The More We Know About Generations - September 24, 2012
I was just listening to WTOP, the news radio station in the DC metro area, and one of the reports talked about the declining salaries since 1999 for the “Sandwich Generation.” Apparently those aged 45-54 are making on average 17% less than they did 13 years ago. I fall smack dab in the middle of this group, and while I am exceedingly more satisfied with my career as an entrepreneur and Woman Owned Small Business, I am not making that corporate salary with bonus and perks I once enjoyed either. Carol Abaya coined this concept and indeed having older parents to worry about, and young kids – and adult kids, makes life very interesting. I personally wouldn’t have it any other way, but that Generation Jones curse of the “Keeping up with the Jones’s” and “Jonsing for more, reinventing ourselves” as Jonathan Pontell describes, is a dynamic the early Boomers and late Gen Xer’s are immersed in. (Remember Gen Jones is a subset of the Boomers “sandwiched” between older Boomers and Gen X.)
So as we think about how to apply the lens of generational differences, I think one of the things to keep in mind for the emerging Millennial leader is some of your staff are feeling a lot of outside pressures that you cannot appreciate at this point in your life. I recently spoke to several new leaders in the 29-32 age range, and they are now managing 40-50+ year olds and struggling a bit. They shared with me that they feel they cannot connect with them, and the Boomers are shutting them out.
|Peace Symbol Necklace
|Viet Nam War
||Persian Gulf War
||No Nukes Campaign
||“Boxers or Briefs?”
|“All You Need is Love”
||“Born to Run”
||“Smells Like Teen Spirit”
||“St. Elmo’s Fire”
||“The Brady Bunch”
|Source: Jonathan Pontell, GenerationJones.com
I spoke to several Boomers being led by Millennials and they report their managers are defensive, not open to any input, and act like they need to have all the answers. So they shut down, and just ‘show up’ to do their jobs, and nothing more.
It all comes down to mutual respect. Millennials bring a lot to the table as we know and read about every day. And experienced Boomers and Xer’s do too. If we tried to remain open and curious to what we all offer, and put ego to the side and be authentic with each other, it might improve morale. Millennials are in the midst of constructing their egos, who they are, becoming experts at something. Boomers and Xers, if we are lucky, have BTDT (been there done that), and are deconstructing our egos. Downsizing and simplifying our lives.
I suspect a new Millennial manager has consternation’s just as I did when I had my first management role. I took a humble approach. Wanting to learn from the senior members of the team. Engaging them early on as to not appear bigger than I was. Back then, that approach worked well. I hear my friends who have late 20 something bosses complain that they are treated like has-beens, not as intelligent and almost feel insulted. That strategy is not going to serve the new manager well. And I recognize they are still growing into their leadership, we all make some blunders in the beginning.
A helpful leadership strategy I subscribe to comes from Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder work.
“Win Them Over.”
Millennial Madness: May Showers of Hope - May 4, 2012
I found myself waiting at the SLC Airport surrounded by twelve high school seniors headed to DC for a graduation trip and college visits. They are well armed with their technology (as am I, so at least I fit in from that perspective). They all have a handheld device of some sort – Samsung, iPhone, Droid, all the major brands are well represented.
Five have laptops – Mac, Dell. Six have iPods plugged in their ears, while they are all multi-tasking. They are also having very vigorous conversations (which bursts the myth that they do not know how to talk to each other.) One young man is clearly obsessed with technology (the Mac guy) and he has rambled off the names of at least 30 different plug ins, apps, hardware, and takes pride in showing his female peer with the Dell all about it. Twitter feeds, Facebook profile pics, and You-Tube clips. They all talk about food too. Food is a universal language for us all, and this group of Millennials are no exception.They are also doing a fine job of keeping an eye on each other as their boarding time draws near. Genuine concern for their friends.
As I lift up my head from my Inspiron-mini I see two large groups of young Millennials arriving from their location for a Rocky Mountain retreat. A musical group maybe? Their matching shirts actually look like the Mad Men logo although I know that can’t be true. A plethora of diversity. Young men, women, and numerous cultural backgrounds. It warms this writers heart to see this as a normal condition.
I hear many of our leaders expressing concern about the Millennials ability to communicate verbally. Many eye rolls at their ability to write in anything but text-ease. But you know, I feel increasingly more confident as I am immersed in this Millennial moment that their parents raised them the best they could. Exposed them to so many opportunities, and gave them an amazing start. Just like any other generation, there will be some that thrive, and others that will not. And I think we will see this generation thriving more than not. I am happy to be a mentor to pass over the reigns. I don’t need to lead any longer. I am in the deconstruction of my career ego, and focusing more on how I can make an impact. It is sort of a relief.
I had the opportunity to train at a large Military-base. My class was filled with retired military recently hired into a civilian federal agency. Most were younger Boomers and older Gen Xers, with one lone Millennial. It was interesting to hear about those who ascended to fairly high leadership ranks prior to their retirement just wanting to get a job, keep their head low, and NOT lead. But in reality, the real leaders stand out. They couldn’t keep away, they want to be a role-model, a mentor. As much as they wanted to fight the urge, and achieve the life balance, they can’t help but fulfill a calling to make an impact. I related to them. The word wisdom came up a lot. This lone Millennial was very talented among the sage group. And they showed her respect. Wanted to hear her perspective. And she THRIVED!
I think it is that simple. To get the most out of Millennials, show them respect, that their voice matters. That your HEAR them, not just see them.
