I Started speaking on the generations back in 2005 when the Millennials were starting to show up and make some noise in the workplace. It was a great fit because I felt I had an understanding of young people. You see, before becoming a speaker I owned retail fashion stores in Houston. Hiring many young employees with no workplace experience was typical, and I often discovered that they had the potential become great employees. My early years in retail and retail management set the foundation for my peaking platform.
As you may have guessed, I am a not a Millennial – I am a Baby Boomer, but I am discovering that I think and, yes, at times, act like a Millennial despite all the negative comments and sterotyping. They have been described as entitled, narcissistic, and spoiled—and let’s not forget lazy. But, throughout my work and research, I have discovered the opposite is true. Just as Gen Xers have turned out to be other than their name implies, the Millennials that I encounter are ambitious, smart, energetic, creative, and have truly inspired me to do better work.
As we continue to hear the negative comments about this generation, I want to know how many of you Xers and Boomers out there are secretly saying, “Yes, Millennials—go for it!” with the hope that the changes they represent will trickle down into your workplace and life?
For a few moments, forget about the year you were born and the descriptive behavioral characteristics of Millennials. Look and see if any of the items on the list below resonate with you…
Maybe it’s possible that you, too, are more like a Millennial than you think!
True or False
1. You are not content with the status quo. You are always thinking of how things can be better. You are curious, and open to new ideas.
2. You embrace change and see change as an opportunity to grow.
3. You use technology to engage with others.
4. Technology increases your productivity.
5. You are not fond of long hours behind a desk when the work can be done anywhere. You prefer a flexible work schedule when possible and use technology as a means to be more productive.
6. You are motivated by humanitarian causes.
7. You are a self-promoter and have an opportunist’s mindset—you know how to grow your brand.
8. You have a low BS factor and seek out those people who are authentically themselves.
9. You seek feedback.
10. You are impatient.
If eight or more are True for you, you too are more like a Millennial than your assigned generation, please share your thoughts and any other characteristics that I have not included.
I admit I feel sure that I have a touch of ADHD…I never officially got tested but I do get distracted and lose focus easily. I get a lot of ideas all at once (like now when I am writing this and have an urge to look at shoes on Zappos) and I have to stop and refocus on the task at hand. The idea that I have ADD didn’t really even occur to me back when I was running my retail stores. Retail is totally an “ADD friendly” business – always having interruptions, people in and out, calls… actually it was a great place for someone like me.But …when I became a speaker and started working out of my home office I began to notice my little lack of concentration quirks.
Being a solopreneur and working out of my home office can have its challenges. I am my own boss, manager and motivator and I have discovered that I need structure and rituals in my day if I am going to be successful. Structure is something that I naturally resisted (ENFP) but through practice and the desire to succeed it has become my good friend.
So here are some of the things/rituals that I do stay focused and productive.
1. I plan my day the night before. I use to plan early in the morning, but I discovered that I am more productive if my mornings are free to work out. See #8
2. In my PM planning I begin with the top two or three must do’s (commitments) that no matter what, I will get them accomplished that day.
3.I include people in my daily plan…people that I need to reconnect with to keep the relationship alive, and people that I need to connect with because I am waiting on them either for information or as a follow-up.
4. I have an ongoing list of 3 projects (website redo, write book, create an online course, write a blog post) that I continually chip away.
5. When I am working at my desk I cut out all distractions. I turn off my email, and pings from social media.
6. I have discovered the site focusatwill.com and I set the timer for 90 minutes of classical music. It keeps me focused and I work faster and better when the music is on. I love it and I really focus.
7. I work at my desk writing or doing clerical work for 90 minutes at a time and then I take off 10 minutes and do something unrelated to work (throw in a load of clothes or empty the dishwasher) and then hit it for another 90. I learned this trick from Jim Loehr early in my speaking career. I read his book The Power of Full Engagement and it changed my life and how I look at time management.It’s well worththe read.
