“Why would I have to do what my boss asks me to do?” The student who asked this question of his friend was quite serious. Though it seems incredulous, with some thought, that question is not so easy to answer. The Millennial’s sincere curiosity wasn’t meant to be disrespectful. Yet the perception from most people who hear this question would be quite the opposite.
The Millennials aren’t coming. They’re here! In the workforce, there are 40 million of them (26% of the workforce) with 40 million more on the way. The hard truth is: to get the results you want, you’ll have to give Millennials what they want.
Unfortunately perceived attitudes of this younger generation often annoy managers and distract them from what’s important. That dilemma creates the danger that the incredible talent of this emerging generation will remain untapped. Instead, they need to be challenged to take on some of the world’s most critical issues and be instrumental in solving them. Rather than vilifying Millennials, they need to be engaged.
That cannot happen without understanding who the Millennials are. Of Millennials, 90 percent say they have a close relationship with their parents. These parents are very invested in their kids’ lives. American Idol engages 30 million generationally diverse families who bond with each other around the plasma screen. Millennials have values congruent with their parents, whereas Boomers rebelled against their parents.
With regard to technology, Milliennials have ianything. You name it, they’ll get it. Some GenXers are able users. But most Millennials are turbo-users. As toddlers, their favorite mouse wasn’t “Mickey.” It was the one on the desk next to their computer.
Millennials have been teamplayers throughout their childhood. In constant contact with others, they have an enormous capacity to work together. Teamwork is the nature of the future workforce, and Millennials are up to the task. For an idea of what the workplace of the future will look like, Rob Carter, chief information officer at FedEx, suggests observing the online game World of Warcraft. In this game, teams embark on fast-paced quests, which involve a complicated series of obstacles. The team leader is the one who contributes the most. When someone else steps up to contribute more, that individual becomes the leader. This game is intensely collaborative, constantly demanding, and often surprising. Carter explains, “It takes exactly the same skill set people will need more of in the future to collaborate on work projects, and kids are already doing it” (Anne Fisher, “The Future of Work,” Time, May 25, 2009. Available from http://www.time.com)
Here are 6 things to consider as the generational guard transitions to the next.
1. Don’t confuse “work” with a location.
For Millennials work is a state of mind, not a place to be. Think beyond a particular location being synonymous with work. Work can be done all over the map and at different time zones. Focus on the product, not the process.
2. Provide real time feedback.
Millennials often seem overconfident, especially with their “limited experience.” Typically Millennials hate that phrase because it’s the reason usually cited for not promoting them. That’s why Millennials need instant and ongoing feedback. And, they need to be challenged. With those specifics in mind, the downside is not so down. The upside is that Millennials are techno-wizards, quick learners, resourceful, and hard workers. Sound like someone you’d like to hire?
Provide feedback based on performance, not just for showing up. Giving Millennials a context for how their contributions relate to them, their organization, the customer, and society at large engages them and answers the question of why they should do what their supervisor asks.
“A pessimist sees the glass half empty. An optimist sees the glass half full. An engineer sees a glass twice the size it needs to be!” - Anonymous
Respond to the following statements with always, sometimes, and never:
- In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.
- If something can go wrong for me, it will.
- I hardly ever expect things to go my way.
- I rarely count on good things happening to me.
- Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.
In order to fully understand this topic, we have to get beyond the “half empty/half full” definition. The subject is also broader than a personality type. Some people are naturally bubbly while others take a few hours to get their engines running. Yet both can be optimists. Martin Seligman refers to this as a person’s outlook on life. He say’s everyone has an ”explanatory outlook.”
When there are those inevitable setbacks in life, the optimistic person interprets these as something that is:
- It can be changed
- It’s just this one situation
The pessimistic person sees the setback as:
- This is going to be forever
- This will undermine everything I do
When something good happens, the optimist explains it as:
- This will last forever
- I did this
- This will help me in every area
The pessimist, when they experience good things thinks:
- I didn’t do this
- It’s only this situation
- It only helps in this one domain
Everyone has an explanatory style. This is the way we view the world. It has a profound effect on how we view negative information in the media, work, school, or home. Optimism is really resilience more than temperament. The resilient sees negative information as temporary and feels they have some power to change it.
