More Generational Clash Points: Meetings

Older workers expect a phone call or a visit on important issues and will immediately schedule and plan a meeting to involve significant stakeholders. This frustrates younger workers, who want to meet on the spur of the moment, as soon as possible.
Through corporate coaching, I listen to their complaints and they have a point. But so do younger workers.
For example, they see nothing wrong with texting superiors and peers instead of scheduling face-to-face meetings, and they like to communicate and solve problems virtually. When faced with a need to meet, they try to contact everyone immediately and begin videoconferencing, chatting, texting, talking and tweeting – often all at the same time.
Older colleagues prefer to find a time and day that fits everyone’s schedule – which can delay meeting for days or weeks. They fit things into their routines and calendars. To Gen Y, the ritual of workplace scheduling is stifling, unproductive and a waste of time.
The younger people may have a point. But to older colleagues, a seat-of-the-pants approach is irritating. They also have a point: It doesn’t give them enough time to think things through, nor to adequately prepare for a politically influential outcome.
Clash Point #4: Learning
Older generations are linear learners, comfortable sitting in classes, reading manuals and pondering materials before beginning to implement new programs.
Newer workers learn “on demand”, which to Boomers means they just want to “wing it”, figuring things out as they go. Gen-Y learning is interactive, using the Internet, Wikipedia and blogs. They rely on Google and web searches to find answers.
Gen Y doesn’t hesitate to call a friend or send an email directly to the CEO. They ask questions and get their information instantaneously. They are easily bored by training sessions, manuals and programs that spoon-feed information over time.
Issues You Can’t Ignore
Here’s why your company can’t afford to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done, hoping people will work out the details among themselves:
Gen X is a smaller generation, almost half the size of the Boomer generation. Gen Y is large – very large. This newer generation is much larger than the 77 million Boomers. Combined, Gen X and Gen Y already outnumber the Boomers and Seniors, making the 40 and younger crowd the largest segment of the workplace. Boomers no longer hold the majority vote, although most hold positions of power and responsibility.
This transition in power and influence is not something organizations can avoid or ignore. Managers must learn to leverage each generation’s strengths for the benefit of all, or risk becoming less efficient and productive because of the inherent conflicts.
There is no room to allow tradition and convenience to hinder changes that boost performance and productivity. There’s also not much room for generational judging or complaining.
Managers must create opportunities for a multigenerational work force to share its differences. To hire and retain high performers, leaders must also provide flexible options. Look for ways to benefit from each generation’s assets to inspire understanding, collaboration and creativity.
Learn more about leadership coaching.

Generational Clash Points: How We Work and Communicate

By 2021, Gen X will be the senior members of the work force, and both Gen X and New Millennials will be in leadership positions. Big changes are already beginning to appear and, in 10 years, the world of work will be significantly different.
Through corporate coaching, I’ve often listened to common complaints. Here are a few:
Clash Point #1: Work Ethics
Older workers talk about “going to work” and have always had a specified work schedule like 9-to-5. In the manufacturing economy, everyone used to be under the same roof, at the same time, to achieve maximum productivity, but times – and jobs – change.
Younger workers view work as “something you do”, anywhere, any time. They communicate 24/7 and expect real-time responses. The rigidity of set work hours seems unnecessary and even unproductive in the information age.
To younger workers, work ethics aren’t defined by how many hours one spends at a desk. Success is defined not by rank or seniority, but by what matters to each person individually. Younger workers want to cut to the chase and define their true value. They don’t want to be paid for time; they want to be paid for their services and skills.
For younger employees with working spouses and children, work-life balance and flexible conditions have greater priority. Is someone who arrives at 9:30 a.m. necessarily working less hard than those who arrive at 8:30 a.m.? Differences in generational attitudes must not interfere with progress and productivity.
Clash Point #2: How We Communicate
Ask anyone over the age of 40 about younger workers, and you’ll hear stories about texting, cell phones and ear buds. Common complaints include:

  • They can’t spell or write.
  • They multitask, so I’m never sure they’re paying attention.
  • They’re attention-deficit kids, unable to focus for long.
  • They expect instant feedback and email responses.

