What To Do When A Valued Team Member Resigns?

This blog is about how to respond with dignity and grace when a valued team member resigns… and gives many reasons why your behaviour is important.

I received an email from a coaching client which read, “I just had a valued team member tell me they accepted a job offer in another department.” First off, this message should tell anyone this executive is a good leader. How? Because they talked about their ‘team member’ not their ‘employee’.

One of the scariest things a leader can hear is when a valued team member says, “I’ve decided to take a job offer” or “I’m applying for another job.”

What I asked my client, “Is that good or bad?” I ask because I know every leader usually has at least one employee they would be OK with if they moved on. Their reply was “They are good and I wish they were staying.”

First… let me share what they didn’t do.

They didn’t act like a petulant child. You may laugh… but it happens all too often. For example, 3 weeks ago I helped a friend of mine prepare for an interview she was going to. Fast Forward: she got the job. Unfortunately, when she told her boss he stopped speaking to her. For the next 2 weeks she had no instruction, feedback, projects – nothing… not even a good morning. And this is where I beg you to never be that boss, (notice I’m calling them a boss… not a leader).

There are other key things a leader shouldn’t do… like badmouth the department they were going to. Basically, if you wouldn’t want someone to do or say something to you… don’t say or do that to others.

Now… what they did do.

They were happy for them – at least that is what everyone saw. They asked if there was anything they could do to make the transition easier. They also encouraged their team member to stay in touch and to reach out if they ever wanted to talk about their new adventure… or even future adventures. They set up an opportunity to stay connected in the future… to even become a mentor.

Why is this important? I’ll talk about this about more below… but quickly… you never want to lose contact with valuable people; they have a way of climbing the corporate ladder and becoming valuable allies.

Sure you might be sorry to lose great talent. It’s going to be a lot of work for you to cover their work and replace them. Then again, it might be an opportunity for you provide an opportunity for another team member. In any case, wish them the best and mean it! Hopefully you can feel proud you played an important part helping them grow and become more confident – more capable – and more emotionally secure people. Perhaps you even helped prepare them to be a great leader… just like you.

There are many things you can do that are right when a valued team member says they are leaving. How you act will depend a bit on you, them and your specific situation.

Why is it important to respond with dignity and grace?

Respond with dignity and grace for the benefit of your professional reputation, your long-term success and the reputation of your company. Whatever you say and however you behave will be shared over and over again to many many people both inside and outside of the company. Your actions will influence other peoples perception of you… personally and professionally.

Imagine what the reputation of my friends ex-boss is going to be moving forward – and not because of my friend… but because he tarnished his own reputation. Nobody else is to blame. #boom

And, if you react really badly you might get a chance to explain your behaviour to your HR department and/or to a lawyer.

Why else should you be supportive versus aggressive? Here are 2 more good reasons:

  • You want your departing team member to do everything they can to tie-up lose ends, share details about ongoing projects and to not sour relationships with other team members and/or clients.
  • Your other team members are watching. Your boss and your clients may also be watching. You have a chance to prove you are a fantastic, trusting boss they WANT to work for… or just plain miserable.

I certainly hope you always choose to be the great leader who is always supportive of your current and past team members. You know what they say, “Strong people don’t put others down… They lift them up.”  Michael P. Watson

Now – there are other things you should do – like make sure you have a written notice of their resignation which includes the agreed upon ‘last day’ date. This protects you from possible legal and unemployment claims for example. Best to check with your HR department on what are the proper policies and legal requirements.

We hope you enjoyed this post. Happy communicating and climbing the corporate ladder everyone.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

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You Are A Leader And It Is Time You Move On

As a leader you have spent years proving what you believe in.

You have spent a lot of time seeing the future, and you have realised your vision by supporting your team; by stretching them, encouraging, empowering them and by motivating them… not by forcing them. Your vision has given others clarity, it’s been a trusted guiding light for your team. You’ve helped your team be amazing – perhaps even surprise themselves. As a leader you’ve helped them demonstrate what they are made of… to expand their skills, experience and confidence.

Your optimism has made a difference. You bring people with different ideas, needs, beliefs together. You support the people around you to show they are of people of compassion, empathy, talent, collaboration… that they make each other better… that whatever they work it is better when they work together… taking advantage of each others unique talents and perspective.  As a leader you give the people you support the courage to make decisions and to learn from their mistakes. You give them the courage to do the things that are right for themselves and the organization. You help them understand the company values and encourage them to use those values with every decision they make and every action they take… and most of all… you lead by example.

Your focus has benefited everyone around you.

You’ve made change – mostly for the better. You’ve also made a few mistakes… but instead of hiding from mistakes you chose to learn from them. You show people it’s important to show everyone compassion – including yourself. And from your big role as a great leader you have built a reputation as a passionate visionary, a supporter of values, trust, virtue and most importantly… a supporter of people. You do what is right, not what is easy. You ignite passion. You make a difference!

Now It Is Time You Move On.

Screen Shot 2018-02-02 at 1.13.06 PMYou feel the time has come for your next adventure – it is time you move on. But, you are holding yourself back. Leaving a role where you have made a big difference can feel like letting people down. You don’t want to disappoint the people around you. And you still see so much untapped potential in many of the people you support… if you could just help them a little longer. As a leader you also see there are goals you have not accomplished. 

You have to stop thinking you have to do one more thing before…

It is time you move on. And when you allow yourself some space don’t jump too quickly to fill it. Take some time to clear your head. When you make the decision to move on – let yourself linger with that idea for a while – don’t start job-hunting immediately. Give yourself some time to gain clarity about what you want to accomplish next. When you give yourself some ‘space’ you may be surprised what you begin seeing, feeling, thinking about next opportunities. For example:

  • You might realize there is something you’ve wanted to do for years.
  • You might discover there something you passionately want to learn… like cooking.
  • You may decide to finally fulfill your dream to get more formal education.
  • There may be someone you’ve always wanted to meet (and perhaps work with), but they don’t even know you exist. Now is the time to call them and ask them to lunch; I bet they go.

