The 3 Inside Secrets to Managing Millennials

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As a leadership trainer and HR Consultant, the question I am asked probably more than any other, is, “How do I deal with Millennials?” Millennials are the group born between the mid-90’s and mid-2000s and are the generation now entering the workplace. Organizations are confused by the group, who they see as transient job hoppers. Perennially un-satisfied, Millennials are often stereotyped with either a voracious appetite for their own personal growth or a healthy disrespect for those in authority or both. The word, “Narcissistic,” is often mentioned, which I will come back to later. Millennials are often perceived as pretentious rather than humble, which in a team setting translates into irritation and conflict.

These are the stereotypes, and stereotypes are born when individuals from one social group view another social group as one entity, as if the other social group were one person with a single personality.  The failure to see the group as individuals with individual personalities, but with some shared ideas, creates a problem. Not all Millennials are created equal. The reason this creates a problem is that it excuses organizations from their responsibility to provide the highest standard of leadership and people management to ALL employees.

In many ways, it’s not that Millennials are difficult, it’s that previous generations were prepared to suffer well in organizations with leadership styles based on fear and control where learning and growth were way down the priority list. In such organizations, the unspoken goal is not to lose, rather than to try to win. Millennials don’t seem too comfortable with this.

Some background, every new generation entering the workplace arrives with the same bewilderment from leaders, Generation X had the same reaction from the Baby Boomers. Generation X (of which I am a member) shared the dedication to hard work that Baby Boomers did, but they lacked the compliance and were more keen to challenge systems which they felt had room for improvement.

I do agree that Millennials present a challenge for organizations, which for them is unavoidable because, as the “New Crop” entering the workplace, Millennials are the most cost-effective employees.  Most Management Consulting companies would cease to exist without them.

We need to be truthful with ourselves here, the reason that the question, “How do we deal with Millennials,” is asked is because all organizations need an influx of fresh and cheap labor, and graduates and school leavers provide that. Graduates enter with low pay and are expected to do at least a couple of years of doing the hard work and, “Learning the ropes,” before maybe moving to a better position, hopefully within the organization.

The system works because it’s true, you do indeed need to learn the ropes which means understanding the market, organization and how to grow the business armed with an understanding of both. Unfortunately, this generation isn’t just accepting this system quite like the last and are highly motivated to move to a better position as soon as possible.

One of the things I hear a lot is that Millennials are, “Narcissistic,” meaning that they are selfish, exaggerate their abilities and feel entitled.  It is also said that they lack humility. I’ve worked with Millennials in organizations and interviewed hundreds in the past few years, and I think this a touch unfair and misunderstood.  Let’s not mistake a belief in equality with narcissism. Millennials have a strong belief, as Gen X did, in equality. They enter the workplace and see their more senior colleagues getting paid more them they do and, as the more junior, less experienced employees, they often do the more laborious, monotonous tasks. To their mind, they are just as smart and work hard, and see this situation as unfair. Of course, most of us would agree that their perception belies a lack of experience and maturity, but to label it “Narcissism’ would be inaccurate. Equality, yes, immaturity without a doubt, but let’s not forget how old they actually are, and that Gen X had EXACTLY the same attitude when they were the “20 somethings” entering the workplace.

So, what to do? Here’s my inside tips from HR consulting, headhunting, leadership training and coaching at large organizations in Asia. There are of course many interventions but here’s my top 3.

1.     Don’t treat millennials any different. The US army doesn’t change it leadership style just because the latest generation has different attitudes and values. It chooses wisely, uses an excellent leadership framework and ejects anyone who doesn’t make the cut. Millennials also don’t want to be treated differently but they do want to be treated fairly. Evidence from Gallup suggests that patronizing Millennials with offices that look like a playground doesn’t work, although it does work on Baby Boomers, which I find very amusing.

Make sure that you invest in genuinely excellent leadership at all levels of Management and apply excellent leadership to ALL employees irrespective of age. What does that mean? It means that leaders must understand how to articulate a clear vision, judge the abilities of team members well and assign work appropriately, constantly growing each team member in terms of skill and thinking, and then motivating team members to overcome their fears, to contribute their best, and strive together as a team. That’s easier said than done and requires very specific skills that can be learned in a classroom, but, with the commitment of the organization, it is achievable. The outcome is teams that are able to make a significant contribution far and above the sum of their parts. “Command and control,” is the opposite. It’s enforced compliance where performance is as strong as the weakest part. Although it definitely has a place, especially fresh graduates and school leavers, Millennial, Gen X or Baby Boomer, which one would you prefer to work in? They key is to change your style as the employee grows.