When bad things happen both the pessimist and the optimist embrace them. The difference is that the pessimist has a “see, I told you so” explanation. The optimist has an “I can recover from this” explanation. When good things happen the optimist embraces them, “this is wonderful; I want more.” But the pessimist discounts it by explaining, “this can’t last; it’s too good to be true.”
Here are 4 practices that will make our explanatory style more personally productive.
1. Acknowledge that you are the architect of your perceptions. Without this first step, you become a victim of things happening all around you. The way you see your life shapes your life. We all have our internal way of defining life which to a large degree determines our destiny. This acknowledgment is the beginning of opening yourself up to new possibilities.
“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” Margaret Cousins
Appreciation is more than a pat on the back. It’s about recognizing the efforts of others. It also means to increase in value overtime. We understand the concept of appreciation in the financial realm, yet increasing the value of others is what appreciation is all about. When we talk about appreciation there is a tendency to immediately go to the “how to’s” and miss some key foundational components. They will help or hinder your ability to add value to others.
Following are 5 tools that help fuel appreciation.
1. Culture – Culture is what happens by default if there is not intentional effort to create the one you want. Every organization – large and small – has a culture. Even every family has a culture. Where 2 or more people are gathered for any length of time, a culture exists. It has been referred to as the personality of the organization, group, or family. Often people don’t recognize it’s existence, but it is a major driver of behavior. Most people cannot describe what their culture is, any more than a fish (if they could talk), could tell you what water is. As a result, any attempt to appreciate or add value to others will hit roadblocks unless the culture supports it. That’s because culture is like the current that pulls people along. If the current is one of fear, mistrust, or toxic competition, it will be hard to add value to others without fighting the current. If the focus is on what is wrong or broken, appreciation is more difficult. If the focus is on looking for the best in others, then appreciation is propelled. Your group culture either advances or inhibits appreciation.
2. Gratitude – Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns meals into feasts, and strangers into friends. Those who are grateful are the best at adding value to others through appreciation. It is heartfelt and specific. When we realize how much we’ve been given, we have so much more to give. The more valuable we feel, the more value we can add. In fact, we can’t help but do this. When the cup of life is full and running over, others become fortunate recipients of recognition and value. It’s almost automatic. The appreciation comes with a subtle message that says, “I will not soon forget what you did.” Appreciation is really gratitude in action.
3. Margin – Without margin in our schedule it becomes difficult to do the important things. We live in a world of “spinning plates.” When we solve one problem, we leap to the next. With our frantic pace it’s easy to become a victim of the urgent things, while ignoring the important things. Important things are rarely urgent and therefore get shortchanged. And efficiency does not equal effectiveness. Doing things quicker is no substitute for doing the right thing. That’s like saying, “We are losing 5 cents on each sale, but we’ll make it up in volume.” Busyness causes us to miss the important. As Confucius said, “He who burns the candle at both ends is not too bright.”
“Our mission in life should be to make a positive difference, not to prove how smart we are or how right we are.” Peter Drucker
Leadership is about influence. When we influence others, we are leading them. When we influence ourselves, we are self-leading. That brings up the question, “What are the thoughts, behaviors and strategies that help us exert influence over ourselves?
Here are 5 ways smart people do this.
1. Make peace with the uncontrollable. Figure out the things you can change, and then change them. If you can’t change something, then learn to live with it. This means changing your attitude about the uncontrollable. You learn to live with it by making peace with it. I’ve discovered – repeatedly – that worrying about something is not a good problem-solving technique. Yet it becomes my default mode unless I replace it with something else. If I make peace with it then I can quit worrying about it. Worrying about something you can’t change is like being in a hole and digging faster. You feel like you’re doing something, but it only makes things worse. By not worrying, you make space for new thoughts and ideas to enter. Every life has positive and negative dimensions. Let go of what you can’t control. Invest your energy in things you can. Your attitude is the first place to start. Which means you must….
