Category Archives: Millennials

How We Are Disempowering Youth

By Joanie Connell

I drop my daughter off daily at middle school by driving into the parking lot, pulling up to the curb next to the school and popping the trunk. She hops out, goes around back, gets her backpack and closes the trunk. I drive off. It takes less than a minute.

school bus with kidsThis summer, my daughter is attending a camp at her school that is run by a different organization. We drove in the first day and were abruptly stopped by a hysterical person who was waving her arms and telling us we had to pull up into a lane behind other stopped cars. No problem. We pulled up and my daughter opened the door to get out. The person came running over, frantically, shouting at her to get back into the car. She informed us that we had to wait for a camp counselor to open the door for her. Kids weren’t allowed to open the car doors. Long story short, we waited for another 10 minutes for the lines of cars to pull up to the counselors (in an orderly fashion) and have a counselor open and close the door for each child.

Pick up was even slower. I asked (in as polite a way as I could possibly muster up) why they had crippled a perfectly functioning drop off and pick up system for the summer camp. The director of the drop off said it was because they had kids as young as second graders attending camp. “Of course,” I conceded. “It’s nobaby in carseatt only middle schoolers.” “But wait,” I thought, “second graders are 7-8 years old. Since when can 7- and 8-year-olds not open car doors?” Is this what our society has come to? If 7- and 8-year-olds can no longer open car doors on their own, haven’t we failed miserably as caregivers?

student waving goodbyeThe complete irony here is that this camp is for “academically talented” kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love the camp. It is a fantastic camp. And it’s not the only camp that is developmentally delaying children. My daughter went to a YMCA camp last year and had to hold onto a rope when she got out of the car. It was like preschool all over again. It seems that it’s not just “academically talented” kids who are incapable. At least, that’s what the adults think. The kids are actually very smart. You should see them trying not to hold onto the rope, being as sly as they can to make it look like they’re holding onto it for the counselors’ sake, but really not holding onto it for their own dignity’s sake. They know they don’t need to be treated this way. Why don’t we?

More importantly, who will our children turn out to be? How well will mother with daughtersthey be able to take care of themselves as adults? How much initiative will they take as employees? How many risks will they take as entrepreneurs? How strongly will they stand up in political negotiations as leaders of our nation? How well equipped will they be as caregivers of aging parents and their own children?

padlockWe think we are helping our kids by protecting them, but we are disempowering them in the process. You know what I mean; this is not just about opening car doors. The more we protect children, the less they are able to grow and take care of themselves. The more we instill fear and helplessness into our children, the more scared and helpless they become. Are those the qualities we want to instill in our future generation of leaders? Now that’s a scary thought!

Two Effective Ways to Give Feedback

By Joanie Connell

feedbackGiving feedback is a critical component of leadership. To develop your followers, you need to let them know how they can improve. Feedback should be specific and timely and, most importantly, constructive. Here are two models for delivering feedback that I use. They have both proven to be very effective.

Behavior-Impact-Behavior (BIB) Model:

I find the Behavior-Impact-Behavior (BIB) model to be the most effective. However, it is pretty direct and some situations may call for a softer approach. That’s when the Sandwich model is a good choice. You can also sandwich the BIB model inside positive feedback to use a combined BIB-Sandwich approach.

Behavior-Impact-Behavior Model (BIB)
 Example:
Behavior When you don’t respond to an email message quickly,
Impact of Behavior I assume you don’t care and I lose trust in you.
New Behavior If you reply, even to say you’ll get back to me later,
Impact of New Behavior I trust that you will respond when you are able.

The BIB model is effective because it lets the person understand how their behavior is being received by others. Often, people don’t realize how their behavior is received. They may assume that people receive their actions exactly the way they intend them to or be clueless in how their nonverbal cues contradict their verbal ones. For example, when someone says “I’m listening” as they are reading emails on their phone, the other person may feel brushed off. If the person says, “I feel like I’m not important when you read emails while I am talking to you,” it alerts the person to the impact of their behavior. If you give the person an alternative behavior with a positive impact, it helps redirect them to a pleasing result. For example, you could say, “when you put down your phone and make eye contact with me, it makes me feel like you really care about what I am saying.”

Sandwich Model:

I use the Sandwich model a lot, especially when giving feedback tofeedback 2 Millennials. Younger people, in general, may be more sensitive to feedback because they don’t have years of experience to fall back on. Millennials, as a generation, are more sensitive to negative feedback because they have been brought up in an era where there is an emphasis on raising self-esteem. Thus, they are more accustomed to positive feedback than direct, honest feedback. Sandwiching is reassuring to them yet gives them the opportunity to receive constructive criticism.

