Leadership Coaching

The "Problem" with Millennials

The problem with millennials. They are too this or too that. Just mention the word, millennial, tomillenials a bunch of 50 and 60 somethings in a workplace setting and you'll get chuckles, nods of agreement and universal disapproval. They will share stories and joke about how they never answer the phone, or how they never show up to the office, or how they are always whining about something or glued to their iPhone. It seems like one of the baby boomer's favorite topics of conversation. The funny thing is that this way of relating to the younger generation is nothing new. It's the same old collegial agreement that's given people of a similar age something to agree on and banter about for ages, how younger, less experienced people just don't get "it."

The generation that preceded the baby boomers leveled similar complaints about the baby boomer generation

The problem, especially as a business leader, isn't with the millennials.

The problem with millennials is that those in the boomer generation typically start from that place, that there is a problem with them. From their assumption, it's assumed that there is a problem with the millennial generation because they aren't doing what they think they should, or the way they think they should.

I can't stand all of the judgments and caterwauling over millennials. 

As a business leader, it's never really the appropriate question to be asking:

The question: What's wrong with them? Why are they acting that way?

As a leader, the question is, what's great about this person, or this team and how do I call that forth. How can I improve to create the results or get the best out of them.

The irony is that, in the 1960's and 1970's, when boomers were growing up and entering the workforce, decades that can be characterized as a mass evolution in the consciousness and intelligence of the United States, the boomer's parents generation were making similar judgments. While the boomer's catalyzed a mass evolution of the country, the boomer's parents were standing in judgment asking, what's their problem, what is this about their own rules, new ideas and lack of principles?

What they should have been asking is, what can we learn from them? What are they seeing and experiencing that I am not?

It's the same question that boomers need to be asking of millennials today. Instead of standing in judgment about what's different, you might seek to understand their perspective.

Boomers might learn something. And, if the boomer lets down the judgment, they just might have an opening to impart that incredible wisdom that us millennials so yearn for.

And, by the way, Millennials are forcing change in every area of life. They are the drivers behind innovation in everything from automobiles, to banking, to dating, to family systems, to social issues. They won't stand for doing work that sucks, they watched their parents do that their whole life. While admirable, I'm sure that if you give your child one gift, it would be to find work they love. Is that such a radical idea?

The most common complaint I here is about millennials lack of commitment and hard work on the job. It's true, some young people are naive about what it takes to succeed in the "real world," but that's been true since the beginning of human beings. Just check the story of "Adam and Eve."

As a leader to millennials (or any other human being on the planet), you will get no where as long as you stand in judgment of how they are.

Your job is to understand how to reach them, challenge them, mentor them.

But that starts, like it always has with human beings, by relating to them as their greatness, relating to them as what makes them special, not placing them in a "basket of deplorables."

The Three Phases of Life

My daughter, Gabriella Mary Ann, was born October 2nd, 2016. I turn 35 on October 23rd, 2016. I'm entering that middle phase of my life. The part of life where my potential is now. The part of life where it's truly my turn. I am in that sweet, yet somewhat pressured spot, where I'm about to live my life.

It's the time where the real action of my career is going to happen. The gift for me is knowing that it's game time. It's time for me to actualize all that I've accumulated, learned and absorbed in the first phase of my life.

I think there are three phases of a great life and it's really important to know which phase you are in, so you can make the most of it, the most of who you are and what you are here for.

I'm in the second phase, I'd call it the execution phase which starts somewhere after the first quarter of your life, say 28-40. The first phase is the learning and growing phase, starting with birth and ending between 28-40, which prepares you step into the execution phase. The third phase is about wisdom, sharing it, spreading it and enjoying the things that really matter, thanks to your wisdom.

I love this framework for life, because it allows us the opportunity to settle into the natural rhythms of the human experience:

birth--life--death

Could also be coined:

creation--expression--transition

I encourage you to allow yourself to embrace the phase that you are in. For years, while I was in my learning phase, I was always anxious that I wasn't doing enough, hadn't accomplished enough. So much so, that I didn't get to enjoy the learning phase.

As I step into the execution phase, it's a huge gift to know, NOW IS THE TIME. The future is NOW. My potential is NOW

When it's time to step into the wisdom phase, I pray that I will let myself and the things I have done be enough, so that I can work to share that wisdom with others, delight in the precious life I've created and allow love to be the ruler of my days.

Baseball and Business, Vignette #2

Clayton Kershaw

For those that don't know him, he is the absolute best pitcher on the planet. And, that is not an opinion. At age 28, he has won three Cy Young awards, given to the best pitcher in each league, leads the league in strikeouts, era, complete games. Basically, he is the best of the best.

So often in life we admire leaders and high performers and think, wow, they are just so talented. It must be in their genes. It's not our fault, after all, we didn't notice Clayton Kershaw when he was 16 years old, eating, sleeping and drinking baseball. We didn't notice Steve Jobs when he was sitting in his parent's garage in Palo Alto, California trying to make something.