These tech-immersed young workers are just as frustrated with older workers, who respond days later and think setting up a team meeting is the answer, when a few text messages could get faster results.
Older workers can’t expect the newer generation to digress into the past. Technology needs to be understood and used by everyone to improve productivity.
Communications and relationships remain essential, regardless of how technology is used. Both sides need to use and benefit from each other’s strengths in this domain.
Click to learn about healthcare coaching.

How Are Younger Workers Different?

What happens when generations don’t share the same values and beliefs about workplace success? Older managers become baffled and confused when what used to work, no longer motivates new workers. Through corporate coaching, I get asked about this frequently.
Business consultant Cam Marston presents insights into managing across the generational divide in Motivating the “What’s in It for Me?” Workforce (2007, John Wiley & Sons).
Now, more than ever, American workers born after 1965 aren’t following in their elders’ footsteps. They have different workplace values and definitions of success.
Baby Boomers occupy most positions of power and responsibility on organizational charts. Most of today’s corporate management practices still reflect the systems and values of their predecessors, the veterans.
Gen Xers and Millennials therefore present unique challenges for Boomer managers. They aren’t interested in time-honored traditions or “the way things have always been done”. Rather, they’re single-mindly focused on what it takes to get ahead to reach their perceived career destination.
This group shuns past definitions of success: climbing the company ladder and earning the rewards that come with greater responsibility. The company ladder, in their view, is irrelevant.
Mature workers and Boomers in managerial and leadership positions struggle with these differing values and beliefs, wondering how to motivate their younger colleagues. If promotions, raises and bonuses fail to motivate, then what does the trick?
We can identify several differences in values. The new generation of workers has:

  1. A work ethic that no longer respects or values 10-hour workdays
  2. An easily attained competence in new technologies and a facility to master even newer ones with little discomfortv
  3. Tenuous to nonexistent loyalty to any organization
  4. Changed priorities for lifetime goals achievable by employment

The most significant changes in perspective involve time, technology and loyalty. The most common clash points at work involve generational differences in the definition of work, modes of communications, meetings and learning.
Learn more about leadership coaching.

Generational Gaps: This One’s Bigger

Older generations’ complaints about the next generation are nothing new. Conflicts replay throughout every decade. However this current generation gap is bigger than we’ve ever seen because of technology. I hear about these frustrations frequently in corporate coaching work I do.
No generation is better or worse than another, and prevailing attitudes are neither right nor wrong – just decidedly different.
Learning how to work, live and play together is crucial, and every manager must master ways to bridge generational gaps. Managerial survival calls for a coordinated, collaborative strategy to leverage each generation’s strengths and neutralize its liabilities.
Who Are the Generations?
First, a quick review of how the generations are grouped in the modern workplace:

  1. Veterans, born between 1922 and 1945 (52 million people). This cohort was born before or during World War II. Earliest experiences are associated with this world event. Some also remember the Great Depression.
  2. The Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 (77 million people). This generation was born during or after World War II and was raised in an era of extreme optimism, opportunity and progress. Boomers, for the most part, grew up in two-parent households, with safe schools, job security and post-war prosperity. They represent just under half of all U.S. workers. On the job, they value loyalty, respect the organizational hierarchy and generally wait their turn for advancement.
  3. Generation X, born between 1965 and 1979 (70.1 million people). These workers were born during a rapidly changing social climate and economic recession, including Asian competition. They grew up in two-career families with rising divorce rates, downsizing and the dawn of the high-tech/information age. On the job, they can be fiercely independent, like to be in control and want fast feedback.
  4. Generation Y (the New Millennials), born between 1980 and 2000 (estimated to be 80-90 million). Born to Boomer and early Gen Xer parents into our current high-tech, neo-optimistic times, these are our youngest workers. They are the most technologically adept, fast learners and tend to be impatient.