Sandwich Model: Positive-Negative-Positive
Example:
Positive I appreciate how much effort you have put into this project. Your energy and commitment are impressive.
Negative I am concerned that you aren’t as focused as you need to be. I’d like to work with you to help you focus your efforts in a single direction so that your efforts will have greater impact.
Positive For example, you came up with an excellent solution to the marketing problem.   Let’s work on getting the Marketing Department on board with it.

The Sandwich model not only makes the feedback easier to take, it makes it easier to give too. If you are uncomfortable giving people negative feedback, the Sandwich model is for you. You can both start and end on a positive note. I recommend that you write out your feedback (at least in bullet points) before you give it as you start out. That way, you have a plan and you know where you need to go with it. Having a positive point to end on helps you get through the middle part.

Another way to help feedback go more smoothly is to frame it ahead of time so the recipient knows that something is coming their way. You can say “I need to talk to you about something” or “I need to give feedback 3you some feedback on the project you’re working on” or “let’s have a one-on-one to discuss your progress on the project” or something like that. These phrases tend to alert the person that something is up. You can also add “you’re doing a good job, but I need to give you some feedback (or direction) to help you move forward.” This is adding the positive to the framing to let the person know they’re not getting fired or anything. It’s just a little feedback.

Should You Spend Less on College?

money stackBy Joanie Connell

Parents and students beware! Don’t get suckered into taking out unaffordable college loans because you think you have to. You don’t.

The problem with financial models is they assume people make rational decisions. There’s nothing rational about overspending. People overspend for emotional and psychological reasons, not rational ones.

We overspend because…anxiety

  • We feel anxious: we need to keep up with the Joneses, we feel insecure about our abilities, looks, or status. (Salespeople prey on people’s anxieties to sell them things. See techniques used and a sales example.)
  • We want something really badly: we see a beautiful house and we have an overwhelming desire to own it. (Salespeople also create customer desire to sell. See techniques used and a sales example.)
  • We think we deserve it: we feel entitled to go to a good college because we are a member of a certain group or because we have worked hard to get good grades.
  • We invoke psychological defense mechanisms to believe we can afford what we are buying: we deny that interest rates will go up, we rationalize the luxury car is necessary to impress clients.

There are many more irrational reasons for overspending, but the point is we need to stop doing it.

OVERSPENDING ON COLLEGEgraduates

“Too many degrees are a waste of money. The return on higher education would be much better if college were cheaper.”

One of the biggest problems in our nation right now is that young people are overstretched with costly student loans and it’s limiting their ability to live independently. Financial analysts have shown that, for many people, the investment in college has a negative return. (See The Economist and The Wall Street Journal for recent articles). Why are people spending so much on college then?

“Four in 10 college graduates, according to a recent Gallup study, wind up in jobs that don’t require a college degree.”

Frankly, I think the biggest reason why young graduates are in great debt is because they thought they had to go to the college they chose to get a good job. This is driven by anxiety—the fear of not being attractive in a highly competitive job market. Evidence shows that expensive college degrees are not necessary for most jobs. Check out the College Planner for more on this and for advice.

“A study by the Harvard Business Review found that almost half of the top executives at Fortune 100 companies did not go to prestigious schools.”

Prestige is another driver for choosing a college. I think that parents are the main contributors to the prestige factor because it makes them feel more successful as parents to have their children go to more prestigious colleges. The Boston Globe reports on how parents are using Face Book as a bragging platform to boast about their children’s college acceptances.  Here is a great blog from the Huffington Post for all you parents out there who are doing this.

The Huffington Post provides a “ranking of the public colleges with the highest return on investment.”

Entitlement is another major factor. A high school student told me she wouldn’t consider going to the local state college, as she literally turned up her nose. I was confused because it was a good school at an even better price and her family had only modest means. She chose to go to a state college in a neighboring state and pay out-of-state fees instead. She also moved back home after graduating, burdened with large student loans.

These are all psychological reasons for choosing colleges that may turn an otherwise practical decision to an impractical one.