2.     Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you promise a Millennial that they will be promoted within 1 year, and it doesn’t happen, the Millennial will look elsewhere without a thought, they will walk.

It’s true that Millennials are ambitious, and they often need a parental style of leadership that’s encouraging and grounding at the same time. Like all of us, they feel the need to make progress, but they often feel that need more acutely than most others.  Making promises is not the answer but succession planning is. One of my favorite quotes is by Richard Branson who said, “Train them well enough that they can leave, treat them well enough that they will stay.” Sage advice indeed, and the best way to treat all employees, especially Millennials. It’s worth remembering that the #1 reason for an employee resigning is a bad boss. Although “Trigger/Final Straw” would be a more accurate term, great leadership has the ability to work both ways and many employees, Millennials included, will stay for an excellent leader that they can learn from and trust.

3.     Personal growth. Many Millennials are into rapid career progression through accelerated personal growth. They possess bundles of outward confidence and are hungry to learn, with the expectation that they will sprint up the career ladder. Whilst the latter is unlikely, the former is a very real phenomenon.

They have been bought up in a Tony Robbins/Richard Branson world that tells you that if you can dream it, you can have it and that your unfounded negative beliefs and idleness hold you back. Tony and Richard may well be right, but I see that behavior with ALL age groups now, especially Generation X in Asia, entering their 40s and looking to secure a lucrative future.

Millennials are into learning and personal growth (like all people) and showing your commitment to that is the key to keeping them happy.  This is standard best practice for ANY age group and should be personalized through great leadership and not only through cumbersome HR initiatives. The concern is, however, that the thirst for personal growth is just that, personal growth, with the expectation of a new job (anywhere) at the end of it.

Leaders need to make personal growth tightly aligned to the delivery of the business strategy and immediate plans for business growth, as opposed to vacuous “Capabilities.” Many Millennials see that the employer is a vehicle for their learning with the employer there to serve their needs. Great leaders need to give a different message, “Grow yourself by growing my business.” This honest and authentic message is to the point and has no implied promises, and authenticity is essential to being a great leader…of any generation.

Watch the video here https://youtu.be/c4T1ltc0-Bg

Russell Potter is Senior HR Consultant at Motivo. Visit www.motivo.asia for more about our leadership training and HR consulting in Asia.

Inside Info | Are you a Manager or a Leader? The 4 Key Differences

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The term, “Manage” is often used to denote, “Just getting by,” somehow…”we manage.” I come across many managers who are purely focused, quite naturally on the urgent emerging drama of operational work. Tasks are “Managed.” Tasks in the never-ending flow of the machine, seemingly without end…indeed, when will it all end? Leadership, it seems, is a nice to do, “End of day,” activity.

Leadership is about more than, “Just getting by,” it’s an edge, a state of not only operating but of being in control, of standing up and deciding not what we will receive and but what we will give. Leading is about challenging and not just accepting, it’s about standing out front.

Here are the 4 traits that determine the true difference between management and leadership:

1.      Leaders walk in front, they lead and others follow. This is the most accurate definition of leading. The leader determines the route, the safety of the terrain and its hazards, they have the clearest view of the territory. From that position, they enjoy the vision that the followers may not have. Leaders, therefore, must have a clear vision and the ability to articulate that vision. Managers, on the other hand, merely operate the organization’s control systems.

Anyone can be a leader, a Receptionist is a leader when a visiting CEO walks into their reception. The IT guy is the leader when the company IT Systems go down. In their territory, they walk in front, visitors to that territory merely follow and it’s one of the reasons that expertise is the foundation of leadership. Leaders know their terrain.

For anyone looking to improve their leadership skills, understanding the territory is a high priority. Go back 100 years and plot the evolution of your industry with each game-changing moment, find market research to show where your industry is today and then anticipate the future. Most managers have no idea how their organization evolved let alone their industry, taking their inferences entirely from current customer demand.

2.      Skill is nothing without judgment.  The need to accurately judge a situation is key. What’s possible and what’s not, what constitutes a high risk, and what indeed is a low-risk. “Who dares wins,” maybe, yet ironically judgment includes the need not judge other as we judge ourselves. Because I can make it doesn’t, mean that others can make it too. Knowing the capabilities and limitations of your team is vitally important.

Imagine that our Manager can see a proverbial river ahead, a formidable obstacle. Battle-hardened, he knows how to traverse it, but how well can he get 10 other people to follow suit? Can he(or she) train his team with the skills needed to overcome the challenge? Can he then motivate, encourage and instill the self-belief needed to take on the overwhelming prospect of an activity that could result in their demise? Proverbial or not, if he cannot ask himself these questions and address these issues, he will not be a leader. Indeed, leadership is an essential pre-cursor to any change management initiative as it requires the judgment to ascertain the readiness of teams for the changes ahead.

An excellent way to achieve this is by using a coaching style or delegating (properly). When delegating properly, employees are given time to develop plans and ideas independently. This will quickly allow you to assess their level of thinking and judgment and gives the opportunity for employee development or, “Thinking practice,” as I like to call it. Coaching and delegating build strong self-confidence in employees.

3.      Experience matters. Can you really understand the terrain until you’ve walked it? Is a map enough? Most would argue not. If you’ve never had to lead skeptical people through a difficult change if you’ve never walked that path how can you possibly understand resistance, and more importantly, your own personal limitations and capabilities? How can this be addressed without years of experience?

Training, coaching and using the right leadership style, offers a safe space to try, fail and learn. Great training programs should incorporate a level of live skill training and realistic simulation, taking the theory out of the classroom. I like to think of the glass walls of a training room as a metaphor. We require trainees to leave the training room to complete at least one live exercise, practicing the skill learned in training on a real employee. That’s real experience and the leader now has 2 feet in the territory.

4.      Trust is vital. Leaders can walk in front but who would follow someone they didn’t trust. Employees need to have confidence in their manager’s ability to solve problems and to plot the correct path but more than anything else, employees need to feel that their manager has their interests at heart, that he “has their back.”

That is truly a difference between a manager and a leader.

Watch the video here https://youtu.be/Wr6JabwSibs

5 Steps to Growing your Leaders from Within

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An interesting fact brought to light comes from an unlikely source, wealth guru Robert Kiyosaki.  In his excellent book, “Lessons in Leadership from the Military,” he points out that in the US Marines, nobody has ever been appointed to the position of General from outside of the Marines.“In the US Marines, nobody has ever been appointed to the position of General from outside of the Marines.”

As benign as that may sound, how many organizations can say that their CEO was home grown from within the organization, embodying the values that have evolved over decades into a clear brand identity delivering loyal customers and regular profits.  The answer is obvious, they didn’t grow the best person for the job where the said job is in an open marketplace for the best talent.

Here’s our take on how to grow the leaders of the future from within.

1. Recruit Wisely

In any organizational development consulting project we start recruitment, more specifically the Recruitment and Selection Processes.  No organization can truly move forward if it continuously feeds itself with the wrong hires.

We stress the importance of high standards and entry requirements.  Many candidates can do a great interview so it’s important to spot the signs of a poor fit at this stage.  Look for leadership characteristics and not only operational  skills in all hires.

A note on psychometrics here.  Although psychometrics are popular, unless you are highly trained at using them you’re likely to go straight to the Job Match.  What the Job Match doesn’t tell you is how well the person would fit into your organization.  A Sales Executive position at a large multinational requires a totally different set of personal characteristics to a Sales Executive Position at a start-up IT company, where entrepreneurial skills would be more favorable.Hiring only people with leadership and intrapreneurial characteristics will create the raw talent pool needed for the next generation of leaders.

2. Delegate Well

Although this is easier said than done in high paced environments such as hospitality, which call for rigid SOPs and emergency management styles, the key here is to train leaders in when to delegate and to whom.

It’s the best opportunity you have to put employees into a stretch position involving real learning and responsibility.  Most leaders stretch employees by giving a higher volume of work rather than a higher level of work.

Many leaders will find it quicker and easier to do complex tasks themselves but this is poor leadership.  In reality, this is one which needs reinforcement from the very top.  When the Executive Team expects it of their managers, they usually fall in line.  In other organizations which value the “Hero,” approach to working, delegation is rarely executed effectively.

Delegate what you can, delegate often, delegate interesting stretch tasks, set clear expectations, give the employee 24-48 hours to report back on their plan to do the job, support coach and guide from there.“In other organizations which value the “Hero” approach to working, delegation is rarely executed effectively.”

3. Project Work.

Although most companies will not utilize Six Sigma style cross functional projects, our experience is that these projects offer the perfect opportunity to develop leadership skills in employees who would otherwise not have the chance.  Leadership comes not only from delegated power (I’m the boss) it also comes from technical competence and project work offers a chance to leverage this.  At the same time, with coaching, the technical leadership can be compounded with a broader spectrum of leadership skills.

Team members can eventually become project managers and have cross-functional leadership experience, perfect for Executive positions.

More than anything the experience gives a broader view of the organization, essential to any future CEO and desperately lacking in nearly all divisional and departmental leaders.

4. Leadership Training…for All.

All of us, whether we are CEO’s or Receptionists, are leaders at specific times.   In an emergency fire drill, it’s often the Office Manager or Receptionist with leadership responsibilities.  There are times when my 9-year old son is the leader when it comes to anything related to surfing or the latest trend for kids.   He has the knowledge that I clearly lack in that arena and becomes a leader in that moment.

The very best way to ingrain leadership qualities into an organization is to train everyone to be a great leader from the beginning.  Indeed, this is a key tenet of US military training.

Although the Office Junior has little need to learn about the Balanced Scorecard he does have a requirement to understand that leadership is about teaching, about engagement, about unity.

In Richard Branson’s words, “Train them well enough that they can leave, treat them well enough that they will stay.”“Train them well enough that they can leave, treat them well enough that they will stay.”

5. Teach don’t Tell

This is one we have used at Motivo with some stunning results.  The idea is that instead of giving tasks and answering questions, you ask questions and give responsibilities.

Although there are often cultural barriers to this, as here in Indonesia, it takes time and patience and is worth the effort.  In an emergency situation or up against a deadline you will need to manage your own emotions to stay on track but keep with it.   Employees eventually work out that they have the freedom and responsibility to think for themselves, to take responsibility. 

By putting the problem back to the employee they learn to think in leadership terms in a protected and safe environment, almost like a child learning to ride a bike with stabilizers.  Once the stabilizers come off, the employee will have the self-confidence to make decisions and solve problems without fear or emotions clouding their judgment.“Employees eventually work out that they have the freedom and responsibility to think for themselves, to take responsibility”

This list could go on and on, but 4 Steps is about the limit of change for any organization.  Ingrain these 4 steps into your corporate culture, stay with them for the long term and your pool of leadership talent will be deep and wide.

The Importance of Starting the New Year Off With a Bang

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by Asher Raphael, enterpreneur.com, 28th December, 2015 – As many die-hard baseball fans know all too well, you can’t win the pennant in April — but you can lose it. The same sentiment rings true for businesses at the start of each year. While a great first quarter doesn’t necessarily guarantee a banner year, a terrible first quarter will absolutely ensure a year that falls short of expectations. That’s why it’s imperative to make your employees feel energized and motivated — almost as if they are being shot out of a cannon — as the new year begins.

It’s a challenging feat no doubt, especially as many return to the office feeling weary after a long and busy holiday season. However, it’s critical to ensuring a successful year and worth the time, energy and investment it takes to be done right. It’s also the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the natural inclination most of us feel to start the new year with new goals and aspirations on both a professional and personal level.

As your new fiscal year gets underway in the coming weeks, consider the following:

1. Don’t forget to look back.
While everyone views the start of the new year as a chance to wipe the slate clean and get a fresh start, not enough businesses take the time to reflect on both positive and negative trends from the previous twelve months of measurable results. A crucial component of good leadership is accurately communicating the goal and vision of the company, something that, unlike a mission statement, should ebb and flow from year to year.

Just as the President of the United States begins each year with the State of the Union address, it’s important for every business leader to acknowledge the state of his / her business and lay out new, specific goals that are in line with the current vision and realities on the ground.

2. Put success within reach.
Now is the time to define not just long-term goals but also short-term milestones that are both aspirational and achievable. Consider putting out your biggest goals in the first quarter, thereby allowing for some immediate wins and setting the standard for what’s possible for the year. After a huge first quarter, both individuals and departments will redefine their own expectations and set out to achieve year-end goals that on Jan. 1 would have seemed unattainable.

3. Make it personal.
To be a great manager and leader you have to know, understand and care about your people. The goals they are setting for themselves at the beginning of the year are most likely both professional and personal goals and can reveal volumes about their motivations on a number of levels. Make it a point to acknowledge and encourage those goals in some way.

I’ve made it a tradition at the start of each year to ask each employee to write down one short-term and long-term professional goal, one family-related goal, one health-related goal and one spiritual goal. Each list is placed in an envelope, sealed and opened during year-end reviews. Not only does it help people feel accountable and aware of the permanent nature of their goals, but it also allows their managers greater insight into the things that are most important to each of their team members as individuals and human beings.

Perhaps most importantly, every business leader should lead by example. If you want your people to feel energized and motivated at the outset of a new year, you need to feel the same way. Taking time to get away, recharge and reflect outside of your typical day-to-day grind will enable you to look at things from a different perspective and with a clear head as the calendar turns to 2016.

