Effectively Managing The Praised Generation

There is a generation out in the workforce today who do not regard, accept or handle feedback or criticism. Often when some of these young professionals run into opposition or frustration at work, they don’t always handle it well. If they don’t get along with a boss, many quit within weeks of being hired. They stay in a job less than two years compared to the average worker who stays in their job about 4.4 years (Bureau of Labor and Statistics). These employees belong to what is called the “praised generation.” Effectively managing the praised generation is a business necessity.

One problem with this generation is they have been overly praised by well-meaning parents. These parents have boosted self-esteem by telling their children how amazing, smart and talented they are. This form of praise, according to psychologist Carol Dweck, can create a fixed mindset that does not respond well to setbacks or opposition. These children are entering the workforce and according to Ms. Dweck, “…many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move. Companies are reinforcing this behavior by shifting annual bonuses to quarterly or even monthly. Instead of employee of the month, it is employee of the day. Companies are hiring consultants to help them recruit, reward and retain this population.” I just attended an event where one of these consultants was giving my CEO peer group advice to better manage this generation. We have a workforce with too many that require constant positive feedback and can’t handle feedback for improvement.

Two things need to happen for this to change: 1. Managers must to own their behaviors and learn to be better bosses and learn to encourage better behaviors in their employees. 2. Younger employees must learn some resilience and learn how to deal with conflict and disappointment when things don’t go their way like they may be used to. It is important that we figure this out, because like it or not, Millenials (praised generation) are currently the largest generation in the workforce and will make up 49% of the workforce by 2020. They also have many tremendous talents and qualities that will benefit in our businesses.

So what do we do? Long-term: Parents must be willing to allow their children to fail. Help them feel the consequences of loosing a game occasionally, instead of a trophy just for showing up. They need to know when they do a great job and when they can do better. My wife and I have five children. Some of our children are grown and are doing well; they hard working productive members of society. They (mostly) took correction well and learned from mistakes. Some are still growing and learning. Our parenting is sometimes viewed as unreasonable and punishments are sometimes considered ‘mean’ and/or ‘crazy’. Our behavior is viewed as the problem rather than their actions being the issue. We, as parents, have had to be consistent and fair in order to develop responsible, productive adults.

My wife and I get feedback from other parents who say our children are well adjusted. It leads me to believe that many are not ‘leaning’ into the discomfort of teaching children discipline. It is not about being friends. It is about being loving parents. Part of my evidence about these parents comes from managers who are asking for my help with these praised children who work for them. More disturbing evidence of failed parenting comes from a conversation I had recently with a district judge in Las Vegas, where I live. He tells me that convicted felon’s always ask for mercy and don’t feel they deserve punishment for their crimes. He said when he gives the sentence, he is called ‘crazy’, ‘mean’, and worse things including threats. This judge knows the only way we learn is if we experience the consequences of our choices. Society it seems, must bear some of the burden of parenting deficiencies.

My question for you as a leader is-how well do you handle adversity? How good are you at taking responsibility for your actions and your failures? We live in a society where so many look to blame others for their failings. It seems most would do anything they can to avoid consequences. People with this mindset fail to learn and grow because they perceive consequences as negative. Many have the attitude that laws apply to everyone else and breaking the law is okay as long as you don’t get caught. Then if you do, it is because you are being treated unfairly.

So what can you do be more effective as a manager of this praised generation?

  1. Adjust your expectations:
    Realize that developing this praised generation into productive contributors in your business takes commitment and consistency. You cannot simply hope the problem will solve itself. Make employee development an integral part of your business strategy.
  2. Learn how to praise: 
    Ms. Dweck gives some great advice that I support which you can immediately implement. Change what you praise your kids and employees for. When they do something hard, praise them for that. When they stick with a project regardless of the outcome, praise them for their commitment. Praise them for the effort not the outcome. Instead of praising for a job well done or a brilliant performance or a great idea, praise them for taking initiative. Ms Dweck even says, tongue in cheek, “praise them for not needing constant praise.”
  3. Coach & Mentor: 
    Develop coaching and mentoring programs that focus on soft as well and hard skills. Have a deliberate leadership development program that identifies and advances high potential employees.
  4. Fail forward: 
    Create an environment where people have enough freedom to learn by trial and error. Encourage employees to take initiative and take risks within reasonable limits. Mistakes can accelerate learning.
  5. Increase conflict: 
    Learning how to normalize conflict and disagreement. With the proper training, managers can learn how to turn conflict into a positive tool for the organization. It will help employees learn to constructively give feedback and benefit from disagreement. Building these conflict muscles will help develop this praised generation and consequently, help older generations make better decisions and be more engaged and productive.

