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

Silence Your Saboteur!

Learn How We Derail Our Goals And Steps To Get Back On Track

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work with a personal coach. I learned how I (and others) self-sabotage when working towards our goals. In my initial meetings through various processes, my coach discovered my values and goals in several areas of my life. Subsequently, I would meet with her weekly on the telephone and discuss how I was doing in my business and in my personal life. I would report on my progress toward achieving my various goals. Through this process, I discovered a saboteur that would show up from time to time and stop or slow my progress towards my goals. This saboteur was no foreign or domestic terrorist. This saboteur was grown much closer to home.

I had declared I really wanted to achieve certain financial goals. When I didn’t achieve these goals as expected, I would become frustrated. This caused me to push harder to achieve my goal. You might be thinking, “bravo Spencer, push on!” What I found was the harder I pushed the further I would get from my goal. I would become cranky and curt with co-workers and loved ones. In these moments, my way of being was blocking me from achieving my goals. My coach asked me to give my sabotaging behavior a name so I could recognize it when it showed up.

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Captain Insano

The purpose of this exercise was to help me identify my saboteur. I worked to understand what my saboteur would sound like when he talked. I identified his fears and more importantly, his values. I needed to understand how the saboteur’s values would hijack and terrorize my declared values for his values. The name I gave my saboteur was Captain Insano, made famous by Adam Sandler’s “Water Boy”. In the movie, Captain Insano is a wrestler who the Water Boy idolizes. He offers his services to Captain Insano through a nationally televised fan show. When captain Insano learns the Water Boy is 31 years old, he maniacally laughs at him in front of the TV audience. In this moment his vulnerability is exposed, and his hopes and dreams of working with his idol have been sabotaged.Block What you think

After this original inspiration for the name of my saboteur, I learned that the Urban Dictionary defines “Captain Insano” as an individual who may or may not be at fault for their habitual stupidity due to their bi-polar nature and lack of general common sense. My saboteur would show up at vulnerable times and stop me in my tracks. Many of us construct saboteurs as a self-protection mechanism. Most often they protect us in an awkward way. They will say to us, “stay where you are at, it is more comfortable here!” “It is okay to be mediocre because not as many demands and expectations are made of you!” In a relationship, a saboteur might tell us to avoid taking a chance so we won’t get hurt.

When I declared I wanted to write a book. Captain Insano showed up and asks, “what have you got to say that people want read?” He convinces me I am neither interesting nor unique. When I became CEO of a company that had been struggling, I would hear Captain Insano tell me the fight I was experiencing was not one I could win. He said I should just give up and not put myself through unnecessary pain and misery. He told me I deserved to be successful and perhaps that could be achieved elsewhere. He justified for me why it was okay to give up and give in. If you are like me and want to achieve your goals, it is time to stop the saboteur inside your head for good.

Steps to defeat your merciless saboteur:

  1. Identify your saboteur:

    Notice when you feel frustrated, angry, sarcastic, dismissive, afraid, unmotivated or upset. Your specific block to success could be fear of failure, fear of success, conflict avoidance, verbally attacking others, steamrolling others, need to be right, focus on problems, inability to say no, controlling, inflexible, have to work too hard, need to be liked, fear of embarrassment, fear of rejection, overly skeptical, overly agreeable, analysis paralysis, critical, procrastination and many more. Consider asking someone you trust for help identifying your self-sabotaging behaviors.

  2. Name your saboteur:

    Notice what is happening when the above negative feelings arise. Begin to understand what situations give your saboteur power. Recognizing that you are recognizing will help you regain control of your thoughts and behaviors. Naming your saboteur will help you to not take yourself so seriously and become more objective about your behavior.

  3. Focus on the outcomes of success you have declared:

    When you hear the saboteur talking negatively in your ear, Block focus-on-where-you-want-to-go-not-on-what-you-fearstate the outcome you desire. For example, when Captain Insano tells me no one wants to read or hear what I want to say, I tell myself “people are interested in what I have to say. I have ability to influence people to achieve positive results.” As I focus on these positive statements, I hear the saboteur less and I begin to program my subconscious thoughts to start supporting my goals declared by my conscious thoughts.Block celebrate-what-youve-accomplished-but-raise-the-bar-a-little-higher-each-time-you-succeed-mia-hamm

  4. Celebrate your progress:

    Recognize that you are making improvement. If your saboteur is strong, understand it will take time to defeat and be kind to yourself. You may have years of practice listening to your saboteur. Avoid letting your saboteur talk bad about you. When you start to notice any improvement, it is okay to cheer yourself on. Gain confidence with each small victory and keep moving forward, even after a challenging time where you may have taken a step or two back to your old habits.

  5. Get out of your comfort zone:

    Look for opportunities to get outside of your comfort zone. This is where you will learn new empowering behaviors. Recognize the conversations with your saboteur are designed to keep you in your comfort zone. When that happens, you will not move towards your goals. Do something uncomfortable everyday. Call a new prospect, ask for help that you need, get up and give a presentation, etc.

  6. Breathe:

    When you are frustrated upset or angry, often during these moments you are not breathing effectively and the lack of oxygen encourages your saboteur. Slow down and breath. Oxygen helps Captain Insano fall asleep.

As I have gotten control of my saboteur, my results have dramatically improved. He still shows up from time to time. I am more equipped to deal with him. As a result, I feel much happier and more confident.

Start now to defeat your saboteur. Achieve the success you deserve! If you feel you are getting stuck, work with an expert who can help you, do it today! Remember…Block insanoThe author Spencer Horn, is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy these additional articles: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”,“The Power of Accountability;” “Act As If Today”