The Millennial Mindset Is Nothing New

As some of you know, I run a contrarian view of the widespread concern for millennials in the workplace. Time and time again I find workshops and speakers touting their newfound wisdom about how “to cope with millennials in the workplace”.

Executives everywhere are pondering this epidemic conundrum, or so the pundits tell us. I, on the other hand, am the father of 5 such citizens. These are 30–something, young adults who are moving through their lives, working jobs, making budgets, having kids, and basically living life, one new experience at a time, just like we all have done.

millennial, business, workplace, entrepreneur

Are they really different? I say not so much.

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Leaders: Making the Best of Change Management

business coach, consulting, executive coaching, headwayexec, executive coach houston

Though first recognized as a management discipline in the 60’s, change management (CM) is a discipline that rose in prominence in the 90s.

I share a bitter-sweet experience with formal change management protocols. Being a pragmatic and common sense kind of guy, my best work has involved making complex things simple for everyone around me to understand.

Courtesy 123rf.comI have seen “change management professionals” who bring a very complex set of tools and vocabulary to the workplace. Often the project is doomed to fail before it ever starts because the sheer weight of the new terms being used burden the effort beyond most employee’s capacity to comprehend.

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Managers! The Problem Is NOT the Problem

People in management and leadership deal with problems all day long. Plans and projects get started, procedures are written and taught, but things go awry.

Challenges present themselves in so many forms. People problems, supply problems, customer problems, and so on and so on.

37226366 - problem solution flow chart with basic questions, business concept

A lot of physical and emotional energy gets spent solving problems. For managers, problem solving is a big part of your job description. It can be argued that management is nothing but problem solving. Yet there is one thing that I find curious about most problems.

Usually, the problem is not the problem. The problem is the way we are thinking about the problem.

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Leadership Bullet: Don’t Water the Weeds

If you are trying to grow a garden, weeds are bad, right? When you are in leadership and someone talks about “the Weeds”, you either think about your bad employees or you think about details that feel like they are choking you (as in ‘lost in the weeds’).

Both ideas may be true and we will talk about those, but there are other weeds that creep in to your life, impacting your productivity and effectiveness as a leader.

Here are some of the other weeds:

  • Relationships that need repair or elimination.
  • Outside interests where you never say NO.
  • Your own distractions like email and social media.
  • Thought patterns that have developed over time.
  • Habits that steal health, wealth, and well being.

56352795 - wheelbarrow full with garden weeds and tools in a garden

The first step in successful weed management is to stop watering the weeds!

Weed factors have a way of constantly grabbing your attention. Squeaky wheels get grease right? Yes, they do! The weeds always have a way of interrupting progress and needing attention.

Constantly allowing the noise to be disruptive is a kind of watering; positive reinforcement. Every time you allow a person or thing to cause you to behave differently than you intend, you are watering a weed.

Relationships

Relationships can be very large weeds. They spring up and grow, soon to be discovered as useless. At first the relationship might be nice and warm. There may be a hopeful sense that this thing can be positive. Soon the relationship turns into demands for time, resources, or worse, convictions.

Your personal values may get challenged by the person on the other side of the relationship. Your judgment about right and  wrong can be tested. Your own sense of commitment to the relationship draws you further into the net, yet time after time, you begin to feel used and or displeased with the fruit of the relationship.

Maintaining the contact and allowing the opportunity for the other person to use you and your good nature is futile. You have to break it off.

Outside Interests

Many people have a sense of responsibility to serve their communities outside of work and family. On one hand, that is what makes our country so great.

From time to time though, the constant acceptance of roles and responsibilities elsewhere becomes weeds in our life too. People who constantly say yes, get tagged as such and are routinely asked for more and more; more time, more money, more service.

Soon the calendar is so full there is no time for the personal priorities you need to maintain. Conflicts arise. Stress increases. All because some new weeds have grown.

Your Own Distractions

How much time do you spend sifting through emails, texts, and other social media posts and pings? It is so easy to stay distracted by all that noise. STOP!

Set aside some time in each day to get your electronic fix. Then go on with other, more productive activities that are on your schedule.

Don’t let the lure of being connected keep you from being truly connected with the people around you who have higher value and deserve more of your focus.

Stay in the moment. If you are at lunch or dinner with someone, put away the phone. Connect with that person. Give them your undivided attention. Begin working on meaningful relationships.

Improve Your Thought Patterns

An old mentor once introduced me to the concept of “stinking thinking”. We all suffer from ‘voices’ that programmed us to believe we did not have what it takes to endure a situation, be successful, or try something new.

Maybe it was that third grade teacher who embarrassed you in front of the class, or the parent who never encouraged you to do anything, but belittled your initiatives.

Allowing any of those voices to dominate your frame of reference today is stinking thinking. Rise above those negative energies and go ahead and do what you believe you can.

Let me also mention your comfort zone here. What you hold onto as a comfort zone can actually be part of stinking thinking. Comfort zones can be big weed patches. Refrain from continually falling back into the comfort zone. Stretch your reach a bit. Find a new zone.

Bad Habits

The habits we develop can be weeds too. Whether the habit involves eating, spending, lifestyle, or other tangible experiences, your habits may be your biggest weeds. Stop watering them.

If you need to, get professional help breaking a cycle. Habits have a way of robbing us of our best potential. You can lose time in the day feeding a habit. You can certainly lose money with bad habits.

Most importantly you can damage good relationships with bad habits.

Oh and the First Two Types of Weeds

Employees –  I mentioned bad employees can be considered weeds at work. Watering those weeds includes actions like tolerating less than acceptable behavior.

You hire on skill and fire on behavior.

That’s an old saying in HR circles, but very true. Questionable behavior at work should not be tolerated. Coaching and counseling is required. If the employee cannot or will not respond to the effort, then action must be taken to eliminate the weed.

I love the way Jim Collins ([easyazon_link keywords=”Good to Great” locale=”US” tag=”thredoth-20″]Good to Great[/easyazon_link]) describes employee selection, training, and retention.

[Paraphrasing…]Get the right people on the bus and put them in the right seat on the bus. When you realize someone is not a fit, get them off the bus.

Details –  Yes, the details we suffer at work can bog us down. As managers, we have to establish an appropriate attention to detail that changes as we promote up into the organization.

When you were on the front line as a single contributor at work, details were your life. All the details about your assigned duties were your first responsibility.

When you get selected to be manager, you have to step away from some of those details. You have to rely on the team who works for your to handle the details. Yet you must establish reporting and accountability within your team so that details are not lost or forgotten.

STOP WATERING THE WEEDS

Just like in agriculture, weeds come in all shapes and sizes. Eradication of weeds requires careful treatment. Certainly one of the best alternatives is to stop watering! Even with lack of water, some weeds survive for much too long. That’s when other, specifically designed effort is required to get rid of the weed.

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Use some of the ideas above to evaluate what weeds exist in your garden right now. Decide today what you can do to get rid of those pesky nuisances so that yours is a garden of lush, rich, and vibrant color and beauty, flourishing for others to enjoy.

Want To Be A Hero?

I am excited to announce a new series of guest bloggers joining me from time to time to share their views of management and leadership. My first guest is a long-time friend and colleague, Roger Ferguson, Founder of ISI Human Resources Consulting.

We’ve worked together for many years. He is a certified human resource professional who has developed a brave new alternative to those old, tired employee assessment models. Here is his work….

 

If you are like most of us you dread your annual employee performance appraisal.  The process requires a significant amount of time and effort and the results are rarely significant.  You are not alone.   The research on the traditional employee appraisal process is overwhelmingly negative.  No one appears to believe that is an efficient or effective process.  Why do we continue?

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6 Reasons Change Is So Challenging

It’s no coincidence that the word ‘change’ fits into the word ‘challenge’. Change is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be stressful or unpredictable.

We all face changes in our lives. Whether on a personal level or at work, change is inevitable.

