don’t millenials need to adapt to us?
this question is everything that’s wrong with leadership today. this bias against the younger generations because they somehow are entitled or were given too much attention as kids. whether your preconceived notions are right, wrong, or indifferent, it doesn’t matter; you cannot hold to this line of thinking that a whole generation needs to adapt to your organization. maybe millenials are spoiled punks who think they deserve everything without having to earn it. but like it or not, those millenials today are going to be your workers tomorrow.
expecting that millenials are going to change their ways and adapt to your line of thinking is like saying “my boat, rod, and reel are perfectly fine. the reason i’m not catching anything is because of those damn fish.”
we’re having the kinds of problems we’re having today because we’re holding on to old mindsets regarding education, people development, and the very ways in which our organizations approach business. look at america’s world rankings in almost any important category. we’re not winning anymore (unless you count the rate of incarceration). we’re losing the present, and if we don’t change we’re going to risk losing out on the future as well.
stop blaming the fish.
“fitting in is a short-term strategy that gets you nowhere; standing out is a long-term strategy that takes guts and produces results.” — seth godin
there will be opposition. there always is when you want to change something. but if you have the courage to be bold and the guts to stand up to criticism, you’ll find that you can make an impact. although it may not be the change you’re looking for, change will come.
even if it’s a change inside yourself. a newer and better you.
there is an amazing amount of information coming out of the field of positive psychology surrounding the reasons why people do what they do. dan pink has one of the most popular TED talks and one of the canonical texts on the topic of motivation. the surprising truth is that rewards and monetary benefits actually have little to do with increasing performance. in fact, the opposite is true: rewards and benefits actually hinder performance.
to have a happy, healthy, and motivated workforce the members of your organization need to feel accomplished. that they are doing work that matters, doing work they enjoy (in a manner in which they want to do it), and reaching their full potential.
yet it seems that every part of management is designed to squash that intrinsic motivation. by the very nature of the management hierarchy, we are told that we are just the worker. we are told that we do not get to make the decisions, and therefore do not get to affect change. our role is to trust in management’s ability to lead the organization where it needs to go. impact? change? that’s not for us.
as we see from dan pink’s work and the work of so many others, this approach worked well for a different time and place. the problem, however, is that our world—and our economy—has moved well beyond that point. forget the post-industrial age, we’re living in a post-information age; we’re living in the idea age where creativity and art is king.
it’s time to modernize our approach to business and any organization that doesn’t risks losing out on the future. markets rise and fall, and organizations can navigate those waters fairly well. but once the future is lost? there is no recovering from that.
save room for the thin mints; it’s girl scout cookie time again. however, it seems strange to me that in all the years since the mid-1990s, it’s not only the box designs that haven’t changed about girl scout cookies but also their business practices.
the mom of some scouts explained to me that part of what cookie sales are supposed to achieve is to get the girls out into the community, teach them how to count change, and how to handle money. it all seems very reasonable, except it begs the question: so what?
i’m not so sure that counting change and handling money will be valuable skills in the next 20 years. there was once a time when balancing a checkbook was a skill, but every online bank already does that for you. what will be valuable skills in the next 20 years? e-commerce and mobile technologies, marketing and sales.
why not teach our girl scouts how to use square for accepting purchases, or develop mobile apps for tracking orders and distribution, or create online storefronts? why not have them develop a marketing approach and manage sales in their neighborhoods? don’t tell me they’re too young; that’s a cheap excuse. they’re modern skills for a modern world.
maybe it’s time we start teaching lessons that matter.
it’s easy to find yourself in a crowd of tens of thousands of people and believe that you can’t make a difference. in fact, that’s exactly what the most powerful people in that crowd want you to believe. and on some level they’re right. better not focus on having an immediate impact on the masses because you’ll surely falter.
the way to make change happen is to trust yourself. hold strong to your opinions and your ideas. share them. lead your own tribe.
and whatever you do, don’t be afraid of the sound of your own voice.
“i have this idea that i think might work.”
“oh, that’ll never work. [insert reason why].”
that’s not a conversation.
in fact, that’s the direct opposite of a conversation. that’s stomping on a dream.
instead of listing all the reasons why you’re different from your competitors, or how your organization’s goals are unique and special, or trying to explain to someone how it didn’t work for you before when you tried it with some other clients, or just giving people grief because you get nothing but grief and want to share your misery—try having a conversation instead.
ask the person how they think it will work. ask what kinds of strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) they see. gauge their passion for what they’re talking about. find ways to feed that passion. discuss alternatives. ask questions to narrow down larger topics into the most basic and most important element. then—after all that is done—perhaps your reason why it won’t work will still be a good one, but you should at least have the conversation.
and maybe if you have an idea it’s just your job to ignore everybody and do it anyway. or at least start looking for people who share the same crazy ideas as you.