It is time for you to get creative about what you want for youwhat will fulfill you? What will make you and your family happy? What do you need when it comes to work/life balance?

Whatever your next step is, it’s going to be a new challenge that will push you outside of your comfort zone (I hope). You will have to push yourself similarly to how you have pushed / supported others. You will grow… like you have helped others grow. As an executive coach I encourage you to give yourself up to the unknown and the pending learning curve. I also encourage you to find a new mentor (perhaps), to help you experience the changes you will be encountering.

One last idea. Because you have been such an amazing leader, your team and your customers may not want to let you go. Help them. This is another new learning curve for them – a way for them to grow… to change… to use the maturity you taught them to feel vulnerable but still embrace new opportunities with courage and an open mind. This will be difficult, but you have to give them the confidence and the momentum to move away from you. Remind them to continue to be kind to each other, to support each other and to trust each other. Help them support their new leader. Tell them how proud you are of them. Remind them how much they have grown. Then, tell them to ‘get on with it‘ (as my dad would say).

Let change be liberating for you. Find a space to be creative. It is time.

Conclusion

There will always be goals to realize and people to help. But now is the time to let go – don’t worry about what you didn’t accomplish – let someone else realize those plans (if they were truly meant to be). Perhaps the employees you’ve help need you to leave so they can continue to grow. Maybe they need to take on more responsibility. And, maybe instead of their leader you can still support them by becoming their mentor.

Leaving a role you love is not disappointment, it’s an adventure… an opportunity for you and for the people you work to continue to grow. So, go! Get outside your comfort zone.

We hope you enjoyed this post. Happy communicating everyone.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Use Your Company’s Core Values to Feel Similarity, Gratitude, Compassion and Pride

I love it when research and academic study supports business best practices; in this case Professor David DeSteno’s** work around Gratitude, Compassion and Pride.

Leadership and core values are two important places where I see the business world can benefit from Professor DeSteno’s research. You may be rolling your eyes and thinking… here we go, someone else preaching the importance of leadership adn corporate values. I hope you will let me explain because I think Professor DeSteno gives us some of the best evidence of why company core values drive long-term and short-term success. Here is why.

Professor DeSteno identifies one of the foundational elements required to experience gratitude, compassion and pride is Similarity. The idea is that similarity (when two or more people having something in common), builds an automatic connection – and with connection those people will also feel more compassion toward each other. Not only that, Professor DeSteno suggests similarity is likely to make:

  • Their goals seem more joined
  • Increase the compassion they feel for each other an each others needs / goals
  • Increase how trustworthy they perceive each other
  • How trustworthy your employees will be to each other

There are many examples of how similarity has drawn people together with both good and not-so-good outcomes. For example, here are a few familiar to me:

  • Religion – whether we practice a religion or not, we all can recall examples when religion has united many people (some blindly), to do great things and terrible things.
  • Race and culture – another familiar bond that is also responsible for many great and terrible behaviours / outcomes.
  • Social – there are countless, often surprising situations… like the bond between many Jeep drivers (there are local area Jeep Owners Clubs around the world).
  • How we dress – from lovers of cowboy hats and boots, to a love for Levi jeans to an eara’s love for a leather jacket and haircut similar to TV-icon Fonzie from the late 70s early 80s.

What I want to reinforce is that from a leadership perspective we should be eagerly embracing this benefit as an opportunity to increase:

  • Teamwork & Trust
  • Employee satisfaction & Loyalty
  • Productivity & Earnings

Similarity build bonds. Similarity makes us more likely to behave the same, to recognize and express the same social cues… and, similarity makes us more likely to trust each other.

As leaders, we need to recognize that similarity is a gift we should be taking advantage of to increase loyalty, engagement, creativity, trust etc. while also strengthening your employees bond with:

  • The company
  • Your department (their coworkers)
  • Your product / service
  • Your clients / customers

I argue that if you are not using your core values to drive similarity and trust, you are likely ignoring one of the greatest (largely free), motivators at your disposal. Forget money – forget bonus – forget big offices and elite conferences in Hawaii (unless you want to create a bond among only those people… and risk isolating everyone else).Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 3.47.55 PM

Use core values to build feelings of similarity; to give everyone a shared focus, shared language and shared pride. Use core values as a verbal map to help guide their decisions. Your values should also create a bond with your customers, giving them confidence in what they can count on and where they should place their loyalty.

Not only does it build team character and cohesiveness, defining your values allows you to best use your resources in the best possible way to sustain engagement and achieve team-based excellence.

Studies by Professor David DeSteno identify that when employees are around people who are proud of their work, that pride is contagious… that they will be more likely to feel pride. In this example, similarity reinforces connection and that connection engages feelings of compassion and empathy. In short, feelings, compassion and empathy are contagious… or, Intra-Team Support as I call it in my example to the right.

And, it is suggested that this benefit doesn’t have to be direct. For example, even if I observe someone helping another person… my observation alone reinforces my social relationships and makes me more likely to help other people…  even people not connected with the observed demonstration of compassion. Double WOW!!

So, how can you build similarity? Define your company’s core values, and… use those core values throughout your organization. Help your people express your values in every action and decision they make.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

** David DeSteno is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Emotions Group. He is also an author and sought after speaker.

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How To Disagree With Your Boss Without Damaging Your Career: Part II

To Read Part I please Click Here.

In Part I of this article I began laying out 8 tips on how to challenge your boss in a smart and effective way. Here are the final few tips to help you with this complicated topic.

I am a strong believer that most plans have multiple options for success… but we don’t have time to debate every one of them. When you decide to bring an idea forward make sure it is about making noticeable business impact.

The best teams thrive on productive disagreement. If you can promote that with your team you will be part of a dynamic, strategic powerhouse that will achieve great things. You will be showing others what success looks like.

Prepare Your Message / How To Disagree With Your Boss!

You have to communicate your counter argument in a non-threatening way or risk the consequences. You don’t want to argue with your boss and earn the reputation as an arrogant / difficult employee. You do want a reputation as someone who is respectful and gets things done.

The fate of your reputation and your idea lies in your purpose and how you express your disagreement.Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 1.54.58 PM

An easy way to respect your boss when you have an idea is to ask if you can share. For example, “I’d like to share an idea I have for the project that I think will have a positive impact but I’m concerned it may sound like I doubt the project. I want to assure you that I don’t. May I share my ideas?” This approach helps set people’s expectations and make what you are about to say sound less threatening. The less you can surprise people the less risk you will have of triggering a defensive response.

You can be attentive… but in the end, you cannot control how someone feels. So, stay aware of how others respond and perhaps most importantly… how they are feeling. People often shut-down when they feel disrespected… whether you mean it or not.

Plan your message in advance. Research your idea (as suggested above), but in most cases you don’t want to spend days and days preparing to introduce your idea for a few reasons. First, it may look like you are aggressively pushing your agenda. Second, you don’t want your boss to think you have wasted valuable time preparing an elaborate presentation for an ‘idea / suggestion’ you have. Only you can make that decision based on the project, your work environment, attitudes and workloads.

As you prepare your plan, choose the word you will use carefully – be non-aggressive. For example:

  • Don’t use the words “I disagree”, instead try offering “recommendations” or “suggestions”.
  • Be careful of the word “should”, perhaps use the words, “consider” or “could”.
  • Ask, “Can I offer a suggestion.” Do not say “I have a better idea.
  • Ask for “background”, not the “rationale” when inquiring about other existing approaches.
  • Try using “I” statements to describe what you are feeling. For example, “I feel there may be another approach that may help.
  • Under no circumstances should you make people feel stupid, embarrassed and absolutely no name-calling.

I recommend practicing your first sentence beforehand – at least your first sentence. Keep your message simple and to the point.

When you speak:

  1. State the topic on which you disagree and explain your position. Talk about what you are feeling – but don’t be emotional. Don’t use inflammatory or accusatory language. Don’t complain or disagree but do have a solution. Offer suggestions including S.M.A.R.T. reasons why you think your idea is helpful.
  2. Reintroduce the plan goals and values remembering to promote the parts of the existing plan that you do agree with. Don’t make it appear the decision is a Win-Lose event; every decision should be a Win-Win. You want to be a team player who is focused on supporting the team, the company and the project goals.
  3. Present your idea with pride, confidence and enthusiasm but do not appear like a know-it-all who’s challenging their authority. Be polite and professional.
  4. Be careful about including your co-workers unless you have their absolute permission… and in this case, I hope they are sitting with you when you present the idea. You want to speak for yourself and let others speak for themselves.
  5. Let your boss know you are looking forward to their input / thoughts / questions about your idea. Two-way feedback allows you both to work through details and perhaps clarify project important goals that may impact your idea / the project.

You want to support your career goals – not hurt them. Don’t present a list of problems to your boss without any thought of a solution.

Eventually, when you have done this a few times (and have a great boss who trusts you), you’ll be able to speak your mind without damaging your career.

Be Careful With Emotion

As I always say in my Managing Difficult Conversation workshops, share emotion but don’t be emotional. Sharing emotion lets people know you care… that you are human. Believe it or not, that approach increases the chances of your idea being heard… and accepted (if it is a good idea). Bosses get nervous when employees appear emotionally attached. For Example: Calmly saying, ‘I feel very connected to this project and I want it to succeed’ shows you care. But, pounding on the boardroom table and screaming those same words suggests you have lost perspective and are not thinking rationally.

Always remain calm and confident. Never lose your temper.

Let It Go / Know When To Back Down / Respect the Final Decision

Your boss doesn’t agree with your suggestion / idea? Thank your boss for the opportunity and then let it go! As a leader, your boss may have 100 reasons for their decision. For example, the company strategy could be shifting in response to competitors’ moves (but not yet been shared company-wide). Stay calm, carry on.

Be sure your boss understands you will fully support whatever decision is agreed upon. The more you make them feel it isn’t a competition for you the more they won’t feel it’s a competition next time you have a suggestion. Protect your reputation and your influence for your career.

There will be many times during your career that you will not always agree with the decisions others make – and others wont agree with you…and that’s OK. By letting this be OK you will get the experience of working on many important projects. Trust me – that collection of experience and being part of many collaborative teams where you will meet and work with great people is far more important.

Conclusion

My corporate training and coaching career has proven to me that every workplace has a variety of personalities, work styles, cultures, education and experience; so, challenges are inevitable. So, making them work for us – not against us is important.

Great Leaders primary responsibility it to build long-term company success. How they do this is by listening to dedicated, talented, hard-working employees and earning employee trust. When great leaders have employees who feel listened to and trusted, these employees will often also be the leaders most loyal and motivated employees; a great leaders most important asset – a leaders best opportunity to achieve their responsibilities.

Disagreement is helpful as long as it’s strategic, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely.

SUMMARY:

  • Don’t have a conversation when either of your attention is elsewhere – like on a tight deadline or running to pick up the kids after work.
  • Tell your boss you have a suggestion for an alternative approach… then ask them if they would like to schedule a one-on-one meeting. Challenging your boss in front of others is risky – for you and your idea.
  • Prepare for any conversation, but especially when you are challenging your boss. Your first sentence is important – it will set the mood for the whole meeting. Take every precaution to not sound confrontational.
  • Be sensitive to their mood… especially if they often get stressed easily.
  • Never embarrass anyone – especially someone you report to.
  • Never seem aggressive, condescending, or accusatory.
  • Never make demands.
  • Always respect them and respect their final decision.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

To Read Part I please Click Here.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Managing Difficult Conversations, Business Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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How To Disagree With Your Boss Without Damaging Your Career: Part I

To Read Part II please Click Here.

If you are a talented employee, what do you do if you want to disagree with your boss without damaging your career? Do you sit back and wait until you have a great boss, or do you learn how to disagree with the boss you have without damaging your career? I believe the answer is clear; to be in control of your professional success you have to learn how to disagree with your boss in a respectful, productive way.Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 1.45.34 PM

When it comes to disagreeing with your boss the challenge is to never appear like you undermining their authority. Respect is key! Your ideas also cannot appear to be a threat to your boss’ goals or the project goals. Your ideas should be inspirational and clearly demonstrate your commitment to company success. For example, you might say, “I have an idea that will help us improve client retention” versus negative, “This project is doomed and only my idea will save it.” When you introduce your idea in a positive way you can prove yourself as an important team member and a forward-thinking employee who adds value.

I offer you these tips on how to challenge your boss in a smart and effective way… and apologize now for the length of this article… but it is not an easy challenge to solve.

Here are 8 key steps:

  1. Have a good point / Pick your battles wisely
  2. Stop being a ‘Yes’ person
  3. Know your boss (and your team)
  4. Find time when you both have time
  5. Do research / Know your stuff
  6. Build trust
  7. Prepare your message / How to deliver your message well
  8. Let it go if they don’t agree / Respect the final decision

1.  Have A Good Point / Pick Your Battles Wisely

Make sure your suggestion is worth the trouble; it should add measurable, strategic value to the final project. A ‘tweak’ isn’t worth the risk to your reputation.

Before you speak ask yourself, “Am I adding value and is the idea S.M.A.R.T. (Strategic, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timely)?” You also want to ask yourself , “Is this my responsibility and how might the other person ‘feel’?” You want to be focused on important work not busy work. You also want to make sure it’s your responsibility… or at least will impact one of your responsibilities. If you proceed, make sure your approach and tone of voice is positive, respectful and collaborative.

Do not be the negative person who points out the things the team can’t realistically change or will make no difference.

2. Stop Being A ‘Yes’ Person

If you go along with every decision your boss makes you are known as a ‘yes’ person and not likely using your talents to the best of your abilities.

You may be hurting your ability to be promoted if you always follow the pack. If done well, challenging your boss will help you stand out for a future promotion / recognition because it demonstrates leadership, courage and your ability to negotiate and collaborate. It also demonstrates creativity and strategic thinking.

The best companies thrive because they embrace employees who respectfully disagree with their boss. Great leaders want (and all leaders need) their employees to contribute to original ideas… to speak up about important right things at the right time.

3. Know Your Boss

Arguing with your boss is a losing proposition.

Is your boss going to react badly to any idea that’s not their own? I once had a boss like that. If the answer is yes it may be better to warm up your resume… you need to find a work environment where you can show your leadership qualities and learn to manage all of the difficult conversations / difficult situations leaders have to manage every day.

Poor leaders don’t want to be challenged by their employees but great leaders encouraged and promoted people to challenge one another. Great bosses want their employees to add their experience and expertise into the mix. Innovation, diversification and long-term company success demands this.

When you know your boss you can motivate them by using the language they use. Plan your proposal from their perspective. If they think in numbers be sure to show solid numbers. If they think about marketing and brand, frame your idea in that language.

Find Time When You Both Have Time

Know your boss’ personality and triggers. Find a time when you both are thinking clearly and your emotions are not triggered. Don’t approach your boss if either of you are stressed or in a bad mood or running to pick up your kids from the sitter.

If you are in a meeting, be very sensitive to both who is in the room and what your idea entails. If your boss’ boss is around be very careful not to embarrass anyone – including yourself. You want whatever you do to build the trust and respect of your boss and coworkers.

When and where you choose to share your idea can make a world of difference in how your boss reacts vs. responds to your opinion.

Do Research / Know Your Stuff

When you decide to speak you have to be accurate and to-the-point… especially if you have senior people in the room. So, before you lay your reputation and perhaps your job on the line, be sure you:

  • Know why any current decisions have been made
  • Research your idea – including important criteria like budget, employee impact, customer impact and timing

Once you feel confident (and this may take only seconds if you are experienced with the project), sketch out a high-level plan. Anticipate any possible counter-arguments your boss and/or team may have. Perhaps use the S.M.A.R.T. model to test the existing plan and then the value of your idea. Preparing a well thought out S.M.A.R.T. plan means your boss is more likely to be open to listening to what you want to say / share.

You may also want to check out a supplier/stakeholder or two – but don’t do so much it looks like you are hijacking the project or putting supplier/stakeholder relationships at risk.

No matter how well you prepare there’s always a chance your input will not be acted upon. You have to be OK with that outcome.

Build Trust

Trust is at the center of all good employee-employer relations. Without it there’s virtually no hope you can persuade your boss your idea has value.

Trust is a two-way street, and you have to do your part to earn it. Your first day on the job might not be the best day to disagree with your boss (unless you’ve been promoted from within). If your boss specifically asks for your opinion then carefully offer a suggestion for ‘discussion / evaluation purposes based on the project goals’.

How can you build trust over time?

  • Be positive – glass half-full not half-empty
  • Take humble credit for your successes and take quick credit for your errors (be solutions oriented)
  • Demonstrate empathy and compassion for your work and coworkers
  • Learn the company goals and values… and all project goals and values
  • Meet your project deadlines – practice good time management
  • Make sure your performance is consistently high-quality and in line with project goals and values
  • Be a team player – manage everyone’s expectations… including your own
  • Be flexible and communicate clearly

Demonstrate you are a reliable team player and you understand the work. Do it right and your boss may come looking for you next time they want a fresh opinion. Do it wrong and you might find it career limiting.

Conclusion

There will be many times during your career that you will not always agree with the decisions others make – and others will not agree with you…and that’s OK. By letting this be OK you will get the experience of working on many important projects.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

To Read Part II please Click Here.

Click here to join our priority list to receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Managing Difficult Conversations, Business Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

 

When An Employee Is Undermining Your Authority. What To Do!

Only a few situations are more unpleasant for leaders than needing to provide constructive feedback to a ‘team member’ in your care who is undermining your authority. I don’t mean an employee who engages in practical, respectful, invited debate… because that’s OK. I mean an employee who may be:

  • Not taking responsibly for their work – blaming others
  • Not doing as you asked – or as the team agreed
  • Doing the opposite of what you asked – or the team agreed
  • Talking behind your back
  • Intentionally bypassing you for people higher up the hierarchy chain
  • Other… 

Real Example: An analyst was happy to take credit for good work, but their faults were consistently blamed on incomplete data provided by another department. Sure – management intervention may be required in the other department. However, it is a very serious issue when an analyst knowingly passes on poor quality data (without any comment until it is noticed by their boss). In my view that analyst now has no fewer than eight performance behaviours and/or impacts that need to be addressed. They are:

  1. Knowingly delivering poor quality work
  2. Not being responsible for their work – blaming others for shortfalls
  3. Eroding the trust other professionals have in their abilities / their work
  4. Willingly putting the reputation of their co-workers and the whole department (and likely organization), at risk if the inconsistencies were not caught by their boss
  5. Consciously putting the deadline at risk as they correct their work
  6. The time, cost and opportunity lost by them, the leader and very likely their co-workers to correct their poor work quality (hopefully on time)
  7. The time, cost and opportunity lost by their leader to have to double and perhaps triple check all of their future work
  8. The time, cost and opportunity lost by their leader to coach the individual until trust in their work is established

No matter what the reason for the undermining behaviour, it’s important leaders act on disrespectful employee behaviour quickly. Any delay may be translated by the architect and/or others as acceptable behaviour.

The first solution I support is to be sure you clearly communicate expectations in advance to your whole team. The best defence is a great offense; stop problems before they start.

  • How? Regularly share the organization values. Discuss how these values can impact their work and their behaviours.
  • When? Early January after year-end holidays would be perfect time to review the values. But don’t wait for calendar year-end. Fiscal year-end would also be a natural fit – or at the end a big project; or after starting at a new department or company. Don’t delay – find any opportunity!

We Have To Accept… Our Complex World Is Full Of Challenges

Leaders have more responsibility than ever. They are entrusted to continually reinforce the trust, vision, goals and values of the organization and to engage employees by providing learning and advancement opportunities. Leaders do all of this and more with the ultimate goal of creating a dependable, strategic and socially sound foundation that supports the profitable distribution of your organizations products and/or services. Phew!

And… today’s complex and global workspaces often reflect multiple generations and multiple cultural backgrounds. Employee diversity is a good thing because it increases creativity, problem solving and it tends to prepare the organization to increase its market share by attracting more diverse, satisfied and loyal customers. Today’s complex and global workspaces can also create challenges as different social norms begin mixing – hierarchy being an example of the possible challenges.

That said, for a team to truly be productive they all have to agree to collaborate on a shared goal, share expertise and experience, to support the decisions the team makes – and to support each other. An employee who is undermining a leaders authority can cause serious damage. A cohesive team has to demonstrate mutual respect, commitment and honesty – without them they are a group of individuals, not a team.

How To Have Difficult Conversations With A Challenging Employee

Whether it is unconscious insubordination or conscious insubordination, focus on solutions. We also have to accept challenges are usually not isolated to one person’s behaviour. More than one person may also need to change behaviours. As my dad would say, “it takes two to tango”. But, when dealing with the individual – here are steps I recommend.

1. Arm yourself with the facts.

Have a single goal in mind and familiarize yourself with several very specific examples of their undesirable behaviour. You must have observed these examples – they cannot be hear-say. Also, don’t use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’; do use phrases like, ‘I notice when’.  Be ready to share how their behaviour makes you feel and how it impacts the team and/or project.

2. Connect with HR

You may want to visit human resources before you approach the employee who is undermining your authority. Discuss your observations. Discuss if you should make this a formal or informal (off their record), discussion. My personal approach is to keep things off the record for the first discussion (everyone is allowed to make a mistake), but I’m also clear of the implications if the undesirable behaviour continues.

3. Be mindful of their mood and your mood.

It’s not a good time when you are both running to an important, stressful meeting.

4. Manage your emotions and look at the situation objectively.

Calmly present your goal and your observations.

Show empathy and patience. You have had time to prepare but your employee may not be expecting this conversation; they may not even recognize their behaviour is disruptive.

Don’t assign blame. Keep the mission, values and vision of the organization and department in mind when you share your observations. Describe how the specific incidents you documented undermine the values of the organization. Explain the negative impact their behaviours may have for their professional future (in a non-threatening way). Also explain the negative impact their behaviours have on the team and likely the company. The more you can personalize the impact, the more they will likely see the need for change – and that you are trying to help them as much as yourself, the team, the company.

Share the behaviour you expect. Involve them in determining what changes they will have to make and how their future performance can be measured to confirm improved / changed behaviour.

For example: “I don’t know if you realize, but you push back nearly every time there’s a change or a new assignment… just like you did yesterday with the XYZ project. Pushing back as frequently as you are is disruptive to the team. Have you noticed this? I would like to hear how are you feeling when I assign you a new piece of work and your thoughts about how to manage new priorities in the future”.

5. Do your best not to trigger fear.

If they do get triggered, don’t let them trigger your fight-or-flight mechanisms. You have to stay calm. If you feel you are becoming angry or upset don’t argue. One way some leaders find helpful and that I recommend is naming the experience you are feeling and that you want to take a break to go to get a glass of water.

6. Don’t be funny or familiar.

Seriously. Humour is a very risky thing in situations like this. It can backfire and get you into trouble with Legal and/or HR… not to mention the employee.

7. Follow-up

Following your conversation with you challenging employee, thank them for their cooperation. Show your confidence in their ability to change (stop undermining your authority).

8. Keep your eyes open for continued behaviour.

One discussion will rarely solve a problem on its own. Reinforce when you see they are trying to make positive changes and identify slips into the old pattern. Give prompt feedback.

9. Document everything

In the end, document what you both agreed to with respect to future actions and behaviour – come to a written agreement. It doesn’t have to be a formal reprimand – but it could be an agreement between you and them.

Be Prepared For A Deeper Cause

As you address your difficult employee, recognize that sometimes bad behaviour is a symptom of a deep problem in their personal lives. A worker’s personal life and work life are greatly interconnected. That doesn’t mean it should be tolerated for long.

If you uncover some personal challenge, I suggest you recommend they find a private councillor. Your work benefits and your HR department may facilitate this. A personal matter doesn’t mean they get to keep up their unprofessional behaviour at work – but it may mean you have to spend a bit more time coaching / mentoring them.

Conclusion

Addressing unfavourable behaviour quickly is important. An employee who undermines their leader and/or their team authority can contaminate the workspace, productivity, employee engagement and even other employee’s loyalty. Your quick action and the constructive feedback will likely also help the employee. By helping them fix behaviour they may not have even been aware you may save a wonderful, successful career that could have otherwise been derailed unnecessarily. Dealing with difficult situations makes you a hero.

Leadership is a Journey.
I hope you enjoy the Journey… it is a wonderful opportunity.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

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The Elephant In The Room: 3 Steps As You Prepare For A Difficult Conversation

You and I have something in common – I don’t like having difficult conversations either. That said, I could write a book about how to deal with the elephant in the room and all the experiences I’ve had coaching and training others.

Avoiding or ignoring the elephant in the room doesn’t do anyone any good – including for the elephant. At work or at home, if there is a bossy or aggressive or undependable or disengaged person around I can almost guarantee:

  • Silence and denial will not make the elephant in the room go away
  • The behaviour of the elephant usually gets worse

When there is an elephant in the room it’s demotivating to everyone; they effect us deeply. They zap our energy. Nobody wants to be around people who are difficult and/or who let the people around them down. At work and at home we are less loyal and less willing to go the extra mile for difficult people. And worse yet – the constant stress of dealing with an elephant in the room is not good for our mental or physical health – a challenge for us personally, professionally and a great expense for any employer.

But do our problems (and the company problems), end there? Nope!

If the elephant in the room isn’t dealt with, other people may feel it’s OK to be their own unique version of an elephant. Yup, other people can begin behaving badly as well… because it’s tolerated. At work, new employees and new leaders who see this behavior being tolerated might learn terrible leadership and collaboration skills that can haunt them their whole career. If we do nothing we may be training new leaders and co-workers to be loud, bossy, unsupportive and dictatorial; and lets not do that – Millennials and Get Z have a bad enough reputation as it is.

No matter if you are at work or home, if you want to learn how to manage the elephant in the room and how to prepare for a difficult conversation, here are a few steps.

Step 1
Accept the elephants’ reality is based on their perspective and they may not be evil. Begin with kindness and give them the benefit of the doubt; they may not realize the impact they are having. Or, they may (mistakenly), see their toxic nature as a good thing – as an effective, productive way to quickly getting things done.

Step 2
Help your elephant be self-aware and see other people’s perspective. Help your elephant see the negative impact they are having on other people. Help your elephant see that other peoples perspectives are as valid as their own.Perspectivist : Perspectivism

If at work, help your elephant in the room see the negative impact on the project, creativity and morale including the longer-term costs to their career, employee loyalty and company success.

Step 3
The elephant must make a decision to work toward change… or to not change and accept the impact of their decision.

If they decide to work toward change you both must recognize change doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a struggle. If the elephant is willing to work with you, help them tap into their empathy. One way to do this is to demonstrate your empathy, compassion and curiosity.

Also, come to an agreement early on that you will manage each other’s triggers and frustration. Agree you will both stay open, present, patient, listen and trust each other to be honest. Agree that getting angry will not help.

Once you have done steps 1 – 3, share your story with them. What do you see? How do you feel? What are the short-term and long-term consequences of their actions / behaviour?

Don’t be judgmental and don’t attack; be supportive. If you attack them they will stop listening and either shut down or attack back… or both (almost all of us react this way when attacked). Ask them to share their story – their point of view. Be open to listening. Doing this will help both of you stay present, open and engaged.

This sounds easy but it is not. Change will often include difficult conversations.

Through your story, share how their actions affect you / others. For example:

“Bobby, I see you are trying. I also see that you are falling behind schedule and this is impacting the whole team, putting your success, their success and the project success at risk. I’ve seen you do better Bobby, so I’m worried. I notice that you often come to work late and leave early without taking work you can do off-site. Can you tell me what is going on because I want to work with you to come up with a plan to get XYZ done? I don’t want to have to remove you from the project.”

When you share your story / your perspective, you help the elephant see clearly. And when you listen you will also learn why the elephant in the room is behaving the way they are.

They key things to remember are to be honest; don’t be manipulative. They have to feel you want to get to a good outcome – not create more tension. Listen to their story. If you listen to them they will be more open to listening to you.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

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Energize Your Team by Igniting Your Corporate Values

Do your employees know how to use your corporate values to make every day yes/no decisions? What about using your corporate values to make critical planning decisions, write copy, guide behaviour, support diversity and even hire the right people? Values are remarkably powerful performance management – performance enhancement tools.

A Real Example Of ‘Trust’ As A Corporate Value

Imagine a company shows their sales team ‘Trust’ by giving them the ability to discount customer pricing on the spot. I experienced this early in my career when I was in corporate sales. Having the trust and the autonomy to discount pricing empowered me; I felt in control. The company’s trust made me feel proud I could use my expertise and judgement in real-time. This was true for the whole corporate sales team.

Values guide how your company fulfills its purpose and
infuses your corporate personality.

Controls and measurements were of course in place. Every month the sales team and management received sales results and percent discount by sales person. Sure, this helped keep us in check; it also created a fun competition to see who could have the highest sales and the lowest discount ratio. We were not rewarded by this ratio, it was a number that helped us sell based on the long-term benefit of the client relationship – not ‘sales by discount’. The main point is, simply knowing the company ‘Trusted‘ us also empowered us – and I believe made us more successful.

When To Define Your Company Values

If you haven’t looked at your values recently, consider this an opportunity to build something special with your employees. This is as an enormous professional development, team building and performance management opportunity. Not only can defining your company values streamline decisions and behaviour… the process can be invigorating.

How To Define Your Company Values: A Sample Process

I don’t believe any two processes will ever be exactly the same. And, this is an important step for your future and the future of your company. It’s often best to have an experienced and impartial facilitator from outside your company helping you stay on track and ensure all voices are heard.

Here are some other things to know and/or do.

  1. Know your desired outcome / your purpose. How will you use your values moving forward?
  2. Introduce the project to all your employees. It’s important everyone understands why you are doing this. This supports the process and buy-in when you roll out your core values.
  3. Have the right people available:
    • If you are a large organization, I recommend all employees should be surveyed for input. Then, perhaps assemble a large strategic group to fine-tune the suggestions. Then, have only a senior team or a special advisory team evaluate and select the final ‘serious’ Values Definition Session(s).
    • If you are a small organization, try to include everyone in most of the process… leaving only the final edits – the last 20% of fine tuning should be done by your senior team or a special advisory team made up of people from all levels and all areas of the organization.
  4. What are your ground rules? Employees must feel safe and feel everyone will be listened to.
  5. Know when you want to have it done by.
  6. Have time to interview external people / customers.
  7. Have time set aside for the Values Definition Session. You will possibly need:
    • Time for a big session, likely a half-day is a good start. This would take place after you did an internal survey and spoke with external people / customers. Look for common themes – group your findings.
    • Time to fine-tune… but don’t let this drag out too long. Keep the process moving forward.
  8. Plan to have a launch day. Announce them to your team, customers, website / social media.

Sample Questions For Your High-Level Values Definition Session: Level I

This is not meant to find FINAL results… just get you 80% of the way. Let’s assume you have a gathering of your 75 employees. Bring everyone together in a large room. Set aside at least half-day for this process. In many cases, an outside facilitator will work best. Ask your employees:

  • What’s important to us?
  • What are we most proud of about:
    • Our company?
    • Our culture?
    • Our employees?
    • Our customers?
    • Our suppliers?
    • Our product / service?
    • Other?
  • What do we want to be known for?
    • What are our Core Competencies?
  • What do our customer need / want / value?
    • What are their fears?
    • What might be important to a customer relationship?
  • What do these proposed values mean?
    • How will they guide behavior?
    • How will they be used to make decisions, develop your corporate culture?

Sample Questions For Your High-Level Values Definition Session: Level II: The Last 20%: Refining Findings From Level I

  • Are these values we are willing to hire on?
  • Are these values we are willing to fire on?
  • Are these values we can apply to:
    • Customer relations?
    • Internal development?
    • Product / service development?
    • Other?
  • What do these final values mean?
    • How will they guide behavior?
    • Why are they important?
    • Can we measure them?
    • What will they cost us? For Example: Customer Service costs an organization – but it also drives Customer Satisfaction, Customer Loyalty and Employee Loyalty (all four can be measured).
    • How will values be used develop your corporate culture?

Conclusion

Corporate values require thoughtful identification of the what the organization is and what it wants to be.

Organizational culture is as powerful and as fragile as a living personality – made up of the energy, actions, decisions and behaviours of all employees – and often customers and suppliers.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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Should We Call Millennials… ‘Millennials’?

I was recently asked about an article published in the Ottawa Citizen titled ‘Liberal government advised not to call young people ‘Millennials’ lest they be insulted’ which writes, “Don’t call young people ‘Millennials’ because they find the term offensive.” The article references focus groups conducted for Employment and Social Development Canada.Fragile Millennial

Here is my view. We are not finding a solution if we drop the word ‘Millennial’. The word ‘Millennial’ isn’t the challenge, the challenge is our intention… it’s that so many people use it to refer to this generation being ‘lazy, entitled, distracted, self-absorbed, impatient’… I can go on. What many people don’t talk about is how this generation is ‘smart, creative, want meaningful work, are socially responsible and motivated (when motivated in the right way)’… I can go on here as well.

Millennials (and Gen Z), are not as fragile as many people think!!!

Let’s realize we could call any generation ‘Gold Dust’ but if we only speak poorly about them we will all learn to find the term offensive. Even the words ‘Gold Dust’ would become a derogatory and insulting label that would elicit strong negative connotations. When we make decisions about someone’s character and abilities (especially negative decisions), based on age, culture, gender or any other characteristic, we are identifying ourselves as the challenge.

It’s not about the labels we call each other, it’s about
learning as much as we can about each other.

It’s good for our relationships, our workspaces and good for society when we cultivate positive intention and positive emotions. We will build compassion. This isn’t about tolerating a different person, a different point of view or a different generation… it’s about making positive choices to learn as much as we can about each other and to reward collaboration over competition.

For example, when I facilitate Generational Differences training I often begin by saying that if I were faced with a problem to solve, I would rather a room filled with Millennials than a room without. I want Millennials because of the freshness, creativity, comfort using technology they bring. I want them because most enjoy collaboration and they work hard when given challenging and important work… and not immediately restricted / controlled as to how they SHOULD solve it. I don’t describe their faults, I introduce their positive nature. Maybe it’s coincidence, but I don’t think so… but I have not been asked to stop referring to them as Millennials. Quite the opposite – they sit up and often become very engaged in the conversation / training. In short, they do what they love doing… they contribute… they share their voice… they collaborate.

Most Millennials work hard when given challenging, important work.
Most Boomers and Gen X work hard also.

If you are holding onto a negative impression of a person, a generation or a culture, I encourage you to do a bit of self-reflection to explore how your negative impression is benefiting you… emotionally or otherwise. You may discover you have some intrinsic motivation (personal or professional benefit), that makes you want to hold onto your belief. Step outside of your comfort zone. When you feel awkwardness, this may be a good signal that you have an opportunity to change some misconceptions that may be holding you… and holding others back.

How can you change your perspective about Millennials… or any other person, generation or culture? Using Millennials as an example… talk with some about their interests, their hopes, dreams, fears. Get to know them… be curious. What has it been like growing up? Share what it was like for you to grow up…and your interests, hopes, dreams and fears. It’s amazing what happens when we have a conversation and learn about each other. This may not be easy at first — your first few conversations might be a bit awkward, but you will get the hang of it. Approach the conversations with positive thoughts and kindness… with the objective to understand – not judge.

