Entrepreneurial, transparent, team-oriented blogger who wants to find meaning in her work and aspires to achieve work-life blend. Tag line for a millennial? Actually, it’s me, from generation X! Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks if given the proper mindset. So let’s stop focusing on our differences and allow the diversity of our generations to lead to innovation. How do we accomplish that?
- Reverse mentoring: young people aren’t the only ones who need training. The term “reverse mentoring” refers to pairing older workers with younger ones to educate one another on how new ways of thinking can improve them. The key is to change the culture from an “us versus them” mentality to a two-way street. If done properly, it can close the knowledge gap on both sides.
- Build a culture of mutual respect: regardless of whether you are a seasoned veteran or just out of college, the key to your success is on-the-job performance. You can’t necessarily rely alone on your own experience and expertise. Be inclusive and accepting of ideas, especially if you don’t initially agree with them. Allowing others to be heard can go a long way toward building mutual respect.
- Be cognizant of bias and stereotypes: we all know they exist but don’t let them break down open, honest communication among your team. The opportunity (notice I didn’t say challenge) in a multi-generational workforce centers around motivation and retention. Most people leave a supervisor before they leave a job so embracing our diversity rather than highlighting our differences can help ensure we keep the lines of communication open.
Why should you care? In 2015, at approximately 80 million, the millennials have become the largest share of the American workforce according to the Pew Research Center. They will lead our companies, political parties and the nation in the future. It’s the responsibility of the generations that preceded them to resist focusing on what makes us different. Why not share what we know and let them teach us in return? If we are being honest, the very things we criticize about another generation are those we actually envy. TOGETHER we are stronger and can build the foundation for an innovative high performing team. So, what do you say, can I get a generational group hug?
You arrive for your first personal training lesson and the very fit, sculpted trainer takes one look at you and says “you aren’t in very good shape”, maybe I should do the workout for you? You look at her and think “sweet…I’ll just sit back, drink my latte and watch” but then it dawns on you, that would defeat the whole purpose of hiring a personal trainer. I know this example is ludicrous, but then again, so is hiring a business coach if you have no intention of putting forth effort and doing any work.
I read several articles on LinkedIn last week that were on “coaching the uncoachable”. Here’s my view on that one. You don’t need advice on HOW to, just say NO. You can’t coach someone against their will and expect to be successful. Period.
As leaders, we are hard wired to solve problems. In the corporate world where I came from, employees would come into my office all the time bringing their problems and wanting me to fix them. I was thrilled that they trusted me enough to ask and honestly, solving problems and helping others definitely gives you a sense of satisfaction. At first, anyway. Then as days and weeks go by, you find yourself caring and feeding for more and more monkeys and feeling over-burdened. The answer for them to take their monkey back is — coaching. However, it will only work, if the employee buys-in. People will learn far more and be committed if they come up with the answers. They have to “own it”. I’ve found that business leaders and owners almost always have the answers within them; its my job to ask the right questions to bring them to the surface.
A client that I have been working with for the past few months just recently gave me some feedback. She wrote, “the ideas and accountability that [Sandy] provides have been a significant blessing to my business.” One of the biggest reasons she wanted me to be her coach, was so that I could hold her accountable to reach her goals NOT do the work for her. Every week since our relationship began, she has been prepared for our sessions, done her homework in advance and followed up on her action items. That is my ideal client, not a business owner who wants me to do all the work for them or an employee whose boss insisted that they needed coaching because they were having “performance problems”. Coaching sometimes gets a bad wrap for that reason, when in fact, the high performers benefit the most because they are committed and take action to grow and improve themselves and their business.
Ralph Nader said, the job of a leader is to create more leaders. We can’t do that by doing the work FOR them. However, we can teach them how to do it for themselves, thus creating a more sustainable future for business.
Lead yourself first…sounds lonely, doesn’t it? I’m not necessarily referring to the book by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin that talks about inspiring leadership through solitude. I’m simply saying, that just like you can’t love others until you love yourself, you can’t lead them either without leading yourself first. As a new business owner and certified business coach, I am always thinking about my value proposition and the why that led me down the path to pursuing my passion. How do you think my clients would feel about me coaching them, without having defined my own vision, value and purpose in life? The word hypocrite comes to mind.
