Smokey Robinson and Friends at Work

Collaboration Organizational leadership Respect

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Key Point: How effective are you across multiple generations at work? I really like the way Smokey and Friends, a recently released album, makes me feel. I’ve had the volume turned to 11 a few times. The iconic Smokey Robinson sings legendary songs with artists representing multiple genres and generations… Elton John, Steven Tyler, Jessie J, Mary J. Blige, Ledisi, and others.  People of all ages in harmony with the 70-plus year old Smokey… Hmm. It made think about the current work place. For the first time in history, five generations will soon be working side by side. So what does this mean to you and me?

I believe contextual personal leadership is more important than ever. Especially when it comes to working and managing in multi-generational workplaces. A recent HBR blog by Rebecca Knight speaks wisely and directly to this. Note the following blog exert. Hopefully it sets the stage for a more complete conversation about how to make this mixed generational environment a very positive thing for you and the organization:

“What the Experts Say
: As people work longer and delay retirement, internal career paths have changed. “Organizational careers don’t look the way they did before,” says Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School and co-author of Managing the Older Worker. ‘It’s more common to see someone younger managing someone older.’ This can lead to tension on both sides. ‘Maybe there is a feeling of: why am I being bossed around by someone without a lot of experience? On the other hand, maybe the younger person feels insecure and wonders: how do I do this?’

‘It’s important to be aware of generational tension — loosely defined as a lack of respect for someone who’s of a different generation from you — among colleagues,’ says Jeanne C. Meister, a founding partner of Future Workplace, a human resources consultancy and the coauthor of The 2020 Workplace. ‘It’s your job to help your employees recognize that they each have distinct sets of skills and different things they bring to the table.’

Don’t dwell on differences
The Boomer mystified by Facebook; the Millennial who wears flip-flops in the office; the Traditionalist (born prior to 1946) who seemingly won’t ever retire; the cynical Gen Xer who’s only out for himself; and the Gen 2020er — born after 1997 — who appears surgically attached to her smartphone. Generational stereotypes abound but according to Cappelli, ‘they are just not true. There is no evidence that 35-year-old managers today are any different from 35-year-old managers a generation ago.’ Besides, your goal is to help your team ‘move beyond the labels.’ Generation-based employee affinity groups are a waste of time and energy, he adds. Don’t assume people need special treatment and ‘don’t dwell on differences with a group discussion that devolves into: ‘People my age feel like this.’ Or ‘All Boomers act a certain way.’ There’s a lot of variation,’ he says. ‘Get to know each person individually.’”

Character Moves: 

  1. Manage the paradox of getting to know each person individually while understanding but not dwelling on generational differences. (For example, Millennials are naturally digital… Boomers can be digitally challenged). We all know people who match a generational stereotype versus others who completely contradict that view. It would not be unusual to hear: “Canadians love hockey.” Most of us do and yet we likely know Canadians that don’t follow or really care about the game. 
  2. Get to know what is really important in people’s individual lives and the relationship they have with the organization. Where possible work in a way that recognizes the need for standardization and still allow for individual uniqueness. For example, all people must get results at work but one person thrives working from home while another does so in an office environment.
  3. Recognize that “one size fits all” leadership or working is no longer sustainable or appropriate. Standardize on key values or attributes like self-accountability, respect, abundance. These beliefs and way of behaving is applicable to every generation. Dwell on the commonality and threads that weave people together versus stereotyping that may emphasize differences.
  4. Be inclusive and learn from every generation and person in the work place. As an example, learning how someone applies a digital solution to a problem can be as rewarding as learning the principles related to face-to-face conflict resolution. Remind ourselves that we all learn from each other. Avoid the slippery dangers related to stereotyping.  

Multi generational harmony in the Triangle, 

– Lorne  

One Millennial View: I completely agree. As someone fairly new to the workforce in my industry, I WANT mentors and seasoned vets that are generations older to show me the ropes… But we’re all in the same progressive environment, there’s no excuse for an older executive to not be familiar with Twitter, and there’s no reason that I can’t understand, appreciate and utilize the benefit of a jotting down something on a notepad. I might not want to hang out with them on the weekends, but I’d love to learn from a salty, experienced higher up who has seen it all in the workplace… Like Smokey Robinson. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Is That a Squirrel in Your Pocket or..?

Accountability Organizational leadership Purpose

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Key Point: We all wear a uniform at work, explicitly or not. What does your “uniform” stand for regarding you and/or your organization? Do you know? Do you care? Why should you?

I had a great lunch with a couple of colleagues last week and one told me a great story about a very prosperous science center in a small Canadian city. As part of the science center’s culture, each employee must wear a blue lab coat to remind all, especially the person wearing it, that they are “scientists” at work (credentialed or not). To take the concept further, the lab coat also was a reminder of key values and attributes the person donning the blue attire was to continuously emulate. One of the values was to be an “ambassador” of the science center. Another was to be an “entertainer.” It was actually highly encouraged for employees to have some entertaining science gizmos to pull out of the deep lab coat pockets to excite and humor guests… Or, even a live squirrel… Hence the title… What’s more surprising than a live squirrel? The science-like and compelling behavior of all employees was fashioned by the uniform and vice versa.

This Monday I presented to nearly 75 of the top cops representing a large Canadian city. And as you can imagine the uniform worn by many in attendance represented a set of police service department values and personal discipline. In fact, if the officers weren’t in traditional uniforms, they wore suits… The message was integrity, buttoned-down and true north.

I was living in the Seattle area many years ago when Microsoft just started up. I remember being in a Bellevue, Wash. restaurant when a bunch of jeans and t-shirt wearing, longhaired, boisterous people gathered around a table. My lunch-mate immediately noted, “gotta love those kids from Microsoft.” All of them from that 1989 lunch now are likely bizillionaires :). Their “uniform” let us know who they were.

Character Moves: 

  1. Understand what your “uniform” represents in your organization. For most of us this is not as distinguishable as the above examples. However, the organization we work for likely has some key values and/or attributes that are reflected in what we wear and how we act. Be clear what you are. If not intentional, well then I guess anything goes. In my view that’s sloppy, ambiguous and probably vanilla… Just like the offering of others in the same market.
  2. Most of us never get the chance to outline the value and underpinnings of a real or virtual uniform across an entire organization. But almost all of us can influence a small group or team. And frankly our “uniform” often tells others what we stand for and believe. What does your personal “uniform” say about you?

Wear your uniform in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: I’ve always expected to and respected wearing a suit to work. Part of me wishes I did. But I live in Los Angeles, where you’ll seldom see one in my industry. In fact, my boss likes to say, “If you wear a suit in LA, you work in a department store.” Because, truthfully, on any given 2 p.m. weekday, the unshaven, mesh-shirt wearing, skinny jean doting latte drinker may be producing that next multimillion dollar grossing indie film. You. Just. Never. Know… Dress doesn’t define status here. But REAL uniforms: Police officers, military members, sports figures… Those all represent a lot more than just the individual wearing them, and when you see those, there’s a pride glowing off that fabric… Does it always matter what we wear? No. But, whatever you shimmy on in the morning, act as though your values are visibly printed on the back. People are reading it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

The Nonsense of ‘Retirement’

Accountability Authenticity Happiness

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Key Point: I think much of the current conversation about retirement needs to be refreshed. I’m not sure asking “when are you going to retire?” is very useful or meaningful. On the other hand, there is reasonable merit regarding questions related to planning for getting older and the changes that go along with it. One day all of us will be in a position where we will not be earning direct income because we are no longer able or want to. And ideally we will have reasonable flexibility as we are impacted by deteriorating health connected to living and dying longer. However, that is different than “retirement.”

