the ceo magazine, leadership,
Kelly and Robby Riggs, Authors, Counter Mentor Leadership: How to Unlock the Potential of the 4-Generation Workplace

Unfortunately, most managers aren’t interested in being better leaders.

Not really.

What they’re most interested in is blaming the younger generation. From slumping sales to dismal employee engagement, it’s all the fault of those entitled, lazy, glued-to-their-phones Millennials.

We wish that was an exaggeration, but, in our experience, it is the reality.

In working with clients all over the world, from Fortune 100 to start-ups, we’ve found that leaders prefer excuses to solutions for their organizational struggles. Much easier to blame someone else than look in the mirror, yes?

Here is the key question: If a leader has an underperforming team, who is to blame? The employees? Allow us to pose three questions:

  1. Who hired them?
  2. Who trained them?
  3. Who leads them?

Doesn’t the leader do those things?

So, you hire the employees, and you are responsible to train them and lead them, but when they fail, it’s not your fault? And you think Millennials are living in a dream world?!

The issue with Millennials is not a generation problem. In fact, leadership is not generational, it is relational. Effective leadership (often simply described as influence) is entirely dependent upon trust, the foundational cornerstone of any relationship. People simply will not follow those they do not trust, and employees will not produce top-shelf results working for a manager they do not trust.

The problem is that building trust requires change. It requires an investment in the activities that create that trust. As we like to say, leadership is a pay-me-now or pay-me-much-more-later exercise. You will pay one way or the other; the question is how much? Talking about leadership is easy, but actually becoming a transformational leader is extremely difficult due to the discipline required to change.

So, where to start? Here are three key skills we believe will start any manager down the path to effective leadership.

Three Tactics for Building Trust

1. You must over-communicate.

Everything begins with communication. As a leader – especially with the younger generation – you will only be as successful as you are an effective communicator. Communication is the foundation upon which all other leadership activities are built. Think about it – whether you are manufacturing widgets, running a professional services business, or managing a call center – strategy, project requirements, standard operating procedures, and dealing with “people issues” are all predicated on your ability to effectively communicate!

Communication is not just about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. It includes the things you don’t say. It includes what you do, and what you don’t do. As a leader, you are always being observed, and you must own both your words and your actions.

2. You must understand the different perspectives.

There are wildly different perspectives in today’s chaotic, four-generation workplace. Individuals value different things and want different types of recognition and attention. Each generation was raised differently and taught differently. Once you understand this, you can take the steps to leverage those differences.

When you take the time to intentionally get to know your people – seeking to understand their perspective on the workplace, your company, and day-to-day challenges – you will start to clearly understand why they make those decisions and take those actions. They will stop “coming out of nowhere” and you will begin to value their different point of view, even if you don’t agree!

Let us be clear, this doesn’t happen overnight. You cannot be efficient with people! Understanding takes time, but it is time very well spent because it has a ridiculously high return on investment.

3. You must own the relationship.

Talking about a relationship is one thing; creating and owning the responsibility for that relationship is quite another.

That relationship is the difference between engagement and disengagement, which means it is the difference between success and mediocrity for your team! We believe owning that relationship starts with setting clear expectations.

When you clarify your expectations, there is a tremendous side benefit – you will rapidly reduce the level and frequency of conflict. That is because conflict is nothing more than frustrated expectations. As you align expectations, engagement increases and, over time, turnover will decrease. To set crystal clear expectations, there are three simple steps:

  • Make sure the desired result is completely understood.
  • Define and agree upon the time frame.
  • Explain the “why.”

The power of leadership is the ability to multiply performance. A manager who must make every decision and solve every problem is nothing more than a self-limiting team of one. An effective leader, on the other hand, is capable of leveraging the potential of every employee and creating results far in excess of just the manager.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

That is the power of leadership.



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