Who are these people called the Millenials?

A robot woman head with internal technology

“The best crisis to manage is the one you prevent,” Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong speaking to the National Association of Environmental Professionals

You are hiring, like it or not, many members of the Millennial generation (The M-Generation). Most likely you are either a “Baby Boomer” or a “GenXer” doing the hiring. You are thinking that these people must not have grown up in the same world that you did. You think to yourself, we may have a crisis developing, and you have no idea why. You would be right in both assumptions.

Although some of what you read here will seem negative, try to maintain an open-mind. This description of the M-Generation is intended to be helpful and will show you how research and understanding is evolving to help us all better understand this generation.

Dealing with the M-Generation will be challenging, yet successful employers recognize the importance of learning as much about this generation as possible. Like it or not, they will be reshaping our world because by 2020 they will be 60% of our work force.

The basis of this series of six articles comes from the research, including “The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010) and from the Internet site PWC’s report Millennials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World. We also have integrated the work from other consultants who specialize in the M-Generation and work with them daily.

Perhaps, just perhaps, if you get better informed about the M-Generation, you can prevent a major crisis from developing, or at the least, better understand how to deal with the crisis when it does. The idea is to understand and utilize the particular talents of the M-Generation because you will be hiring and/or working with people who have unique characteristics and challenging behaviors for years to come.

As a behavioral psychologist, I am fascinated by people’s behaviors and their responses to behaviors. The behaviors I see being exhibited by the M-Generation and the responses from the Baby Boomers and Gen X folks provide an extra dose of fascination.

Millennials are anyone of the 76 million young people who were born between 1982 and 2000. They are entering the work force at a rapid pace, and they are being hired by managers between the ages of 40 and 65 (the “Baby- Boomers” and “GenXers”). The hiring managers are somewhat bewildered by the people they are hiring, as well as learning that transitioning this generation into the work environment is rarely without issue and can be crisis inducing.

Why are there such generational differences between these three groups? Let’s look at the differences in the M-Generation’s cultural and historical memories. Just as World War II was only a textbook to those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, the Vietnam War was is only a textbook memory to the M-Generation.

In our generation, we were just beginning to enjoy the benefits of such advanced technology as pocket transistor radios; the M-Generation is technologically savvy beyond any of our wildest expectations. Just stop and ask yourself, whom did you call to program your VCR just a few years ago?

I would suggest that there are three significant questions we must answer and understand to work with the M-generation:

  • How do they see their world and how do they process the information they see?
  • How do they expect and choose to operate in the world of work and why?
  • What do they expect to receive from their work and what do they perceive as rewards?

Research, surveys and analyses by many people more experienced than I am suggest that the good news is there are answers to some of these questions. The bad news is that many of our generation can’t relate to those answers and the M-Generation perspectives.

Some key findings to be sensitive to when dealing with the M-Generation:

  • They will share information of all types and of depth across many different platforms and with many different people – discretion is not part of their typical vocabulary;
  • They require – read – must have – personalized attention;
  • They must be always winning and be recognized for even coming to work on time;
  • They use a variety of social media and social networking, unlike any generation previously, and their knowledge and use of this technology can be impactful to an organization, as well as society at large;
  • They are talented in certain areas of endeavors and less so in others;
  • They are critical and don’t hesitate to voice their views and opinions.

Seniority and your feelings are irrelevant to many of the M-Generation. For example, they may understand how to use Microsoft Power Point, yet invariably would explain to you how to use Apple iPhoto to get better results on the presentation that you spent hours on developing.

They have trouble dealing with lines of authority, and command positions are simply irrelevant to many of them. In fact, they would without hesitation go straight to a CEO and argue their case against a change in the organization’s protocols without your knowledge.

And their parents, well, they also can be an issue. Fathers and mothers (think “Helicopter” parents) of the M-Generation have been known to reprimand employers at social engagements over incidents their children just mentioned in passing to them.

