Forget about Generations at Work

Adelaide has spiffy Tom Ford glasses and a modern, cropped haircut. She’s known as a firebrand and prankster in the office. Her boss knows her favorite song is Pharrell’s “Happy”. Adelaide is turning 72 next month. Should her boss manage her using the stereotypes of the “veteran” generation?

“Generations at Work” is a popular topic at many conferences and leadership retreats. Most leaders are in search of the Holy Grail of Generational Knowledge to make their life easier and positively impact employee engagement and business results. It’s time for leaders to stop worrying about broad trends and start focusing on the individuals walking the halls or sitting in the cubicles right outside their offices.

Seriously, can you really manage others based on when they were born? Isn’t that what astrology is all about? For every decade-based trend you read about there’s an employee on the team who proves that it’s not true. Of course we are influenced by the generation in which we were born, but that doesn’t mean we can be managed based on these labels.

Beliefs & Mindsets

Individuals are a compilation of the beliefs and mindsets they learn sitting at their dinner table, in classrooms, religious halls and sports fields as they grow up. People are influenced to some degree by what’s happening in the world in the formative years; however, they’re much more influenced by the personal interactions in their own lives. Although Adelaide grew up in a generation that lacked technology, she readily embraces it in her day-to-day work. She loves a test of any sort because growing up on a farm; her dad taught her that challenges are character building.

The reason leaders need to better understand employee’s beliefs and mindsets is that beliefs and mindsets drive actions and outcomes. Striving to learn more about what specifically makes your direct reports tick, instead of dwelling on that generation’s conventions, will provide insights that have the potential to improve engagement.

In 6 Shortcuts to Employee Engagement: Lead & Succeed in a Do-More-With-Less World, I share several high impact, easy to implement ideas for creating this shared understanding. One of the shortcuts is to Create Positive Connections. The best way to get to know someone as an individual is to spend time with him or her one-on-one on a regular basis. I don’t mean stopping by the cubicle to check in – that’s great, but doesn’t go deep enough.

Create Positive Connections

Unfortunately, individual meetings with the boss have gotten a bad rap. They usually mean you are “in trouble” or it’s time for the once a year Performance Review. The kind of meeting I’m suggesting is 1) regularly scheduled; 2) on the calendar; 3) held in a private place; and, 4) lasts at least 20 minutes.

The frequency can be monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. These one-on-one meetings have the potential to transform the leader/direct report relationship because they open the lines of communication. During the meetings, leaders get to know more about what makes employees feel satisfied, energized & productive (my definition of employee engagement). Employees also get to know their boss a little better and this can break down reverse generational stereotypes. This open communication creates a more positive workplace and ultimately a better experience for patients, their families and other stakeholders.

Conducting one-on-one meetings to open the lines of communication with each direct report is also a key component of improving employee engagement. And improving employee engagement is a key component to improving every metric you measure. Conducting one-on-one meetings provides an opportunity to talk about beliefs and mindsets, create shared accountability, and form a very positive connection between leaders and team members.

Since they’ve been having regular one-on-one meetings, Adelaide and her boss have a better understanding of each other. She likes being heard. She enjoys the informal discussions. She is more engaged. Her boss knows her as an individual – not a member of the veteran generation.

Plain and simple…if you want to improve employee engagement, work on getting to know what makes the folks who report to you feel satisfied, energized & productive and help them find ways to do more of those things. Focusing on generations means focusing on generalities. Focusing on individuals lets you focus on personal engagement.

To download a free copy of the One-on-One Meeting Grid™ (and many other free tools from the book), visit

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Nursing Leaders: 3 Reasons to Swap Your Suit for Scrubs

buisinesssuitI was presenting a program for the New York Organization of Nurse Executives and Leaders and asked the question “What do you regularly do to create positive connections with employees?” Our topic was employee engagement, and we were looking at high-impact, easy-to-implement ideas for leaders to take at the tactical level to move the needle on engagement.

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Is There Anything We Can Do to Get You to Stay?

70910_photoHas anyone ever said, “Is there anything we can do to get you to stay” when you’ve resigned from a position? If you’re a manager, have you ever said those words to someone else?

Here’s a cautionary tale to get you thinking about employee engagement and retention – whether you are the one who is thinking about leaving or the one trying to encourage someone to stay.

A friend of our family has been working in a company for about 18 months. This is her first job out of college. She’s a real go-getter and was recognized frequently for her excellent work. Her performance appraisal showed evidence of above average work – especially for someone new to the business world.

However, she was getting antsy. She wanted to learn more and she wanted to learn it faster. She has a vision for herself and she was feeling stuck in the current role. Fortunately for her, she heard about an opportunity with another company. She interviewed and got the job. When she told her manager, she said, “Is there anything we can do to get you to stay?”