8. I discovered that exercise and dance have increased my energy levels and I am more productive when I hit the gym. Because I work alone I enjoy working out in classes with people who I greet and chat a bit before and after the class. It energizes me and I alternate between yoga classes, Zumba, a step class, and body- pump every day that I am in town.I go early in the morning and then again if possible at 5:30 in the afternoon. I cannot tell you how good I feel and how my energy level has advanced. I believe that the yoga/meditation has really played a huge role in my ability to focus.
9.Dr Phil once said you can’t claim it if you don’t name it.I try and do all my clerical work on Mondays (Money Mondays) and my creative writing on Thursdays (Text Thursdays).I like naming the days- it helps my stay on track…I have a VA and I have her doing all the follow-ups up “Follow-up Wednesday”.
10. Recently a friend told me about the Five Minute Journal, just five minutes a day made Tim Ferris happier , so I ordered one. I have been writing in it for almost a month and actually I enjoy it, and I am focusing on personal growth. It’s not hard to do and it actually takes me less than five minutes. It’s gratitude/affirmation/reflection journal.The question that gets me thinking and is actually making a difference is, “How could I have made today even better?”
So there you have it! Please comment and give us all your tips on staying focusedand productive.
Because I speak on Generations in the Workplace and I focus on Millennials, I decided to start using Uber – as a research project- interviewing the drivers.
My first trip was in DC visiting my daughter, Meredith. She got me on the app and boom in a few minutes a driver was there. I used Uber throughout my visit. It was so much easier that walking to the metro or waiting forever for a cam.
When I got back home to Houston, I decided to use Uber more and drive my car less. At first, I only used it to get to and from the airport, but soon I was Ubering it to events all over town. I loved it! In addition to providing me with transportation, Uber has been a great way for me to conduct research. Since I speak on “Generations in the Workplace” and most of my Uber drivers are Millennials, I was getting pages of research.
These interviews have allowed me to expand my insights and bust some myths about Millennials.
Millennials are not lazy. They just look at work differently than their Boomer parents did. They do want to work and they are hard workers, but their biggest difference is that they want independence. Most of my drivers have been part-timers who like the freedom that Uber provides. The can pick their own schedules as to when they want to work, and I have learned that they are ambitious. Over and over, I hear how Uber fills a financial need. I have garnered this info from college students, business majors, and graduate students working on master degrees. I have encountered a web designer, a programmer who works from home and drives just two hours a day (mid-day while taking a break), a high school teacher who only drives on weekends, and a guy that not only drives for Uber but
rents out his apartment on a regular basis through Airbnb.
It’s been said many times that Millennials do not know how to do face-to-face communications. I have found just the opposite to be true. Actually I have enjoyed great conversations in almost every ride. One of my drivers was getting her master’s in social work, and she confessed to me that before driving for Uber she was very quiet and introverted. Her professors suggested that she work on her face-to-face communications because talking and drawing things out of her clients was going to be a big part of her work after graduation. She said that she decided to practice talking to her Uber customers. At first she admitted that she was nervous, but she kept at it. It was a surprise to hear that she struggled with conversation because we talked all the way home.
We have heard that Millennials are not loyal to their employers. To the contrary without exception, every driver I have interviewed from Albuquerque to DC has said that they love the entrepreneurial spirit of the company. Drivers have taken me through the vetting process on how they became one. They proudly show me the badges they wear around their neck, the pick stickers on the right front window, stating that they are a certified driver. And every driver has mentioned the five-star rating system. The passenger gets to rate the driver—and get this—the driver gets to also rate the passenger for real-time accountability. Several of the drivers have shared with me that they strive to get as many five-star ratings as possible because if your rating goes below a certain number you are put on probation. I am impressed not only with Uber but with the drivers who want to succeed and who care about my experience in their car.
Here’s a new one… Millennials are fun, bold, and creative and they made a ride home an experience … in a good way! The last driver I had was really into Adele, I mean really into her. I head Hello as I entered the car. We sang Adele songs together all the way home ( he must have seen this on youtube) . It was an experience.
Today, I am a Millennial and Uber evangelist. I have discovered that the Millennials I am meeting are ambitious, respectful, hardworking, and loyal to their employer. They care about the quality of their work, are accountable, and are terrific conversationalists.Thanks Uber! and if your are reading this TIP your driver!
There are no quick and dirty tips when it comes to managing and Millennials in today’s workplace. Millennials, for those of you living under a rock, are individuals born after 1980 and particularly those now leaving college. The key to successfully managing this generation begins with understanding them. They look at their world, lifestyle, and work very differently than the generations preceding them do. The unpopular news is that you have to meet Millennials where they are. Yes, it does take more energy, but if you invest the extra time, you’re more likely to keep them in your organization and grow their talent. The bottom line is that forcing them to conform to your way will only push them away.
Workplace expectations that Millennials have include:
■ Inclusion—They want to work with positive people and to be treated with respect and asked for their input.
■ Challenge—They want to work on demanding projects with an engaged team that cares about the outcome.
■ Learning—They want to gain knowledge from a variety of tasks so they can grow their career quickly.
■ Career goals—They want to be able to see their future and their career path in your organization.
■ Techno 24/7—They want the ability to leverage technology to work—anytime/anyplace.
Nearly half of all Millennials say they can’t live without the Internet, according to a recent study by The McCarthy Group, a marketing consulting agency. Target ad dollars there, not toward print media, which is read by less than 10 percent of Millennials.
■ Results oriented—They want to be evaluated on their finished work, not on how, when, or where the work is done.
■ Honest authentic leadership—They want transparency about compensation and what it takes to get ahead. (If you’re advertising to Millennials, watch out! Eighty-four percent do not trust traditional advertising, according to McCarthy.)
If you want to understand the psychology of Millennials, consider these clues:
Tech Matters, But Relationships Matter More
High Tech- High Touch – Millennials are known for their love of technology, texting, and connecting online, but did you know that they also value clear communication, an understanding of expectations, and authentic relationships.
Want to Interact Directly and Often with Their Managers and Coworkers
They want to work in a friendly place where they feel a sense of acceptance and enjoyment in the workplace environment. They want to identify with the company’s core values and work with people who share their priorities. They are very willing to leave if the company’s purpose does not align with their own values. Anything less would mean they are not individually authentic and therefore cannot relate to managers and fellow team members in an authentic way.
This Is the I…I..I.. Generation
We are in the age of personal blogs, websites, selfies, YouTube videos Blab, and Perescope! It’s important for this generation to stand out and celebrate their uniqueness. They’re proud of their individuality and look for ways to express themselves. Besides online and social, it can be seen in their tattoos, piercings, hair color, and dress. An astute manager helps Millennials balance their need to be unique and still be in balance with the organization’s needs and brand. Achieving this goal may take some creative thinking. In addition to being individualistic, millennials understand the value of teams. They are committed to their units and to the company. However, their definition of commitment has changed and doesn’t include sacrificing health or putting up with a work/life balance that is out of whack. Commitment to them means good business outcomes for both the company and the clients of the company.
Millennials Are Restless for Career Results
Not all Millennials look at their first job as their final career. Many younger employees consider their work “something to do between weekends” and aren’t thinking about climbing the corporate ladder. The more focused Millennials have a self-centered work ethic and are in search of a career path. If you are working with them, show them where they fit into your organization, take time and show them a career path, and open their eyes to the opportunities in front of them and in other departments. How you manage that sort of talent and how you deal with their expectations is very different from what’s been done in the past. As a company leader, you can find it frustrating to manage Millennials.
The biggest challenge for any organization is to be open and willing to make a shift.
It must bend to accommodate the millennial mind-set. Of course, the need for young talent is enormous. Competition is fierce to recruit and retain the best talent. Organizations unable or unwilling to make the shift will pay dearly for their inflexibility. Millennials have the ability to transform disruption of the workplace into profit for your company. First, however, your managers must be willing to adapt and change to fit their needs. Are you up for the challenge?
One of the perks of being a professional speaker is that I get to hang out with really smart people, which means I often I get to pick their brains.
Take for instance last Sunday night when I had dinner with one of the top executive coaches in Houston, Cecilia Rose. Cecilia works Houston’s top tier leaders helping them successfully navigate through career transitions.