Gen X and Y comprise half the U.S. work force. Baby Boomers account for 45%, and the remaining 5% are veterans (many of whom are charged with motivating newer employees).
See an example of the work we did through Healthcare Coaching.

A Not-So-Perfect Labor Storm

In 1999, leadership expert Ira S. Wolfe coined the term “perfect labor storm” to describe a convergence of demographic and socioeconomic developments that would result in an unprecedented shortage of skilled workers in 2011 – the year the first Baby Boomers hit 65 and start to retire.
But a severe and prolonged recession has delayed Dr. Wolfe’s predicted storm. Economic uncertainty has caused many Boomers to remain on the job, amid the highest unemployment rate in more than 30 years.
Until we see the inevitable changing of the guard over the next decade, the workplace will be inhabited by a multigenerational stew of younger and older workers.
Baby Boomers are lingering in the workplace. The younger Gen X and Gen Y (New Millennials) are growing impatient to ascend to leadership responsibilities. New graduates are knocking at HR’s door in record numbers. And technology, including social media, is transforming the mode and pace of communication. These trends are creating new opportunities, but not without foreseeable generational clashes.
In the work I do in corporate coaching, I hear about new generation clashes often. This workplace environment will provide real opportunities and significant technological problems, Dr. Wolfe notes in his latest book, Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization: How to Manage the Unprecedented Convergence of the Wired, the Tired, and Technology in the Workplace (Xlibris, 2009).
Eighty percent of polled adults believe Gen X and Y have a distinctly different point of view – the highest perceived disparity since 1969, when generations clashed over the Vietnam War and civil rights. Younger adults (18 to 29) report disagreements over lifestyle, views, family, relationships and dating. Older adults criticize their “sense of entitlement”. Gen X and Y tend to be more tolerant on cultural issues, while Boomers cite manners as the greatest source of conflict.
New information technologies also divide the generations. According to research by the Pew Charitable Trust, only 40% of adults ages 65-74 use the Internet daily, while 75% of those ages 18-30 go online daily. The gap is wider when it comes to cell phones and text messages.
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A Dashboard for Managing Complexity

Businesses are becoming more complex. It’s harder to predict outcomes because intricate systems interact in unexpected ways. As we’ve stated before, A leadership coaching program is no longer reserved for problem leaders.
Staying on track is much easier with a guide or checklist. Michael Useem, a professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and bestselling author of The Leadership Moment, has published The Leader’s Checklist to create a clear roadmap for navigating any situation. It is presented here in condensed form, with sample questions accompanying each principle:

  1. Articulate a Vision: Formulate a clear and persuasive vision, and communicate why it’s important to all members of the enterprise.
    • Do my direct reports see the forest, as well as the trees?
    • Does everyone in the firm know not only where we are going, but, most importantly, why?
    • Is the destination compelling and appealing?
  2. Think and Act Strategically: Make a practical plan for achieving this vision, including both short- and long-term strategies. Anticipate reactions and resistance before they happen by considering all stakeholders’ perspectives.
    • Do we have a realistic plan for creating short-term results, as well as mapping out the future?
    • Have we considered all stakeholders and anticipated objections?
    • Has everyone bought into, and does everyone understand, the firm’s competitive strategy and value drivers? Can they explain it to others?
  3. Express Confidence: Provide frequent feedback to express appreciation for the support of those who work with and for you.
    • Do the people you work with know you respect and value their talents and efforts?
    • Have you made it clear that their upward guidance is welcomed and sought?
    • Is there a sense of engagement on the frontlines, with a minimum of “us” vs. “them” mentality?
  4. Take Charge and Act Decisively: Embrace a bias for action by taking responsibility, even if it isn’t formally delegated. Make good and timely decisions, and ensure they are executed.
    • Are you prepared to take charge, even when you are not in charge?
    • If so, do you have the capacity and position to embrace responsibility?
    • For technical decisions, are you ready to delegate, but not abdicate?
    • Are most of your decisions both good and timely?
    • Do you convey your strategic intent and then let others reach their own decisions?
  5. Communicate Persuasively: Communicate in ways that people will not forget, through use of personal stories and examples that back up ideas. Simplicity and clarity are critical.
    • Are messages about vision, strategy and character crystal-clear and indelible?
    • Have you mobilized all communication channels, from purely personal to social media?
    • Can you deliver a compelling speech before the elevator passes the 10th floor?
  6. Motivate the Troops, and Honor the Front Lines: Appreciate the distinctive intentions that people bring to their work; build on diversity to bring out the best in people. Delegate authority except for strategic decisions. Stay close to those who are most directly engaged with the enterprise’s work.
    • Have you identified each person’s “hot button” and focused on it?
    • Do you work personal pride and shared purpose into most communications?
    • Are you keeping some ammunition dry for those urgent moments when you need it?
    • Have you made your intent clear and empowered those around you to act?
    • Do you regularly meet with those in direct contact with customers?
    • Can your people communicate their ideas and concerns to you?
  7. Build Leadership in Others, and Plan for Succession: Develop leadership throughout the organization, giving people opportunities to make decisions, manage others and obtain coaching.
    • Are all managers expected to build leadership among their subordinates? (read more about leadership coaching)
    • Does the company culture foster the effective exercise of leadership?
    • Are leadership development opportunities available to most, if not all, managers?
  8. Manage Relations, and Identify Personal Implications: Build enduring personal ties with those who work with you, and engage the feelings and passions of the workplace. Help people appreciate the impact that the vision and strategy are likely to have on their own work and the firm’s future.
    • Is the hierarchy reduced to a minimum, and does bad news travel up?
    • Are managers self-aware and empathetic?
    • Are autocratic, egocentric and irritable behaviors censured?
    • Do employees appreciate how the firm’s vision and strategy affect them individually?
    • What private sacrifices will be necessary for achieving the common cause?
      How will the plan affect people’s personal livelihood and the quality of their work lives?

  9. Convey Your Character: Through storytelling, gestures and genuine sharing, ensure that others appreciate that you are a person of integrity.
    • Have you communicated your commitment to performance with integrity?
    • Do others know you as a person? Do they know your aspirations and hopes?
  10. Dampen Over-Optimism: To balance the hubris of success, focus attention on latent threats and unresolved problems. Protect against managers’ tendency to engage in unwarranted risk.
    • Have you prepared the organization for unlikely, but extremely consequential, events?
    • Do you celebrate success, but also guard against the byproduct of excess confidence?
    • Have you paved the way not only for quarterly results, but for long-term performance?
  11. Build a Diverse Top Team: Although leaders take final responsibility, leadership is most effective when there is a team of capable people who can collectively work together to resolve key challenges. Diversity of thinking ensures better decisions.
    • Have you drawn quality performers into your inner circle?
    • Are they diverse in expertise, but united in purpose?
    • Are they as engaged and energized as you?
  12. Place Common Interest First: In setting strategy, communicating vision and reaching decisions, common purpose comes first and personal self-interest last.
    • In all decisions, have you placed shared purpose ahead of private gain?
    • Do the firm’s vision and strategy embody the organization’s mission?
    • Are you thinking like a president or chief executive, even if you are not one?
    • Not all of these questions are applicable to every situation, but it is the questioning that counts.
    • Whether you are facing a typical day at the office or walking into a crisis, ask yourself and others these questions to inspire correct actions. Only then can you make sense of the complexities you encounter.

