Why Modern Leadership is So Hard

In many ways the current beliefs and thinking around leadership seem amazing compared to the leadership beliefs of prior generations.

No longer does it feel like leaders have to rule with an iron fist, not care about the people being lead, or are afraid to show vulnerability in front of those people.

Instead it is encouraged to be a servant leader, to be committed to the development of people, and to try and create more leaders, not more followers.

In spite of all of this, being a leader today can feel almost impossible because it seems like you are being pulled in two widely different directions. On one hand, many executives in the c-suite expect immediate results and have the mindset of profit over people because they have shareholders and quarterly earning expectations to make. So their first line leadership team must get results and make an impact quickly or they are deemed a failure. On the other hand, you have to play the long game; with your primary focus being the people you lead. Not to mention you must cater to the range of different generations and display the leadership styles that each individual on the team needs to perform their best. It puts modern professional leaders in a difficult situation and it’s hard to know which is the right path to follow.

Lead How You Authentically Lead or Lead How You are Being Told to Lead

A recent survey showed that there are roughly 2 Million new employees promoted into leadership roles in organizations every year.  Consequently, 60% of them fail. Meaning 1.2M people fail at leadership every year. It’s astounding to think about and the effects are enormous:

  • Loss of confidence
  • Lack of work fulfillment
  • Eroding workplace culture

The list could go on and on, so here are some things you can do to avoid becoming a statistic in the failure column:

Learn From Others, But Be Authentic

Just this week, I interviewed SAP CEO, Bill McDermott on the Follow My Lead Podcast and he said something interesting. “At the end of the day leaders have to be authentic and the only way to do that is to learn from other great leaders and make those lessons your own.”  Regardless of what the leader above you is telling you about hitting numbers, making cuts, or giving up on a person early in their journey, you have to do it your way. Make bets on people that you believe will create long term growth, success, and improve your culture.

Invest in Your Development

Don’t wait for the next corporate leadership training initiative or pass another bookstore without picking up a leadership book. Professionals are in the golden age of education.  Every day we create as much information as the world did from the dawn of civilization until 2003. To put this in perspective, blog writers post 1,400 blogs and YouTube users upload 72 hours of content a minute.  Yes, I said A MINUTE.  Online programs, MOOCS, books, podcasts; the amount of valuable content is literally limitless. If you are reading this you are on your way but don’t stop at reading a blog while you are at work.  You get to decide whether to waste time watching a mindless TV show when you get home or invest in your development.  As Tony Robbins famously said, “There are only two options: make progress or make excuses.”

Get Really Good at Thinking of Others

When you look at a picture on Facebook or Instagram, who is the first person you see?  Nearly 100% of the time it’s yourself.  We are hardwired to think of ourselves and our own self interest first, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can train yourself to think of others first and put your own self interests to the side.  I don’t pretend this is easy, but in order effectively lead, you absolutely have to think about your team first and yourself second.

You will never be a perfect leader because leadership isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.  You will fail more than you succeed, but what’s most important is you understand that being a modern leader is hard.  Through work, self discipline, and authenticity, you will provide yourself the best opportunity to be successful.

Online Leadership Challenge. LearnLoft’s 10 Day Leadership Challenge to help modern professionals improve their leadership skills in just two weeks.  It’s filled with Microlearning videos, leadership challenges, downloadable resources, social learning, and expert leadership feedback. You can also sign up for their weekly leadership newsletter.

The Powerful Lesson Corporate Learning Can Learn From Social Platforms

Instagram made big news this month releasing a new feature to compete head to head with Snapchat. While many people are curious why they released it, how to use it, and what social platform to choose between the two, this article isn’t for that. For a quick crash course on Snapchat, check out How Snapchat Is Changing Corporate Learning. This article is about what corporate executives can learn from this big news in the consumer social media space and it’s really simple: Video, and particularly short video, is a massive part of how people prefer to consume content today.

The Situation

It doesn’t seem to matter if the video is highly produced or not. What matters is it can be consumed in a short amount of time when people have the availability and motivation to consume it.

Contrast that with what I hear out of Learning and Development departments every day; it’s concerning. Just this week, I heard a learning executive say “as long as we keep the Virtual Instructor Led Training under 4 hours, that’s ok with me”. 4 Hours? Yes you heard that right, 4 hours! Unless they plan on showing live NFL football games during those 4 hours, I can assure you those professionals are going to open their phones and start scrolling through Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, or Facebook to kill the time.

So, why have organizations been so slow to adapt and align their corporate learning mediums with the way their own employees are consuming content in their personal lives? I believe it’s because they are caught in the mentality of “we’ve always done it this way”. That’s a dangerous way for any organization to think, made famous by the Grace Brewster Murray Hopper:

Dangerous Phrase

The question that must be asked:

“Would organizations get better engagement, increase knowledge transfer, and become more aligned with their employees and partners by adapting the way they create and deploy training content?”

Now, let’s not kid ourselves. The challenge many Learning and Development executives face is figuring out how to make meaningful changes in their large and complex organizations. So, our advice is to start small. Get a few wins one day at a time, and eventually add those small wins up into big wins that make a huge impact.

Here are 4 ideas to implement to get small wins:

1. Create A Weekly Microlearning Video To Send Out Internally   

Once a week, publish a short microlearning video teaching a key topic to provide a short reminder of something that many employees might forget. Don’t let creating a video stop you. Just open your phone, grab a selfie stick or colleague, and make it happen. As you progress in creating video, you can get fancy with editing.

2. Delete Every Other Slide 

In your next lunch and learn just try to shorten it by deleting every other slide. Most likely you have too much content in there anyways. Use the minimum amount of content necessary to meet one learning objective. Include links or additional resources for people to explore further on an as needed basis.

3. Use Real Life Or Engaging Stories  

People remember stories and examples they can relate too. Try leveraging a capture story at the beginning of anything you do, and then relate what you are teaching back to the story to help them remember. A great best practice is to use famous people, quotes, or current events to relate to the topic you are teaching.

4. Leverage A Tool Outside Your Learning Management System For Publishing

Most learners have a negative mindset about their Learning Management System. So if you do something creative like a weekly microlearning video, you automatically decrease your odds of it being successful by deploying it inside your Learning Management System. There are all kinds of alternative options such as: Email, text, a mobile learning platform, or even getting employees to follow you on a social media network.

Final Thoughts

So whether you are into Instagram, Snapchat, or LinkedIn, hopefully you can take a few lessons from what is happening in the consumer world to improve the learning experience in your organization. Regardless if you are shot down or the first few tries don’t go as planned, do your best to persevere and keep your mind on the picture. Thomas Edison said it best:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”.

Learn more about LearnLoft’s offerings for organizations here

The Most Important Conversation a Leader Can Have

I looked up nearly in tears as my manager finished his 30-minute berating rant about my performance, and all I could focus on was the exit sign in the distance. It was my only outlet at that point. I was chasing a goal arbitrarily set by my manager, that I had no chance of achieving unless something miraculous happened.

Whether you have been in a performance-driven sales role or not, you can relate to having a manager provide results-oriented goals with no clear purpose, vision, or mission behind them.

It’s shocking how many bosses still live in a world where it’s “do as I say and don’t ask questions.” What’s worse is when you do what they say and you don’t meet their unrealistic expectations, it somehow is entirely your fault or just a major lack of skill.

Here is a simple conversation construct that all leaders must have with their people in order to avoid these bad situations and set their leader-employee relationship up for major success.

Why are we here.

Steve Jobs said, “The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” It’s a leaders job to communicate a purpose to their team that helps them wake up every morning thinking how lucky they are to be doing what they are doing. Without a purpose, there is really no reason for a team to follow you. Does your team know the reason you are on this journey?

What Do We Do and for Whom.

Leadership expert Roderic Yapp, says it beautifully, “A Mission is simply what you do and for whom.” It should be stated in very simple language and is used to keep you focused on the right activities. So simply, mission is the following equation:

Mission= We do X in order to achieve Y for Z

The mission of Rod’s business, Leadership Forces is ‘to develop leaders in fast-growing companies who are able to deliver business performance’. Have you communicated what your teams mission is to your people, if so could they repeat it?

Where are we going.

Like the old saying “ When you are lost, any old map will do.” Great leadership entails vision, because without it we don’t know where we are leading people. If leaders can’t communicate direction effectively, then we have no right to ask people to join us on the journey. A vision takes into account the current status and paints a clear picture of a future state that will be successful by a certain timeline.

Just this week, Elon Musk the famous SpaceX CEO said “We are going to land people on Mars, by 2025.” I have no clue if they are going to get there and I am certain I won’t be one of the people on the spaceship, but I have little doubt that his team has a clear vision and timeline to make it happen.

What do we expect from each other.

Most people have heard of the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. If you haven’t, check out this video. Too often people are unclear about what is expected of them and how they are going to be held accountable. The best leader-employee conversation I ever heard was simple and it went something like this: “These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses, this is what I am going to commit to doing for you and this is what I expect back in return. If either of us don’t meet these standards we both have the right to call each other out.” Simple, straight to the point, and clear – the only way expectations and accountability can work.

Have a conversation with your team where you clearly and confidently answer these four questions. When you do so, your professional relationships with your team will improve and the results will follow.

Online Leadership Programs. LearnLoft’s out of the box training online approach to helping professionals improve their business performance. Find out more about ‘Getting Leadership Ready’ here and their new program ‘High Performance Leadership’ here.

The Most Effective Methods to Align with the Modern Learner

The modern learner is misunderstood. Yes, they love technology, enjoy collaboration, and prefer shorter content. What’s interesting is despite all that, they don’t actually learn any differently than previous generations. Furthermore, as our society moves more towards connectivity, seasoned professionals are growing to expect these same things.

The availability and accessibility of quality learning content has increased dramatically since the invention of the Internet. Organizations are now expected to create and deploy meaningful content to their learners, while still simultaneously measuring its impact.

Of all the training methods organizations are using to align to the modern learner, which ones are most effective and can be best measured?

Experiential

Asking the learner to do something in response to training content. Getting them actively involved in the learning to not only ensure knowledge is transferred to be to engage them beyond traditional training. This could be responding with a video, uploading a picture, etc.

Social

Using the power of the collective intelligence and todays modern technology. Essentially leveraging other people beyond one learner to engage and educate. Things such as likes, views, comments, etc.

Curated

Allowing team members to curate and build their own training content. Whether that be a YouTube video or a first line manager recording their own video, curating content from the audience is powerful and effective. The best part is people are more than willing to participate.

Microlearning

Breaking down content into small digestible chunks can be an extremely effective way to align with the modern learner. We define microlearning as “short burst of content ensuring knowledge is transferred in a visible, tangible or measurable way.”

It’s time the modern learner isn’t treated differently and organizations begin effectively aligning with them.

If your organization is already using some of these methods you are ahead of the curve.   If you are still stuck in the dark ages using an LMS, hour long webinars, and multi-day instructor led training events, pick one of these methods out and give it a chance. You will be amazed at what happens.

Want to try an a new way to train an develop? Sign up for LearnLoft’s Learning Platform and leverage a free 14 day free trial. Here.

Why There’s Nothing Worse Than Perfection

“If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.”

This single phrase, that we’ve all heard a million times, became a crutch and impaired my actions. I wasn’t able to get things done because of the fear of not doing it “right”. Projects accumulated on a to-do list. I always found a way to justify to myself why the situation wasn’t right, why I didn’t have the things needed to complete the project, etc. I lived in apartments for years without decorating because “it wasn’t permanent”. When I finally moved into my own house, I didn’t paint because it was “too much of a commitment” without having the room completely decorated.

If Pinterest existed back then, I would have had a million pinned items and nothing to show for it.

Eventually, I stopped dreaming up new ideas. I was crippled by a sense of fear that led to inaction.

Work was a different story. The fear of losing my job was greater than my fear of failure. But the phrase found its way to burrow into my thoughts at work too. “Stay in your safety zone and do what you know works,” it whispered. “You don’t know how to do it perfectly, don’t bother trying.” And when I would almost have the guts to do something, it begged to my senses, “That’s a nice idea, but nothing ever turns out as well as you think.”

Now, I should have preface with letting you know that I’m not an underachiever by any means. From an outsider’s perspective, I looked like a normal, productive person. I made good grades in school and graduated magna cum laude from East Carolina University. So, obviously, I got some things done.

But what mattered were the things I was missing out on. The innovation my organization was missing out on because I was too paralyzed by the perfection.

Then one day, our team decided to adopt the 80% rule. The 80% rule states that you get a project 80% there and then you just stop without tinkering or perfecting.

The key to my buy-in of this idea was that everyone agreed and it was made clear to our clients and colleagues, our goal was not perfection, but completion. Perfection became the enemy.

No longer did we waiver over words or punctuation. We focused instead on the execution of ideas and the big picture.

The crippling phrase was removed and I started living every day with a new motto: “Be a CLOSER.” I marked each day as success by what I was able to “close” or complete.

By doing so, amazing things started happening. We started to develop more content. We figured out the direction of our organization, and we kept our clients happy.

If you’re like me and you struggle with perfection over completion, here are 3 things you can do to be a closer:

  1. Set the Expectation of Imperfection. Get buy-in from yourself, your colleagues and customers. Here’s the great thing about getting to 80% that could sell them on the idea: people love to add their two cents a lot more than like to actually do the work. If you can get a project/idea/template to them faster, without the expectation of perfection, then everyone will have a chance to chime in with ample time to meet deadlines.
  2. Rely Less On Tools and More on Yourself. Whenever you blame the tools you have for lack of action, you are just making excuses. If there’s an idea you believe in and your team needs to make it happen, you can find ways to make it happen. I make a lot of videos for work. I am, by no means, an expert animator, but I’ve found ways to use tools that come on every Apple computer to make my videos dynamic and get them done quickly. People don’t care what tools you use, they care about the end result. Find a way!
  1. Create a Constant Reminder of Your Goal. I have this post-it on my computer. Cheesy? Most definitely. But it works as a totem for my team and me. When we get caught up in the “what ifs” or the “it would be cooler if it did…” we ask ourselves if we’re going beyond 80%.

As someone who likes to dream of possibilities, plan, and perfect, it’s been extremely challenging to implement this mind shift, and sometimes I do falter, but the results are worth it. This article is a perfect example of a “close”. It took me one hour to write and run this article by a colleague. It’s now complete (with minor typos to be expected), but I got an article posted today. What about you?

I challenge you to become a closer today. In the comments section, let me know what you closed today.

Leadership isn’t Just for ‘Old’ People

Have you ever had an experience that changed the way you viewed the world? Last week, I had one when I watched a video from AARP titled ‘Millennials Show Us What Old Looks Like’.

In just a couple weeks, the video received over 375,000 views on YouTube. When I shared it on LinkedIn, it received more than 55+ positive comments and over 350 likes. Clearly, the message hit a nerve #ageisjustanumber.

But what if we changed our perspective from physical ability to leadership ability? Does age play a part in how people view leaders?

Our culture, as a society, believes leadership comes with age. To be eligible to run for President of the United States, a person must be at least 35 years old. Most organizations are littered with management teams in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.

But I want to challenge this thinking – just as the video challenged my thinking about older generations and physical abilities. If, in fact, #ageisjustanumber then we must apply this thinking across the board. It’s time for organization to provide leadership opportunities to those of all ages who act and think like leaders.

The Current State of Organizational Leadership

It appears organizations are failing to plan and leaving their leadership pipeline barren. A recent Bersin study showed only 6% of organizations feel their leadership pipeline is very ready and 86% of companies globally cite “gaps in their leadership pipeline” as one of their top 3 issues.

Millennials actually want to lead and they value their leadership skills being developed well before they actually manage people.

Currently, US companies alone spend $15B annually and on average $3,000 per employee in Leadership Development. Here’s the disconnect: all of that investment is made once an employee is already in a leadership position. Best known in corporate America as ‘managing people’.

A Future Vision

If there is ever a time in history that we needed more leaders, not less, that time is now.  Our world is changing at a rapid pace and in order to effectively compete in today’s marketplace, strong and next generation leadership is required.

The beauty of leadership, is anyone can be a leader and it doesn’t require gray hair, 30 years of business experience, or astronomical levels of business success. As long as people of any age, in their core, understand leadership is about developing people and helping others become better versions of themselves.

There are leadership skills that are extremely important, regardless of age according to Harvard Business Review.

leadership skills

Unfortunately, there is a double edged sword when it comes to age. Often times younger professionals don’t have the experience to have all of these leadership skills fully developed yet.  At the same time, older professionals have them yet forget their importance because of the almighty $$$.  The key is, if you can apply these leadership skills, your age doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.

What You Can Do To Help

Organizations:  Millennials are the present not the future. Getting them ready to lead and having them in leadership positions is one of the top 5 things organizations can do to better compete in todays marketplace.  Those millennials who embody what true leadership is all about will innovate, reinvent broken company cultures, and develop people at a rapid rate.  So focus on identifying the people with the skills needed to lead and less on age.

Millennials:  There is no better time than the present to step up to the plate, put on your big boy/girl pants and lead.  I love the  quote from Dale Patridge, “if you can’t lead your family, you can’t lead me.”  Start with yourself and your family and it will bleed right into being a leader at work.  Be relentless in your pursuit of knowledge, experiences, mentors and helping others.

In leadership, #ageisjustanumber. What matters most regardless of your age is can you lead others by motivating, inspiring, and helping create the best version of people.  If you can do that, you are a leader at any age.

Getting Leadership Ready. LearnLoft’s out of the box training approach to helping professionals understand what leadership is all about and to stand out as potential leaders. Find out more here.

What Leaders Must Lean on in Difficult Situations

As I opened the email with the subject line “UNAUTHORIZED USE of email list by your organization” I was eager to see what was inside.  In big bold letters it read “Your organization has not licensed the use of this information.”  It was clear, without knowing, we had made a mistake of using an email list that we were not authorized to use. The email list was filled with thousands of business leaders tasked with the development of employees — people our company could directly help.   It was painful to read, because this list was a major key to our marketing strategy.

I was faced with a decision, continue to email the list or do the right thing?

I knew right away the decision I was going to make because I had to be a model for my team. It reminded me of this quote from General Schwartzkopf about leadership:

“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy”

Character is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.  In our time, never has character been so overlooked. The modern culture has shown countless examples of people who exhibit poor character be turned into idols and celebrities. Instead, we need to bring our attention back to the value of demonstrating good character. People need leaders they can trust, relate too, and have confidence in – a leader who will stand behind them through the good and the bad.

Here are three ways you can demonstrate your character to others in order to be a better person and leader.

Live Values 

Everyone has said or heard the saying “do as I say, not as I do.” – this is the opposite of living your values. You have to lead by example and submit yourself to the mirror test on a daily basis. The mirror test is when you look into the mirror and are completely honest with yourself when you ask the question, “Am I comfortable with the person I see in the mirror?” (I’m specifically talking about being able to be confident in the decisions you make daily.)

Be Confident but Humble

Peter Drucker famously said, “If we want to be seen differently in this world it starts with how we view ourselves.” He is right. Leaders have to possess equal parts confidence and humility. Being confident yet humble, allows people to truly know who you are and what you believe in.  If they people that, then they can get behind what you are trying to accomplish.

Use Your Natural Cognition 

This is the thing most of people call “street smarts”. It’s using your natural abilities to learn, remember, problem-solve, and pay attention. This is a difficult thing to train – it’s either developed over time or it comes naturally to some. Here are a few things any leader can do to improve their natural cognition:

  • Seek opportunities to learn
  • Read, watch or listen more than you speak
  • Don’t make the same mistake twice
  • Find a mentor
  • Have an open mind to new ideas

Your character has been forming since the moment you were born, but that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. You have the ultimate power over your character – and you do this through your actions. Just as the character of others helped mold your own character, so can you help mold the character of others – just by being you.

Ready to Take the Next Step

Getting Leadership Ready. LearnLoft’s out of the box training approach to helping professionals understand what leadership is all about and to stand out as potential leaders. Find out more here.

 

Leadership Myths Modern Professionals Need to Know

It is critically important to know the truth. When we don’t know the truth, false ideas and beliefs take over. Before long, we start to believe something so far from reality it’s tough to come back. These fabrications can come from a variety of places; our parents, society, a crazy uncle, a former teacher or mentor, etc. While I’m not asking you to fact check everything you’ve ever been told, I don’t want an untruth to keep you from pursuing the most fulfilling thing a professional can do; leadership.

There are myths built up in modern professionals minds that hinder them from taking steps toward becoming a leader. I’ve outlined some of the most common fallacies surrounding leadership that professionals love to believe, but couldn’t be more wrong about.

“Being a Leader is only for Certain Types of People” – In a recent interview on the Follow My Lead Podcast, Brian Parsleytold a story about a introverted waitress that lived out what true leadership is all about.  She went out of her way to serve others because it was in her heart.  Being a leader and getting to a leadership position is within reach for anyone who wants to serve others and make a difference.

“A Title Makes a Leader”– Employees obey orders from someone with a title because their job is at stake, but that doesn’t mean they would follow them into battle. A mentor of mine tole me; people follow people, not titles. The introverted server from above is a great example of why you don’t have to have CEO or VP next to your name to be a leader.  Be a leader through your actions.

“Leaders control, micromanage, and are authoritative ” – This is perhaps the worst myth of all. There are many different leadership styles, but all the great ones have one thing in common; they empower others. They find ways to bring people with them not push them in the direction they want them to go. Sometimes that requires control, while other times it requires letting go completely.

“Leaders are born, not made” – It’s simply not true. Leadership is a skill and can be developed like any other skill. Sure, DNA is involved and everyone is born with strengths and weaknesses, but you’re not born a leader of people. There is a certain amount of training that must happen regardless of one’s predisposition to any skill.

The truth of the matter is, the world, your company, your family and your friends need more leaders, not less. Don’t let any of these myths keep you from becoming someone who leads, whether that be in a large or small capacity.

“If Your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more you are a leader” – John Quincy Adam

It is my hope that I can set the record straight for those who may have been misguided about how a leadership position can impact one’s life.

Getting Leadership Ready. LearnLoft’s out of the box training approach to helping organizations develop their young professionals to be better and more proactive leaders. Find out more here

5 Uncommon Ways to Motivate Employees

I am fortunate to have an amazing and motivated team. It takes a lot more than staying late, working weekends, or taking on an industrious project to faze them. But even highly motivated people need an extra boost of motivation on an on-going basis. One of the challenging parts of a leading team is being aware enough to determine precisely when that boost is necessary.

The key is being proactive. Turn off the distractions (here is one idea, Why All Leaders Should Delete Facebook) and get closer to the work environment (Get out from behind the desk).  Once the distractions are out of the way, it’s easier to realize when to pull the right levers. Then you can focus on increasing motivation levels in order to produce optimal results.

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well neither does bathing- that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

Motivation by its very nature doesn’t last forever. Everyday I try to do something non-traditional to create either a long or short-term motivation depending on the needs of team. Some ideas work and some don’t. I’ll let you benefit from what I’ve learned by providing 5 of the most uncommon ways I’ve motivated my team, that actually worked.

Buy New Technology

Honestly, who doesn’t like new toys? Like a kid with a new bike on Christmas morning, chomping at the bit to ride it in the snow; it creates excitement. For my team, it was a new Canon 70D Camera to help us create more engaging Microlearning. The team was so giddy; they couldn’t wait for it to arrive. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should allow your team a chance to do their jobs better or reframe their thinking.

Invest in Their Development 

If an employee shows interest in something outside of their current role, invest in them. We have a team member who saw an opportunity to help us as a front-end developer. So, we are supporting him by making a small monthly financial investment and setting aside time for him to develop his new skill. You could invest in our new Getting Leadership Ready program, a Lynda.com license, or a ticket to an industry conference such as Salesforce.com Dreamforce. Ultimately, by doing this you will have a happy employee who sees their leader as someone who empowers them to live up to their full potential.

Impromptu out of the Office Lunches

How much would you like if someone came and told you to drop everything at 11:45 for a surprise lunch at The Palm, Ruth’s Chris, or Maggiano’s ? I wouldn’t recommend this motivation tactic if you have a big afternoon workload. Your team ends up wanting to have a George Costanza nap underneath their desk for an hour to two after, but it provided tremendous long-term motivation. It was something they cherished and works hard in hopes that we do it again.

Give Ownership of the Company

In his book, Above the Line, Urban Meyer compares renting vs. owning a home and how as a home owner he was naturally more motivated to take better care of his house. It’s a great example of why all employees should have ownership in the company for which they are working so hard. Even if it’s a really small amount, providing ownership might be the most powerful way to motivate anyone. If giving ownership isn’t an option for you and your team, find a similar way to provide empowerment. Allow them to make the next hire, lead the next project, or make a purchasing decision.