I asked her what was the #1 top quality of successful leaders, and before I could finish the question, she responded with “keen self-awareness.” Expecting to hear words more like vision, charisma, and strategic thinking, I was thrilled to hear that answer because self-awareness is one of the key qualities I emphasize in all my presentations ( Unwritten Rules of Success)
“Your IQ will get you the job but your EQ (Emotional Intelligence – Self Awareness) will get you the promotion” Cecilia Rose
To define the term, self-awareness is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. It is the essential building block in effective leadership. Having an “awareness” of yourself and the people around you will help you effectively lead and inspire all you come in contact with.
So, the underlying question is: How do you develop self-awareness? Here are some steps to follow to bring you to this level of moving more assuredly in the world.
1.Take and Take-in your Personality Assessment – If you digest what it says about yourself, your Self-Awareness will grow. I was in my 20s when I took the Myers Briggs personality test—and I scored an ENFP, which means that I am a passion-driven “idea” person. ENFPs gain energy from interacting with others, and become quickly excited over new possibilities and ideas … and don’t always finish what they have started. ENFPs dislike routine work and want a variety of tasks and challenges. They prefer to set their own schedule and chafe when saddled with excessive regulations or mundane details,
Throughout the years I have taken a lot of personality tests, such as DISC, the Birkman,The Enneagram,True Colors, and just last month I took the Insights Discovery Assessment. It took me an hour to complete because every question came down to a split decision, and I really tried to be honest in my answers. The eagerly anticipated report arrived from it: “Karen may generate more ideas, possibilities, and plans in one day than others might manage in a month! Her life will tend to be a series of initiated, but unfinished projects. She should take care to include the practical details in her projects and continually try to look at situations from an objective viewpoint rather than just her own perception. Her energy comes from a variety of new projects and interests.”
“If one person calls you a horse’s ass, be curious. If two call you one, be reflective… if three call you a horse’s ass buy a saddle.” Anonymous
If you are interested in developing your self-awareness, you may want to revisit the assessments you have taken and “take-in” what has been written about you.
2.Participate in a 360 assessment. There can be a world of difference between what you think you project and what others think of you. I worked with a coach several years ago, and she had me ask my clients the four questions below as we developed my personal brand. In finding people to help you get answers, branch out and include bosses, peers, and subordinates. You can even include neighbors, friends, and if you are brave—family members. But they can be the most brutal, so give them the questions in writing and let them have time to think about their answers.
Please give a one-word or one-phrase answer to the following questions
1. What one word describes my personality?
2. What value or principle do you most closely associate with me?
3. What skill, ability, or talent comes to mind when you think of me?
4. How would you describe me to others who have never met me?
3. Take the StrenghtsFinder: To help people uncover their talents, Gallup introduced the first version of its online assessment in 2001, StrengthsFinder ignited a global conversation and helped millions to discover their top five talents. In its latest national bestseller, StrengthsFinder 2.0, Gallup unveils the new and improved version of its popular assessment. Take time and discover your top five strengths.
4. Listen … to yourself. Start listening to your own voice and observe how others react to your tone and your words. Begin to set aside time in the morning before work and replay some of the scenarios of the previous day. How did your voice and maybe even your body language affect others.
5.Cultivate your ability to focus. “Focus is the hidden driver of excellence,” according to Daniel Goleman. If you can block out the noise and silence your inner distracters, you will begin to see situations more clearly and how you fit into the picture. Because I am an ENFP, focus has always been a challenge for me. Three years ago, I started a yoga class, and I noticed that I spent more time watching others, comparing myself to them. I decided that if I was going to grow and enjoy the classes, I had to close my eyes and focus on my own practice. The outcome was that yoga has helped me attain focus.What are you doing to grow your focus?
Please share your thoughts on self- awareness and add to the list any thoughts or strategies you have tried or are thinking about trying.
I have been speaking on “Generations in the Workplace” for nearly 10 years. And a few short years ago, there were just a handful of Millennials in my audiences.
Today my audiences are filled with people 35 and under as the number of Millennials in the workplace continues to swell. Recently, Pew Research released the news that more than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials (i.e., adults aged 18 to 34 in 2015), and furthermore this year they surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce.
By 2017, half the U.S. workforce will be Millennials and they are shaking things up as they change the world of work. We are discovering that Millennials seek a multi-dimensional lifestyle that satisfies both their work and personal lives. They are a bit impatient and want to proceed along their career path more rapidly than Boomers and even Gen Xers ever did.
So,I decided to write a post helping Millennials as well as Boomers and Gen Xers speed up their career advancement
Reality bites … and the reality is that today there are still powerful Unwritten Rules in every organization that stand in the way of your success. These are the Unwritten Rules that must be addressed for career advancement. My goal in this post is to help not only Millennials but all generations understand advancement strategies and recognize opportunities to make key decisions about their career options.
Here are my suggestions for conquering the Unwritten Rules:
Be Observant: Begin a new job or new department or team by closing your mouth and opening your eyes and ears. Observe—how things get done. Your workplace success requires a deep understanding of how the organization or new team functions and how decisions are made. Be fully aware of the politics and notice where the political landmines exist. Political know-how (the unwritten rule) is important—and those who fail to develop such skills are often the ones who get left behind.
“You can observe a lot by watching.” —Yogi Berra
Discover: Now that you understand your organization find out where you fit into the big picture. Every organization has a culture that sets the tone for the types of people who are hired. You need to know why you were hired, where you fit into the organization, and how your superior sees your career path in the organization.
Share your Goals: Speak up and effectively communicate your career goals, your ideas, desired assignments, and when the time is right, ask to be considered for promotion.
Build your Relationshipsand Grow your Circle of Influencers: Start your list of 25 people you admire, people you can learn from, leaders, gatekeepers, and people in your organization who have enthusiasm and ideas. Then join your organizations, formal and informal networking groups, and, as Keith Ferazzi once said, “Never eat alone.” Make it a point of having lunch with members of your team and those in your circle of influence.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
Be a Giver: Figure out how to cultivate your list of 25 and grow the relationship BEFORE you ask for advice or a favor. Share your talents (perhaps in technology) and be open to teaching others.
Increase your visibility: Volunteer to give a presentation! Did that scare you? Do your homework—practice, practice, practice, and make it a great one. Become known and get involved.
Take pride in how you show up. Although we are seeing a more flexible work trend—dress still matters! How you dress for work is even more complicated today than years past. The casual dress trend combined with today’s increased focus on “snug-fitting” clothes makes it clear that deciding how to dress for work takes some thought and preparation. Every business has a culture and every culture has a costume. Make sure your day-to-day outfits fit your company’s look and feel … and are “company appropriate. Some professional cultures still require suits while others, such as the tech cultures, are more relaxed and you may even get by with a grey hoodie … if you are Mark Zuckerberg. Be mindful of the image you want to project at work with clients and peers, and choose outfits based on cues from those you admire around you.
“Remember, whatever you do at work, no matter how small it is, has your signature on it! Make it clear,bold, & easy to read!” Karen McCullough
What unwritten rule have you discovered? Can you share examples where you have turned your discovery into opportunity? Please share your thoughts below
Many of you know I speak around the country on the subjects of Generations in the Workplace, Change and Rebranding, and Generational Opportunities. A few weeks ago I returned home from an event where the team who booked me was under the impression that my 45-minute presentation would give them the quick and easy steps in “How to Manage Your Millennial.” The director said that these young kids are a huge interruption in his day… and that got me thinking!
Interruption- an abrupt occurrence that interrupts an ongoing activity
Are they an interruption or a wake-up call to the future?
There is no silver bullet when it comes to managing Millennials. AKA Generation Y.It’s a bit more complicated than that. The key to successfully managing this generation begins with understanding them.They view the world, lifestyles, and work very differently than the generations preceding them. The unpopular news to previous generations is that you have to meet Millennials (Gen Y) where they are—and, yes, it will take more energy, but if you invest the extra time, you are more likely to keep them and their talents in your organization. Forcing them to conform to your way will only push them out, and they will be quick to leave.
Here Are Some Gen Y Expectations that are changing the world of work:
• Work with positive people, to be treated with respect , and to be asked for their input—it’scalled inclusion.
