leadership dot #1996: posted

Most people know that there is a law requiring employers to post certain job regulations in a prominent place for employees to have access to them: things like non-discrimination clauses, employee rights, minimum wage and other legal notices. But what happens when there is no office or break-room bulletin board?

This situation occurred on a recent construction project on my street. In addition to all the equipment and road signs that were delivered came a big sheet of plywood with notices in plastic holders. This board is sitting out by the mailboxes, presumably for the workers to have access to the required documents. I doubt anyone has read it!

When government officials were drafting the law, I am sure it made good sense to them to require employers to share the information with their employees and to have the notices posted in a prominent location. In their world of offices and meetings, it would be an easy thing to do only no one thought through the various situations in which posting would be ludicrous instead of practical.

Before you require everyone to do something, pause for a moment and think of the hardships this may cause others. It is far better to legislate the intent instead of prescribing the method.

leadership dot #1981: Millennials

When I present a workshop about different generations, I always start by sharing a handful of sand. I talk about how what I am about to discuss is “the beach” and I am aware that it is made up of millions of grains of sand (individuals). I acknowledge that not everything I will say applies to everyone, but sometimes it is helpful to look at the big picture and to learn from some generalities.

Such is the case in today’s dot about Millennials. There is disagreement on when this generation precisely begins – 1980, ’81 or ’82 are most common – but there is no denying that the members of the Millennials (Generation Y) are influential. Millennials were born from 1981-ish through 1995-ish and are now the largest generation. Those in their late twenties and thirties are rising into leadership positions in companies and organizations and having a significant impact on cultures.

Millennials are driven by the need to make a difference – so your organization’s mission and purpose matter. A lot. You will be most successful in attracting and retaining Millennial talent if you can inspire them and provide work that has meaning to them. Following Simon Sinek’s advice to “start with why” is a good mantra to appeal to this generation.

Millennials are also motivated by learning – wanting continual opportunities to develop and grow. Organizations who invest in professional development and allow employees to perform community service will be seen as most desirable. Give your Millennial staff new assignments and engage them on diverse committees – both to gain their contribution and to maintain their interest in the work.

Of course, Millennials grew up in a technologically robust environment with computers, texting, gaming, and social media prevalent. This technological connection carries over to their desire for frequent, instant feedback. Those supervising the generation should expect to dedicate more time to communicating and more funds to technology if they seek to satisfy this generation.

Finally, organizations who provide flexibility will be the most successful. Millennials see their work and personal life as blended – and they want flexible work arrangements, collaborative workspaces and the opportunity to use their technology to be productive in ways more amenable to them.

Work that makes a difference, with on-going professional development, frequent feedback, collaboration and flexibility – it sounds like organizations would be wise to provide this kind of culture for all their employees, not just the Millennials. The difference is that Millennials who don’t find this will switch jobs and leave, unlike previous generations that stuck it out – Boomers for life, and Generation X for longer.

If you work to make your Millennials happy, all of your organization should be happy too!

Picture source: http://www.texturevault.net

leadership dot #1973: run

For some marathon runners, it’s all about their time, while other runners have a goal focused on completing the race. Either way, I think that most who sign up for such a strenuous run are expecting the route to be 26.1 miles.

This wasn’t the case at the PNC Milwaukee Marathon – and the route wasn’t off by a small amount, it was .8 miles or 4,224 feet shy of the standard distance. So the runners who thought they had a spectacular time, in reality, did not, and those who believe they qualified for the Boston Marathon did not do that either. The year before, someone set up the cones incorrectly making this same marathon too long by almost a mile. Yikes!

It would seem that for something as important as the route distance that someone would double check it after it had been set up. Both times, the error appears to have occurred in interpreting the route map, and especially after a debacle in 2016, you would think that having a correct distance would have been Job #1 for this year’s marathon.

I am sure that hosting a 26-mile race for 785 runners is a logistical challenge, just as your organization faces many complex issues to resolve. But take a lesson from Milwaukee and don’t get so caught up in the minor details that you fail to deliver the core element of your experience. Measure your route. Twice.

Source: Runners react to PNC Milwaukee Marathon distance blunder; Boston Marathon won’t accept times by Lori Nickel in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online, October 19, 2017.

 Thanks, Meg!


leadership dot #1965: Gen X

Generation X – those born between 1965-1979 are the middle child of current generational studies. Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are seen as passé and all the attention is on Millennials (1980-1994) or Generation Z (1995-present) instead of Gen X even though they represent over 20% of the workforce.

Generation Xers are predominately people in their 40s and were heavily influenced by the social changes that occurred during their childhood. Gen X is the first generation that grew up with technology, one of the factors that make them fans of multi-tasking.