2. Let go of the past. We know nothing is gained by pointing out what others did, or what’s wrong with them. Yet we do this with ourselves. Focus on how to make the future better rather than why the past was bad. We learn from the past, but we don’t live there. We learn from the past and invest in the future by living today. Our brightest future hinges on today. Preparing today will eliminate repairing tomorrow. Take note of the beauty of today unfolding around you. If you assign it to the future, you will never experience it. If you fixate on the past, you have already missed it. This means you need to…….
At the core of personal mastery is self-understanding. This is where real growth takes place. Growth is first and foremost an inside job. Transformation is about dealing with fundamental motives and causes rather than simply dabbling with symptomatic issues.
Following are 5 “self’s” that will help in your quest for personal mastery.
1. Self-Awareness. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is not as easy as it sounds. To understand our personal surpluses and deficits is not an option on our journey to personal greatness. If we want to drive our performance, then we must be able to manage our emotions in ways that energize and direct that drive. The research is plentiful that I.Q. accounts for about 20% of a person’s success. Moods account for much more. If we are not aware of our moods then they can end up controlling our behavior in ways that are counterproductive. Self-awareness means we are growing in our ability to read our emotions accurately. This gives us the ability to self-regulate or self-manage destructive moods and attitudes. Mood mastery is necessary for personal mastery.
Be self-aware instead of self-conscious.
2. Self-Affirmation. We know it’s not healthy to speak against or gossip about others. It becomes even more destructive when we use words to speak against ourselves. Self-affirmation is a matter of choosing what we focus on. If others talked to us the way we sometimes talk to ourselves, we would avoid them. It can become easy to degrade ourselves – sometimes subliminally. Use the power of the word toward yourself in the direction of truth and love. Instead of letting other people and circumstances decide what you will focus on, make it your choice. Attitudes that asphyxiate? “You’re no good…lousy…incompetent…unable …ordinary…worthless. Attitudes that affirm? “I am lovable…forgivable…capable… have strengths…am multi-talented…have purpose.” The world can be a negative place. You must counteract toxic noise.
Be self-affirming instead of self-degrading.
3. Self-Motivation. If you are waiting to be motivated by someone else, personal mastery will elude you. Always giving your best is an inside job. Some days are better than others, but each day you give your best. Anything less leads to a “thin” life and ultimately, regret. Motivation is the underlying reason why a person does or does not do something. The “stick and carrot” incentive is not nearly as powerful as a person’s own innate interests. This raises the level of personal productivity and individual engagement. It’s about knowing how you are hardwired and drawing on your natural sense of intrigue.
Be self-motivated instead of self-absorbed.
3 Ways The Search For Meaning Impacts Your Life
“Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose”. Albert Einstein
Perhaps you’ve seen this picture of our Milky Way Galaxy.
Our galaxy is 100,000 light years1 across. It takes our solar system 250 million years to orbit once around our galaxy (a galactic year). And it is only one of hundreds of billions of galaxies. The image is daunting as you read “You are here.” We are one tiny speck in this vast cosmic seashore.
Think of it. You are 1 in 7 billion people – a tiny speck of dust – living on a speck of dust, in a galaxy that’s a speck of dust in this vast universe. We find ourselves in a seemingly endless ocean of nothingness.
In our own galaxy we live on the outer edge as an imperceptible speck. We are both fragile and special at the same time.
When we do a fast microscopic collapse of this universe down to our individual lives, we get hit at a deeper level with deeper questions. You and I have been given a life consisting of moments. These moments are precious and they matter. What is the meaning of life? And so we intuitively turn the question “you are here”, into………….
“Why are you here?”
Theologians and psychologists have brought it down to our deepest question of meaning. We phrase it in different ways, often referring to it as “our true north.” We are programmed to seek the answer. The ancient sages wrote, “eternity has been placed in our hearts.” And our technological advances have only deepened that question and made it more relevant.
Here are 3 ways the quest for meaning impacts our life.