Because I’m getting closer to the 65-year-milestone, people are constantly asking me if I’m going to “finally retire.” Or they ask me if “I need to be working to keep active,” (like I need to punch a time clock to ensure the vital organs do not atrophy… Geez). Sometimes the not so veiled suggestion is that I must want to keep working because I didn’t manage my money well. After all, who would want to keep “working” if they didn’t have to? Somehow retirement and choosing how to live gets wrapped up in the same sandwich. 

So what if we changed the focus about retirement, to living the life we want NOW? Whatever or whenever that is. The depth and breath of what we can really choose to do is certainly related to our bank account. But the idea of waiting for “retirement” to have better control of how you prefer to live is just giant dumbness. How would our life change for the better if we chose to live more how we want to on a daily basis? This includes meeting obligations in the various roles that define who we are AND making choices related to deferred gratification. In fact, people who can defer immediate gratification actually “accomplish” more. Yet, we need to choose more NOW. Drifting along waiting for something like retirement is the wrong mindset. It is likely to end badly. I recently heard an Olympic gold medal winner wisely note, that if you weren’t good enough for yourself before the gold medal, you wouldn’t be good enough for yourself after. If you can’t live the life you want now, it’s questionable that you will at some later date. 

Fortunately, I’m graced with the idea that all I need is the day in front of me. Give me the day and I will make it interesting and valuable. I do not understand the concepts of being bored, or waiting to be happy or fulfilled “one day.” That day is today. I’m looking forward to having another one tomorrow.

Character Moves:

  1. Absolutely plan for being unable or not wanting to earn direct income one day. It is going to happen. Remember to do so while living the life you want to live now. This includes deferring some gratification, but does not include waiting for so called “retirement” for fulfillment. It does require understanding that contentment and happiness comes from purpose, delivering value and contribution to others.
  2. Do not ask the question, “When are you going to retire?” Always ask what’s fulfilling for you now and what steps you’re taking to keep living life to the fullest.

No retirement in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: How many times a week do we hear “find out how to make an income doing what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Or banter about what we’d do with $500+ million when that office Power Ball collection comes wafting by? Funny enough, most people don’t dream of still “working” when imagining that bank account… But I too believe that unless you’re contributing, even if it’s through a passion of yours, then life would be boring and unsatisfactory. Despite how much we occasionally dread it, we’re not only showing up to the office for an income. We likely chose our professions because parts about them make us happy, and it feels good to be a relevant team player and help build something… No need to ever “retire” that feeling. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.

The Secret Ingredient in Learning Leadership

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership

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Key Point: Leaders have a responsibility to continuously improve and sharpen our saw. You and I essentially have three overarching leadership objectives and desired outcomes:

  1. Achieve great results.
  2. Build effective relationships.
  3. Help others develop.

Achieving this requires relentlessly investing in three personal leadership areas. 

  1. Leading ourselves.
  2. Leading others.
  3. Leading the business.

Where should we concentrate our precious time and money to get the best personal leadership ROI? Research shows that the following principle is the secret ingredient to guide our personal leadership investment:

When leaders FOCUS their development efforts on BUILDING STRENGTHS versus shortcomings, motivation is much higher and real impact is significantly greater. 

The data supporting this principle is very clear. Those who concentrate their efforts toward developing strengths versus trying to overcome weaknesses create better plans and follow through in a more committed and effective way.  In one study, leaders centering on strengths reported that they made more advancement in their leadership effectiveness AND with their business results. They improved much more than the leaders who primarily attended to their weaknesses.  

There is an exception to this principle. When leaders have a fatal flaw that totally hampers guiding themselves or others for results, then addressing a major weakness is the right thing to do. If you’re striving for balance, focusing on strengths is absolutely where our efforts should be. See this if you want more research on the subject.

