Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Generational Leadership

Are you thriving or surviving in your current work situation? Do you ever feel like you don't necessarily fit into the work culture today? It may be that your boss speaks X and you speak Y.

I spoke with Tamara Erickson, author of Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work. Tamara is a McKinsey Award-winning author and has conducted extensive research on changing demographics, employee values, and how successful organizations work.

If you were born past 1980 you are part of the culture known as Generation Y and you now make up nearly 1/3 of Canadians living today. The things you value, the leaders you like to follow and what motivates you are quite different from others in your organization who were born before this time. You have grown up digital, connected and in a time when there has been an amazing amount of change in the world. Along with growing up “digital”, you have witnessed events from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Columbine to 911. Tamara shared that “(t)he most common complaint I hear from employers regarding the Y's is that they want everything now. They'll tackle challenges where the proverbial angels would fear to tread. They'll break the rules, and, if we let them, they'll show us how to make our corporations a more humane place for all.” 

As I spoke with Tamara, I realized how these issues have played out in my own career related to the choices that I made, as well as times when I was more and less successful at leading others. Whether you are Generation B (Boomer) X or Y, understanding the nuances of culture and how our beliefs shape our behaviour is crucial to being successful in today’s competitive marketplace. In Tamara’s book she shares six key elements that any generation can use to thrive in their work:

  1. Find your passion: what are you?
  2. Identify your preferences: what you want to do? with whom? what compensation, lifestyle and social activity do you want?
  3. Target your place: geographically, organizationally and role.
  4. Align practical realities: while you may desire to be a doctor, do you want to spend the next seven years of your life pursuing this?
  5. Find the ideal job: this is the role that overall best suits YOU. 
  6. Leverage the unique advantages that you bring to the market.

You may think in the current market, is it even possible to consider these options? While it may take longer to move to a role that is better suited to you, these six principles have never been more relevant. Research shows that professionals who are thriving in their work are less likely to be laid off and if they are affected by restructuring, land in new roles faster and in better positions than the average performers.

These are Tamara’s “David Letterman” Top 10 “Thriving at Work” Tips:

  • Think positively 
  • Show initiative 
  • People can't read minds, learn how to clearly communicate. 
  • Reason and financial logic are important in the business world, not feelings. 
  • Make the most of every experience, good or bad, by learning from it. 
  • Pragmatism is good: what works for others can work for you. 
  • Walk fast, carry a stack of papers, and drink coffee: there is importance in being perceived as purposeful. 
  • Clear the air and move on: discuss, resolve, let go, and move on. 
  • Don't underestimate the power of grace under pressure. 
  • Keep three months salary in the bank: create for yourself the power to walk away. 

As you consider these ideas, don’t ask why…honour your inner Gen Y.

Alan Kearns is Canada's Career Coach and CareerJoy founder, Workopolis career expert, Chapters/Indigo Trusted Advisor and author of Get the Right Job Right Now! Alan is one of Canada's leading authorities on career management issues and has shaped his almost 20 years of career management experience into a company that helps people from all over North America to navigate a wide variety of career-related issues.

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