1. Meaning impacts our purpose – our need to do. We are programmed for accomplishment. Purpose is our need to live for something bigger than ourselves. It’s our innate need “to make our dent in the universe.” It’s difficult to grow beyond the size of our purpose. You cannot have a peak performance without a peak purpose. We have a need to move, to seek, and to find our place in life. There is risk involved, but all the risk comes from doing. So we choose risk over stagnate living. Rooted in our core is the need to do, to grow, to become more than we are. Ambition is in our DNA. Aspirations energize us. We have dreams, and these dreams keep the future personally alive. When the present gets hard, our dreams are there to comfort – “It will get better.” It makes transcending the difficulty easier. So it’s in our very nature to do. But to do what?
2. Meaning impacts our significance – our need to make sense. Sense-making is unique to humans. We look at things and ascribe meaning to them.
We have this innate need to make sense out of life. The only way to avoid this is to numb ourselves with the anesthetic of minutia. It’s impossible not to attempt to find meaning in our lives. We connect thoughts, patterns and events. We are constantly mapping. Our desire is to create a powerful meaning that becomes the ultimate sense-maker. The sense usually includes others in a shared future. We do it individually, but not in isolation.
YOU CANNOT GROW WITHOUT DISCOMFORT
“If you let fear of consequences prevent you from following your deepest instinct, your life will be safe, expedient and thin.” – Katharine Butler Hathaway
Without personal growth our lives can feel thin. Thin is another word for shallow. We intuitively know there is more. Somewhere between “I know” and “I don’t know” is where real learning takes place. This is where we discover our unique personal line between success and failure. It’s the spotlight that grows bigger as we stretch our circle of comfort. It’s a buffer zone called “risk.” So there we are – moving from “what I know” and “what I can do” into that free fall zone of “what I don’t know” and “I’m not quite sure how this will turn out.”
Staying in the comfort zone results in no progress. It’s like sitting in your car and moving the steering wheel while the car is in “park”. There is lots of busyness, but no progress. The key is to go forward and learn along the way. You are in the stretch zone, and in doing so you are expanding your circle of comfort. Be prepared to hear the voice of fear trying to outshout the voice of confidence. Know which one to mute and which one to heed. The best way to mute it is to move forward.
Here are 4 road signs to pay attention to as you make progress.
1. It’s closer than you think. Push against the tendency to quit too soon. Most people quit before they should. This is the only difference between those who succeed and those who don’t. Most quit right before the breakthrough. The darkest part of the morning is right before sunrise. The Donner Party was only 5 miles from civilization when they did the unthinkable act of cannibalism. Remember when it gets really tough that the breakthrough is close.
2. Your “next step” is where learning takes place. So don’t be afraid to cross that line. That “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” zone is the point where ignorance is decreased. Understanding is expanded. Insights penetrate our core. It’s just a little further to get what you want. Is it risky? Yes. But not as much as you think. Risk is an essential part of progress. In baseball you can’t get to second base without taking a lead off first base. That’s the stretch zone, where you expand your circle of comfort. You can stay close to first base and wish you had longer legs, but it doesn’t work that way. The fruit of the tree is out on the limb. Wishing for longer arms doesn’t work. You have to go get it. Take the next step.
3. Get out of your own way. We often cause ourselves to get stuck. Getting unstuck allows the real you to get on its way. Avoid the negative thinking. By pass the fear of the unknown. Ignore those thoughts of failure. These are all emotional vampires that suck the energy right out of you. Consider that life is full of surprises. That’s what stretch zones are all about. You will not grow beyond the size of your dreams. Negative thinking, fear, and failure don’t like to go there, so I suggest you leave them behind. They’re baggage that’s useless as you cross the line. It’s all about learning something new and they don’t care. It’s what Zig Ziglar called “stinking thinking.” Give yourself a “check up from the neck up”, get out of your own way, and take that next step.
3 Ways Brief Encounters Promote Growth
“Being a leader is like running a cemetery. There’s a lot of people under you – and nobody’s listening.” – Bill Clinton
Are you creating the best place, where the best people, can do their best work? Building an organization that’s fit for the future cannot happen without building an organization that’s fit for human beings. This kind of caring culture doesn’t start big. It starts small – in those everyday encounters with the folks you come in contact with.