• Work on challenging projects with an engaged team that cares about outcomes.
• Gain knowledge from a variety of tasks, so they can grow their career faster.
• See the route to their future and their career path in your organization.
• Ability to leverage technology work—any time/any place.
• Evaluation on work product—not how, when or where the work is done.
• Need transparency about compensation and what it takes to get ahead.
Hey…I want these things too~
Millennials are known for their love of technology, texting, and connecting online. But did you know that they also value clear communication and authentic relationships, along with a need to have an understanding of expectations? Millennials wants to interact directly and often with their managers and coworkers.
In addition, they want to work in a friendly place where they feel a sense of acceptance and enjoyment in the workplace environment.They want to identify with the company core values and work with people who share their priorities. They are very willing to leave if the company purpose does not align with their own values.Anything less would mean they are not being individually authentic, and therefore cannot relate to managers and fellow team members in an authentic way.
Isn’t That Special!
Millennials were told by their parents that they were special, and they believed it!It is important for this generation to stand out and celebrate their uniqueness. They are proud of their individuality and look for ways to express themselves, which previous generations see expressed as tattoos, piercings, hair color, and dress. An astute manager will help Millennialsbalance their need to be unique and, yet, still be in sync with the organization’s needs and brand.This may take some creative thinking.
Show Me My Career Path
Let’s be realistic. Not all Millennials look at their first job as their final career. Many younger employees consider their work “something to do between weekends,” and are not thinking about climbing the corporate ladder.
But, the more focused Millennials (high potentials) have a self-centered work ethic and are in search of a career path. If you are working with the “High Potentials,” show them where they fit into your organization. Take the time to show them a career path and open their eyes to the opportunities available in your organization in all departments.
“This Millennial generation is not just looking for a job, they’re not just looking for salary and financial benefits, they’re looking for skill development, they’re looking for mobility, they’re looking for opportunities to acquire different skills and to move quickly from one part of an organization to another. How you manage that sort of talent and how you deal with their expectations is very different from what’s been done in the past.”
—Dennis Nally, PricewaterhouseCoopers HR Director
Managers Need a Big Dose of Self-Awareness
I am listening to my audiences and what I am hearing is that managers are frustrated.They don’t want to spend time training the new hires and feel that they are a huge interruption in their day.They just expect them to know.In fact, one person said if they have to train someone, they aren’t worth hiring.
The biggest challenge for organizations is to ask themselves are they open and willing to make a shift.If so, they must bend to accommodate the millennial mindset or lose their talents, which are considerable.
That said, the need for young talent is enormous.Competition is fierce to recruit and retain the best talent.Organizations unable or unwilling to make the shift will pay dearly for their inflexibility.
Millennials ( I am now calling them Generation Interruption) have the ability to transform disruption of the workplace into profit for your company.But first, your managers must be willing to adapt and change to fit their needs. Are you up for the challenge?
Then you need to decide if your company culture can adapt and move ahead.Can your organization get out of the default mode and try new things to meet the needs of this new talented generation of Millennials who are going to carry us into the future?
Southwest Airlines Taught me the True Meaning of Inclusion! Thanks Ellen, Jeff, Gary, Liji, and the whole SWA team. You walk your talk.
I travel across the country speaking on change and generations in the workplace and I can assure you that there is no silver bullet when it comes to managing and marketing to Millennials—people born after 1980 and especially those now leaving college. The key to successfully managing—and marketing to—this generation begins with understanding them. They look at their world, lifestyle, and work very differently than the generations preceding them do. The unpopular news is that you have to meet Millennials where they are. Yes, it does take more energy, but if you invest the extra time, you’re more likely to keep them in your organization and grow their talent. The bottom line is that forcing them to conform to your way will only push them away.
Workplace expectations that Millennials have include:
Diversity training can be uncomfortable for many of us because we have a fear of either being judged or seen as judging others. Even popular and forward thinking television shows reveal our discomfort with the subject. Although it’s hysterically funny and a bit over the top, this episode of The Office, shows how totally off track perceptions of diversity and the experiences of others appear.