Start-ups Should Sell to Small Businesses, Not Big Enterprises

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HBR, 1st Feb 2015 > Business-to-business start-ups are an important segment of the entrepreneurial landscape, but many founders hamstring themselves by focusing on the wrong initial customers. They focus on large enterprises, hoping to gain legitimacy from “anchor” customers. This focus can make their path much more difficult, and dramatically reduce their chance of success. Instead, B2B entrepreneurs should focus their efforts on small businesses.

The traditional line against targeting small businesses is that they’re costly to sell to. That’s short-sighted. Selling to small businesses is a great way to start a business, and often sets the stage for selling to larger enterprises later on. In this way, the start-up that initially served only small businesses can disrupt incumbents and come to dominate the large enterprise market, too.

Several examples of this strategy have emerged over the past few years:

  • Salesforce disrupted expensive on-site customer databases by offering a cloud-based solution that replaced substantial up-front expense with a low monthly subscription.
  • Vistaprint disrupted local printing shops by offering web-based design and ordering and centralized production, using economies of scale to dramatically reduce costs.
  • Stamps.com disrupted traditional mail-processing companies like Pitney Bowes by replacing expensive equipment purchases with an online application and monthly subscriptions.

The pattern continues today with start-ups that are in the early phases of this journey:

  • Expensify is in the process of disrupting administrative assistants and office managers with an app-based expense reporting product.
  • HourlyNerd (which was founded by members of my MBA class at Harvard Business School) is disrupting the consulting industry by connecting businesses with independent consultants.

To understand how small business solutions can disrupt large enterprises, I studied HourlyNerd and share here the lessons entrepreneurs can use to create disruptive B2B businesses by starting with small customers.

Because small businesses have similar needs to large businesses, a model that profitably and effectively serves them can be scaled to serve medium and large enterprises with relative ease. Small businesses are also extremely low-risk proving grounds because there are so many of them that failure with any one customer won’t lead to large reputational damage.

Better still, because small businesses desperately want these products but can’t access them, they will be happy with much less functionality than large enterprises that have many products to choose from. This gives start-ups a great entry point for a simple product that can be improved over time to appeal to more demanding customers. Gone are long pre-launch development cycles that attempt to create the optimal product for the most demanding customer. Instead, entrepreneurs can launch quickly with little capital and improve over time. In fact, HourlyNerd was started during Harvard’s FIELD program with only $5,000.

The first step to entering the small business market is to identify opportunities where incumbents are ignoring small businesses because their products are too expensive or complicated. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos recommends looking for opportunities to convert capital and fixed expenses into variable costs. So look for industries where upfront costs are high and new technology could offer similar services with little or no upfront commitment.

Next, create a minimum viable product and work closely with your initial customers to understand what goes right and wrong. For HourlyNerd, this meant individually matching each business and consultant and performing thorough interviews with each before and after the service. It’s important in this phase to temper your growth; make sure your unit economics make sense before seeking to scale.

Keep the product general. Create standardized offerings that many small customers can apply to their unique situation without expensive and time-consuming customization. Similarly, it may be tempting to categorize your customers by attributes like geography or business type, but resist this and instead organize them based on size and sophistication. This will allow you to segment your products and create simple solutions for simple needs and more complex solutions for more demanding customers. Framing your opportunity in terms of the benefits you offer and not customer demographics will help you see opportunities in ever-larger enterprises.Even once you start targeting enterprise customers, it’s possible to do so without competing directly against the bigger competitors. For example, HourlyNerd recognized that while very few people in large organizations have the money or need to hire a major consulting firm, many people have small but important problems that make perfect small consulting projects and space in their budgets to hire a consultant. Similarly, in the post-recession world, many managers have no ability to hire additional staff but have complete flexibility to hire a freelance consultant on a short-term basis. By serving these people, HourlyNerd is now growing in the enterprise space without meeting resistance from big firms, because they’re growing the category with new consumption rather than stealing existing consumption. `

Every business naturally improves its product over time. As B2B entrepreneurs improve theirs, they will find that they can meet the needs of these underserved constituencies in large organizations. The pattern of disruption continues when more demanding constituencies inside the enterprise see the results from the disruptive product and begin to consider it as an alternative to incumbent offerings. Typically incumbents will ignore the startup because they don’t feel any pain from lost sales until their best customers abandon them for the new offering. But by then it’s too late; the startup has succeeded in the disruption and is too big to defeat easily.

This strategy is not without challenges, including brand perception — remember the adage “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” But with time this can be overcome. While initially many large enterprises may have balked at the idea of using a web start-up called Salesforce.com, no one today bats an eye at the idea, even in the largest, most sophisticated companies.

by Thomas Bartman > Harvard Business Review > 1st Feb 2015 > start up business strategy.