Learning to Lead

We are the most educated generation ever. No, I don’t mean we have learned from our experience, necessarily, but that we have the most education…formally…of any other before us. Our parents made it clear that college wasn’t an option for most of us – it was a requirement.

Now, we enter the workforce after a minimum of 16 years in the educational system (many of us close to doubling that with Pre-K and grad school) and if we don’t know how to do anything else, we know how to learn.

That’s a double edged sword.

On one hand, we’ve been in school and learning so long that we are very accustomed to learning regularly both formally and informally thanks to the modern information era. On the other, for the first time in our lives we don’t have a professor who holds our grades in his hand and dangles the threat of a ‘FAIL’ over us to get us moving so we can finally breathe…

Frankly, after seeing Gen Y hit the workforce over the last few years, I’m convinced it’s about a 50/50 split. Of course, if you’re reading this, you’re in the 1st group. Congrats!

For those of us who want to keep learning, now what?

Related: Hey Millennials! Learn to lead!!!

I was reading an article written by Kayla Cruz over on YouTern and she eloquently articulates how companies need to offer more leadership development courses to it’s non-supervisory workforce. I agree.

That said, let’s assume you work for a company which DOES offer leadership development opportunities. 

Time to milk the system!!!

Most people get promoted and then learn how to be managers. When someone in management vacates the position, the organization has to get someone in there quickly so there is a very short training period (if any) to get them up to speed. The problem is that managing a function requires a much different skill set than working in that system. That’s when most people flock to training sessions to figure out what to do.

Not us – we are the high achievers (just ask our mom).

We want to learn. We want to grow. We want to run things better, work harder work smarter and contribute right away (we need a trophy!!!).

Take your initiative and put it to work. 

Many entry level positions have down time and offer the perfect opportunity to take classes. Maybe the company isn’t willing to fly you to Vegas for the conference you’ve always wanted (if so, can I work for you?), but there are opportunities all around if you look. 

So, where do I find learning opportunities?

  1. Professional Associations. I’m in training and Development and we have a local association that provides monthly sessions on various T&D topics for $15/month. I figured out that the VP of Programs determined what those topics would be so I volunteered to become the VP of Programs…(what, it’s not all about me?)
  2. Young Professional Groups. Every city has YP groups that offer great social events and learning opportunities. They’re also great places to meet people if you’re new to a city. You can find out where the best places are to eat, drink, and work.
  3. Webinars/Blogs. Don’t quit reading. I know most are crap, but some really are good ways to learn management skills – especially if you can’t leave the office during your down time. Oh, and there are a TON of free ones so it doesn’t cost a thing.
  4. Your company’s training department. True, they made you sit through a video that’s older than I am about how you can’t discriminate (or some other topic circa 1981), but often they offer a lot more than you might realize when it comes to leadership development. Generally, for the non you-screwed-up-now-let’s-send-you-to-training-to-fix-you classes, you have to be proactive and search them out. Ask your manager. Ask the Training Manager. Just ask!

What about you? How do you learn? How are you developing the skills you need for when you’re the one hired into that management role? 

Don’t be like the crappy bosses who really “don’t have a clue what they’re doing.” Be prepared! 

Motivation in the workplace

Today, I was teaching a class on Motivation in the workplace. I asked the class to raise their hand if they knew what their organizations mission & vision was…

Crickets…

That’s really, really sad! How can people make effective contributions if they don’t know which way the organization is headed?

Regardless of the generation, people need to understand the ‘WHY’ before they can figure out the what.

Oh, they’ll put in the hours and they’ll do their jobs well enough to not get fired, and they might even work hard enough to do their job well.

But they won’t really buy-in.

A few days ago, we talked about the importance of getting their heart before you get their head. The great thing about getting the heart is that the soul follows. Everyone wants to pour their soul into something but few people make that something their work.

I’m not talking about life-work balance (and yes, I said that in the correct order), but rather connecting with the mission in a way that it becomes part of your life. When that happens, your organization can tackle anything.

I’m a GenY. For us, it’s more important than ever to tie the mission to our job. Without a purpose, we do things like quit, check out, surf FB, text our friends and tell them how miserable we are, and so on. If we have purpose, we’ll still surf FB and text our friends, but it’ll be to tell them how AWESOME our job is and how much we love it.

When’s the last time you heard that? Does your organization tie its mission and values to everyday work? Are people so excited to make a difference that they’ll think about it long after 5:00pm?

Do you even know your mission? Can you tell me what it is? Not verbatim, but really tell me what it means?

People can’t get there if they don’t know the destination.

How to turn creativity into productivity

Act like you know what’s going on and people assume you do.

It’s really not much more complicated than that.

I see this almost everyday of my life. For those of you who don’t really know me, I’m going to reveal a secret that I learned long ago (from a Boomer) that can really help you as you assimilate into the workplace.

This video of Brett Cohen has over 3 million hits on YouTube. Go watch it. I’ll wait…

I love the premise. This is the kind of creativity that Gen Y is capable of, yet the frustration for many of our older generations is that we use this creativity on such “useless” things. Why would you spend all that time working on something that wasn’t going to advance your career?

I think it’s a brilliant example of something I learned from a Boomer (my dad) on April 8, 1994. I remember the date well. I was SOOOOO embarrassed!!!

Michael Jordan was really a superstar when I was little. Some say the world has never seen a better basketball player. On that night, he was making his minor league baseball debut here in Birmingham, AL. Somehow, we got tickets.

There we were – my mom, dad, little sister, and I, walking up to a stadium that was buzzing with CRAZY media coverage. As we walked into the stadium, my dad did the usual – embarrassed me to no end – when he said, “hey, let’s go over here and see if we can get in the press gate.”

“Dad,” I sighed, “you can’t do that. Let’s just go get our seats.” (insert multiple eye rolls here)

As if he had some spidey-sense of how to embarrass me, he took off with my little sister in tow. My mom and I went and sat down.

The entire time I sat there fuming about my dad’s attempt to make me the laughing stock of the world and imagining how we’d have to leave after he got thrown in jail, or at the very least thrown out of the stadium.

A few minutes later, to my horror, I see my dad and little sister emerging onto the field from the dugout.

OMG! Can I shrink down into this chair anymore!!!  Continue reading

Gen Y: Unwilling to prove themselves and work hard

Gen Y motivationGen Y wants everything right now and isn’t willing to work for it.

That’s the statement I read when reading an article that was interviewing a woman who was responsible for recruiting for an Accounting firm. I don’t know who she is (I purposefully didn’t Google her) but I do know she’s an Xer. How?

  1. The article said she’d been recruiting for 18 yrs.
  2. Most importantly, this is a quote I pulled from her interview:

Gen Y wants more and believe they deserve it,” she says. “There is an expectation within Gen Y that they should get opportunities rather than prove themselves and work hard. It’s great to have structured expectations and ambitions, but they have to be qualified and deserved.

Eureka! (that means STFU in Boomer talk) That’s the problem! That’s the disconnect! That’s the reason there is such conflict in the workplace when it comes to generations!

Do you see it? It’s right there!

Let me stop here and say that she’s being cited because of her expertise on recruiting Millennials. There are some really good points but I want you to focus on the great point I don’t think she realizes that she’s making.

Go read the article Gen Y: Who? Where? Y? and then we’ll talk. No, really, read it…I’ll wait. Matter of fact, I’m going to get a caffeine fix so take your time…We’ll talk on the next post.

Millennials, leadership is influence

Millennials in the workplaceSo we’ve started talking about Gen Y (Millennials) leading in the workplace and what that really means. I guess we have to start with the definition of leadership in order to find out how to do it, right?

Leadership = Influence.

I’d love to take credit for that, but really that comes from a guy way smarter than me and even though he’s a boomer, he’s spent his life understanding and studying leadership. I can relate to what he’s selling because unlike many from his generation, he recognizes that we can all learn from each other.

All of our lives, we’ve been directed. We’re told what sports to play, what church to attend, what friends to hang out with, and even what college to go to. Now, we’ve hit the real world and there isn’t someone telling us what steps to take to lead…we have to figure that out on our own.

To me, that’s the fun part. I know that I don’t know everything and want to learn as much as I possibly can so what do I do?

I find mentors. I read constantly. I maintain a social network of experts in various fields I can access to help me. I read constantly. I ask older people what they think. I ask younger people what they think. I think. I read constantly…you get the picture.

The good news is that we are in a generation that is more open to sharing information than ever before and we have the tools to do that faster than ever before. The trick, however,  is sharing the right information and cultivating the right kinds of relationships necessary to be an effective leader.

Whether online or in person, knowing who to go to is very important to getting the job done. That’s a lesson in influence. You can’t get things done unless you know and partner with the key people in any organization.

Sometimes that means…wait for it…EVEN BOOMERS!!! aaaaah!

What can we do to partner with boomers (and Xers)?

Continue reading

Hey, Millennials, Learn to Lead

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about how Gen Y fits into the scheme of things in the workforce. As a generation, Gen Y MUST to learn to lead.

Millennials and career path

via Flicker user JobMeeting

We all know that Gen Y will be more than 50% of the workforce by 2020 and some estimates even show 75% by 2025. We also know they’re the “ME” generation; they’re the “entitled” generation; they’re the “lazy” generation, etc.

First, let me say to all of you who were born prior to 1978, you will have a really tough time understanding Gen Y, just as people older than you had a hard time understanding why you’d want to have teased up bangs or would voluntarily wear polyester (Gen Y doesn’t understand that one either).

Secondly, for those of us who are born after 1978, we think we can change the world and for the first time in history, we have the tools to actually do it. The only problem is that we’re not in charge…yet. What are we supposed to do in the meantime?

Actually, that’s not the ONLY problem for Gen Y. We’re going to be talking about some of the other issues our generation faces as we navigate our careers.

How we’re different:

Gen Y does almost everything differently. We (Gen Y) collaborate; they compete. We drift; they anchor. We don’t even think about diversity; they are trying to define it. We like praise; they consider a paycheck/promotion enough.

There are hours and hours of examples here; you get the picture.

How we’re the same:

What we tend to ignore (collective we being Gen Y, Gen X, Boomers, Traditionalists), is that we have many fundamental similarities. Passion, drive, work ethic, values, wanting to leave a legacy, spirituality, need to be a part of something, longing to learn and grow, etc., are just a few examples.

I know, you read that list and thought I’d lost my mind…that’s what separates us! WRONG! We all want those things, however, our definition of those things is quite different.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading the next few posts. If you disagree, please chime in and let me know how you see it differently.

Baby Boomers made bad decisions too

Mom & Dad 1971

Full disclosure:

I am a Gen Y but was born at the very beginning of the era. I was raised by Boomers who held very Traditionalist values. I’ve tried to expose myself to many different schools of thought from all the generations but I know I can only see things through my own eyes. I catch myself thinking like a Y and an X sometimes. You too, may not fit exactly into the neat little generational boxes and that’s okay.

My Goal:

Simply to expose others to different perspectives. My writing comes from much reading and research for a class I’m working on to teach leaders how to understand and to get the most out of different generations.

Enjoy!