OVERSPENDING ON LIFESTYLEmoney roll

Student loans aren’t the only factor contributing to young people’s financial problems. The new grads feel entitled to a high standard of living right out of college. I have been surprised at how many 20-somethings I know who have lived in their own apartments, walking distance from the beach here in costly San Diego. Some of them have moved back home because they say the cost of living is too high for them to afford. Well, of course it is if you expect to have an apartment next to the beach! Seriously, who can afford that?

What are reasonable expectations for a standard of living for a recent college graduate? A used car, an apartment with roommates and mismatched, self-assembled furniture in a rundown part of town would seem like a start. It takes time to earn money and save up to buy furnishings, piece by piece, and eventually make enough money to rent a nicer apartment or get a nicer car (emphasis on “or”). It’s not reasonable to expect to have all this right out of college, especially if you have loans to pay. It’s also part of the experience and the fun of being young.

All of the issues here are affected by the economy and demographics as well as psychological factors. Yes, it is more competitive to get into college these days and there is higher unemployment than at some times in our history. The standard of living has also increased so we should expect to have a higher standard of living than at previous times in history. Yet, young people are still financially overstretched and they don’t have to be. We don’t have control over all of these factors.  Yet we can take control of the psychological factors if we are aware and deliberately make practical choices.

Be wise. Make a practical decision on where to go to college. You will be thankful later.

Stop and Think

by Joanie Connell

stop and thinkThe downside of operating at lightning speed is that we don’t have time to reflect on what we’re doing. We respond to challenges with knee-jerk reactions and leap onto the bandwagon without ever stopping to question whether this is the right way to go. We think it is right because everybody else is doing it and we don’t want to get left behind.

In today’s world, we are all under an enormous amount of pressure to do things quickly. We need to keep up with minute-by-minute stock prices, what is “trending now” on social media, whose kid is participating in the most extra-curriculars, which traffic lane is going the fastest, and what emails are already stacked up in our inboxes. It’s exhausting! Yet, we don’t stop. We keep running faster and faster, managing more and more information.overwhelmed

Ironically, the need for speed is slowing us down. Really. It. Is.

How could that possibly be? It is because we aren’t taking time to stop and think. When we run at full speed, we make careless mistakes. When we do too many things at once, we make haphazard decisions. When we feel pressure to keep up, we mindlessly follow the pack. If we don’t take time to stop and think, we may end up losing the race—remember the tortoise and the hare—and trampling others along the way.

CARELESS MISTAKES

Typos, bugs, and safety recalls are often caused by careless mistakes. We are racing to meet deadlines, under pressure to get torace car print or to market quickly, and we work fast without checking it over. Careless mistakes cost us time and money. For example, the most common reason for the IRS to reject an income tax return is because of a careless mistake, like the person forgot to sign the form. A rejection is usually accompanied by a fine. Thus, slowing down to proofread your tax form could speed things up and save you money.

As much as we like to think that we are good at multitasking, the evidence is to the contrary, especially when it comes to complex tasks. Of course, doing a load of laundry while you are washing the dishes is fairly benign (unless you forget about the laundry). Texting while driving is not. At work, we read email during meetings and wonder why our meetings are so ineffective. At home, we do our homework while instant messaging. It’s hard to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. You can shift back and forth, but even then you may lose time reintegrating yourself into each task. Often, completing a task before you move to another can save you time.

CROWD MENTALITY

Much of our world is online and crowd driven. Add time pressures to the mix and we end up with impulsive, irrational decisions that are made carelessly, without contemplation. Stock market crashes, fads, and riots are caused by a crowd mentality. We lose ourselves in the presence of a crowd. It’s called “deindividuation” in social crowdpsychological terms. When we get caught up in the excitement and momentum of a crowd, we lose our judgment and do things we wouldn’t normally do on our own. Riots after sporting events are a good example. Most sports fans would not smash car windows and set fire to things on their own, but when they get caught up in the post-game fury of a stadium full of fans, they can find themselves doing extreme things. The same is true in business.

Online interactions have a similar effect. People deindividuate when they are online. For example we’ve all seen people post comments on blogs or send emails that they would never say in person. We feel less personally accountable online, similar to when we are in a crowd. And what are we doing online? Creating crowds! People these days define their value by their numbers of followers, friends, likes and retweets. The news reports on what is “trending now” on social media to acknowledge what the largest numbers of people are doing and saying. It may be “trending” but it doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

SOCIAL COMPARISON

People feel better about themselves when they are better than someone else. When you get a B on a test, you feel better when you find out someone else got a C. Social comparison is a way to feel better about yourself by thinking or saying negative things about other people. Gossiping is the quintessential example.

The flip side of putting others down to make ourselves feel good is to compete with others to do better. To feel good, we want to outdo our neighbors, coworkers, classmates, FB friends, and Tcompetitionwitter followers. For example, if my friend is taking 4 AP classes, I should take 5. If the competitor is decreasing costs by 5%, we should decrease by 10%. If my coworker works 10 hours a day, I should work 12. If my teammate runs 12 miles a day, I should run 15. This also manifests with opinions and positions. If others in my political party are moderately liberal/conservative, I will be more liberal/conservative to show I am better or more committed to the group. After enough people do that, the party is broadcasting extremist statements. This is called “group polarization.” We all know what calamities that can lead to.

It’s tpauseime to stop and think.

It’s time to slow down and check our work to avoid careless mistakes. It’s time to pause and make well thought-out decisions to make sure we are doing what we want to do. It’s time to question the crowd to see if it is going in a direction we think is valuable for us to follow. The cost of not thinking is far greater.

Do Differences between Generations Matter?

 by Joanie Connell

diversityDifferences between Generations

Now, more than ever, people are talking about how different the generations are in the workplace. Skeptics wonder: are they different? Aren’t we all just people in the workplace? What’s the big deal about generations? The answers are: yes and yes, and it’s not a big deal but it is something to be aware of. Yes, we are all just people and we differ along a number of dimensions, the generation in which we were born being one of them.

There are two major reasons why generations differ. First, people of different generations are different ages and people change as they mature.   A parent of four has different needs and values than a college intern, for example. Second, people of different generations grow up in different times. My grandmother grew up during the Great Depression and wouldn’t dream of throwing away a piece of aluminum foil (which used to be tin foil). My daughter is growing up in an age where breakfast is a candy bar and is enclosed in a disposable wrapper. People’s values change alongside the advances in technology and shifts in affluence, among other things.

What Differentiates the Generations?

The environment in which people grow up is partially responsible for who they become. Beyond the basic factors, such as food and shelter, attitudes and important events, such as 911 and WWII, influence people’s outlooks on life and their way of being. A generation shares the experience of growing up during certain events and is influenced by the prevailing attitudes of their caretakers. Obviously, individuals within a generation may react differently to the same events, but overall, a person’s generation can be a group to which he or she belongs. Understanding differences—and similarities—between groups can help the groups appreciate each other’s perspectives. The table below outlines the key factors that influenced each generation. Knowing that the Silents grew up during the Great Depression, for example, can help Baby Boomers and Millennials, who grew up in more affluent times, understand why they approach money matters differently.

Defining Moments of Generations

Generations in the Workplace

My great grandmother told me stories of going out on dates in horse drawn carriages. My daughter doesn’t know how to open a car window without pressing a button. These two people never met, but I have interacted with both of them. I have gotten wisdom from both of them. One taught me patience, while the other taught me to stop and smell the roses—literally! Similarly, at work, we can all learn from each other even though it may require a higher level of understanding.

Millennials: The New Generation

Millennials, the newest generation at work, have gotten a lot of attention. They are noticeably different from the other generations in the workplace. Of course, some of this has to do with their youth. Younger people tend to be more idealistic, full of energy, and confident of their immortality than older people. They tend to have fewer responsibilities and are less concerned about planning for the future than perhaps they ought to be. On average, the previous generations were that way too. It’s part of the adult development process. Some of the attention the Millennials have gotten is due to their youth, but there is more than just that.

Look at the differences in the defining moments of the Millennials compared to other generations. For example, look at parental advocacy vs. latchkey vs. discipline. Kids in these different generations grow up with much different perspectives by the parenting styles alone. Latchkey kids grow up having to fend for themselves and, as such, are much more independent in their work styles. Disciplined children grow up with respect for hierarchy. Children who are advocated for grow up more dependent on others to solve their problems for them and less respectful of hierarchy. Understanding how people come to the office with different perspectives and expectations helps people work together. It can also help people appreciate alternative viewpoints.

Generations Working Together

The four generations in the workplace today provide diversity in their approaches to work. They also provide diversity in perspectives and experiences that can be of great use in developing products, innovating, and thoroughly considering alternatives. As with all forms of diversity, appreciating differences is important to working together. But understanding what is behind the differences brings collaborative relationships to a deeper level. Stay tuned for more on generational differences to help you leverage the generational diversity in your workplace.