Both Saturday Night Live and Jerry Seinfield TV shows have been called out for their lack of diversity. SNL’s absence of a black female cast member on the show since Maya Rudolph left, and Jerry uses the defense “Funny is the world I live in…I have no interest in gender or race…Are you making us laugh or not?”
The diversity challenge goes way beyond your company’s legal obligations to comply with legislation for equal opportunity and non-discrimination. A diverse workforce has lower turnover, better employee morale, higher sales and increased profits.
When it comes to living out diversity, the truth is, we find it much easier to simply keep ourselves surrounded by people like us even though, the benefits of a diverse workforce are HUGE!
Truth One – Where there is Diversity there is profit!
Study after study proves diversity adds to the bottom line. In fact, way back in 2009, a study was published in the “American Sociological Review”. When the researchers compared the workplaces with the most diversity to those with lowest levels of racial diversity, the workforces with a mix of races had 15 times more sales. That’s impressive…and we are only talking about racial diversity in this study.
True diversity is not that simple. It is much more than a mixture of races and genders. It encompasses ethnic groups, age, personality type, cognitive style, ability, tenure, education, lifestyle, organizational function and a whole host of other things.
“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”
~ Stephen Covey
Neil Lenane is Business Leader Talent Management with Progressive Insurance. He is quoted as saying, “If you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude.” He says the company does not see diversity as a program. Instead it is a cultural movement with measurable results. The team is able to overcome inhibitions and apprehensions to become more innovative. With innovation comes the ability to better understand customer needs.
As a bonus, he believes this core principle allows the company to cast a wider net to reach the best talent too. This is a claim you will often hear from companies who have successfully implemented diversity into the company culture.
Diversity brings profits in the television industry too. Although many see the entertainment industry to be liberal and progressive, true diversity in this industry is in its infancy. Data from ratings shows the highest-rated dramas and comedies were shows with 41 to 50 percent Black/Latino/Asian casts and had a median household rating of 5.84. Shows casting the least diverse mix had a median household rating of 3.79. So, this season we can look for shows like Blackish, Christela, The Goldbergs, and the newest featuring an Asian-American family, Fresh Off the Boat to prosper.
Truth Two: Diversity can be Messy
With all this data supporting the fact diversity is a profitable undertaking, why do we still need to talk about it? The bottom line truth of bringing diversity into the workplace is uncomfortable and it’s challenging.
Newer companies begin the hiring process with an intentional focus on incorporating diversity into the company culture. It is one reason why many new start ups are making higher profits. When your company is large and well established, diversity is a bigger challenge. Here is why:
Communication Barriers: When the workforce is made up of people with different perceptions, cultures and native languages it can often spiral into ineffective communication. Team members may be confused, have trouble working as a team and eventually lead to low morale.
Resistance to Change: In every established company you will have employees who refuse to accept change. The mentality of “we’ve always done it this way” destroys any new ideas and stops progress in its tracks.
Leadership Weaknesses: Having a workshop about diversity does not prepare the leadership for managing a diverse workforce. Although they may be armed with assessment data of employees, creating an implementation plan for their particular team is no small task.
Sad to say, exclusion is a human instinct. People tend to cluster in tightly knit groups because they want to be with others who think like them. Gender diversity often falls prey to this bias. Men, who dominate the upper management positions, tend to spend time together casually. They may all go to lunch together for example. Asking the upwardly mobile female to join them may feel uncomfortable to everyone involved. Yet, relationships are deepened, business is discussed and decisions are made in these informal encounters.
Formal mentoring can be an effective way to address the subtle prejudices that sabotage diversity efforts. Mentors provide advice, feedback and career coaching , and almost no one is blatant about their discriminatory attitudes. It shows up in subtle habits that are harder to diagnose and very hard to cure.
The next step after mentoring is sponsorship. Sponsors are advocates in positions of authority who use their influence intentionally to help others advance. Both are important to advancement as employees navigate the workplace and earn opportunities for growth.
Truth Three: Your Brain is to Blame
Even when a change of habits is life or death, humans are resistant to making drastic changes. Studies show that about one out of nine patients who undergo coronary bypass surgery actually changed their habits. Although the number of studies to support lifestyle changes is abundant, these patients settle back into their familiar lifestyle and took their chances.
If people won’t change their behavior to save their own lives, how can we expect them to change their work habits just because it will make them happier, more innovative and provide massive profits to the company where they work?
Here is the scientific answer: the interplay between working memory and focused attention are at odds with each other. Working memory, the holding area where new information can be used, engages the prefrontal cortex. It is the brain’s area for rational thinking. It is energy-intensive and fatigues easily.
The brain is wired to recognize perceived differences between an expected outcome and actual outcomes. When it perceives differences, it fires off neurons connected to fear. With the fear circuitry engaged, it quickly morphs into anger and counterproductive behaviors.
Humans love to do what is easiest and the brain supports the easy way of perceiving. When you are doing known tasks, the basal ganglia, located deep in the brains core, is in performance. These behaviors take less energy than what is needed by the prefrontal cortex. No real conscious thought is required, so diverse ideas are quickly and easily rejected.
Without the ability to intentionally overcome our brain’s reaction to outside perceptions, it becomes really hard to collaborate with people who think differently. Understanding how the brain is wired will help empower your actions toward diversity goals.
Truth Four: The World is Getting Smaller
As the world of business becomes more globalized, the need for diversity increases. Technology has allowed business to be conducted across borders easily. Expanding into foreign markets is absolutely essential for success in world-class companies. Otherwise, smaller companies from across the world who were “born global” will drain away market share.
Decisions made during the process of globalization walk a thin line between efficiency, with consistent processes, and adapting to the markets of different cultures. Having a diverse workforce gives these companies a competitive advantage. When employees come from diverse backgrounds it gives the company a wider perspective. A diverse customer base pushes innovation to develop new products and services to meet the needs of a diverse marketplace.
Truth Five: Trust the Process
The inherent discomfort of diversity can be overcome when it is part of a company’s everyday process. Four primary processes can be remembered with 4C’s – Commitment, Collaboration, Communication and Competence. When these 4C’s are applied to the goal of diversity in the workplace, trust is developed.
“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are a product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” ~ James Surowiecki
Trust is critical to the success of a diverse team because they will be constantly interacting to reach company goals. In a blog article, Emergenetics explains how they have developed a process called the WE approach to collaboration. Their methods show how high-level teams tap into the different brains of individuals to establish trust.
Credible resources are used to support facts and conclusions which open up the analytical pathways in the brain.
Procedures are established for everyone to follow with a process to create realistic timelines and expectations. The processes and procedures protect the brain from feelings of fear.
Social consideration is given to how certain behaviors may impact other people and validate their feelings and emotions.
Exploring new concepts opens the conceptual pathways in the brain to allow each member to communicate their vision of the future.
The article goes on to say, “The combining of thoughts and behaviors in a way that expresses respect and understanding to those around us enables us to build and maintain trust over time.”
In an article in Inc magazine, Geil Browning, brain researcher and founder of Emergenetics shares her lessons in diversity.
Communicate openly about cognitive diversity.
Deliberately hire all thinking and behavior types.
Put your diversity to work.
Make cognitive diversity a core part of your culture.
As more and more companies are uncovering the benefits of a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive environment in which each member of the team is valued, respected, and is able to fully contribute their talents, the conversations will become easier.
When we reach the point we can see diversity and inclusion as a normal ways to build successful companies, our world will be better for it.
In the words of Commander Spock in Star Trek: “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations…symbolizing the elements that create truth and beauty.”
A few years back I decided to make short, informative, and fun videos sharing a lesson that I (a professional speaker) learned while on the road. Partnering with videographer Mike Svat we strive to create stories that will put a smile on your face,information in your head,and a little motivation in your belly!
Here they are: The Top 5 Lessons from the Road Videos that had the most views:
#1. Gen X always a winner: Lessons from the Road #11 – Gen X Is the Bridge between Boomers and Millennials
#2. Turn a Negative into a Positive- Dealing with rejections
#3.Stress Relief – I need a to-do list
#4. Push Yourself to the Edge
#5. She Left Just before LeBron Came Back (My sister Patty made the list!)