Busy people tend to sidestep these moments. Our to-do lists are long, and people can seem like an obstacle to productivity. At least that’s the way we feel. Leaders must have the balcony view of the organization. That’s the larger, big picture view. As important as that is, it’s only part of a leader’s focus. There is also the basement experience. This is the human side of the organization. It’s the up close and personal view. One is a see it view, and the other is a feel it experience.
This is where those small and brief interactions become highly invaluable.
Here are 3 ways these interactions promote growth.
1. Brief encounters help us understand the organization. Before you can lead an organization you must understand it. In reality it’s an organism. Now there’s no such thing as an unorganized organism. Even the simple cell is organized. And the larger the organism, the more complex the organization. But it’s first and foremost an organism – in this case – made up of people.
As leaders we strive for alignment throughout the organization. Yet the effective leader also takes a deep dive as an active participant. She/he feels the humanness and the messiness that accompanies every complex organism. She/he understands where resistance to change is lodged. Conflicting needs are spotted. Both growth and stability are combined that leads to innovation and change. Those in charge see (balcony), and feel (basement), the tension which better equips them to lead.
2. Brief encounters give us the opportunity to be authentic. Authenticity means connecting with yourself and with others. Authenticity is often misunderstood. It’s not an individual sport. It’s a team sport. It’s not self-centered. It’s other-centered. It’s being true to yourself while at the same time bringing out the best in others. Saying whatever is on your mind might be spontaneous, but it’s not necessarily authentic. Being rude does not usually reflect what we say we value at our core. Being authentic is not “shooting from the hip.” If mutual respect is important then controlling our responses is acting authentically.
Authenticity and effectiveness go together. And it’s both personal and social. In the book Why Should Anyone Be Lead By You?, the authors talk about what it means to be authentic. “A leader has to be many things to many people. The trick is to pull that off while remaining true to yourself.”
3. Brief encounters become touchpoints that add value. Many interruptions are touchpoints in disguise. In his book Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, Douglas Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup, says that “small everyday encounters define your impact on your organization and your reputation.” These touchpoints are the multiple interactions we have everyday. What we think keeps us from our real work could be the real work. What if they were turned into opportunities to communicate vision, values, and culture? A time waster becomes a strategy enhancer.
As you touch people and add value to their life, you add value to your organization. Maybe it’s celebrating a success, discussing an issue, or answering a question. It cuts across all leadership encounters – teaching, coaching, parenting, managing. Look for ways to improve on those moments. As you listen, frame, and advance the conversation, your leadership comes to life.
Turning interruptions into interactions helps you understand the organization from the balcony to the basement – you see it and feel it. It affords you the opportunity to deploy your best self – your authentic self. It provides you with an opportunity to add value to others – turning the touchpoint into an impactful encounter.
6 brief encounters everyday adds up to over 2100 potentially powerful interactions each year.
That little moment is no small matter.
3 Ways To Set Tripwires In Those Important Areas Of Your Life
A tripwire is a passive triggering mechanism. It’s a cord, string, or wire that is attached to some device for detecting or reacting to physical movement. It’s an early warning system that some choices have to be made.
In the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath, they use the concept of a tripwire as a tool to make better decisions.
A tripwire is something that triggers a call to action. It tells you to pay attention. It could be a weight trigger that sets off your mental alarm to watch what you eat and start exercising. It might be a trigger that calls attention to the inattentiveness toward your loved ones. It could be a pre-established marker in your business that triggers the need for some important choices and actions.
The point? It’s harder to make a decision if you don’t know one needs to be made. That’s where tripwires come into play.
Since most of our day is on autopilot, we are prone to miss those little decisions that have a disproportionate impact on our lives. Tripwires serve us well. Rather than saying, “should I or should I not buy this product?” we can say, “if x, y, or z happens I will (or won’t) buy this.” This is much more productive than impulse buying, and it will help eliminate buyer’s remorse.