Just Another Day, Make it Count - November 1, 2011
One Friday morning…L’Enfant Plaza, Washington, DC…I am not native to DC, been here 10 years now though. I was not an early adopter to the metro system, but I use it routinely now to see my federal coaching clients. I am not sure I actually ever exited this station, although it is a major transfer station. It is being remodeled with lots of shops and eateries. I observe five generations of citizens, tourists, expats roaming the corridors at 9:30 am.
A young millennial gent in a spiffy suit grins while walking with his lovely counterpart – makes me recollect when I was starting out in my career, so much was new and exciting. An energy I wish I could bottle. ”Why can’t I have it now?” Yes, the Generation Jones* that I am was screaming out then too! I have been watching the classic late 80′s series thirtysomething lately and episode 7 Season 1 featured the Home Shopping Network – “I need it and I need it now!” Yup. That was certainly my mantra! Although I wasn’t necessarily aware of it, or even did I question it.
I do recall my wise Grandma Lorraine always wondering why I didn’t just save up for it.
“Use a coffee can like I do!”
“But Gram, I have a credit card!”
Ugh, the beginning of the end. And what were the creditors thinking when they unleashed a card to me at age 19 with a the $5000 credit limit in 1982? I have more than done my part to keep the economy going and fund large bonuses for the banking execs. lol.
I digress, back to the Plaza. A Gen Jones man walking deliberately and focused, perhaps late to a meeting, but determined and happy it is Friday. A Boomer couple on vacation sitting and scouring the tourist map to plan out their morning. Mom and her young teen daughter heading somewhere as if on a mission; the Great Depression era represented as well, a woman heading to her job and I can only imagine she is celebrating 50 years there and she is proud of her service.
Another Traditionalist couple looking overwhelmed, I offer help.
A gentleman about 62 whistling and his gait almost a march as he breaks for coffee at Olympic Expresso, one of the only shops open while the facelift halts operations of this potentially bustling plaza.
A 50ish jolly woman juggling a vente double whip something snacking on a high calorie treat. A twenty-something woman, head hung low, could be her boyfriend forgot her birthday or her best friend went out with him.
So what do they call the music in the background these days? It was Muzak in my day – a piano concerto of some sort. Now it is Sirius/XM, Pandora, etc. are commonplace now. Those Millennial geniuses like Zuckerberg and fellow Gen Jonser Tim Westergren, providing a constant evolution/revolution of technology and customized recreational luxuries.
And Gen Jones genius Steve Jobs, RIP.
As I wait to enter my new clients’ office for the first time I marvel at what the slice of humanity I am observing today is challenged by, struggling with, elated about. On the heels of finding out a long time dear friend has been diagnosed with a malignant tumor, I can’t help but be reflective, grateful, yet in abeyance. We all soldier through our days, hopefully lucky enough to use the gifts we have to make a living, a difference, to influence those around us and learn something new every day.
I see back packs everywhere – I wish I still had my square mocha brown leather briefcase I got in 1985 when I first entered the workforce. It would be vintage! It was exciting, and scary. As are our times today.
Just another day, make it count.
*Per Jonathan Pontell, the man who coined the term of the in-between generation, the Ivy League’s Yale University now teaches Generation Jones in a course called: Managing a Multiple Generation Workforce, which addresses: the three prevailing workplace generations: Baby Boomers, Generation Jones, and Generation X. Many Universities in the U.S. and abroad now include Generation Jones in their curriculum.
More on the Millies – Gen Y or Millennials - September 16, 2011
Someone told me today that the Millennials are the Video generation. When they are done with the game they can hit “start over” and begin a new game and forget all about the one they were playing. This mentality apparently is spilling over into the workforce because leaders are complaining about the high turnover of this group, and anyone who is in the corporate world knows that the cost of turnover is 2 to 10 times the salary of that job. I heard today about a big organization that is investing millions into their Millennial talent. They are providing a leadership coach to all their high potentials and investing in them using tools, methodologies and mediums that are meaningful to them. This organization is going out of their way to ensure that the skills and experience the coaches have are compatible with the Millies. That they have an open mind and believe that they bring something truly positive and that once you connect with them and show you respect them for what they bring, they are in your pocket. They want to exude a sense of loyalty to the talent and are optimistic about their loyalty in return. It would benefit us to understand the future leaders of our world and this writer is passionate about learning more about them and helping them prepare to take on more.
In the book Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation by Neil Howe and William Strauss, they site surveys that show this group is optimistic, happy, confident and positive. Socio-economics taken into consideration, they worry less about violence, sex and drugs than previous generations. Millennials are not the self-absorbed brats that some managers and supervisors claim they are, they were raised to be cooperative team players with community service and working with others and a collective power mindset. They have a passion for the environment and believe it is their generation that is being raised to make a difference. They are smart, too. They grew up with computers before they could even pronounce the word. Health, preventative care and nutrition have taken a more important role than that of the Gen X group. Their school fire drills are about preparing for attacks with events like Columbine, 9/11, Oklahoma City bombing, the DC Sniper and Virginia Tech as benchmarks. Other influencing factors were the OJ Simpson trial, Rodney King riots, Clinton impeachment, Monica Lewinsky scandal, and Princess Di’s death are all events the shaped this era according to a Class of 2000 survey. Active military deployments in the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan are commonplace.
I want to encourage our current leaders to embrace this emerging audience. A bit of encouragement to nurture that optimism is not a lot to ask. How we had to scratch our way up is not how they intend to live their lives. They are here, and they do not have the propensity to be “here to stay” if the organizational culture is questionable. We need to make that effort to give them a reason to stay. Telling them “you’re lucky to have a job” ain’t it. Game over.