image from wikipedia
a friend and colleague asked me a question regarding some internal communications within our firm last week. during our conversation, she said, ‘i don’t know why [my team] won’t just ask everyone on yammer.’ i said it’s because on the internet, no one knows you’re a suit.
every day, in corporations all across the world, people go to work wearing a mask â€” sometimes more than one.Â like the billy joel song, they’re the faces of the stranger but we love to try them on. the marketing specialist. the associate. the senior vp of sales. but when you’re on the internet, no one can see that mask; all they can see are the contributions that you make. to put your ideas out in a public forum is to open yourself up to all kinds of criticism.
in business, you used to be able to hide behind your title. the senior tech said this is why we’re taking a certain approach, and that was the end of discussion because who would stand up to him? now the first-year analyst out of college can raise questions about, and disagree with, that approach. the person from accounting can share her thoughts on the marketing specialist’s ideas on the name of the redesigned newsletter. these enterprise 2.0 systems like yammer cause a flattening of theÂ hierarchyÂ and a cross-pollination of teams that we have never before seen in business.
and that scares the shit out of people.
but if we’re going to get the most out of our organizations â€” if we’re going to really excel in what we do â€” we’re going to have to become more agile and we’re going to have to look for solutions outside of our normal channels. each person has to pull on the same rope. the only way to really accomplish that is if we put down those masks, get over the fear, and go into work tomorrow as ourselves ready to work openly with each other.
i’m john scardino. i have a few ideas that i’d like to explore.
i hope i can explore them with you.
a colleague asked me to help him find an example of an after action report (that final step in a project or project phase that everyone seems to ignore). i spent over 2 minutes looking for an example on our enterprise search engine. i performed a general search, and even a detailed search to look for only word documents followed by only pdf documents.
i got nothing.
after that failed, i sent a question out on our yammer network to my colleagues and friends asking the same question. roughly 2 minutes and 30 seconds later i had a colleague of mine forward along an example document with exactly everything i was looking for. this was a colleague whom i’d have never even known existed if it weren’t for social networking within the enterprise.
but here’s the kicker…
the enterprise system we’ve developed has cost the firm countless thousands of dollars (probably millions), meanwhile the yammer network we’re using is the free version — no cost at all to us. using this high-cost technology outfit provided me with no answers at all and was actually a time-suck when you look at it, meanwhile a free system available to anyone was able to connect the person who needed information with the person who had the information.
the moral of the story is this: business needs to rethink where it’s spending its money. high cost IT departments in organizations don’t have to be high cost anymore. there was once a time when machines could do things that we mere mortals couldn’t, and so we developed these new systems to supplant humans. the problem is that that paradigm has shifted.
the focus needs to not be on what the technology is capable of, but on what the technology enables us to do.
at the end of the day this change in focus is better, faster, cheaper, and more efficient.
not easier, but better.
what i think is one of the worst preconceptions about business and management is that workers need to be motivated. this notion that the workforce is this entity that needs to be incentivized into doing something.
i believe that everyone is motivated by something. i’d say that most accountants have a natural love of working with numbers. i’m sure that stock brokers get a special kind of high out of making the deal that nets their clients big returns. and i’m sure that if you spent even just a little time with three of my colleagues as they talked about solving linear programs and differential equations you’d be amazed at how much they can geek out over it. but when was the last time, as a manager or leader, that you had a discussion with your employees to find out what drives them?
some of you might answer–if you’re being honest with yourself –”the job interview”. how long ago was that? people change over time, and so you must be willing to spend the time to really watch and track how your people are changing and the kinds of people they’re changing into. you might have someone with a modeling and simulation background whom either suddenly or even gradually falls in love with data visualization. you might have a history teacher whom has a new-found love of english literature. but you’ll never know any of this unless you take the time to know your people.
do you have carrots (bonus structures, awards systems) or sticks (hard deadlines, performance reviews) in place because they actually work? or is it just because it makes your job simpler?
everyone is motivated to do something.
find out what that is. then have them do that.
image by a.drian, flickr artist
universal healthcare might be the only thing that can save the united states from total meltdown, and it’s not about keeping healthcare costs low.
i firmly believe that the only way to do that â€” keep healthcare costs low â€” is for people to stop being irresponsible stewards of their own bodies. we need to exercise more (myself included), eat better, cut down on the fast foods and preservatives (and bullshit ingredients like red #40), and find a way to remove ourselves if only briefly from the non-stop stress that engulfs our lives.
that being said, i’m not talking about universal healthcare keeping costs low, i’m not on a crusade to save every low-income family from having to pay for basic healthcare screenings, or any of that. in short, this isnâ€™t some sociopolitical argument.
i’m talking from a strictly business perspective.