In the past month, I have discovered the importance of mindfulness and learned to embrace meditation as a part of my daily routine. Just ten minutes in the morning has been enlightening. There is something about quiet time in your day that allows you to really listen to your mind and your body and renew your spirit. You have to listen to yourself to lead yourself. Listening creates clarity and I can’t think of anyone who has ever claimed to suffer from too much clarity. Understanding what drives and motivates us enables us to invest in the things that help us live our vision, value and purpose. Purpose can be your guide to inspired action. The key, then, is taking that action.
Before you endeavor to lead others, make sure you lead yourself first. One of the lessons I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from [slaying] your goals. Be confident in your intentions and once you’ve mastered that, by all means, work to inspire others to do the same.
I had the pleasure last week of attending my first international conference with ~100 “rock star” FocalPoint coaches and speakers. To say it was awe-inspiring and motivating, would be an understatement. But what amazed me the most was the reassuring feeling that I was in a room full of people that shared a common purpose and culture in spite of our geographic diversity. Coincidence? I think not. For we all know that square pegs don’t fit in round holes.
As I sat in the conference center of the Douglas hotel in downtown Vancouver, I had a flashback to September 2017 and my very first phone call with the President and CEO of FocalPoint. When I’m talking to people now about my business, I always say that FocalPoint found me rather than me finding them. Why? Because culture REALLY matters and when you find the RIGHT fit, you know it. Looking back now, Steve had me at “hello!” It was a great conversation filled with lots of laughter and phrases like being the “pebble on the pond” positively impacting the world through integrity, passion, team and balance or blend as I refer to it. All of which was music to my ears. For if I was going to make this bold move and step out of my comfort zone, it had to be the RIGHT fit for me and my family.
Company culture starts at the top. From that very first phone call, I knew that I was speaking with an authentic man full of integrity. You bet that mattered to me and I’m not alone. Employees today are paying more and more attention to company culture when applying for positions. Good cultural fit creates employees who contribute more, stay longer with the company, and build better relationships with coworkers. As was reinforced for me last week by one of our guest speakers (thank you Brian Butler) relationships really matter too. They can motivate or de-motivate and almost always lead to loyalty and trust, which are essential for a diverse and inclusive team.
There are several definitions of company culture out there but the one I like the most is simply that it includes all of the values and beliefs that guide your organization. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there? That’s where your vision, mission and purpose come in. Think of those as your goal or destination and the culture as your journey. The key is that the commitment from every level in the organization must be unwavering. The culture needs to drive the behaviors and the actions or steps that you take every day on your journey.
It is one thing to achieve a strong company culture in corporate America and yet another to achieve it in a franchise organization like FocalPoint that I am so proud to be a part of. Whether its franchisees, partners, or employees, make your purpose and culture completely transparent from day one and don’t settle for a square peg.
Life is about managing expectations. If you were to ask, the majority of people would say that they care very much about how they are perceived and are always looking to improve. So why the sweaty palms when your boss says “Can we talk? I have some feedback I’d like to share with you.”
How can we fix the perception of feedback?
- Change the Conversation: The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) is well known for its model of Situation, Behavior, Impact (SBI). This method shifts the focus on feedback away from the person and focuses on the impact — positive or negative and the behaviors leading to the result. This approach works the majority of the time, with one caveat. If the receiver didn’t know or understand the behaviors they were supposed to exhibit and the results that were expected, then how can we hold them accountable? When we don’t set expectations for our people, we aren’t expressing feedback, we are revealing resentment which is our fault, not theirs.
- Create a culture of Trust: I love this definition of trust… it’s the ability to connect and listen without judgement. We can build trust by practicing the SBI model on a DAILY basis. Your team members (or clients) can’t read your mind! Be very clear about your expectations, the desired result and the process by which to achieve it.