Two More Mindsets of Good Bosses

Mindset #2: True Grit
Are you a boss with true grit? What does that mean? And how do you get it right?
“Gritty bosses are driven by the nagging conviction that everything they and their people do could be better if they tried just a little harder or were just a bit more creative,” writes Robert Sutton in Good Boss, Bad Boss
Such bosses instill grit in subordinates. Without creating the impression that everything is an emergency, great bosses have a sense of urgency. They are dogged and patient, sensing when to press forward and when to be flexible.
As Albert Einstein once stated: “It’s not that I am so smart; it is just that I stay with my problems longer.”
University of Pennsylvania Assistant Professor of Psychology Angela Duckworth, PhD, and her colleagues define grit as perseverance and passion toward long-term goals.
“Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress,” they wrote in a 2007 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology paper.
Without becoming discouraging, bosses with grit believe that progress isn’t always good enough – that you can never stop learning or rest on your laurels.
Mindset #3: Small Wins Count
If you set big goals to energize and direct people, you can fall into the trap of overwhelming and discouraging them. In the work I do coaching executives, I see this happen all the time.
The path to success is lined with small wins. When you frame goals as a series of small steps, it helps people see the importance of their participation.
Smaller goals also help people make better decisions, sustain motivation and manage stress. When subordinates experience a challenge as too big or complex, they can freeze up. When problems are broken down into bite-sized pieces, a boss inspires clarity, calmness and confidence.
The Questions to Ask Yourself
Mindset #2: True Grit
a. Do you treat work as a marathon or a sprint?
b. Do you look for quick fixes?
c. Do you instill a sense of urgency without treating everything as a crisis?
d. In the face of failures, do you persist or give up?
Mindset #3: Small Wins
a. Do you frame what your people need to do as a series of small, realistic and clear steps?
b. Do you propose grand goals?
c. Do you break things down into bite-sized steps?
What do you think about these two mindsets? What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear from you.

The Mindset of a Great Boss

How can you become a better boss? That’s a good question and an important one. In the work I do coaching, I find that some bosses don’t realize how important their work is to the people they’re in charge of.
Bosses shape how people experience work: joy versus despair, enthusiasm versus complaints, good health versus stress. Most bosses want to be good at what they do, yet many lack the essential mindsets that precede positive actions and behaviors.
If you’re a boss who strives to do great work, I believe the most important task you can do is to adjust your thinking. The beliefs and assumptions you hold about yourself, your work and your people will determine your actions, according to Stanford’s Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss.
“The best bosses embrace five beliefs that are stepping stones to effective action,” he writes.
Mindset #1: Goldilocks Management
Managers who are too assertive will damage relationships with their superiors, peers and subordinates. Conversely, those who aren’t assertive enough will fail to inspire their teams to strive for stretch goals, according to a study conducted by business professors Daniel Ames, PhD, and Francis Flynn, PhD. (of Columbia and Stanford Universities, respectively).
Ames and Flynn speculate that the best bosses would receive an “average” rating from subordinates if measured in competitiveness, aggressiveness, passivity and submission. Stanford experiments confirm that micromanaging employees with relentless attention and advice usually undermines their efforts.
There are times when bosses need to coach people, discipline, communicate direction and intervene. The savviest bosses look for the right moments to apply pressure or encouragement to get the best out of their people. In choosing their moments, they command respect instead of contempt.
The Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Goldilocks Management
        a. Are you managing with just the right degree of assertiveness?
        b. Are you creating ways to walk the line between enough intervention and micromanaging?
        c. Are you neglecting to give your people guidance, wisdom and the feedback they need to succeed?
        d. Are you obsessively monitoring every move and metric?
The best thing you can do right now to start to become a better boss is to explore your mindset. I don’t know of a better way to do that than working with an executive coach who understands the perils of managing with just the right amount of assertiveness.