Now, having laid this foundation, allow me to caveat it by saying not all M-Generation people are of this ilk.  However, research and experience show these generalizations are not that far from the reality of their behaviors in the work place. So then, how do we deal with the M-Generation at work?

As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore!

Next: Part 2 – How do we deal with the M-Generation in our work place?

 

Sources: The M- Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace” by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman (Harper Collins, 2010)

 

PWC.Com – Millenials in the Work Place – Reshaping the World https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/managing-tomorrows-people/future-of-work/assets/reshaping-the-workplace.pdf

 

Promoting a consistent message and visual identity is critical to success

branding-art

Art source: www.aboutbranding.co.za

Most companies simply will not allow haphazard uses of their logos or brands. Break those rules and you are in serious trouble.

Promoting a consistent message and visual identity is critical to “branding” and maintaining controls around variance of messages.In fact, once we have standardized our systems (think purchasing,hiring, interviewing, community outreach, media engagement, crisis and issues management, communications) we are able to be more efficient, effective and save time and money.

When variances show up on the bottom line, we can check them against our standardized processes.This is what our financial people do on a regular basis. This brings standardization to the organization.However, most companies still don’t standardize their leadership best practices.

 

They may have dozens of ways to interview and hire, solve the same problem in five different ways in various divisions, and simply spend a lot of time and energy needlessly identifying and solving the same problems repeatedly in many different ways.

Those companies who do standardize their leadership processes and training create a path forward map to help every leader in the company to be successful. In simple terms: Develop your road map and follow it, or as I tell clients who seek strategic planning assistance from me, “Write your plan based on best practices and work your plan.”

Why don’t companies do this?

Research shows that many companies don’t have a unified leadership process in place because:

  • The leaders don’t have the training they need to succeed.
  • There is no objective accountability system.
  • The “dots are not connected” for employees in respect to purpose, worthwhile work and making a difference.
  • The companies are not using a sequenced mapped approach.
  • There is no process for managing high- and middle-level managers.
  • There is no process in place to address the problems with low performers.

To determine if your company needs to standardize your leadership system, Quint Studer in his book, “Results That Last,” suggests we ask ourselves such questions as:

  • How many different ways do we have to interview a candidate?
  • How do we know that when our leaders have left a meeting we have accurately and completely conveyed the messages we want them to carry back to the employees?
  • When employees are asked tough questions, how do we know they are not giving us just the answers they think we want to hear?
  • How do we measure the performance of our employees in such a way as we can determine they are low, middle or high-level performers?
  • What process do we have in place to assess the performance of employees and their accountability against the overall organizational goals?

Six ways to improve our leadership programs

Leadership programs can be standardized and improved.

When we standardize our programs, we provide a path forward map for all our leadership, which saves time and money and makes organizations more successful.

How do we do this?

1. Use a common agenda. While Studer recommends that all agendas be organized around his “Five Pillars of Excellence,” (People, service, quality, finance and growth) even more important is that for every meeting there is a standardized agenda used by all leaders in the organization. By using such an approach, we can align all staff to our organizational goals, which then allows us to help them connect to the organization’s vision and mission. This approach also gives us the means to communicate to our team the critical success factors within the organization and in their individual work areas.

2. Align your evaluation process to Studer’s five pillars or the organization’s critical success factors. When developing goals for our organization, they must be objective, measurable, meaningful and aligned with the organization’s pillars or critical success factors. They must also be focused on results.

3. Provide consistent packets of information. When leaders leave meetings, they should have a prepared packet of information they can share with their employees so that everyone hears the same messages. Studer notes that many companies use “Flip and Tell” books to package the information.

4. Choose a single method of interviewing and hiring employees. All applicants should be asked the same three or four behavioral-based questions no matter what job they are applying for in the organization. It would be prudent to choose questions geared toward values and ownership.

5. Collect tough questions from leaders. Every leader should be asked on a regular basis to share with the team the tough questions they hear from their staff. Then work with your leaders to develop a consistent set of answers that will be used by all leaders. This develops a consistent message that can be communicated by everyone. Consistency builds confidence and provides employees evidence that the leaders have the information needed to answer their questions.

6. Make sure your leaders are trained in basic competencies to perform. Many leaders are not comfortable delivering messages without appropriate training.

Those companies who annually train their leaders in such competencies as meeting facilitation, negotiations, conflict prevent and resolution and presentations skills are more successful because they are providing the essential training all leaders need.

Research shows that repetition is essential to build integrity and credibility within an organization. Great leaders never tire of repetition. When leaders become better at using their skills, they become more efficient and effective at doing it. They will get better with practice.

Organizations that use this six step approach have longer lasting results, improved organizational efficiencies and greater innovation.Key points to remember:

  • Stop the variances. When an organization has variance in its leadership approach it produces inconsistencies within the organization making it more difficult to achieve excellence. Alignment among the managers and employees improves performance and enhances customer and employee satisfaction.
  • Standardize behavior. Leadership behavior is challenging to quantify and many organizations find it a challenge to standardize behavior. Many organizations fear that by doing so they will intrude on the leader’s autonomy and creativity. However, organizational goals come down from the top and include clear visions and missions. Any single leader’s independence is less important than the organization’s mission.
  • Eliminate barriers. Barriers that can get in the way of standardizing leadership behavior include: Lack of critical mass; lack of a balanced approach; insufficient training; no objective accountability; no path forward map which connects the dots; no process in place to manage middle and high level performers; no system to address quickly and efficiently low performers; an inability or unwillingness to standardize best practices across the organization. These barriers must be systematically eliminated.n Identify and eliminate inconsistent practices.

Carefully scrutinize all your practices in interviewing systems, messaging to employees, leader responses to crises, varying leadership performances and ineffective leadership evaluations.

Every organization should strive to create a self-sustaining culture with energy and vision to achieve excellence, Studer says. This can be accomplished by renovating your leadership evaluation system, applying key leadership behaviors, which will inspire self-motivation (the most powerful motivator of all), and developing standardized processes which will hardwire excellence into your organization.

Sources: “Results That Last” by Quint Studer

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at drdarryl@aol.com or 1-888-340-2006 or http://www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

Solve problems by involving those who have them

In 1973, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a position at what was then the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Land Between The Lakes. I had been a newspaper reporter and editor up until then, and I was excited about working in the field of “public relations.”I was chosen to be the Reports Editor, a title that really meant nothing. Reports Editor is one of those arcane titles that the federal government uses to “hide their real intent.” I was in this position from 1973-1979.Looking back, I would say that this job probably taught me more than any of the others.Local people in western Kentucky and Tennessee have feelings that run deep even to this day about TVA. Those people, especially the ones who were forced from their homes for TVA’s national demonstration area in outdoor recreation and environmental education, will never get over it.However, when I was 23, I saw this opportunity as a great challenge. I decided from day one to reach out and engage all members of the public who had an interest in the project, especially the former residents and the business community. I sought to develop working relationships among diverse groups.More than once, management questioned why I spent many extra hours attending meetings of the tourist associations, chambers, economic development committees and the various state agency public hearings.

I may not have been able to articulate it then, but now I realize what the answer to this question was. If you truly want to solve a problem, you must involve the people with the problem in the solution. You must develop meaningful and sustainable relationships with them based on trust.

I took my responsibility of being a “public servant” seriously. I believed then, just as I do today, that all government employees have an obligation to engage the taxpayers (the very people who pay taxes to provide government employees’ salaries) in meaningful discussions to find appropriate solutions to difficult problems.

Many of my colleagues thought and felt, as they expressed to me, that I was wasting my time trying to develop relationships with the very people who wanted TVA to take the proverbial hike.

They were wrong then, and government agencies that still play at public involvement and engagement without meaningful intent are even more wrong now.

Since the taxpayers’ money pays government employee salaries, the taxpaying public has the right to be engaged in helping agencies make the best possible decisions.

Allow me to give you an example.

Recently, I was asked to facilitate a series of public meetings for a federal agency. I quickly determined after the first meeting, a nightmare for all involved, that two things were readily apparent:

– The federal agency didn’t really want a facilitated meeting. Facilitated meetings in my world are set up to bring all the people to the table and keep them there, no matter how long, until an agreed upon path forward is determined.

– The agency really wanted a traffic cop or a moderator for these meetings. The second meeting we moderated, even though I thought it unwise to do. The meeting went well although I voiced my professional opinion, something I rarely do when I am conducting a meeting.

I told the public that we had advised the agency that its meeting model should be changed to a more educational and involvement model rather than just an informational model. An educational model would allow for significantly more public involvement and, at the least, shared assessment of the problem, if not some shared decision-making.

Needless to say, the agency and my former contractor have decided they “really don’t have the funds to have a facilitator.”

Frankly, I am glad they came to that decision. I was going to be forced to walk away from the project anyway, something I have done in the past when agencies tried to fake public engagement by applying only the necessary rules and regulations.

This leads me back to the need to solve the problems by involving the people directly affected.

There are six steps I recommend to truly involve the people directly affected, whether it is a small business or a government agency manager:

– Ask those involved to share the information they want to share, not just the information you want them to share. Be prepared to keep your mouth closed and your ears open.

Ask open-ended questions like, “What else do we need to know that is important for you to share?”

Questions like these not only enable the customer or the member of the public (stakeholder) to vent. It also allows them to be involved in the assessment of the problem.

– Ask them to prioritize information they have shared. Because they are venting, this is their therapy, and you will get a significant information dump. Have them help you figure out the really important information they have shared.

It annoys people with a problem or complaint when you assume you know what concerns them most.

– Ask them for their advice or opinions.

Oh, I know foresters, fishery experts, nuclear specialists and government managers all know what they are doing more so than the public does, However, they (read taxpayer here for government agencies and customer for small business) do have opinions and advice to share.

Being willing to ask for advice and opinions does not mean that you will necessarily take it. This should also be stated up front. However, when you understand their priorities, their values and their viewpoints, a solution can often be created which meets the needs of all parties involved.

– Offer them alternatives.

People are more committed to decisions that they help make. Not only are they committed, they have a stake in the decision and, as such, will help defend the decision, if need be.

In addition, if you are a small business person, you will demonstrate to the customer that you are taking that extra step to satisfy the complaint or meet the request.

When the request can’t be met, for whatever reason, be prepared to offer alternatives.

– Determine the minimum need.

Ask the customer or the stakeholder what he or she would like you to do immediately. This helps to diffuse their anger rather quickly. If this is not done correctly, especially in the government world, outrage can and often does result.

When members of the public become outraged, it often results in unwanted political or media involvement. Don’t believe this? Did you watch the public outrage over the shooting of the unarmed minority teenager in Florida? Or, perhaps you recall the “Occupiers” movement in the larger cities?

By taking some action, you gain some additional time to take care of the greater problem.

– Ask them to provide you some alternative solutions.

Be direct in your request. If you are a small business person say something like, “Ms. Jones, I’m stumped. I’ve offered you all the alternative solutions I can. What kind of solution would you propose?”

Often this makes people realize they are being unreasonable, or at the very least, it lessens the tension and re-engages all parties toward working to a mutually acceptable path forward.

You probably have figured this out by now. Underlying all these actions is your intention to build workable and meaningful relationships.

When you have built meaningful and sustainable relationships, and you have demonstrated that your behaviors match your words (you walk your talk), then your chances of building workable solutions greatly increases. Your willingness to involve the people impacted can make all the difference in solving a mutual problem.

Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, Armstrong and Associates, is a consultant and counselor. He can be reached at drdarryl@aol.com or 1-888-340-2006 or www.ldarrylarmstrong.com

Strategic Planning Success – Executive Management and the Working Team Must All Engage

I continue to be rewarded for all the intense and hard work that my client the Kentucky Press Association put into their strategic planning process a few years ago. This week David Thompson, KPA’s Executive Director reported that in a conference he was in that he would be presenting the results of some of that work.

David says,  “… was thinking of you earlier today. Our first session yesterday, followed by two more hours this a.m., was on strategic planning. Obviously, we’re ahead of the game and in checking my notes from 2008 and 2009, so many of the “obstacles and issues” and the “solutions” that were mentioned yesterday by the group, on what lies ahead, are things we discussed/addressed four years ago. Thank you for that. Tomorrow, it’s my turn to talk about the News Content Service. All because of the Strategic Plan!!! It’s a service that has shared more than 24,000 stories and editorials with 74 participating newspapers, since it began October 1, 2009.”

When you have active engagement by all parties in the strategic planning process you can overcome barriers, secure agreement for a mutually agreeable path forward and discover and implement new ideas such as KPA has done.  

And needless to say you can stand up with pride and announce your success!

Congratulations David and team at KPA!!!

How to Create a Crisis: Why do you suppose the DHS needs 1 Billion Bullets?

Why do you suppose the DHS needs 1 Billion Bullets?

For an administration that was going to be the most “open and transparent” of any to come to Washington, the current White House and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary have chosen to create yet another crisis.

Never missing the opportunity to “pass up” a good crisis, as former Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel was known to say, the DHS Secretary refuses to answer to Congress why they are purchasing bullets, guns and armored vehicles.

While most of us try to avoid crisis or try to learn how to handle them better this administration seemingly strives to create as many as possible.

Universities and colleges should be giving thought to this issue and the ramifications on their campus from those activists who see this as an issue.

You can read more about the DHS refusal at:

http://www.infowars.com/big-sis-refuses-to-answer-congress-on-ammo-purchases/

Mind-mapping crisis messages – Learn to do it NOW!

Mind-mapping crisis messages – Learn to do it NOW!

This is a series of articles that will help you understand mind mapping crisis messages. This process when done appropriately and successfully will ensure you will succeed.

Article 1 in this series – Mind-mapping crisis messages – Learn to do it NOW!

Do you know what you will say when:

¡  You have an active shooter on campus

¡  How about 3-hours into the incident?

¡  A gas line leak causes you to evacuate a dorm

¡  A flood watch is issued and flooding appears imminent

¡  When power fails and an all out effort to restore power is delayed by a strike

¡  When a student is raped, kidnapped, or simply disappears into the night

¡  When workplace violence hits your organization

A crisis grows, changes, and often deepens over time. Like all things in life – a crisis has a starting point, a middle phase and an ending. What you choose to say, who you will talk with and how you will reach them in these days of social media will change at every stage of the crisis.

Some of the worst mistakes are made by crisis communicators because they try to create the messages in the heat of the moment. Ineffective and hurried communications create major blunders and failures.

Simply, when the stuff hits the fan, stress levels are running to the extreme, managers and executives, administrators and supervisors are all uptight and tense, everybody wants to approve and contribute to the messages and if you are the crisis communicator you know you have an incredible feat at hand.

Over the next few blogs we will look at the seven stages of a crisis and how you can use a technique known a mind mapping messages at every stage from the early stages of warning, to assessing the risk, to responding, resolving and recovering.

If you take the time to learn the technique in advance you can create clear, concise mind maps that will help you at every one of the seven stages.

Here are the seven stages we will discuss and help you understand:

¡  1. The advance warning and/or advance intel stage

¡  2. Situation assessment – the stage where you assess pros/cons, good/bad/ugly

¡  3. Communicating the response – how to communicate and to whom

¡  4. Operational management – handling the operations to survive

¡  5. Resolution and path forward prevention – resolving and moving forward to continuity

¡  6. Business continuity – recovery – ensuring a recovery and ensuring continuous movement forward

¡  7. Lessons learned  – recalibrations – learning from what went right, what went wrong, the deltas needed and how best to recalibrate and be resilient

We will explain each stage over the next few blogs.

www.ldarrylarmstrong.com