I’m often asked for our team to deliver workshops on the generational divide.
How can we better manager Millennials? we were frequently asked 10 years ago. Now the Millennials are asking, How we can better motivate Gen Z?
This is a little red flag waving at me!
The common theme is that we’re always blaming the generation/s after us….like we knew best, and these new generations just don’t get it! I sense that the real question is:
How can we get Gen Z to be more like what were like?
My classic and (probably quite annoying) question back is, well what exactly are you trying to achieve by running this workshop?
And the response is usually something along the lines of
We want our managers and leaders to be able to drive the performance of our teams.
Great. This is what we do at Tandem.
These broad generational cohorts are of course very interesting and insightful; they give us a tool to analyse changes in views over time; ways to understand how world events, technology, economic and social shifts shape our views of the world. So I’m not dismissing the research. I love it! But I will challenge how it used to effectively drive the performance of our teams.
(For those interested, there is so much research in this area. The latest I’ve been reading about Gen Z (born after 1997) is that they are cynical, tech reliant, highly ambitious, lack self-awareness, poor communicators with a short attention span. Perhaps you recognise this? Perhaps not? I find there is so much diversity within each cohort but still useful to know the broad picture)
My fear is that such descriptions lead to stereotypes and labelling, which will lead to prejudice and will also influence how our team members see themselves.
And dare I say that sometimes it feels like employing such well researched labels often comes across as a convenient excuse for not practising the management fundamentals required: from your first management position up to your CEO appointment . Interestingly, as we become more senior, the more likely we are to abandon the fundamentals with an expectation that our teams are experienced enough to just “get it”.
So, what are these fundamentals?
We have 2 essentials (amongst others) that are guaranteed to drive the performance of your team members. You’ll consider them “basic” no doubt, to which I challenge back – if they are so basic, why is no-one practising them?!
Gallup’s research found that the biggest thing employees need from their managers is greater clarity around roles, responsibilities and what is expected of them.
And we have found that when combined with quality feedback you will see the biggest step change in the performance of your team members.
Our approach for all managers and leaders is to:
· Be clear on your expectations
· Give quality feedback on your expectations
· And do both of the above as a face-to-face conversation – not over email!
Fundamental, basic and easy?
Fundamental yes, but not basic or easy as each area requires time, effort and patience.
This goes beyond goal setting and feeding back on if goals are achieved or not. It requires a skilled conversation in how to articulate what your expectations are, around:
· functional tasks and responsibilities
· the emotional and behavioural expectations of the working environment and
· the relational; the team’s collective expectations of one another
· And then providing quality feedback in these areas
What does success look like in the expectations you have of your team? Can you define them without using jargon or short cuts? It’s difficult, but this is where you will inspire change. If you can’t define it, then you have no right to ask for it. And if you don’t ask for it, how can you expect it?
So next time you blame team performance on their “generation” or indeed any other label or stereotype that you may have given them as a short-cut, ask yourself:
· When was the last time I sat down with this individual and had a conversation around my expectations of them within their role?
· And when did I last sit down with them to give them some feedback?
Let’s use the generational research out there to inform the wider picture of what’s happening in the world and how this may impact our working culture, but when it comes to driving performance, some investment in these fundamental conversations will be far more effective. Put the time in and then see the results. You’ll feel inspired yourself!
The latest leadership research, whilst important and interesting, can often create unhelpful noise if you haven’t mastered these fundamentals!
For more information about the Performance Triangle, (see above image) our model on how to embrace the fundamentals to drive performance, drop us an email.
We always like to shout out the younger generation and see them as the individuals they are. I’ve recently had the pleasure to work with Supafrank in creating our new branding. Alex Stillwell (Gen Z) graduated with a 1st class degree in 2020. As part of the Supafrank wider team, he is a graphic designer and played a key role in Tandem’s new look and feel.
A conscientious, helpful, tenacious, super-talented designer who went over and above my expectations is my experience of working with him.
Thank-you Alex – it’s been a pleasure working with you and Tandem is looking much better thanks to your talents and contribution.