I have a friend who has a tripwire when attending parties or social events. His tripwire is 2 drinks and then bring on the sparkling water. He knows the results of having more, so the number 2 is the tripwire in his head. It reminds him of an important choice he must make. If he was on autopilot he would float right into the “land of Oz”.
Autopilot behavior in any endeavor – when communicating, driving, showering, eating, working – goes unexamined. This is not all bad. These are routines that don’t take up a lot of thinking. It frees our minds to consider other things. But when more scrutiny is needed, autopilot behavior ceases to serve us. When driving a car autopilot works just fine – that is until it’s time to change directions. The same principle works in the routines of our lives.
For instance, someone you know has always wanted to go on a particular trip. Yet year after year they keep putting it off, waiting for the right time. But putting it off becomes habitual. The only trip they ever take is to that fantasy island called “someday I’ll”. They need a tripwire. It could be a financial number that’s put aside for their trip. When they hit that number, they have a choice to make. The tripwire could be their health. How many years of great health do they have left? Pick a reasonable age, and when it comes – Go! The trap is to slowly drift into a stage of health that prohibits robust travel. A tripwire can help.
Tripwires are also helpful when it comes to relationships. Autopilot becomes an ally of denial. A tripwire can break the spell and force a decision. We’ve all heard the statement, “My boyfriend is disrespectful. He’s not treating me right. But hopefully he will change with time.” The wait and see attitude is the same as autopilot. A tripwire would alert you to act at choice points if certain behaviors don’t change. Being late, disrespectful tone, interrupting, changing the subject, etc., all become tripwires.
Here are 3 ways to set up tripwires in those important parts of your life.
1. Establish built in alarms at choice points. As stated earlier, it could be a weight on the scale. Maybe it’s a certain number in your checking account that sounds an alarm. Perhaps it’s a personal attitude. When you express it, there is an alarm that causes you to take note. I use this one when I’m driving. When I feel anger over someone’s driving behavior, an alarm goes off in my head. At that moment I catch myself and (usually), choose to respond rationally. I’m reminded that it’s my choice.
5 Ways To Overcome Your Fears
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” – Francis Chan
Fear is a fact. We all experience it. When I talk about fears, I’m not referring to the phobias that people have or the adrenaline that explodes through our body when our safety is suddenly threatened. The first needs clinical help, and the second recedes as the danger passes.
I’m talking about those fears that keep you stuck in some area of your life – where you cheat yourself and the people who will benefit from your gifts.
It’s easy to say that fear is not real – that F.E.A.R. stands for “False Evidence About Reality”. And there is truth to that statement. We might regret the past, but we don’t fear it. The present isn’t what we fear either. What we are anxious about and fear (these are closely related), is the future. And since it hasn’t arrived, it is not real. It’s also true that many of the things we fear will not come to pass.
Yet fear persists. It distorts our ability to make decisions. It impacts our relationships, our health, our work, and our spirituality. In short, it prevents us from experiencing the “good life”. The more we buy into its control, the more we forget about our strengths, brilliance, and resilience.
Our fears can become the barrier to the life we truly want. Do you fear rejection, going broke, living alone? Who hasn’t had these fear-filled thoughts at some point? The problem is when they are isolated, amplified, and take control. When that happens, you have bought into the illusion. When you act on the illusion, at that point it becomes real. It acts as the escort of your terror – the irrational thinking, anxiety, and worry. Along with that come the side effects of a speeding heart and sleepless nights.
What actions can we take to move out of our fear and into greatness? The following are 5 ways to overcome your fears and take back control.
1. Be specific about your fears. Is it fear of loss, failure, risk, change, or even success? Hiding them gives them energy. By bringing them out into the light of day you decrease their power over you. By identifying them you begin to take back control. Rather than being haunted by them you are now dealing with them.
2. Change your perception. Listen to the stories you tell yourself about your intelligence and strengths. Your self-worth is just that – worth you ascribe to yourself. Expect to succeed. You can expect the best or the worst. It’s your choice, so why not expect the best. Your thinking will snowball in the direction you choose.
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