When I first started presenting about Gen X coming to college, they were known as the “baby busters.” While I was aware that, compared to the Baby Boomers, historians labeled them as much more self-oriented and materialistic, what I saw as their key distinguishing trait was the element of choice. Gen Xers had a choice in far more categories than any generation before them: no longer were Prell and Breck the only shampoos, pink and red the only nail colors and one license plate design issued per state. Gen X had aisles full of toothpaste brands, thousands of credit card options and a proliferation of media content.

And with this choice came the desire to have it “my way,” a characteristic that earned them their negative connotations. Gen X was the first generation to be lavished with recognition and praise (making them cynical), and also the first group who wanted to postpone commitment (why decide when there are so many choices and something better may come along?!). This was the first group that grew up with both parents working, making them more independent and interested in autonomy.

Generation Xers hold many of the up-and-coming leadership roles in our organizations and society. Keep their perspective in mind if you are working with or for someone in the 38-52 age range. Provide options, independence, lots of information in little bite-sized pieces, clear procedures and praise!


leadership dot #1964: easier

A reader with a past gambling history wrote to syndicated columnist Jerry Romansky asking how to handle a night at the casino that other couples planned for the group during their vacation. His advice: “Prevention is easier than correction.”

How true it is, and not just for gambling, but for dozens of other applications:

> Maintaining a grasp on your email volume is easier when done daily rather than when your storage is full.

> Nipping a performance issue in the bud is certainly more effective than discipline down the line.

> Keeping up with preventative maintenance on your car and home is far easier than dealing with repairs.

> Tending to relationships and preventing issues from festering leads to greater satisfaction vs. counseling or shouting.

> Limiting your opponent to small gains and maintaining your lead sure beats playing catch up.

> Keeping your body at an appropriate weight is easier than trying to lose weight after gaining it.

> Spending within your means involves fewer sacrifices than trying to get out of debt.

The time and energy you spend correcting a problem are usually greater than the efforts you would have invested to avoid it. Make the hard choices in the beginning and keep your focus on the prevention side of the equation.

Source: Ask Jerry column by Jerry Romansky in the Telegraph Herald, October 15, 2017, p. 2C

leadership dot #1959: cleaning

Chihuly glass sculptures make for great art and are a visual treat for the observers, but what about the person who has to clean them? This article describes the work of glass cleaner Dave Pugh, who meticulously and cautiously takes individual pieces off the stainless steel studs, labels them, wraps them, cleans them and returns them to their original position. It is work behind-the-scenes that few consider, but is essential to the on-going enjoyment of the sculptures.

It reminded me of a photograph of the National Park Service workers who are charged with maintaining the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Twice a year they do their work in the middle of the night, cleaning areas that would entropy without attention. Cleaning the monument involves power washing, steam-cleaning, dusting and hand-finishing of the marble and takes a crew seven hours to complete.

Photo by Terry Adams,
National Park Service

None of the back-of-the-house jobs are glamorous, but all of them are essential. It is work that makes the front-facing elements more enjoyable and maintains the quality instead of allowing it to diminish over time.

Think about what is in your organization that should be on an annual or semi-annual cleaning schedule. Is there an exhibit that is starting to look tired or displays that could benefit from a sprucing up? Do you have furniture that is used daily in your waiting room, but no one can remember when the upholstery was last washed? Have you left all of your outside cleaning to Mother Nature instead of tending to your windows, signs and bricks?

Physical assets may be low maintenance, but nothing is no maintenance. Include some elbow grease time on your annual planning calendar to keep the sparkle in your possessions.

leadership dot #1953: resolve

Why is it that we often spend more time figuring out who to blame for the problem than we do trying to fix the error?

A colleague recounted the story of inquiring about wastebasket that had disappeared from the conference room. When she asked about it, she learned that a substitute custodian inadvertently threw the garbage can away. (The trash cans are small and sit inside the recycling can that is much larger.) But two weeks later, there was still no replacement wastebasket.

Staff knew the wastebasket was thrown away and likely had a discussion with the custodian to make sure they were aware of their error as to not repeat it in the future. But no one thought to place a new wastebasket in the room? It seemed people were so focused on the fact that the custodian threw away the trash can that they missed thinking through the next step.

Wouldn’t it be better if the focus became less on the error (mistakes happen) and more on how to respond to the error and get back on track with what needs to be in place? Problems seem to derail people from taking the logical next step to resolve the issue, instead of just to identify it.

It’s one thing to learn what happened, but it is so much better to follow through and rectify the problem instead of just stopping when you receive an explanation. Find a new trash can when you learn that one was inadvertently tossed. Wipe up the mess instead of walking around it and asking: “what happened?” Fix the copier or call repair when you see that the indicator comes on instead of just tossing up your hands. Let someone know that the website isn’t working instead of just growling about it.

The key information isn’t who caused the problem; the crucial element is who resolves it.