- Open, Honest, Transparent Conversations: What if every conversation started with a common understanding of expectations by all parties and not with assumptions? Feedback shouldn’t be scary, it should be welcomed. If it happens every day and focuses on performance against clear expectations then plain and simple, it is a conversation. One based on trust and mutual respect. And better yet, if you take it to heart, you can change your behavior and ultimately it’s impact on others.
Embrace feedback and watch yourself grow as a leader!
Struggle brings progress whether you succeed or fail. You either succeed and move forward or you fail and learn from it, but either way you are growing. My dad used to always tell me, nothing worth having ever comes easy and those words still ring true today. Keeping your dreams alive requires faith, HARD work, dedication and most importantly belief in yourself.
Last week for International Women’s Day, I posted on Instagram one of my favorite quotes… “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” And in reality I’m not only raising two strong women, but also a strong young man who respects the women in his life. In fact, he was the first to comment on my post and simply said “Whoop, whoop!”
Please allow me to share my advice for raising strong children, the future leaders of America…
- Just Keep Swimming: follow in the footsteps of your parents and grandparents work ethic. Know that you can do anything you put your mind to and that we are your biggest fans. It won’t come easy, but I promise you it WILL be WORTH it, just as you all are. The Law of Attraction can’t be fulfilled without action. There are no coincidences.
- Never Stop Learning: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” – John Wooden. In the last few months since I started my business, I have done more learning through reading, podcasts and networking with others and it has truly been rewarding. You will never know it all, but to live life to your fullest capability, you must continually be looking for ways to improve and adapt. Don’t settle. Set goals, achieve them and keep aiming higher because the sky’s the limit.
- Through it all, Be Humble: no matter who you meet, work for or come in contact with, there is always something valuable to learn from the encounter. There was a time in my career that I thought humility was a sign of weakness, but in reality it is the epitome of strength and growth. Be smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it and you’ll be amazed at the outcome and the way others view you as a result.
My journey to entrepreneurship has been a spiritual one. I have found out so much about what I’m capable of and question why it took me so long to take that leap of faith. I now have the freedom to choose how I spend my time, the work I want to do, and the people I choose to do it with. My message to you, dear children, is that tough times will come, but don’t give up and walk away. You have what it takes to change the world and I look forward to that front row seat to watch it happen.
This morning I was on my way to drop off my daughter at school and little did I know that one wrong move would change my 20+ year perfect driving record. We had a light dusting of snow overnight in Colorado and I awoke to single digit temps. Unfortunately, not even an all wheel drive SUV can save you on icy side streets. I braced for impact, not only from the oncoming minivan, but also from my insurance premiums that I saw rising before my very eyes! Note: no one was hurt, thank God, and that is really all that matters.
However, the business woman and writer in me couldn’t help but find inspiration from my accident. It occurred to me that literally all it takes is one wrong move to wipe out a perfect driving record or …. worse yet, your company’s most valuable asset i.e. your reputation.
What place do you think ethics and values have in strategic planning? Strategic planning provides an organization a sense of urgency, direction, and purpose. Without planning, you becomes reactive, vulnerable to threats, and closed to opportunities. I would argue that “core values/beliefs” are the foundation of any company’s strategic plan and should drive decision-making on a daily basis. Unlike other aspects of the plan, they need to last forever and are not negotiable as your reputation is at stake. Ethics are the “should” and “should not’s” that guide your organization’s decisions, attitudes, behaviors and performance. They should answer such questions as how you conduct your business, who you do business with and what makes your culture unique? When the core values of your company are clear, and communicated on a regular basis to all employees, they form the basis of your company strategy.
Similar to my side street this morning, compromising your ethics — even just once — is a slippery slope. The idea is that one thing leads naturally to allowing another until you find yourself sliding rapidly downhill. Ethics is all about the art of navigating the slippery slope and the only way to develop a strong sense of ethics is to do what you believe in, to take actions consistent with your company’s core values/beliefs time and time again. I’ve been fortunate in my long corporate career, and now in my coaching business, to have worked with CEOs that have uncompromising ethical standards and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As a top executive or business owner, you set the standard that all employees will follow and more importantly, your customers will admire. So don’t head down that slippery slope, because you may not like what you find at the bottom of the hill.