The solution takes persistence and commitment. Your efforts can yield great benefits. Despite some of the negative press the “praised generation” gets, they have a great deal to offer and they are the future of your business.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC.

Other topics that may interest you: Magnify Your Reputation; How To Make Yourself Instantly More Valuable;  Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionWhat Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You?Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?Cure For The CEO DiseaseWhen Being Too Smart Hurts You

How To Solve More Problems As A Leader

7 Steps For A More Productive Team

One of the problems I see with leaders is they solve too many problems. Wait…you just said this article is about solving MORE problems, not that I am solving too many! That is right. Sometimes we get so solution oriented, and so bottom-line obsessed, we actually make more work for ourselves. You may be sabotaging your ability to be productive when your team members come to rely on your genius and acumen instead of developing their own. They pass the ball to you to make the game winning shot because they have confidence in you and also, because they lack confidence in themselves.

Many managers I know are overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities. They spend much of their time fighting fires or going from one crisis to the next. When they do spend the time to plan, they rarely implement those plans; instead they go hastily back to their frenetic problem solving ways. Worse, they spend very little time developing the capacity of their teams. They may abdicate employee development to HR or a training course. It is time to get off the hamster wheel of crisis management! To become more productive and efficient, start investing time to develop the skills and abilities of your team members.

One of the most important tasks of leadership is to elevate the leadership capacity and problem solving skills of our teams. Managers may intellectually understand this is true, however, the following may be some reasons they don’t change:

  1. Managers are addicted to being needed:
    There is something satisfying about being the “go to person”. Some managers believe that making themselves indispensable may provide job security.
  2. Managers don’t know better:
    They have been taught their whole life to take action. They have been told what to do by parents, teachers, coaches, professors, military leaders, past bosses and more. They may have learned habits of tell and do. Because telling or dictating is a poor way to get people to act, employees of today may fall short of the “dictator’s” expectations. This reinforces the manager’s belief that his people are incapable and perpetuates a vicious cycle.
  3. Lack of trust:
    When manager’s lack trust in the ability of direct reports to solve problems or take on greater responsibility, they actually stunt their employee’s growth. This leads to only assigning tasks they are “certain” they can handle. I believe people can accomplish much more than we give them credit for. By not challenging our people, we ensure their dependence on us and keep ourselves on the hamster week. I discuss the importance of giving your people stretch assignments in How To Prepare Your Next Generation of Leaders. Giving your team members opportunities to grow means getting out of your comfort zone and their comfort zone. Let me give you an example: My son’s both play volleyball for their high school. One plays varsity and one Jr. varsity. The Jr. Varsity coach has begun a rotation only relying on a few starters. In practice, he only focuses on starters. In tough games, only this group plays and they get tired after a while and make mistakes. However, since the coach does not have confidence in the ability of the other players, he only plays the same few. While this groups ability increases, the ability of the rest of the team begins to atrophy’. The coach’s dependence on the group of starters actually increases his dependence on them. At first this is great for the starters. But they soon feel tremendous pressure to perform and with very little respite, their performance begins to diminish.
  4. Control obsession:
    Managers may be controlling in how they want things done. When team members are given authority to solve problems on their own, they may take a different approach than the manager.
  5. Confused good boss syndrome:
    Some manager’s may actually think they are being kind by bailing their team members out. They may shoulder more work thinking they are protecting their team.
  6. Managers are busy:
    They think they don’t have the time to invest in their people. They hope they figure it out on their own. After all, isn’t that what you did? What worked for you and your generation, will probably not work today. There are to many options for our employees. If they do not get what they need and want from you, they can easily get it somewhere else. The revolving door of employees adds to the lack of time managers have to train and develop. Hiring new employees takes a lot of time. Not to mention the extra work required filling the vacancies of employees who quit or were terminated.
  7. Talent hoarding:
    According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, one reason some managers don’t elevate, develop and encourage some of their top performers is to keep them on the team. It is called talent hoarding. This natural tendency to hold on to top performers will back fire and hurt the business. If these employees are not given an opportunity to grow and develop with you, they will go somewhere else. You will be forced to replace them.