Character Moves: 

  1. Are you focusing on building and accelerating your strengths or are you struggling to move forward by trying to overcome weaknesses? For example, I could study statistical analysis (a weakness) for the rest of my life and arguably make a 10 percent improvement in my analytical skills. But, I know I can focus on becoming a better storyteller (an emerging strength) and improve 300 percent in that category. Where should I focus my leadership development? How about you? 
  2. We can always get incrementally better at elements that round us out, smooth out sharp edges, etc. However when leading yourself, leading others, and leading the business, you and I have strengths and passions for some attributes/skills that can make us truly masterful when fully developed. 

Strength Training in The Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: Anyone who has ever played basketball with me knows that, at the very best, I’m a “great passer.” That’s the equivalent to being commended for having a “great personality…” AKA, my overall gameplay is ugly! Could I go work on my jump shot and sink a few more 3’s in the future? Maybe, but what’s the point? Instead, I’ll skip that sport, and just focus on improving at the activities where I’m already getting picked to play because I can help win. I’ll always be game for that, and leaders should be too.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

A Hooray For the Everyday!

Abundance Gratitude Happiness

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Key Point: There is so much joy to be discovered in the everyday of life. Looking for happiness and fulfillment in all the “big experiences” can sometimes be a distraction from what’s right in front of us. I’m still reflecting on a recent presentation by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. One of my seatmates at the conference jokingly noted that she had “brain envy” of Hadfield. Haha, true. Hadfield’s intellectual competence is reflected many ways. He’s fluent in Russian, has an ability to literally perform open heat surgery, and conduct engineering feats while space walking at 17,500 mph around earth. Oh, and he can also create a Twitter buzz from David Bowie renditions in space. That’s legendary.  However I was most struck by something he wrote in his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth:

“The truth is I find everyday fulfilling, whether I’m on the planet or above it. And I find satisfaction in small things, like playing Scrabble online with my daughter… Reading a letter from a first grader that wants to be an astronaut, or picking up gum wrappers off the street.”

As a goofy teenager, I remember walking with my Dad through the motel lobby where he was the general manager. He stopped to pick up a bunch of paper that was messily scattered about. I foolishly asked him why he didn’t let the janitors clean it up. He never said a thing to me, but slowly turned and gave me this piercingly intense look that struck me right between the eyes. That life lesson about the importance of humility and always being prepared to “bend down to pick up and clean up” is tattooed in my soul.

The other day, I was touched listening to a colleague’s story about how her father ran a beloved Greek restaurant in an Alberta tourist town. For years, he made a point to greet and visit with his customers on a daily basis, which became a real strategic advantage as to how his diner was constantly filled. Each day he invested and intently connected with customers as friends, neighbors, and people he sincerely cared for. It was never about the Greek salad or speed of a table turn.

Character Moves:

  1. How are you doing with the “every day?” Sometimes we just need a gentle reminder to turn daily opportunities into what makes our lives truly fulfilling. We have so many sweetly simple opportunities to be abundant and give. (Picking up paper off the street, a warm smile, a thank you, a sincere acknowledgment, etc). It becomes an endless list of fulfillment as we move through our “routine.”
  1. Consider minimizing the limitations and guilt that manifests from dragging around a heavy “bucket list of big things.” Why? Reminding ourselves that we have 50 big things we wish to achieve can sometimes keep us for taking countless little steps that one day may make those big experiences/accomplishments actually happen. I’m all for being aspirational but I’m a bigger fan of the everyday steps that truly lead somewhere. The “every days” lead to the occasional big day.

Loving everyday in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: One of my co-workers recently commented that “2014 has gone by really fast.” I said, “Dude, maybe, but that’s because of how you’re scheduling your own life.” I like to make sure that my “every days” include something that will lead up to those bucket list items (which are very important). Don’t fall into that mundane routine that can make your life a blur. Are you bored? Is time going too fast? Fix it. You can. Sign up for a race, plan a trip, set a goal, challenge yourself, and always make sure you’re looking forward to something memorable. Sure, “every days” might feel bland, but why do you think Chris Hadfield appreciates those “every day” things? They mean more than just the task, they lead to something more important and he can remember and account for that. Every day. 

– Garrett 

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis