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 www.6ShortcutsToEngagement.com.