In the end, you may agree with me that there is nothing wrong with identifying someone from one generation or another. There are many generational characteristics of Millennials we should all embrace. Same with Boomers and Gen X.  Same with Gen Z. But, let’s look at the opportunities the individual brings to our relationships and our organization based on their life experiences and how these experiences have helped them evolve… as well as their values and what excites them. Oh, and then… let’s not forget their experiences and education. Let’s explore what the ‘People’ we hire can do vs. what they cannot do.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

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An Introduction To Gen Z

Now is the time to prepare for a future with Gen Z employees, and as a bonus you’ll likely increase your retention of Millennials as well.

What Are Gen Zs Like?

Gen Zs (also called Homelanders, iGen, Gen Edge), are born between 1995 and 2012; the oldest are 22 years old. While there are only a small percentage in the employment market now, there are many that are in college and university… getting ready for and wanting to be your newest and brightest stars. Gen Zs are a population about the same size as Millennials and within a few years Gen Zs and Millennials will be the dominate energy in the workforce.Millennials At Work Enjoy Learning

In many ways, Gen Z’s are like uber-Millennials.

Millennial children have been told by their Boomer parents they are special, to be confident and they should not settle. Gen Zs have been told much the same thing from their Gen X parents. Ironically, when at work Boomer and Gen X bosses label this confidence narcissistic and entitled.

Gen Z Are Conservative

Gen Zs are conservative like their great-grandparents – the Silent Generation. How can that be? Consider, Gen Zs have grown up in a post 9/11 environment. They have always known global conflict, global terrorism and have lived through 3 recessions. Gen Zs have also seen their Gen X parents being laid off, right-sized and down-sized.

On the home front, Gen Zs also grew up with bike helmets, parents who say, “Call when you get there”, personal GPS, smart-phones, bottled water, side-impact baby carriages, rubber baby spoons vs. metal, non-spillable sippy cups, seat belts, etc.

Translation; their world has always been full of potential risk that they have had to watch out for. These and many other social and economic environments, have molded Gen Zs to be more conservative and take fewer risks than their Millennial brothers and sisters.

Gen Z Don’t See Technology As A Perk

If your organization is using hardware or software that is 2, 3 or more years out of date, Gen Zs will see that as a red flag.

Technology is not a bonus for them – it is an expected investment into their own personal future as well as that of the organization. Consider, Gen Zs’ parents did their best to give their children the latest hardware and software. Their Universities and Colleges also had the latest technology.

If Gen Zs feel they are falling behind their friends / peers in experience or knowledge, their employer will have a retention problem as these highly mobile employees job-hop. So, is it better to invest in the latest hardware and software, or spend money hiring and training new employees over and over again… and keep your out of date technology?

Working Hours / Working Spaces

Gen Zs have always been plugged in – doing homework and connecting with friends around the world. They are tech savvy and see flexibility as efficient. They want to work when they have an idea vs. when they are in the office at their assigned desk. Some autonomy and workplace flexibility will be important to them.

The flexibility that Gen Zs prefer is a BONUS for organizations embracing open-concept and flexible work spaces. It is being proven that flexible, open-concept work spaces spawn creativity and sometimes unexpected, organic cross-functional teams.

MultiTasking

Gen Zs believe they are good multi-taskers, and yet researchers like Daniel Kahneman who referenced in his book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ have proven very few people are good multitaskers when it comes to doing strategic, complicated and/or unfamiliar tasks.

But, are Gen Zs good at uncomplicated and/or familiar activities? Sure – in fact they may be better at this than any other generation. They have spent their lives being stimulated and entertained. They have listened to music, played video games, watched TV (online), texted friends, attempted homework and chatted on SnapChat all at once.

Gen Zs seem to be very good at blocking out familiar, low-priority distractions (or white noise / grey noise). They may even miss the noise if it’s not there. As a leader this is important to know because we may have to help them learn how to manage distractions. For example, we might agree that headphones are accepted while they do research – but insist that when writing the final report that they put aside their distractions… including the ding-ding-ding of incoming email messages.

How To Motivate Gen Zs

Motivation is a challenge I often hear from Leaders.

There is potential for great motivation. One of the best approaches I can recommend is to trust Gen Zs. When you trust Gen Zs (and Millennials), to work with you to find their ‘best working environment’ they will not want to break your trust. It’s about understanding what commitments you / they want to focus on and then how to organize those commitments.

The other way to motivate Gen Zs is to make sure they see their work as creative, important, exciting and / or an opportunity to develop new skills. Workspace flexibility and/or positive reinforcement will also go a long – long way in building trust and motivating Gen Zs.

It’s important to note that plugged-in Gen Z and Millennials are easily bored and most begin to feel uncomfortable when they are bored. The challenge for most Leaders is to help their Gen Zs learn that it’s OK and be bored and to embrace this time to explore their ideas… feelings… their creativity… or to simply take a mental-rest. Boredom can be a great thing.

Keep Gen Z Accountable

Accountability may mean having a difficult conversation with them to let them know when they let you and the team down. When you do this you will help them build respect for you, the organization and themselves. They will see that their work is important and that they matter… which is a huge motivator for them.

  1. Be clear with your professional project expectations & timelines.
  2. Be clear with your quality expectations.
  3. Be clear about workplace policies – flexibility for example.
  4. Hold employees accountable for their work and quality.
  5. Provide specific, timely feedback… both positive and constructive. Note: Don’t skimp on your positive reinforcement.
  6. Do not linger on past challenges where they may have let you / the team down… but, be sure you follow point 4.

Conclusion

The future is coming – quickly and employers must rethink how work gets done… and how people get motivated, rewarded, engaged, committed and trusting.

Any leader and/or organization that is concerned with their team members’ will be able to find ways to inspire loyally and build resiliance. In contrast, the leader and/or organization that shows concerns for only their success will lose the creativity, commitment and loyalty of their most valuable assets – their employees.

Happy communicating… mentoring… and collaborating.

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If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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