Saturday, August 29, 2009

Leadership: What's Generation Got To Do With It....

If you are like many of today’s leaders, you’re tired. First, you had all of the management fads from the last 20 years to deal with, and now you're dealing with the worst recession since The Great Depression of the 1920’s. Many leaders are looking at a calendar today and asking “When will it all end? When will things get back to normal?”

Here’s the good news. All indicators show that the recession is coming to an end.

Here’s the bad news. Things will never be “normal” again.

At least normal in the vernacular that most of us long for; the normal where things were predictable, where your customers were steady, and where your employees could be counted on to produce quality results.

The new “normal” is going to look very different than that and a lot of it has to do with the generations in the workplace. This is especially true for the two biggest generations in the workplace today, the Baby Boomers and Generation Y.

Here’s some more good news, while the two generations could not be more dissimilar in the way they approached their career, they do have a lot in common in what they are looking for in a career today.

The Baby Boomers are the sons and daughters of the WWII generation, sometimes referred to as “The Greatest Generation”. Many of these Boomers were children of the ‘60’s, where they defied their parents, challenged authority, and changed the world around them. They weren’t content to just stand still and watch the world go by. Instead they took an active role and worked to change it. In the 1960’s they changed it through protests, civil unrest, and that danged rock 'n' roll music.

And, while they defied authority and worked for change, they also became a significant part of American Business success. They not only reshaped the workforce, but also became the backbone of American growth through their spending habits and work ethic. Their size and passion combined to spur the greatest growth and technological change in the history of the world.

Now, those people are retiring; or at least thinking about retiring. And in that process, they are leaving a void in the American workforce.

The replacement for the Baby Boomers is not Generation X. Gen X is relatively small in size. Instead, the Baby Boomers will be replaced by Generation Y. Generation Y is generally considered to be those born in the late 1970’s through the early 1990’s. And, while it’s size is comparable to the Baby Boomers, that’s where the similarities generally end. While the Baby Boomers were into social change, Gen Y is into X Box. While the Baby Boomers were shaped by Vietnam, Gen Y has been shaped Monica and Bill. And, while the Baby Boomers brought us the Beatles, Gen Y brought us Brittany Spears.

Here is the good news for American Business. In today's workplace, both the Baby Boomers and Generation Y are looking for similar things; things like flexible work schedules, opportunities to learn new things, and chances to give back to their communities. That means you can create a new workplace that will appeal to your 2 biggest members of the workforce. And in that process, you can begin to smooth the transition from the retiring of the Baby Boomer to the inclusion of Generation Y.

And that should finally bring a smile to your face.

If you enjoyed this article, I encourage you to forward it to your friends.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Leading at the Speed of Trust

The Harvard Business Journal reports that trust in American companies is at an all time low. It cites not only trust between businesses and consumers, but also trust between businesses and their employees. The cost of lost trust is high. From a sales standpoint, a loss of trust means that each transaction will be scrutinized more closely by the consumer before they actually make the purchase. This translates directly into higher sales costs, higher transaction costs, and reduced profitability.

But what about the lack of trust between employees and management?

First, this is hardly a new phenomenon. Trust between management and employees has been waning for years. The economic meltdown that started in late 2008 merely accelerated the process and has taken us to new lows. Second, the cost of this loss of trust is also very high. A lack of trust can easily hurt employee productivity, but it also impacts the cost of attracting and hiring good employees. And, of course, there are the training costs. Whether you have a formal training program for new employees or have your current employees train new ones, the fact remains that there is a high cost of training that is often overlooked.

The lack of trust is costing American businesses a lot of money, and most of them don’t even realize it.

The funny thing is, when trust is high in an organization, it’s not just a happier place to work. After all, American businesses have never striven to make employees “happy”. But it is a more productive, more creative, and more engaged workplace.

Employees work harder, without thinking about it.

Employees are more creative, without thinking about it.

Employees serve the customers better, without thinking about it.

With the high costs associated with the lack of trust and the dramatic benefits associated with creating a trust based organization, why aren’t more companies exerting the effort to build trust?

There are really two reasons.

1. Most organizations don’t realize they have a trust problem. It’s not that they are ignoring it, they just have no idea of the importance of trust. They don’t know what they don’t know.

2. Those that realize there is a trust issue have no idea how to go about rebuilding trust in their organization. After all, it’s not like you can follow a cook book and suddenly build trust in your organization. In other words, they know that they don’t know.

The concept of building trust based organizations is coming to the forefront as American leaders look for ways to restore profitability and growth in their organizations. These companies are realizing that the intersection of their company's vision, their corporate values (how that vision is implemented), and their employees' expectations can create a new source of energy that can propel their organization to new heights of engagement and profitability. And, the sooner they address these issues, the sooner they will get results.

The question is, do your employees trust you? Is their a clear intersection of your company's vision, the corporate values, and your employees' expectations?

If you have to think for more than one second, then the answer is likely “no.” The sooner you get started on building trust, the sooner your company will rise again.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog and will take a few minutes to provide us with feedback and perhaps share it with a friend.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, August 17, 2009

Leadership: To Get Up, One Must First Fall Down!

I spent this past weekend at the Rocky Mountain District Convention for Kiwanis, in Gering, NE. It was a great convention and a real learning experience on a number of levels. But I was really inspired by our Keynote Speaker on Saturday, Jerry Traylor.

Jerry Traylor was born with Cerebral Palsy. He has pictures from when he was a baby with casts on his legs, as his parents and the doctors tried to help him. But Jerry never let his condition deter him. Jerry knew that while he could not impact the challenge that life had given him, he could impact how he would react to the challenge.

As you might suspect, his childhood was very challenging as his condition impacted everything he could or would do. But Jerry persevered and did things that no one ever thought possible. Jerry shared with us his story of tragedy and triumph and told us how hard he had fought to ensure that his condition would not define his life. At one point, Jerry decided to run a marathon. He set out to train and eventually completed a 26 mile marathon in somewhat over 7 hours, all while on crutches. Of course, that was just the start. Since then Jerry has completed 35 marathons.

But that is not Jerry’s biggest accomplishment. You see, once Jerry knew that he could run a marathon with his crutches, he set his sights even higher. In 1985 Jerry Traylor, using his crutches, jogged across the United States from San Francisco to New York City.

Absolutely inspirational.

When Jerry spoke with us this weekend, he talked about how winners get up while others stay down. Winners don’t quit when things get tough. Winners find ways to conquer problems that many of us would let overwhelm us.

And while I was truly inspired by Jerry’s story and what he had overcome and accomplished, I was struck by a simple fact that many of us overlook. You see, while Jerry had figured out that being a winner means getting up, most of us think being a winner means never falling down. Somehow we have taken the perspective that winners routinely win, while others of us struggle. The reality is far different than that. The reality is that we all fall down from time to time. We all struggle with different types of challenges and we all fail from time to time. But winners consider any setback to be temporary in nature, something that teaches them what not to do, and as guidance for future efforts. Winners understand that mistakes are part of the game of life and accept them as natural. They don’t dwell on mistakes because they understand that never making a mistake means that they have never tried anything new.

You see, it’s not just that winners get up while others stay down. Winners know that, in order to get up, you have to have fallen down. And everyone falls down from time to time.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog and will take a few minutes to provide us with feedback and perhaps share it with a friend.

Until next time…..

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, August 10, 2009

Leadership and Management - Read to Succeed

A month or so ago I was approached by a young lady who was thinking about going into management. She asked me for some recommended reading that would help prepare her for her possible new role. Below is the list I gave her of my favorite management and leadership books, as well as why I think these books are valuable. I’d love to hear input on your favorite books as well.

1. First, Break All The Rules - Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

This is a must read book for anyone who is going into management. The title refers to the fact that the research performed by the Gallup organization clearly shows that some of the most common “rules” of management are, in fact, incorrect. By focusing on the top performing organizations Buckingham and Coffman make a clear case for a different style of management.

2. Dig Your Well BEFORE You're Thirsty - Harvey MacKay

A common sense approach to people and your career, Harvey MacKay provides us with practical, easy to read advice about ourselves and our careers. This is just one of several excellent books by Mr. MacKay.

3. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - Revised Edition - John Maxwell

John Maxwell is the leader’s leader. His “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” takes leadership to levels that most of us don’t even think about. This book is excellent for experienced leaders as well as emerging leaders.

4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni

Told in narrative style, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” is the story of a typical business team and what is holding them back. Patrick Lencioni weaves a tale of dysfunction that applies to many teams and then clearly shows how one can overcome these challenges.

5. Working With Emotional Intelligence - Daniel Goleman

Every leader needs to understand emotional intelligence, and Daniel Goleman is the master at explaining what emotional intelligence is and how it applies in the workplace. Complex theories are explained in simple terms and then related back to every human being. Those leaders who don’t understand the concept of emotional intelligence are not leaders for very long.

6. Think and Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill

Originally published in 1937 this book is as relevant today as it was then. This is a dynamic personal development book that defines personal development. The mind is a powerful tool and Napoleon Hill demonstrates how to harness your mind for your personal success.

7. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Steven Covey

This book is an all time classic and a must read for anyone who wants to be successful in their own life. Take my advice and read this book slowly. Savor the ideas presented by Covey and enjoy the new perspective that he provides.

8. How To Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie

Don’t read this book once. Read it again and again. This is another oldie (1936), but in reality it is a timeless classic. Its lessons are as applicable today as they were in 1936 and will help you understand yourself and others as well.

9. True North - Bill George

This is a newer book that will someday be considered a classic. In this book Bill George makes the case for discovering what you are all about, to create a leadership style that is 100% authentic and effective. Until you understand yourself, you can’t truly create a vision of where you want to go.

10. What Got You Here, Won't Get You There - Marshall Goldsmith

Considered by many to be the “bible of executive coaching.” Marshal Goldsmith clearly demonstrates that to succeed, we need to learn, grow, and do things differently. After being rewarded for our behavior, it can be difficult to adapt and change. But change we must. To succeed as a leader means understanding what new skills must be learned and mastered.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on these books, as well as add to this list of great leadership reads.

Until next time.....

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

Monday, August 3, 2009

Manager to Leader Or When You Come To The Fork In The Road, Take It

No doubt that many of you have heard the euphemism “Managers manage process while leaders lead people.” And, while that may be a clichĂ©, it has its roots in truth. At the lowest levels of management it is all about the process:

- how to do things better
- how to be more efficient
- how to be more accurate
- how to produce more widgets

As you climb the leadership ladder, this begins to change for you. And this has been the theme of our last few blog entries.

How do you make the shift from manager to leader?

Or more importantly, WHEN do you make the shift from manager to leader?
The shift from thinking about process to thinking about people is a shift that happens subtly for most managers. In your first managerial job you will likely think little about the people and a lot about the process. This is especially true if you were promoted from inside your current department, as most new managers are. You are a technical expert with a substantial amount of detailed process knowledge and you got your promotion because you consistently demonstrated your knowledge of the subject matter.

When you take your second managerial job you don’t know nearly as much about the detail because this is a new department for you and you’ve never worked on the front line. Never the less, having again been rewarded for your detailed knowledge of the process, you tend to dig into the details and try your best to become a technical expert again. But this time you find that a number of people in your new department are much more technically adept than you are.

Although it goes against your nature, this is actually your first clue that you need to focus more on people and less on process.


Because the people who are now working for you are much smarter about the process than you are and, try as you might, you will never understand the detail as well as they do, because they do this work every day. At this point, the most effective use of your time is actually understanding the process at a little higher level, and understanding the people at a little deeper level.

As you begin this experiment, you discover the inherent strengths and weaknesses of all of the people who work for you. And you discover that by using their strengths effectively you can get more accomplished than ever before. You will also understand what motivates them, what they enjoy doing, and what they fear in their job and in their life. When you understand these things, you begin to understand the real person.

And that is when you begin to transition from being just a manager to starting down the path of leadership.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC