Generation Y I hear you!

As I embarked on my sixth MBA unit tonight, to no surprise the topic of leadership (or lack of) emerged its pretty head yet again.   Listening to the lecturer talk passionately about her subject matter, issues of skill shortage and talent retention dominated the conversations.

It wasn’t long before the classroom debate threw a jab at Gen Y, and I have to say I wasn’t impressed, as I for one am your biggest advocate.

Gen X and more so the Baby Boomers need a reality check and a serious shift in mindset if they are to attract and retain our up and coming leaders of the future – the Gen Y.  Instead of embracing their impressive educational backgrounds (most with multiple degrees), they know what they want and are not afraid to tell you in the job interview.  My goodness, if only I had your confidence when I was 21!

How can this be a bad thing?  Seriously, how are organizations going to manage skill shortage and talent retention if our current leaders (Gen X and Baby Boomers) don’t adjust their attitude towards Gen Y?

Brushing egos aside for one second, we could and should use Gen Y’s intelligence to our advantage rather than feeling intimidated and throwing the good old …….settle down sunshine you’re getting a little too big for your shoes or the classic…’ll get your chance, come back to me once you’ve gained some experience ….. climbing the traditional corporate ladder.

I feel for you (Gen Y) because I too was faced with such challenges as I tried to enter the workforce following business college.  The questions were brutal….What make’s you think you can do the job? You have zero experience? If we pay you this much, how are you going to work your way up the payroll ladder? There are people here who have been doing your job for 15 years and earn less than that? You’ll never get there!  You’ll never earn that much!…Blah…blah…blah so negative it was crazy.

Seriously, you can have 20 years experience and have sucked at your job and based on this you’re going to let go of an enthusiastic young passionate person who’s willing to learn the ropes and be given a chance?  Why, why on earth would you say no to that? Get over yourself and stop feeling threatened, or intimidated by such intellect and confidence.

Yes there needs to be a balance, but there also needs to be an understanding from our current leaders that if we are to adequately address skill shortage we have to take these young graduates under our wing and mentor them into our roles, so that we can step down into retirement knowing we have the right people to lead our organizations into the future.

Gen Y is armed with current knowledge relevant to your organization right NOW.  Considering most change processes within organizations fail due to deeply embedded behaviours and personality traits, which may have worked 30 years ago will not cut the bacon in today’s organizations.

Peace and respect Gen Y! I hear you and am with you.

Keeping it real – give yourself the freedom you deserve – the freedom to be heard

I have come across so many people who simply struggle with the ability to cut through the politics and ‘BS’ and get to the real heart of a problem.  The ability to deal with tough conversations is just too confrontational for most people.  I’m not going to sugar coat it, it takes a lot of courage but if you truly believe in something, the belief far outweighs the fear.

OMG I can’t believe she just said that? Are the common words echoing as I tackle robust (challenging) conversations in both professional and social settings.  Now for the sceptics that are already thinking….she’s harsh, arrogant, rude…..I beg you to hold that judgment for just one second and read on….as it wasn’t long ago that I too was in your shoes…..

For me the bubble burst around age 16.  I had grown tired of being the quiet middle (forgotten child) unless of course my siblings were in trouble and yet again the finger was pointed at me.  You see I had been bullied into the ‘yes’ trap.  Keep the peace and just nod or take the punishment for the team.  Yes it was me mum, otherwise it was a beating from the siblings.  Oh she’s so quiet it must have been her.  Defending myself was pointless with two against one.

Before I knew it the entire family was piling the chores onto me.  Rightfully so I had become the ‘yes’ man.  Yes no worries, I’ll do it, I’m onto it! Whilst everyone else was having a sweet old time, I was running around doing chores for everyone and stewing in my self-pity unable to understand why I just couldn’t speak my mind and heck say ‘no’ for once.  In fact, I’d thought about it several times and had every intention of doing so but the fear just overwhelmed me and I’d buckle each time.

This particular day I’d caught myself off guard and jokingly snapped back with a ‘no’ to a chore.  I’d applied humour to it so it didn’t sound so in your face to me let alone to the person on the receiving end.  I was shocked at the way my no was received with an ok, then x will do it!  Looking back I’d always had a choice to say yes or no but I can see how you can fall in the trap of loosing your identity and just accepting things for the sake of being nice. However that nice was at the expense of my true feelings and at the expense of my happiness. You see I wanted to be heard but every time I’d build up the courage, there was no-one to listen to me.

So from that point forward I decided to uphold and live by what I took on as my core value of respect.  Respect for myself as well as others.  By holding myself accountable to this value I found it easier to be open and transparent when it came to any situation which undermined my core value.

Whether you’re in a social or professional situation choose a value that is important to you, decide NOW to do everything you can to uphold and live by this value.  This will get the ball rolling so that you can start to enjoy the sound of your own voice when your value is undermined.  Being heard is a wonderful feeling.  Build your confidence by upholding your value(s), speaking your mind one baby step at a time.  The empowerment you will feel as a result will far exceed the fear within you once brought to light.