Write Them Thank You Notes

One of my favorite leaders used to write hand written thank-you notes to every employee on their work anniversary. I thought it was a brilliant way to motivate; showing personal appreciation for the work and commitment each employee made for the last 365 days. Try writing your individual team members when you see motivation levels drop; a thoughtful note from you may be just what is needed to turn things around.

These unconventional methods worked to motivate my team, and hopefully will provide you with some new ideas to try. If you have you own innovative approaches to inspire, let us know and provide your ideas in the comments section below.

Online Leadership Programs. LearnLoft’s out of the box training approach to helping organizations develop their young professionals to be better and more proactive leaders. Find out more here.

3 Unconventional Ways to Retain Millennials

I’ve seen it more times than I can count; a talented millennial who has potential in spades, walking out on a perfectly good job, looking for greener pastures in other organizations. The company lets them loose in spite of their aptitude for success and misses out on someone who could help bring new life and energy into the business. The statistics are pretty well documented.   Millennials now make up the highest percentage of the work force and two-thirds of them expect to be in different jobs within 4 years of starting employment. The current turnover average in America is nearly 14% and it costs a company a year’s salary to replace a lower level employee, and 2-3 years salary to replace a senior employee.

The question is, who is to blame for these costly turnover rates? Some would argue it’s the entitled millennial; others task organizations with staying ahead of the times in order to hold onto young prodigies. Or should we all just live with the fact that turnover is going to be higher from this point forward?

I come from the camp that believes both millennials and organizations are at fault. Settling for a generation of job hoppers isn’t something we should be willing to do. While I can write for days about what young professionals should do to help solve this problem, I want to focus on organizations and the people who can control the turnover problem…their leaders.

“People leave their manager; they don’t leave their company”- John Stumpt

Sub manager for leader, and you get your answer. It’s a leader’s job to retain, engage, educate, and empower.

There is a theory that relates to human behavior that has been used for decades (long before millennials arrived on the scene) known as the 10%-80%-10% principle. It’s simple; 10 percent of workforces are elite performers who give it all they have, all the time. 80 percent of employees are the nucleus; great workers who don’t quite have the drive or determination to be an elite performer by themselves. And finally, the bottom 10%; a group that is uninterested or defiant, and they won’t have the drive regardless of what happens to them.

Every generation is made up of people who feel they are entitled to the best jobs and those on the other end of the spectrum that just don’t get it. Perhaps this millennial generation tilts toward 7%-83%-10%, but either way, they also have plenty of elite performers that will help organizations navigate this quickly-changing business market.

It’s a leader’s job to bring more millennials (or the 83%) into the world of elite performers. The organizations that do this will win, and they will win for a long time.

Here are 3 Unconventional ideas for organizations to try to retain millennials:

  1. Train: When I say train, I don’t mean equip them with company, product, or basic onboarding knowledge. That is table stakes. I am talking about developing them beyond company assigned training. Invest in them outside the normal company curriculum; such as online learning courses, conferences, local in person workshops, keynote speakers, etc. This probably is the easiest thing to do because most millennials are eager to improve their skills and they can probably tell you where they would like help or development. Regardless of the amount, what counts is millennials will remember and be loyal when they feel you have their best interests in mind.
  2. Empower: Take your micromanaging shoes off and put on a pair of empowerment shoes. Give the opportunity regardless of how big or small to be involved in decisions, projects or brainstorming sessions. This millennial generation is capable of a lot and by empowering them you will get less entitlement and more proactive work.
  3. Make them compete: Good old fashion competition brings out the best in people. Find ways to pit young professionals against each other for short periods of time with money, time off, gift cards, or other items going to the winner. It could be as simple as a one day contest or as complicated as year long content but the point is to get them competing. Not only will they respond they will love it, and look forward to the next challenge.

My hope is that more leaders in organizations will take ownership of their millennial turnover problem. Why, you ask? Because talent and new innovative ideas are what is going to carry businesses forward and I believe this Millennial generation has them they just need their leaders to help bring it out of them and get them into that top 10%.

Getting Leadership Ready. LearnLoft’s out of the box training approach to helping young professionals understand what leadership is all about and helping them get noticed as a potential company leader.  Find out more here.