Boomers: Five Steps to Bridging the Gap

If, like me, you grew up before computer and video games, fMRI and PET studies show that you might be missing a part of your brain that Millenials have. 

The exercise below, similar to the Stroop color-word test, seems to discriminate among Boomers and Millenials. It demands fast mental switching. Millenials zip through to the end with almost zero error; their brains are future-fit and ready to go. Most of us boomers, high achievers that we are, start strong but then fizz out near the middle. By the end, we have entered that-part-of-our-brain-where-there-is-nothing. Try reading the color not the words and see if you can get to the end with 90-100% accuracy in 25 seconds or less. 

Many of our Boomer leadership and social skills are based of our societal structures of the 1950’s to 70’s. The image below highlights some clear differences.

Differences between Boomers and Millenials

Time to update! It’s our job to adjust to their social structure, it’s not their job to adjust to ours. Here are five suggestions to make that happen:

1.  Adore them, keep the positive reinforcement flowing. You might believe that if you praise them that they will begin to demand more privileges. They won’t. They grew up getting trophies for everything, even for showing up at soccer practice. If you praise them the way you were praised, they will feel punished. Ramp it up.

2. Get real and be real. They spot hypocrisy quickly and will turn off if they sense you’re not being real. Millennials are looking for leaders and role models with honesty and integrity.  

3. Have fun. Having fun wasn't a value of the 50’s or 60’s, and seems the antithesis of getting things done. On the contrary. From Zappos to Flickr (left, below) to Google to ZestFinance to Dormify to Amazon to Yelp - having fun is among the top priorities despite grueling work pressures. Humor, silly stuff, irreverence works; make it relevant and go for it.

4. Make it about something bigger. Millennials don’t just want and need to learn, they need to connect this to a higher purpose. Their world view is more expanded than was ours. Teach them even though you know they might split as soon as something better comes along. The only thing worse than training them and having them leave is not teaching them and keeping them. 

5. Let them work with friends. Boomers are hesitant to let friends work together because of the fear that they’ll waste time. Millennials can get as much done as we can while texting their friends and posting on Instagram. Loyalty is to their friends rather than to a company They need to work with people they click with, and like being friends with coworkers. Some companies interview and hire groups of friends. Zappos build their culture to create friendship.

Take one or two small actions in each area and keep those actions up on a consistent basis and I bet the generation rift will shrink. 

Are you Stuck by these Five Change Myths?

If you or your team are stuck on any of these outdated myths, you’ll spin your wheels no matter how hard you push on the gas!

Myth #1:  “People don’t like change.” It’s not change that’s the problem; we’re born to change and adapt. It’s natural. People resist losing self-esteem, resulting from looking foolish, losing face, feeling like a failure. If these factors are shored up and protected in your people, change will be less of an issue.

Myth #2:  “Personality is ‘set.’” It can’t be changed or fixed, as in “Oh that’s just the way he is.” This myth forms the basis for a convenient cop-out both for the leader and the ‘personality.’ It lets you both off the hook. This could be true for an organization as well. “That is the way we do things.” “That is who we are.” A personality is never set. We are a sum of our beliefs, actions and attitudes; these can change if needed for survival.

Myth #3:  “Change takes time.” “Too much stress will make people sick.” Some processes do take time: System upgrades, complex expansions. But people can change overnight if need be. Feet to the fire, people can change instantly. You just have to get clear, make a compelling case, expect immediate change and follow through. They won’t break. 

Myth #4:You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” How many employees over 55 are sliding because of this myth? How many over 55 have cut back or cut out? Recent brain research shows that the brain rewires the same way at any age. With persistence, people can learn as much at 90 as they do at 20. 

Old dog.jpg

Myth #5:  “Uncertainty, confusion and mistakes are signs of weakness and failure.” These can stop progress short. ‘Psychological Safety’ means that no matter what, all questions are positive, not knowing is a sign of intellectual curiosity and mistakes are supported as long as something’s learned. Confusion means you’re weighing options and able to simultaneously hold them in mind. Make ‘not knowing’ acceptable. High performing teams do.

Because myths are belief systems, they're not easy to uproot. Start by spotting them, start digging, replace them with the truth until they become your new reality.


Triangles, Tangles and Blocks - Oh No! (Part One)

Many organizations don’t recognize them. Those that do spot them don’t do well at fixing them. Triangles, Tangles and Blocks side-swipe energy, blur focus, and strangle change.

If they take a stranglehold on your company, you won’t move. They grow with vague, un-prioritized goals, fuzzy communication, and an overwhelmed workforce. Best is to fix the root cause, but in the meantime, these steps can help to clear things up and create a healthier workplace.

Triangles can expand until they take up most of the energy in the workplace.

Triangles can expand until they take up most of the energy in the workplace.

Today's blog is about TRIANGLES, common strategies used by people who feel victimized. Those who feel threatened by change create triangles to gather support for their own inaction. 

This is how it works: Somebody (a sister-in-law or boss) or something (e.g. the government) acts like a bully or is perceived as acting as such. The Victim feels overwhelmed, unable to respond, and so adopts the role of helpless victim, in which he feels mistreated and misunderstood.

The triangle forms when the Victim, who is reacting to and blaming the Bully, is rescued by the Hero, who plays the Good Guy. The Hero’s role is to listen, perhaps sympathize, and probably try to to fix the situation.  

They sound like this: “I can’t help it.” “It’s not fair.” “I didn’t know.” “They won’t let us.” “Look what they are doing to us.” Sound familiar?

They sound like this: “I can’t help it.” “It’s not fair.” “I didn’t know.” “They won’t let us.” “Look what they are doing to us.” Sound familiar?

How to Break A Triangle

1. Firmly, with kindness, stop the Victim. Rescuers must develop a mindset of “do not do anything for people over the age of 18 that they should be doing for themselves.”  

2. Don’t debate with the Victim or try to convert him. That’s not your job. All you need to do is to stop listening. “That might be true, but let’s focus on what will work.” “No offense, but it’s getting old talking about what’s wrong and what won’t work. There’s a lot we can do. Let’s talk about that.”

3. Create a zero-tolerance policy. Victims will find the last remaining rescuer. We thought that one company with which our team worked was successful at a zero-tolerance campaign, until we noticed that a supervisor of the payroll department was very popular. Many employees dropped into her office during the day. Others marveled at her leadership ability and the magnet that she was for the team. Closer inspection revealed that she was the last rescuer and was enabling all the Victims in the department. Only when the triangle was exposed and she was stopped did morale improve.

Good luck, get agreement and Be Strong.