Killer Bosses

I’ve read a lot of studies that prove the link between a boss’s effectiveness and team performance. But did you know that a good boss can help you live longer? True.
A Swedish study that followed 3,122 men for 10 years found that those with the best bosses (considerate, clear and proactive change agents) suffered fewer heart attacks than did those with bad bosses. Study participants who stayed with good bosses for 4 years had at least a 39 percent lower heart-attack risk, according to coauthor Anna Nyberg, PhD. [Source:]
I don’t know about you, but since I don’t like stress, this is strong motivation for trying to help your boss be as good a boss as possible!
Personality-assessment specialist Robert Hogan, PhD.,researched studies of diverse workers conducted in 1948, 1958, 1968 and 1998 in cities like Baltimore, London, Seattle and Honolulu. In his meta-analysis of postal workers, milk-truck drivers, schoolteachers and other members of the labor force, 75 percent reported that dealing with their immediate supervisor was the most stressful part of the job.
Over the last 30 years, Gallup surveys of more than 100,000 employees in 2,500 diverse businesses have revealed that one’s immediate boss has far more impact on engagement and performance than any other factor. A 2007 Gallup survey of U.S. employees found that 24 percent would fire their bosses if given the chance.
Indeed, 56 percent of disengaged employees cite bad bosses as a primary reason for their unhappiness. People don’t quit their jobs; they quit bad bosses.
Good bosses create employee satisfaction that leads to retention, performance, productivity and profitability. How you treat your direct reports creates a ripple effect that travels down and across your company’s hierarchy, ultimately shaping its culture and performance.
So the question remains, what can you do to help your boss do his or her job? You might not think you can. And quite frankly, with some bosses, that’s a tough thing to try to do.
But I think the question is worth thinking about and formulating ideas and plans.
What do you think? Can some bosses be helped to be better? If they’re going to affect your quality of work-life – and your health – don’t you think it’s worth a try?

What Makes a Good Boss?

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
What about your boss? Good guy/gal, or just so-so? I’ll bet you can recognize a great boss when you see one. But like great works of art, however, a good boss is hard to define.
The word “boss” conjures up memories of the good, the bad and the ugly ones we’ve endured throughout our careers.
Stanford University management professor Robert I. Sutton, PhD, author of the New York Times bestseller The No Asshole Rule, knows about bosses. He’s received thousands of emails about the bad ones since the 2007 publication of that title. In his most recent book, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…and Learn from the Worst (Business Plus, 2010) Sutton focuses on what it takes to be a better boss.
“Devoting relentless attention to doing one good thing after another – however small – is the only path I know to becoming and remaining a great boss,” he writes. “I wish I could promise you that the path was easier.”
Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a restaurant owner, athletic coach or store manager, your success depends on how well you deal with the people who surround you. In any position of authority, great or small, you’re expected to personally guide, inspire and discipline.
Anytime you have more power than others, you must interact in productive ways and you’ll face strong emotions and gut reactions. A boss evokes feelings of confidence and comfort, as well as insecurity, fear, anger and confusion.
When I’m coaching, we spend a great deal of time sorting out the emotional components of work relationships.
Feelings get triggered in every communication medium: face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, emails, text messages and video conferences. Emotions intensify when relationships are inherently unequal.
In many situations, the boss-employee relationship requires that you work “up close and personal”, which means you’re exposed to others’ quirks, foibles and habits. How you navigate and tolerate personal differences matters.
To benefit your team and company, you must excel at accepting your differences and finding workarounds. Sometimes a simple understanding of basic personality traits helps and assessments and workshops can help with this.
To be a better boss, there are no magic bullets, and the work may seem relentless. Besides getting things done and meeting performance objectives, you must shepherd your people through every hard turn. Your principal rewards for success are keeping your job and receiving even more responsibilities and challenges.
The best bosses keep chipping away at a huge pile of tasks – some interesting, others dull but necessary. Their leadership prowess is measured by how well they handle the frustrations associated with people and performance.
In the work I do in organizations and with executives, I’ve found that there are some important attitudes that set the stage for becoming a better boss.