baby Boomer generation retire. Although some workers like to dismiss the Millennial generation as “disloyal” or “entitled,” much of this negative labeling comes from fundamental misunderstandings between generations. Because Millennials will soon be the most prominent demographic in the modern workforce, I decided to dedicate the month of February to this generation. Whether you’re training Millennials, working alongside them, or you are a Millennial, this series should be useful to you. To kick off, I will first discuss training techniques.

Many organizations are not keen on the idea of overhauling their entire employee training program. Yes, it can be costly and time-consuming, but it is an absolutely essential step to take if you want to attract new talent and set up new hires for success. And there’s an additional bonus: According to Sweetrush Training, “Applying these [new training programs] will make your training stronger and more effective for everyone — not just Millennials.” That’s because older generations have many of the same tendencies as Millennials, including a positive response to feedback and an interest in interactivity.

The following is a list of some typical Millennial traits and how they translate into workplace training:

  1. Millennials are goal-oriented and like clarity

Before delving too deeply into your training program, give your Millennial trainees a high-level overview of what you’re going to cover and what they need to know. According to Vivid Learning Systems, “Helping them understand early on what is expected of them helps them not only succeed in training but also on the job. You can do this by clearly communicating training objectives, informing trainees about what information they will be evaluated against and how they will be evaluated, and providing an opportunity for Millennials to ask questions and clarify expectations early on.”

  1. Millennials learn better by doing than seeing

To put it frankly: lecture-style training sessions do not work. Most Millennials have grown up with interactive classrooms in which the teacher promotes learning through games, roleplaying, labs, and asking questions. Actually, this kind of interactive learning environment works well for people in all generations. Instead of talking at your trainees and flipping through powerpoint slides, try something more engaging. Use case studies, group work, scenarios, video clips, question and answer sessions, etc. You’ll find that this training style will keep your Millennial hires interested and help them better retain what they’ve learned.

  1. Technology is second-nature for Millennials

Whether it’s videos, online forums, training software, simulations, or interactive Smartboards, incorporating technology into your training program is essential. Millennials are comfortable with technology and readily turn to it for both education and entertainment. By weaving technology into your training program, you’ll find that Millennial trainees will stay engaged and your company will appear to be more relevant and modern in their eyes.

  1. Millennials are interested in collaboration

According to USA Today, studies show that “Millennials actually like to work in teams more than their elders.” This may seem counter-intuitive, given most Millennials’ attraction to technology (and the amount of time they spend engaged with their smartphones), but a full 60 percent of Millennials would prefer to collaborate in person vs. online (34 percent) or via phone or videoconference (6 percent). An added bonus of including group activities in your training program is that the new hires will get to know each other and begin to form bonds. Given that a positive work environment is typically very important to Millennials, it’s a great idea to get them working alongside and befriending their peers right away.

If you have any questions about creating a new training program for the next generation of workers, please do not hesitate to contact me today.

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What does “no excuses” mean to you? To me, its meaning is twofold:

  1. Actively planning ahead and not stretching yourself too thin (or taking on responsibilities that you know you can’t do) so that you probably won’t have to cover your tracks and make excuses for poor performance AND
  2. Taking ownership of the mistakes you’ve made instead of waffling or coming up with justifications

In my book, The Ten-Minute Leadership Challenge, I talk in-depth about how to prevent excuse-making and how to deal with set-backs. The video below is a supplement to the information in my book. How do YOU fight the urge to make excuses?

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make it happen

Did you make a resolution this past New Year’s Eve? How’s it holding up? And how have you done with past New Year’s resolutions? If you’re having trouble meeting your goals year after year, then maybe it’s time for a new approach. There has to be a better way, right?

There is. It’s called the 90-Day Quick Plan, and it’s something I learned from speaker and author, David Horsager.

The idea behind creating a 90-Day Quick Plan is this: accomplish one concrete goal in 90 days, using a step-by-step strategy. Horsager claims that 90 days is the “sweet spot” for achieving your goals. It’s a meaningful amount of time, yet not so long that the goal will slip away from you. So, how do you go about making significant changes in 90 days?

The first step is to create a tangible goal (or up to three). Horsager advises against focusing on more than three priorities. Otherwise, you’ll be spreading yourself too thin. Ask yourself, “Where am I right now?” and “Where do I want to be in 90 days?”

And then, ask yourself the most important question of all: “Why do I want to make this change or reach this goal?” If you have a clear why, then you’ll have the motivation to accomplish your goal(s) in 90 days. For instance, why do you want to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle? Is it so you can be around for your children or grandchildren in 25 years? Is it so you can feel more confident about yourself?

Another example: Why do you want to learn how to create a website? Is it so your business can grow and blossom? Is it because you want to keep your mind fresh and young?

Whatever reason you choose for your “why” is, of course, a personal one and it should be at the very core of your motivation.

After you’ve figured out your goals and why you’d like to achieve them, ask yourself how you are going to get there. Horsager says to be very specific; make a detailed plan and ask yourself how you’re going to stick to it. He advises people to boil down their plan by continuously asking themselves, “How, how, how?”

For instance, let’s say you would like to write the first 50 pages of your memoir within the next 90 days. How are you going to do that?

Maybe you’ll decide to write every day. (That’s great, but how?)

You’ll wake up at 5 a.m. every day and write for an hour. (Ok, excellent plan, but how are you going to hold yourself accountable?)

You will let your friends and family in on your plan so that you’ll be held accountable. (Great, now we’re getting somewhere!)

See the importance of how?

Once you have your plan in place (and you have a clear understanding of the why and the how), get started! You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in 90 days.

Need help formulating your 90 day plan? Contact me for guidance.

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