As I continue with a series of articles on the topic of generational leadership it’s important to shift our thinking away from what makes each generation different, or what makes different generations “difficult,” and instead get back to leadership basics and outline important aspects of a workplace that ALL generations want, respond well to, and are more productive as a result of. While there are, and will always be, specific tweaks in style, approach, verbiage, etc., that more successfully resonates and connects with a single generation over another, it’s foolish to exert disproportionate effort to get more from a single group when key leadership responsibilities that would elevate all generations are neglected. Thus, evaluate your dealership’s strength and health on this checklist and build on – and rally around – the desires of all workers regardless of their generation, ethnicity, gender, experience level, or socio-economic background.
1. Working with high-quality people
Frankly, no one wants to work with idiots, incompetents, or the corrupt. Having dependable, respectful, competent, and caring teammates improves one’s work life and quality of life overall. This all starts of course with how well you hire and develop your human capital.
Here’s a check-up question: Who have you hired that you wouldn’t rehire if given a second chance? Second question: Why are they still there?
2. Being part of a strong and exclusive culture.
This includes understanding and seeing value in three primary things:
• What a team member has a chance to become personally as part of that culture, through development and advancement.
• Based on your values and purpose, the people you surround them with, and community involvement, will they feel a part of something special by belonging to that culture?
• Are they trained, equipped, and empowered to make a difference as a member of that culture—both for teammates, and customers?
Check-up question: If you were recruiting someone, list one specific and compelling benefit you would give for each of these three cultural aspects:
• What you have a chance to become.
• Why this place is exclusive (not everyone can be one of us) and what you will be a part of.
• How they will have a chance to make a difference working here.
3. Having managers who “get” them, recognize their unique abilities, and know what motivates them as individuals.
No one from any generation will have much interest in, or be willing to, try to understand you as a leader and where you’re coming from, until they first feel understood by you.
Check-up question: Who on your team, or that you work with often, do you not “get” (understand how to motivate)? What can you do to change that? Hint: perhaps spend more time with them asking questions than giving answers.
4. Knowing what is expected and what success looks like.
This refers especially to performance expectations and behavioral standards
Check-up question: Which performance expectations or core values do you believe aren’t clear or emphasized enough? How will you change that?
5. Receiving fast, clear, conversational, candid, honest, and respectful feedback on performance.
This includes affirmation for good performances and coaching for correction and improvement.
Check-up question: Which aspect of feedback listed above do you need the most work to improve? Circle it. What will you do to change that?
6. Being part of something bigger than themselves.
This relates to a meaningful vision for their department and/or the dealership overall, and includes understanding their role, and what’s in it for themselves and the team when they’re successful.
Check-up question: How alive and compelling is your department/organization’s vision at this time, and how clearly do they see their own potential to contribute? How can you improve either aspect?
7. Accountability conversations, not verbal “beat-downs.”
Effective accountability discussions are: conversational in nature, respectful in tone and words, private, specific, fair, and firm.
Check-up question: Which aspect about the nature of an effective accountability conversation, as listed above, do you need the most work on and what will you do to change that?
8. A compelling career path.
This includes not only where someone can “go,” but how you can help get them there, as well as clarifying their part, and yours, in the process. A compelling career path isn’t always about “moving up,” but about improving one’s abilities and broadening his or her responsibilities within the position they’re already in as well.
Check-up question: Which of the listed aspects of laying out a compelling career path do you need to improve most? How can you improve that, and with whom does this need to be done?
9. Empowerment to make decisions, make changes, and contribute to and implement ideas and strategies.
Empowerment requires trust, and trust is reciprocal; so is distrust. Micromanagement communicates the latter. No generation appreciates distrust or covets being micromanaged.
Check-up question: Are there trivial decisions you’re making now that you could train and empower your team members to make? If so, list them and determine how you can best hand this off to others and thereby empower them.
10. Being let in on things.
No news isn’t good news when people feel left on the outside looking-in, and they will begin to believe it’s “us against them so watch your own back because no one else will.”
Check-up question: Is there an area where you can improve communication with your team concerning what is going on as far as: marketing; process/schedule changes; training schedules; results updates; their own performance; your various meetings/agendas; or other instances that would let them feel more tuned-in to what’s going on in their department and organization overall? Circle which of the aspects listed leaves you the most room for improvement, or add your own that isn’t listed.
11. Effective and consistent training, and an efficient structure to help them work smarter and harder (more productive during the day) so they don’t have to always work longer to make a living.
People from all generations want a quality of life that includes enough time to spend with family, pursue hobbies, friendships, exercise, community involvement, and the like — in other words, to have a life. However, until they get better at work, or are adequately staffed at work, they normally must spend more time there to get done what they could have achieved in less time if they were better at work and properly staffed. Being “better” at work not only includes being competent enough and having enough help, but working within structures and processes that are modern, effective, and efficient.
Check-up question: Which aspects of your training or one-on-ones are inconsistent or ineffective? Are there any components of your process that make it more difficult for people to get the job done; or, that make it take longer to get it done than is necessary (red tape, too many steps, archaic technology, and the like)? What are they, and what will you do improve this?
12. An authentic leader.
An authentic leader: is real, sincere, and trustworthy; admits mistakes; is unwavering under pressure; is without pretense, duplicity, and hidden agendas; and is not two-faced or a people-pleaser. This is someone who, even when you don’t like where he or she stands on a matter, you at least know where they stand and what they stand for.
Check-up question: Which of the traits of authenticity, if any, would your team rate you lowest in? What will you do to improve this?
There are many other cultural commonalities that all generations want and benefit from, but these twelve are a good place to start addressing. In my next column on generational leadership I’ll present a second list: foolish and unproductive things managers do that must be corrected because of their adverse effect on all generations.