Whatever the reason you are not developing your team, stop it. You will only disengage your employees. People usually perform to the level of expectation. If your expectations are low, they are probably being met, though not to your satisfaction. You then will probably shoulder more responsibility until you become at least frustrated, or worse, exhausted and burned out. And finally you may take drastic measures like quit, or fire the people you feel are making your life miserable.

I am convinced the employees we hire do not take a job hoping they will be underutilized and hoping they will underperform. They join us with hopes and expectations of learning and growing and contributing. Here are some ways to help you enable your team members to be productive:

  1. Believe they can do more:
    Always believe in the potential of your employees. You just have to figure out how to enable their potential. That comes from taking personal responsibility for their development and not blaming them for your failure to support and train them.
  2. Refuse to solve every problem your employees encounter:
    When they come to you asking for help, ask them to come up with at least two ideas for how they would handle it. You may be surprised with the solutions they find. If the solutions are not good, give encouraging feedback. This is how they learn. Repeat the process often.
  3. Brainstorm together:
    This is an effective process when stakes are high and margin for error is small. Take opportunities to work on problems together. Make sure you give your employees space in these sessions to come up with ideas. Discuss the merits of ideas and come to a decision together.
  4. Praise your team members for their efforts:
    Let them know when they do well. Make sure they are not just hearing from you when they make a mistake. When you encourage them for initiative and perseverance, you will get more of that behavior.
  5. Be willing to let your people fail:
    People often learn the most from failure. If you trust your people are doing their very best, you know they do not purposely want to create problems.
  6. Take a close look at how you may be contributing to the problem:
    The culture of your team enables the results you are achieving. The culture of your team is a reflection of your leadership. Be willing to work on yourself. Learn how you may be getting in your own way as a leader. Learn how to ask better questions that engage and encourage versus being a teller or dictator. Learn how to create an environment of trust where people work to solve problems, go the extra mile and help each other out.
  7. Make time to teach them:
    In addition to your coaching and instruction, give them opportunities to develop their skills and talents through in house and external training programs.

The investment of time you make in developing your team will come back to you. You will see your direct reports shouldering more and more of the responsibility you now carry. As they do this, your trust in them will increase. As you give them more responsibility, their capabilities will grow. The only way for you to grow is to help others grow. As that happens, the ability of the team to get stuff done increases. What if one of the people you develop does so well, they get promoted off the team? Be happy for them. Change is part of life. Train their replacement and become known for the leader who elevates and develops other leaders.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not Intention; How To Prepare Your Next Generation Of Leaders; Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leaders With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change Today; Cure For The CEO Disease

 

How To Get Your People To Change Today

I talk to executives almost daily about problems they have with their employees. Employees seem to do what they want to do. In a few cases it is defiance. In most cases these problems are caused by a lack of effective leadership. Many managers have no idea how train, mentor, and motivate their people to do the job well or they complain they are too busy.

If you think you are too busy to spend the necessary time to develop your people correctly, they will learn how things are really done in your organization from someone else. Most managers and supervisors are promoted because they are usually the best employees at their specific job. Problems often arise when an employee does a good job and is promoted. The skills that made the employee great do not always translate to being an effective manager or leader. Leading and managing other people who do the job, is very different than doing the job.

A lack of management skill is a big part of the problem. I recently met with a rising tech company in Massachusetts. They had many bright young employees they recruited from Harvard, MIT, Boston College and more. I learned they had a strong focus on creating a vibrant culture. To measure their progress, they conduct a quarterly employee survey. They find much that is positive. However, the number one employee complaint is that managers have no idea what they are doing. Employees want to do a great job. They want to make a difference in what they do. They want to learn and grow. They want to have pride in their company and what they do.