By taking a deeper dive into the dynamics of the human change process, we can better understand our reluctance to change or the steps where the change process breaks.

For most people, it’s not the idea of change itself that is so daunting, but rather the transition phases of the cycle where there is nothing to hold on to. Think about the last time you faced a serious change. Then look at this diagram and ask yourself how you moved through each phase.

Here is a diagram that shows the 6 stages of change.

change-cycle1

Stage 1 follows immediately after change has taken place. It is characterized by feelings of loss and fear. Those affected by the change are likely to feel paralyzed and disempowered by the change that has taken place.

Stage 2 is a period of negative thought and doubt. Individuals tend to feel resentful of the change that has occurred and they will actively resist embracing the change around them.

Stage 3 is a passive stage characterized by feelings of anxiety and discomfort. Those affected by the change are likely to be unproductive and feel as if they are powerless to determine the outcome of events.

The danger zone in the change cycle lies between stages three and four. Change management is essential to ensure that individuals make the transition from stage three to stage four.

Stage 4 signals a shift to positive thinking surrounding change. A creative atmosphere surfaces and participants are likely to feel energized and excited about new possibilities.

Stage 5 brings greater understanding of the change process. Productive behavior returns and participants feel greater confidence about the change that has occurred.

Stage 6 refers to the final integration of change into the new way of working. Because participants understand the necessity of the change that has taken place, there is a feeling of satisfaction and a commitment to ensure full integration.

Change management is the facilitation of a structured period of transition from a current, as-is state to a future situation in order to achieve sustainable change.

Effective change management ensures that change takes place within predictable parameters, without causing unnecessary confusion or anxiety. Click here to see how we can help you manage change.

* Diagram source: SMC Group

Portions reproduced by special permission from ProjectXChange

Making the Big Leap from Manager to Leader

For some time now I have been presenting various messages to help new, first time managers make a successful move into the role of management.

Now it is time to begin the transition from management to leadership.

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First, let me recap a few key principles. One of the best explanations of the difference between management and leadership is this:

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe”]Management is about process. Leadership is about people.[/shareable]

You see, management can take a team of workers and accomplish a series of business goals. For sure, you can apply pure management skills to map out project plans, set goals, set quotas, establish metrics, build hierarchies, write reports, determine measurable results, so on and so on.

The best business schools all teach the core fundamentals about planning, budgeting, analysis, execution, and delivery. Perhaps they even added LEAN, Six Sigma (Motorola), TQM (Deming), and other notable management theory practices.

On the other hand, leadership inspires people. Leadership is the stuff that spawns remarkable stories about how people overcome great odds to achieve even greater things. With leadership, we get historic events like:

  • “Remember the Alamo”
  • D-Day
  • Martin Luther King –  “I Have a Dream”
  • Jack Welch –  G.E.
  • Steve Jobs –  Apple

True, effective leadership in the workplace, allows small, maybe nondescript teams to build amazing systems and create destiny; think the U.S. space program, the first wireless telephone, and all of the technology we enjoy today.

Leadership creates a vision to be pursued. It motivates people to go beyond themselves. It creates collaboration and a desire to be a part of a greater good. However, leadership is more than a fiery halftime speech or a series of catchy quotes and metaphors. It has substance. It can be palpable when present. It can be demoralizing when absent. Leadership makes a big difference, all the time.

We can find evidence of great leadership at all levels in our society. You do not have to become one of the history makers I mentioned to be called a leader. You won’t even have to be written about in the Wall Street Journal (maybe that’s a good thing). You can be an amazing leader right where you are, right in the job you have today.

I have been blessed to have worked with some wonderful, strong business leaders; not just leaders at work, but as people. People who made a difference in the communities where they lived and the houses of worship where they served with others.

Yes, absolutely, I believe there is a big difference between management and leadership. Over the next several posts I will be diving deeper into the ways leaders can be developed and nurtured.

You too can become more than just the manager of your department. You can become an influencer of the people around you, inspiring and motivating more positive results. You can be a LEADER!