Jay Colker

Not long ago, I co-facilitated a World Café discussion at which a group of 50 leaders, consultants and students in organizational development brainstormed answers to two critical questions about a multigenerational workforce:

■  How do you motivate a workforce composed of several generations?

■  How do you develop and prepare the workforce for the challenges of tomorrow?

The collective thinking that emerged offers a starting point and even a list of issues for leaders to consider when creating a strategy for addressing multi-generational needs that emerge in their organizations.

 

Motivating the diverse age workforce

There are predominantly four generations in the workplace today: traditionalists, born before 1945; boomers, born between 1946 and 1964; Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980; and millennials, born between 1981 and 1999.

There are communication differences and needs among each generation — for example, preferences for text versus phone. There also are stereotypes within and about each generation that need to be understood and addressed.

■  Communication channels need to be both formal and informal because it is critically important to be transparent and foster open communication among all generations, especially around specific expectations and problems or discrepancies. Train everyone in the organization on the differences in communication styles.

■  Emphasize the strengths and experiences of groups and individual employees alike. Instead of mentoring, consider the concept of collaborative partnerships that emphasize learning from each other. Encourage people to share based on their passions. Drive relationships and promote collaboration. Consider diverse participation in projects to allow relationships to grow organically.

■  Maintain flexibility regarding differences among generations. Recognize that every generation will have different needs and preferences. Ensure enough communication to clearly define expectations that each group may have.

 

Prepare for tomorrow’s challenges

Enhancing the value of a multi-generational workforce takes planning. Before dealing with the challenges, leaders must anticipate and plan for them.

■  Build forecasting into the core competencies of every leader in your organization. Help them be great listeners, questioners and observers who are culturally and generationally sensitive and value diversity. Ensure that they have strong human relationship skills and a clear demonstration of these skills in practice. Help them be adaptable, flexible and able to embrace change.

■  Recognize that there are global issues and a need for a global-minded, multi-generational workforce. Consider qualifications for a global workforce, help each individual find his or her niche in the global picture and help each person consider why he or she should stay with the organization.

■  Create a broader relationship with your employees. Give them the freedom to think about future challenges and to be innovative in addressing them. Emphasize creativity and adaptability. Engage all employees in an ongoing dialogue. Build trust that promotes engagement. Finally, show a strong commitment to invest in each employee’s development.

A World Café is an excellent tool in developing a multi-generational workforce strategy that employs these tactics, because it is so dynamic and collaborative, drawing on the experiences and observations of all generations in the organization. There is no right or wrong, but the collective thinking of the crowd is a great starting point. If you open up communication in this way, your employees across all generations are likely to be highly motivated, engaged and willing partners in collaborating for best results.

 

 

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA, is on the core faculty teaching counseling and organizational psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology (www.adler.edu). He also maintains a human capital consulting practice, is founder of Crowdsourced Coaching and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or (312) 213-3421. To learn more about Colker, visit crowdsourcedcoaching.com/about-us/.

 

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Leaders who execute well are more likely to add to the bottom line, be on the fast track to success and earn additional growth opportunities.

One particular cohort of leaders I worked with recently identified experts across their company, interviewed them and summarized the critical skills of execution that emerged from the discussions. These critical skills of execution include:

Know the vision and strategy

Successful execution begins with knowing the end goal and establishing a clear strategy to achieve it. Planning and preparation are key factors, but take care to not overcommit, which may lead to discouragement and burnout among employees.

Break a large goal into smaller deliverables and establish SMART criteria: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Be clear on the path to the goal and include timelines and intermediate targets to measure progress. Yet, when necessary, modify tactics to suit the situation. Know the priorities of all people on the team and encourage effective oversight with a team focused intently on execution.

Drive for results

Ensure things are done as planned and that people responsible for executing the strategy are taking ownership and committed to due dates and deliverables. Document with metrics and goals, and be specific. Ensure everyone on the team is engaged and aligned with the desired outcomes. Make the metrics transparent for everyone to see progress, yet keep it simple to avoid any risk of confusion among team members.

Provide regular feedback along the way and recognize individual needs and differences as you incorporate this understanding into your discussions. It is very important to keep individuals motivated in a way that is personalized. Engage in routine dialogue to track issues, follow up and identify barriers. Don’t overlook the importance of face-to-face interactions. Where possible, keep things positive to keep positive energy in the team. Empower people; put decisions in their hands to “make it happen,” always in a positive way.

Negotiate effectively

Everyone needs to feel he or she is getting something out of the negotiation. Have a realistic idea of a final compromise. Package negotiating points together so that the people you are negotiating with feel they are getting more. Finally, consider the best alternative to no agreement.

Leaders who execute effectively are excellent models for their employees to emulate. They have a clear vision of what is important and a strategy to achieve it. They align key stakeholders and ensure timely decisions and oversight. While they hold employees to a high standard with clear goals and deliverables, they know boundaries and are willing to set limits — and go to bat for their teams when enough is enough. They drive for results by continually tracking processes, giving timely feedback, building and sustaining critical relationships, and keeping energy high and the tone positive.

One final point seems important to emphasize. In my experience, leaders who execute effectively are also humble about their own roles in the process. It is about the tasks at hand and how to create the right culture to have everyone feel responsible and valued in the process. Leaders have an obligation to help the team be recognized, and help team members gain visibility for their contributions. Employees will go to great lengths to support a leader who puts team members first.

Jay Colker, D.M., MBA, M.A., is core faculty for the master of arts in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Colker also maintains a human capital consulting practice, is founder of Crowdsourced Coaching, and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or (312) 213-3421. To learn more about Colker, visit crowdsourcedcoaching.com/about-us/

Effective leadership development is often derailed by two significant forces that conflict and make it difficult to achieve the desired outcome.

The first is the power of the group process. Through group action-learning projects and enhanced work within teams, group participants can leverage the diversity of skills and experiences and often achieve innovative and creative outcomes.

Participants who share information openly about themselves, such as their strengths and development needs, gain useful feedback and in the process elevate their skills to new levels. Yet, there are limitations on what individuals may choose to share in a group, and organizational beliefs can sometimes minimize potential gains through the group process.

The second force is that development and performance overall are still often viewed as confidential to the individual.

Individuals move vertically and are concerned with personal superiority and prestige. They live with constant tension, fear and anxiety of falling down.

Some individuals are so focused on themselves they miss critical cues in the environment and, in the process, disconnect from others. These forces result in a leadership development process in which a cohort of committed individuals doesn’t share real work.

An effective approach to combating this is Crowdsourced Coaching™.

Build a foundation of trust

The discussion of best practices among leaders calibrates the group to be more in alignment and to work together as a catalyst for real change as challenges and issues emerge.

Individuals know good leadership when they see it and experience it.

It is not so much the knowing but the consistency of executing that is the most challenging aspect of leadership.

Theory is not what drives change but rather a commitment to action and enhancing critical behaviors in real time — based on experience, feedback and outcomes in the moment.

People learn best through relationships and discussions with trusted individuals.

Accountability and follow-through rises when an individual commits to one or more people. Shared responsibility for learning and change increases feelings of ownership and outcomes.

Examine the culture

Before implementing the Crowdsourced Coaching™ approach, senior leaders must look at the company’s culture. If perfection is expected and people are punished for mistakes, a broader change management initiative is likely required.

Employees won’t open up in such a culture and key talent will likely leave when the opportunity arrives.

If the culture supports more engaged approaches, leaders at any level from the same division or across the company can join a group cohort of no more than eight to 10 people using a Crowdsourced Coaching™ process. A facilitator other than the boss can help the group establish a trusting relationship, a willingness to discuss real work challenges and consider crowdsourced solutions.

The group must invest time — for example, two hours every two weeks — and be willing to share real issues. It can take 90 minutes or more to review a single issue that a participant is experiencing. Often, many of the other participants have similar concerns, or will in the future — and solutions for one lead to enhanced leadership knowledge for all.

I have used Crowdsourced Coaching™ approaches for almost 20 years across many industries. I have seen significant changes at the individual, team and organizational levels. Just as a pebble creates movement in the water, crowdsourced approaches can create ripples of positive change that have long-lasting impact.

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Colker also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or (312) 213-3421. For more information on Crowdsourced Coaching™, please visit www.crowdsourcedcoaching.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaycolker

Read this quote and think about whether it sounds like something you have heard before:

“Stay under the radar. Do enough just to get by. Don’t make waves. Get the most out of your benefits such as sick time. Do only what you’re asked to do. If you are asked for more, do just enough to meet minimum expectations.”

This is an employee who is completely disengaged. Instead of leaving the organization, which might be a blessing, this employee will “retire in place.”

Employees who retire in place substantially impact the bottom line, as well as the satisfaction of other employees. One bad apple, if not addressed, can spoil the bunch.

Stand up

There are ways to counter such an attitude, however, and even turn such an employee into a highly engaged, stellar performer. The research on engagement highlights a number of actions that can help employees feel more connected and motivated, and avoid “retiring in place.”

These include the following:

 

 

  • Aligning employees with the goals and mission of the organization

 

 

  • Regularly sharing information from top leaders, and being sincerely interested in employees

 

 

  • Providing opportunities for employees to improve skills and abilities

 

 

  • Offering regular feedback on performance

 

 

  • Allowing input into decision-making

 

 

  • Encouraging innovative thinking, and an acceptance of risk

 

 

  • Building and sustaining a positive relationship between the manager and each employee and within teams.

 

 

Consulting firm Towers Watson, formerly Towers Perrin, has highlighted a number of characteristics demonstrated by engaging leaders. The first is high emotional intelligence.

Daniel Goleman, in his book “Emotional Intelligence,” noted that individuals with high emotional intelligence are skilled in understanding, interpreting and responding to emotions. They effectively deal with social and emotional conflicts and appropriately manage emotions to achieve best outcomes.

Additional characteristics of engaging leaders include great communication skills, a coaching/involvement orientation, the ability to inspire others and demonstrating authenticity and humility.

Use more than one approach

At the same time, employing engaging actions alone is not sufficient. Leaders cannot approach all employees in a cookie-cutter manner and assume that they all will respond in the same ways, or even perceive leadership actions as having the same intent and meaning.

The key to more effective engagement is looking from the inside out — how and what employees perceive is their reality. What is encouraging to one person is discouraging to another.

One person’s recognition is another person’s discomfort. What is motivating to one is demotivating to another.

The role of perception

The reality is that the value of an employee’s relationship with a leader, a manager, peers, and the organization itself is based on many factors. The most critical is the role of perception.

Organizations can do a much better job of managing perceptions. In his article “Coming to Grips with Organisational Values,” Vijay Padaki noted that a consistent set of practices over time are the organization’s values. Interrelated values that are internally consistent are the organization’s value system, he wrote.

If leaders at all levels take a sincere interest in employees and understand their perceptions, these leaders can do a better job of connecting personal needs and values with those of the organization. Leaders often have best intentions, but employees can be left feeling not heard and unappreciated.

Without understanding the context of what employees believe and feel, leaders run the risk of misaligning and discouraging employees. Without leaders consistently demonstrating their values, employees will perceive a different reality than possibly intended.

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. He also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or at (312) 213-3421.

Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?

What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.

Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.

Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows people and the business to co-evolve into higher levels, enhancing personal responsibility, accountability, collaboration, innovation and business outcomes.

To do this, leaders need to empower employees to collectively make decisions that drive results and train employees to work in this model.

Empower employees

Employees on the front line are often in the best position to see trends and market opportunities.

Leaders can help drive businesses in new directions and enhance their bottom line by giving lower-level managers and line employees the support and encouragement to assume a much higher level of accountability and responsibility.

Information creation and sharing based on trust are critical components of innovation, according to author R.E. Miles. As they feel more engaged, employees are also more motivated to contribute and add value.

To achieve this, leaders must create an environment where risk within certain boundaries is rewarded so that employees feel comfortable enough to act on their abilities and instincts.

Leaders can support employees by encouraging ideas to grow and flourish among employees rather than through the manager. This will allow employees to identify and pursue opportunities that benefit the company.

Provide training

The most important — and often most challenging — aspect of leadership is constant follow-through. It is important to discuss leadership techniques with employees and provide training.

Talking through leadership strategies with employees calibrates the group to be more in alignment. It also increases follow-through from employees who feel a part of the process.

Leaders can do this by:

?  Discussing best practices among participants

?  Identifying leadership needs

?  Generating solutions that fit with the needs of the group

?  Sharing best practices of employee collaboration throughout the company

?  Recognizing work among employees and outcomes

For example, a bank executive wanted leadership training for her front-line managers. Her goal was for them to be able to work out problems and challenges independently or as a leadership group without constantly seeking guidance.

For 10 weeks, we challenged the managers to take more risk and encouraged them to make more decisions at their level. Through group coaching meetings, the employees helped each other consider best alternatives and the executive learned how to manage by letting go. The managers reported feeling more encouraged and engaged, which considerably enhanced results. ?

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Colker also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or at (312) 213-3421.

 

 

Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?

What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.

Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.

Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows people and the business to co-evolve into higher levels, enhancing personal responsibility, accountability, collaboration, innovation and business outcomes.

To do this, leaders need to empower employees to collectively make decisions that drive results and train employees to work in this model.

Empower employees

Employees on the front line are often in the best position to see trends and market opportunities.

Leaders can help drive businesses in new directions and enhance their bottom line by giving lower-level managers and line employees the support and encouragement to assume a much higher level of accountability and responsibility.

Information creation and sharing based on trust are critical components of innovation, according to author R.E. Miles. As they feel more engaged, employees are also more motivated to contribute and add value.

To achieve this, leaders must create an environment where risk within certain boundaries is rewarded so that employees feel comfortable enough to act on their abilities and instincts.

Leaders can support employees by encouraging ideas to grow and flourish among employees rather than through the manager. This will allow employees to identify and pursue opportunities that benefit the company.

Provide training

The most important — and often most challenging — aspect of leadership is constant follow-through. It is important to discuss leadership techniques with employees and provide training.

Talking through leadership strategies with employees calibrates the group to be more in alignment. It also increases follow-through from employees who feel a part of the process.

Leaders can do this by:

?  Discussing best practices among participants

?  Identifying leadership needs

?  Generating solutions that fit with the needs of the group

?  Sharing best practices of employee collaboration throughout the company

?  Recognizing work among employees and outcomes

For example, a bank executive wanted leadership training for her front-line managers. Her goal was for them to be able to work out problems and challenges independently or as a leadership group without constantly seeking guidance.

For 10 weeks, we challenged the managers to take more risk and encouraged them to make more decisions at their level. Through group coaching meetings, the employees helped each other consider best alternatives and the executive learned how to manage by letting go. The managers reported feeling more encouraged and engaged, which considerably enhanced results. ?

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Colker also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or at (312) 213-3421.

 

 

Most leaders understand that it’s critically important to collaborate regularly on initiatives with their employees, but are they getting all they can out of these interactions?

What leaders may be missing is a new paradigm for employee engagement and competitive advantage.

Many of them are working from an old style of management in which business decisions are made at the top and leaders follow a hierarchy of authority. Senior executives must still set strategy and manage for results, but they can likely achieve better outcomes by letting go.

Authors Craig Schreiber and Kathleen M. Carley explain that adapting a participative-style leadership environment allows people and the business to co-evolve into higher levels, enhancing personal responsibility, accountability, collaboration, innovation and business outcomes.

To do this, leaders need to empower employees to collectively make decisions that drive results and train employees to work in this model.

Empower employees

Employees on the front line are often in the best position to see trends and market opportunities.

Leaders can help drive businesses in new directions and enhance their bottom line by giving lower-level managers and line employees the support and encouragement to assume a much higher level of accountability and responsibility.

Information creation and sharing based on trust are critical components of innovation, according to author R.E. Miles. As they feel more engaged, employees are also more motivated to contribute and add value.

To achieve this, leaders must create an environment where risk within certain boundaries is rewarded so that employees feel comfortable enough to act on their abilities and instincts.

Leaders can support employees by encouraging ideas to grow and flourish among employees rather than through the manager. This will allow employees to identify and pursue opportunities that benefit the company.

Provide training

The most important — and often most challenging — aspect of leadership is constant follow-through. It is important to discuss leadership techniques with employees and provide training.

Talking through leadership strategies with employees calibrates the group to be more in alignment. It also increases follow-through from employees who feel a part of the process.

Leaders can do this by:

?  Discussing best practices among participants

?  Identifying leadership needs

?  Generating solutions that fit with the needs of the group

?  Sharing best practices of employee collaboration throughout the company

?  Recognizing work among employees and outcomes

For example, a bank executive wanted leadership training for her front-line managers. Her goal was for them to be able to work out problems and challenges independently or as a leadership group without constantly seeking guidance.

For 10 weeks, we challenged the managers to take more risk and encouraged them to make more decisions at their level. Through group coaching meetings, the employees helped each other consider best alternatives and the executive learned how to manage by letting go. The managers reported feeling more encouraged and engaged, which considerably enhanced results.

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Colker also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or at (312) 213-3421.

Businesses must change in order to maintain a competitive advantage.

However, employees at any level can become an impediment to change as John Kotter noted in a 1995 Harvard Business Review article on leading change and why efforts may fail. The problem is employees might not understand why they need to do things differently and what the benefits of the change will be.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your entire organization supports necessary change:

Understand the dynamics of change

Be aware of the stages that people tend to experience throughout the change process so you can effectively guide your employees. Jeanie Daniel Duck noted the following significant stages in her 2002 book, “The Change Monster.”

* Getting stuck in old thinking

* Recognizing the need to change

* Preparing for and implementing

the change

* Following through with gains made

Unless you address feelings and concerns of employees in each of the above stages, any desired changes will likely fall short.

Adopt effective leadership approaches

Leaders who tend to take a nonproductive approach, such as what we’ll call “The Winner” or the “The Avoider,” have to be aware of how their actions can affect their employees’ ability to accept the change.

The winner will take an attitude of winning at any cost and impose his or her authority on employees. It is better, instead, to focus on the process of building and maintaining relationships with employees. This approach will highlight the importance of the change and build collaboration.

On the other hand, the avoider will not want to make any waves. This risk-averse approach discourages employees who want to align with a progressive organization. Be up front and straightforward with employees about the upcoming transition.

Keep employees informed

As you develop your leadership strategy for the change, remember that open communication is crucial. Employees at all levels need to see and hear from senior executives to believe the change is important.

Employers should continue to promote and discuss the change, even after there is support from employees. This will help sustain the high level of energy and excitement needed for the change to be successful.

Align people of influence

Though it’s your responsibility to lead the change, it’s not all on you. Employers should engage respected leaders and other influential team members. If leaders take the time to sell the value and the benefits of the change to influential people, their support can help lower resistance from more hesitant employees.

Don’t assume which leaders will easily accept the change and which ones will combat it. The employees whom you think are least likely to accept the change might become your best allies.

Make the change sustainable

Finally, if you do not build the change into processes that ensure a consistent and routine approach, then old habits might resurface. It is important that employees do not see this change as the flavor of the month, but rather as a lasting one that will improve the long-term success of the company.

Change won’t happen right away. But with dedication, focus and clearly outlined strategies, you can cross the finish line with your employees at your side.

 

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Colker also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or at (312) 213-3421.

When leaders reach the C-suite, they focus on competencies that drive business outcomes. Leaders believe they add the most value through their work on concepts such as visioning, strategic execution, global mindset and change management.

They would be right — and wrong.

Some C-suite leaders have not mastered basic core competencies, such as effective interpersonal skills, relationship building, collaboration and even something as straightforward as mutual respect.

Any inappropriate behaviors or lapses in focus in these core competencies can derail the leader and foster a toxic environment as well as unhealthy relationships systemwide.

In contrast, if a leader pays continual attention to mastering and executing these core competencies, he or she can set a tone in the culture that helps the organization to flourish in the long term.

Let’s look at mutual respect, for example. It is human nature to want to feel valued, included and recognized as having a place of significance. It is here where engagement and commitment are at their highest. When individuals feel devalued and disconnected, they compensate with a focus more on themselves than the success of the community.

Psychologist Alfred Adler emphasized these ideas almost 90 years ago. Yet, today, many organizations tend to misunderstand and misuse these concepts.

One aspect of mutual respect is inclusion. Many leaders make all major company decisions behind closed doors and justify this through the idea that confidentiality protects the company’s competitive advantage. Or at a minimum, that it minimizes resistance or conflict.

However, it is well documented that diversity of opinions leads to better outcomes. One example is in Jeff Howe’s seminal 2009 work “Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business,” which highlighted the collective power of a diverse group to enhance business decisions. Employees often feel disconnected from the company even though they are the closest to the customers and might have a clear sense of needs and business opportunities.

Employers often impose goals on employees because of broader corporate strategy. Employees might react with discouragement if the goals are unrealistic and if they hear month after month that they must do better.

Also, employees may even see company leaders apply arbitrary rules or give incentives to some groups while other groups are excluded from the opportunity. In Daniel Pink’s 2009 book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” he discussed doing away with incentives altogether. Instead, Pink emphasized giving employees a real choice, allowing them to continue to improve in areas that really matter and to have a sense of purpose by focusing on something larger than themselves.

Employees must feel respected and included to clearly understand where the organization is heading. They also must know what role they can play in its ultimate success. Leaders would do well to consider more transparency and engage employees as true partners.

When employees don’t feel respected, they justify their personal strivings. This adds substantial risks, including an exodus of talent and/or intellectual capital from the organization, increased ethical lapses, dissatisfied customers and transformational efforts that fall flat.

Mutual respect starts with truly listening to employees and engaging them as valued partners. It also requires the competency of facilitation, which goes well beyond running meetings to true inclusion.

Mastering core competencies means continually applying them, especially after assuming a C-suite role. Leaders would do well to add metrics to ensure that they actively practice and model these skills.

Jay Colker, DM, MBA, MA, is core faculty for the master’s in counseling and organizational psychology program at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Colker also maintains a human capital consulting practice and may be reached at jcolker@adler.edu or at (312) 213-3421.