Just yesterday I was with an executive team of a $50 million division of a $570 million company that is working on culture change. Their efforts have had some success but not to the degree they desired. A few of the managers actually admitted to the CEO they did not know how to implement the behavior change initiatives they had committed to. This was the main reason they were not moving forward as desired. They knew why they needed to change culture and they agreed with the initiatives. They just needed more focused direction on how and what they needed to do.

The following is a 5 step coaching process to help your employees change behavior:

The process is called I.H.O.T. or “I have observed…” is a coaching methodology to facilitate changes needed to achieve a goal or handle an issue. The coaching conversation has several steps I will outline here.

  1. Define the problematic behavior:

    “Sarah, in the past week I have observed that you have been more than 30 minutes late on three occasions.” Or, “I have asked you here to discuss…..” Avoid labels and just focus on the behavior. It is important the employee acknowledges their behavior before you move to the next step.

  2. Discuss possible causes:

    Ask open-ended questions to understand what is happening. Using, how, what, where, when, and who will help you get the information you need. Some other open-ended questions are “please explain….” or “please help me understand….” Most managers go right into solution mode when there is a problem. Instead, ask questions and listen.

  3. Discuss possible solutions:

    Do not suggest a solution. Ask your employee for possible solutions. If you give a solution and the employee does not have success with your approach, they blame you. You take away their accountability. If it is their idea, there will be greater buy-in and accountability. If their solution is acceptable to you, ask when they will make the change, “by when will you accomplish this…. etc.” If it is not acceptable, ask what else they can do until you are satisfied. Finally, ask how they would like you to help them.

  4. Agree on solution:

    Determine an implementation plan.

  5. Follow-up:

    It absolutely crucial you follow-up with the employee by the time specified for them to complete the behavior. Inspect what you expect. When they have made the change, recognize their efforts. Tell them they are doing a good job and improvement is being made. You may also follow-up before the deadline to ask them how they are doing and provide any needed support.

Most employees want to do the right thing and will appreciate a coaching approach if it is sincere and focused on helping them solve a problem or improve. If the employee is not open to coaching, they probably will not admit to the behavior problem in step 1. In this case you need to determine quickly if they are right for your organization.

Spend the time necessary to train, coach and mentor your people. It always takes less time in the long run. For those managers who claim to be so busy, what could be more important than the development and engagement of your people? If your people were doing what you hired them to do, would you have more time? Schedule time in your busy day to do the things that matter most and enjoy the positive results. If you find it hard to find more time in the day, look for a future article on how to find more time in your day and why employees don’t do what you need them to do.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

Related topics: Disengagement And The “Love What You Do Myth”; Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?; How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team; One Reason A Healthy Culture Is Essential; The Power Of Accountability;

How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team

Effective Questions Help You Motivate, Coach, Mentor, Challenge, Engage, Discover, Understand and Improve

So often leaders feel they need to tell their employees what to do and answer all their questions. This can cause them to miss valuable opportunities to help teach and develop their people. By asking your people to come up with their own solutions, you let them struggle which causes greater learning and learning retention.  By asking questions and for input in meetings and on proposed initiatives, you get great feedback which may improve outcomes and avoid mistakes. You also increase engagement. Telling people what to do causes them to be less engaged. If what you tell them does not work and they are not bought in, they blame the leader instead of taking ownership.  Asking questions helps reduce emotions during conflict and challenging conversations by engaging the logic center of your brain. Learning the art of effective open ended questioning will help you be a more effective leader. Take time to learn this skill today!

Another really effective tool for getting the information you need is “help me understand…” or “please give me a specific example…” You can ask about thought process, how confident some is about a decision, how they made a decision, or why they took a specific action, etc. This is especially helpful when you are frustrated with someone and you want to ask “why did you do that?” Instead, take a calm and curious approach. You may find the the decision or action was exactly what was called for and you will maintain a professionalism the ensures the confidence and trust of your team.