As I continue with the third in a series of articles on the topic of generational leadership it’s important to prioritize focusing less on what makes each generation different, or what makes different generations “difficult,” and instead get back to leadership basics that impact all generations for better and worse. Thus far I’ve outlined important workplace aspects ALL generations want, respond well to, and are more productive as a result of, and will now cover a handful of universal dislikes shared by all. Keep in mind that it doesn’t require a volume of these missteps to adversely affect morale, retention, growth, cultural strength, and results. They all matter and their persistence within your culture can easily offset the positive things you do. Now, look in the mirror and invest your energies into the areas you can control and change.
1. Oppressive work schedules.
This is the old school tendency to measure and celebrate people more for the hours they put in than by the quality of work they put in the hours. It’s both unproductive and misguided to mistake hours worked for effectiveness while working. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting their time off so they can enjoy their families, hobbies, and have a life away from work. Help people from all generations become productive enough so they can get more done in less time and leave the dealership, and they’ll be less-stressed, more fulfilled, and increasingly productive when they are there.
2. Rewarding or celebrating longevity over results.
Tenure is not defined as “loyal,” but instead refers to seniority and longevity. Loyalty is defined as “faithfulness to one’s duties and obligations.” In other words, loyalty is doing your job well. Tenured people can be, and often are, your most valuable and productive people if their leaders create a culture where they can thrive, and don’t take them for granted because they’ve been there so long.
The other side of the coin is that tenure can become a license for laziness, as when someone takes something in life for granted—a job included—they often become lazy there. If you have long-term people who when they officially retire it will be for the second time, you need to address that. Hard working, productive people with less seniority are distracted and disgusted by senior people who are held to a lower standard of values, work ethic, and results.
3. Too many or unproductive meetings.
In a faster-paced society and leaner workplace, people at all levels are spread thinner and more readily resent wasted or unproductive time in many regards, but especially in meetings – particularly high performers. Too many or unproductive meetings are one reason people must work longer to get done at work what they could have achieved in less time, with fewer meetings.
4. Public chastisement or humiliation.
This is a foolish practice perpetuated by leaders who: possess little or unstable emotional control; are plagued by immaturity; or are insecure and/or angry at themselves, and therefore prone to take it out on others. Public chastisement or humiliation beats people down and causes them to mentally check out on you. And it doesn’t matter whether someone is eighteen or eighty; people don’t like this lunacy.
Also note, that while this is an imprudent practice to inflict on anyone, it normally has an even greater detrimental impact on those younger or less experienced, who may feel more vulnerable and be particularly sensitive to being talked down to or disrespected.
5. Inconsistency in practices, processes, and leadership temperament.
Inconsistency in the areas outlined creates tentative and skeptical followers, and tentative and skeptical followers are more prone to play not to lose than to win. The Lombardi adage is true: “It’s hard to be aggressive when you’re confused.”
Inconsistency can result from a lack of commitment, trying to do too much at once, unclear higher-ups, confusion over objectives, the pursuit of instant gratification, and more. Inconsistency in the areas mentioned, and others like them, can result in team members being indifferent, unenthusiastic, and unconcerned about what is new since they don’t expect it to last long anyhow.
6. Leading by a lousy example.
Everyone leads by example. The question is, “What’s the example?” Leading by a poor example covers a lot of ground: being late to work, bad-mouthing other departments, making excuses, not keeping commitments, failing to live values, lack of consistency, and more. Demonstrating this lunacy breaks trust, destroys your credibility and pretty much makes you a running joke among team members of all generations.
7. The endless pursuit of silver bullets and “flavors of the month.”
Failure to commit to, and stick with, processes, programs, or other initiatives because it’s difficult or unpopular, or because an alternative looks easier—even if it doesn’t work as well—is a sure and common way to confuse, frustrate, and create skepticism from the team. At the end of the day, a lack of follow through from management is a momentum-breaker and creates a perception that managers are either clueless, indecisive, or apathetic; maybe even all three.
8. Valuing likability over performance.
Managers lose credibility and hurt morale when people are favored or retained because they “like” a person despite the fact they don’t meet performance and/or behavioral standards. When “who you know” or “who you are friends with” creates more job security than performance, you create a culture of compromise, double-talk, and hypocrisy that presents a persistent distraction for those doing their job well.
9. Valuing performance over integrity.
Tolerating team members who violate values, cut corners, and don’t take care of customers or care about teammates simply because they perform well numbers-wise can destroy your culture and credibility. These toxic achievers hold others down through distractions, drama, and egregious example. Leaders who fail to address the situation look like incompetent, gutless, sell-outs; not the kind of person anyone wants to follow for long, if at all.
There are no perfect leaders so let me take some pressure off you: you’re not the exception. But to lead effectively across all generations you’ve got to clean up lunacy like this in your own culture and within your leadership style or you and your team will continue to miss what could be and should be. Face it, fix it, and get better.