We noticed them after they arrived and after they put in their 10,000 hours.

The thing that is fascinating about Clayton Kershaw, and that is most important to learn from his example, is that the best of the best, don't just rely on talent and charisma once they get there.

We see Clayton Kershaw pitch every fifth day, for 4 months in the summer, what we don't see is that he has planned out every other aspect of time he is not pitching. His entire life is oriented around being an excellent pitcher for two hours, every fifth day. To see some of the insanity of his routine, check out this article from ESPN.com.

The learning is, in Baseball or in Business, it's not an accident that you show up and perform well. Great business leaders and high performing athletes, have created a habit of giving themselves exactly what they need in order to show up at their highest and best self to perform their job.

For some people, like Clayton Kershaw, it's a strict 5 day cycle of routine when he's pitching down to the shorts he wears on game day. For Steve Jobs, it's things like wearing the same black turtleneck and blue jeans so he no longer had to spend energy on deciding what to wear.

For me, it's often getting my favorite coffee in the morning, walking my dog and listening to an inspiring podcast.

What is it for you? What are the habits or routines that would have you showing up at peak purpose and effectiveness when it matters?

Baseball and Business Vignettes

Watching baseball in October is a ritual amongst me, my brothers and good friends. Typically it's watching my St Louis Cardinals in October. This year, they aren't in, so I'm left rooting very passionately against the Cubs and writing about baseball. While baseball is on the mind, it reminds me of some of the great metaphors and analogies that we can use from baseball to apply to business. Stay posted for some more Baseball vignettes throughout October.

The Professional Hitter's Approach

What makes a professional hitter is their ability to maintain a consistent, habitual approach to hitting. The best hitters are excellent at bringing the same disciplined approach day in, and day out, regardless of the slump they might be in, regardless of how they feel, the sleep they got, the weather, or the umpire.

The amateur hitter reacts too soon and too wildly, pitch to pitch, at-bat to at-bat, game to game, week to week.

The very best of the best in the big leagues, keep the same approach, but also learn to make minor adjustments. They aren't rigid, but they also don't sway wildly. They respond to their environment in a measured way, anchored in their approach in order to continue the success they are committed to.

Business leaders should approach their craft in the same fashion, with a steady, disciplined approach, not swaying too wildly in reaction to their fears, negative news or short term challenges.

Your Boss is an Asshole

Yep, I said it. It's true. Your boss is an asshole. He's always micro-managing you, never gives you positive reinforcement, only points out what you did wrong. You do a million great things and the one thing that you miss, that isn't even a big deal, your boss is all over you.

He can't even leave you alone when you're on vacation, or worse, he makes you feel guilty for even taking any time off.

She's always setting impossible standards that you can never attain. It seems like no matter what you do, it will never be good enough.

Your Boss is an Asshole!

Now, I'm not talking about your boss in the classic sense, like your supervisor or senior leader or investors.

I'm talking about YOU and what kind of boss you are to yourself.

How ever bad your boss is, you are at least ten times meaner, harsher, more critical and demanding than he or she could ever be. If you were your actual boss, you would be fired or put in jail for workplace abuse.

In fact, the level to which you hate your actual boss, is most likely a reflection of the misdirected anger and hatred you have toward yourself.

So, I invite you to ask yourself:

What kind of boss am I to myself?

And in today's age, we are all our own boss.

I remember the day I realized how much of an asshole of a boss I was to myself. It was December 21st, 2012, 1:30 in the afternoon at my home office in St Louis. This was the last day before a little Christmas holiday and I sat there at my desk, frustrated and scared, staring blankly at my computer screen.

I was burnt out, tired and beating the absolute shit out of myself, trying to make myself do something productive. I would not let myself quit working until I got to some arbitrary time of the day where I felt like I had suffered the appropriate amount of time.

When I'm in that state, frustrated, hopeless, exhausted; there is virtually nothing productive that is going to come out of it. Especially for someone in business of people and leadership.

I realized for the first time, that I was my own boss, and my boss was forcing me to sit there and suffer when most people were taking Friday afternoon off to start the holiday early. Did I quit my job for this? Did I become my own boss, just to be a worse, more demanding, more insensitive boss? Heck No!

I decided in that moment to step away from the computer. A good boss would tell me to take the afternoon off, give yourself a break today and get started on your holiday break.

I went and did something completely frivolous with my time: I went to an afternoon movie, which I never do. I watched Lincoln at the Chase Park Plaza in the Central West End of St Louis, sitting behind a group of nuns at the movie theatre.

It was awesome and generous and empowering to myself. I took that new way of being with myself into the new year and my business began to take off. The better boss I've been to myself, the more results I've produced and the happier I become. The better boss I am, the better friend, husband and father I am.

So, let me ask you this.

What kind of boss are you to yourself? If you were being that kind of boss to someone else, how do you think they would perform? How long before they would quit that kind of boss?

This isn't some touchy feely idea about being a teddy bear to yourself. It's absolutely critical that you learn to be a great boss for yourself in order to produce the results you want in life and business.

Start with this.

  1. List out 10-20 qualities you admire in your most favorite leaders or bosses.
  2. List out 10-20 ways that your favorite leaders or bosses demonstrated those qualities.
  3. Create a list of 10-20 actions or habits you will institute with yourself to practice being a better boss to yourself.

 

One last caveat for business leaders. People that follow you, learn way more from your example than from what you say. If you are being a jerk to yourself or setting impossible standards for yourself with no reward, they will think that is what you want them to do to be successful.

And that has a shelf life. They will leave the team, mail it in with their effort, or, at best, give you a roller coaster of effort, then quit.

Please, for your success and theirs, stop being an asshole to yourself.

 

 

 

 

Work/Life Balance... Blah, Blah, Blah

Work/Life Balance is one of the biggest buzz words in the human resources and leadership circles these days, and one that I most often causes me severe cringing when I hear the words. Why do I cringe? Because so often the conversation is so surface level, it doesn't address the systemic root of the problem. And by not addressing the root of the issue, it often leaves people dismissing the very idea of "Work/Life Balance" as some kind of woo-woo, out of touch concept with real leaders, who are up to real things.

Here's what Work/Life Balance is not about. It's not about spending equal times at work and at home. It's not about only working 9-5 and never working on weekends or after hours. It's not about out of office responders or vacation days or holidays.

What it is about, is learning to create a balanced experience of life where your actions at work and at home are driven by your commitment and intentions.

So often, people are driven by their fears at work and at home, rather than honoring who they intend to be at work and in life.

At work, people are constantly living in fear that they haven't done enough. They fear that if they haven't done enough, they will lose their job or lose favor. In order to combat that fear and guilt, they work harder and harder. The deeper the fear, the harder they work, the less balance.

Living with the idea that whatever they do, it is never good enough, there is no amount of working that will be enough. This creates an imbalance at work where the drive for action at work isn't getting the job done, it's about combating the feeling that one isn't doing enough. This creates an endless and exhausting cycle.

At home, similar feelings come up. There is basically no amount of being enough. I've seen this so often with parents who work full time. Of course they are committed to being great parents, but typically, they create perfect ideals about who they would be if they were a perfect parent; And then measure themselves by this unrealistic perfect standard.

The result is that people feel like they aren't good enough at work or at home. They feel like they are losing on both fronts. The best it gets is feeling successful in one area and poor in another area. And, it all ends up feeling like a big juggling act, where the balls could all drop the moment you let your focus and attention slip.

Creating real work/life balance is essential to being a great leader and building winning organizations. However, it's not about surface level issues of time off and email hours, although those can help.

What it's really about is learning to trust yourself and to work at creating a loving and empowering relationship to yourself. Work/Life Balance is about creating a sense of trust and confidence in yourself, focusing on the big picture commitments and letting go of the constant sense of doubt, fears and guilt that you aren't enough.

We Were All Kids Once

We were all kids once, and then we turned into adults. I'm not sure when it is, that we suddenly decide that we are no longer children and that other's are no longer impacted by the way they were raised.

The magic number in America is 18 years old, where you are then awarded the title of adult. Which is pretty funny, because the 18 year olds I've met, are still very much shaped and molded by their childhood experience.

Somewhere along the way, 18 turns into 25, which turns into 34 which turns into 40.

And somewhere along the way, we stop having empathy for where people came from, how they were raised and the life experience that had them see the world the way they do.

It's impossibly naive to believe there is a magic transition that occurs between childhood and adulthood that cures you of the impact of your childhood.

As a leader, it's important to know this about yourself, your followers and your own leaders. The behaviors that you dislike most in others, are typically an affect of some trauma they experienced in their life.

Nobody comes into the world distrusting, defensive, unaware, controlling, abusive, disconnected, dominating or disrespectful.

And, through many years of experience in connecting with people at the deepest levels, hearing their stories and their heartbreaks, the two most valuable things I've learned:

1. The more extreme or out of bounds the behavior is, the more level of pain, trauma or abuse they have experienced... EVERY SINGLE TIME. 2. Whatever the thing is that annoys you about a person, they typically already know this about themselves and beat themselves up for it 10 times harder than you ever could.

So the thing is, we were all kids once and then we got older. We are all still incredibly shaped by our childhood experience. Many people have experienced incredible trauma, and it all manifests in many different ways.

Having an understanding of what shaped the people you work with can give you new ways to access their greatness and effectiveness.

And, it will make you a much better leader.