And her situation is not unlike many in the U.S. labor market today. According to the Modern Survey’s Fall 2014 U.S. Workforce Study of Employee Engagement

Study, “28% of all employees across the country are currently looking for work at another organization. Six months ago, that number was 25% and 18 months ago it was 23%.”

Here are three ideas that our friend and her manager each could have used to avoid the situation:

The Employee

  1. Ask for time with your manager to talk about career goals and aspirations. Talk about internal and external growth and development opportunities.
  2. Look for opportunities inside your organization and ask the manager for an “informational interview” to learn more. That way you can see if you really would be a good fit for this role.
  3. Keep networking with others outside the organization because sometimes better opportunities do come along.


The Manager

  1. Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with the employee to talk about her career goals and aspirations. Talk about internal and external growth and development opportunities. Really listen for what is being said “between the lines”. What gets this person satisfied, energized & productive (my definition of employee engagement)?
  2. Once you understand the goals and aspirations, find opportunities for the employee to participate in meetings, calls or events outside your department to continue to challenge her skills. Find a mentor from another spot in the organization to act as another set of ears and a guide along the way.
  3. Share your stories about how you have moved around the within the organization and the benefits you’ve seen from working there long term. Talk about your commitment to the mission and vision. Keep working to connect the dots between the employee’s goals and her work.

Yes, sometimes the move to a new company is inevitable. But many times, some work on the front end (by both parties) can avoid the pain and expense of losing a star employee or having to begin again in a new company.

Happy New Year!

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5 Interviewing Techniques That Will Help You Hire a Great Nurse

There are close to 3 million skilled nurses in the United States and that number is expected to grow significantly over the next decade, according to all predictions. With so many nurses in and out of jobs—due to the high turnover rate of a demanding profession—it becomes very important to know how to interview a nurse in order to spot a keeper.

It’s critical for an organization to hire a nurse that is going to work out for the long haul, “because the cost of hiring a new nurse for most organizations is somewhere between 50-60K,” explains Vicki Hess, RN and the author of The Nurse Managers Guide to Hiring, Firing and Inspiring.

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Twas a Week Before Christmas…

Today I’m sharing a guest post from my son Brian Hess who lives in Manhattan (he’s in the middle between my husband and me). I hope it gets you in the holiday spirit!

VickiandBrian“So today I was riding the subway, it was a cold cold Monday morning in NYC in the holiday season (which means the trains are PACKED and delayed, a lot of cranky people). 

This morning was no different, as I show up and on the sign that tells when the train comes it says “delayed.” you can see the negativity and frustration in the air, and then as the train finally comes, it only gets worse. The train is absolutely mobbed, people are fighting tooth and nail to get in, and yelling at each other. It was very negative.

Then, during the ride, the train conductor comes on the intercom and says “tis the season to be packed into the train like a bunch of sardines. even though the bills are too high, the pay is too low, still realize you have it better then 95% of the people world wide. Smile, enjoy life, and have a great Monday.”

Just like that everyone started smiling and giggling etc, the vibes were great. It was a great example of turning POWs into WOWs, and was wild how one person did it for hundreds of people. “

Happy Holidays!

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Transformation: Good Thing or Bad?

butterflyTake a moment to visualize a cocoon and a butterfly or a plant bulb and a tulip. The idea of transformation is so beautiful in nature. We love to see the outcomes of the change.

Unfortunately, in our daily lives, many people I hear from are struggling with being asked to continually transform.

According to, transformation means to “change in form, appearance or structure.” It sounds so benign on paper, doesn’t it? At work, we are being asked to be continual transformers. So as you finish up 2014 and move into 2015, here are two questions to ask yourself related to this transformation topic.

  1. What’s in it for me to transform?

    It’s okay to think about yourself when big change is on the horizon. It would be silly to gloss over the idea that ongoing transformation is going to affect you – one way or another. So take a few minutes to think about the positive side of transformation (according to what I hear, folks spend plenty of time thinking about the aggravations related to change).

    The answer is different for everyone so a bit of self-reflection is in order here. If you are stuck, ask a family member, coworker or supervisor to help you tease out the benefits.

  2. How can I support my organization as we transform?

    Maybe you are one of those folks who have grabbed transformation by the reins and you look forward to the ride. That’s great! Or maybe, you are thinking, “I’ve had enough change!” Either way, the organization where you work (including your coworkers, boss, leadership team, etc) could use your help moving forward.

What could you do today to support transformation? Or maybe it’s something you need to stop doing (Digging in your heels? Complaining? Sulking? You get the idea). Start by remembering what’s in it for you to change and then connect to how your support will positively affect the outcomes your team, department, division or organization is seeking. That’s what we mean by “win/win”.

Transformers unite! Your time is here!

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