I was never one for labels and in truth I don’t use them when I speak about talent on my team or within the organizations I support. In my past post I contradicted this by joining the dialogue on the true value that exists in fostering the talent with in our Millennial generation. I spoke to specific considerations for successful leadership with this young, energetic and valuable group. The reality is this group is one of many that likely exist within your team and like me you too are challenged with leading a diverse team that causes you to flex and adjust your leadership style on a daily basis. These are some tried and true principles I live by that help me be flexible when supporting my team, while maintaining consistency and fairness as I help them achieve success and grow.
Deliverables over Schedules
Strict working hours (9-5) are a thing of the past – as is the requirement to deliver only within the confines of your assigned cube. Whether your team enjoys the office environment, is mobile and bouncing between home, office and client environments or is 100% virtual, the focus should really be on their deliverables – are they accurate? On time? Creative and what the client required? I’ll use myself as an example: I am a diehard early bird. I am most creative and clear in the early hours – this is when I do my best work. By 10pm I morph into a pumpkin and am not fit to craft an eloquent email or crunch the numbers finance just sent over. And as I slumber, the night owls on my team are blowing up my phone with amazing work that inspires me (when I wake up and read it that is). I am not at all bothered with the fact that they went to Costco at 10am when they had a gap in their day. Allowing your team the autonomy to set their schedule accordingly to deliverables will provide balance and produce results you will be proud of. While obviously dependant on the nature of your team’s work and requirements to be available to clients, this approach is proven to increase productivity and produce some of the highest employee engagement scores within organizations. This approach provides an equal ground for your team, regardless of their generation or work philosophy, and shifts the emphasis to performance and the goals set between you and your employee.
Create Opportunities to Bond
Break bread! Drink coffee (or wine)! Indulge in an afternoon treat! Just do it together as a team! Create opportunities to bring your team to the table and bond. Limit the virtual attendance and bring people together in a physical setting. It can be the office, but a coffee shop is also a great choice. Incorporate a personal update into your roundtable discussions and allow your team to share and support one another. Parenting tips (and venting for those terrible 2 moments that bring so many to their knees), travel stories, the love of sports and restaurants to try all make it into my team meeting. They help blur the lines and bridge generational gaps as my team find common ground and a comfort in engaging one another – even if they don’t agree on the working hours each keep.
Pause the Politics
Politics are a necessary evil and a management strategy all their own. When it comes to your team, pause them and create a safe space where opinions can be shared freely and without judgement. Even more important is managing the politics of your peers to protect and support your team. For the better part of the last two decades my leadership style, including deliverables over schedules and the consistent bonding opportunities, has been met with criticism from peers who believe work must be done in the setting of a corporate office alone and one should never be too friendly with their teams to maintain the hierarchal balance. Slowly but surely this too is changing and my need to defend my tactics and preserve the autonomy my team enjoys is become less and less. Do not bend to political positions when it comes to your team. Defend your position and trust in your leadership – loyalty and followership will be the gift you receive as your team will be forever grateful.
Authenticity Above All Else
Be authentic and encourage that within each and every member of your team. Celebrating the amazing and very different skills, the diversity of thought and the experiences each employee brings in their work tool box is a powerful way to shape minds – no matter the generation they fall into. When I build a team and seek out great talent I do not hire in my image. I seek opinions different than my own and I embrace those who think differently than I do (particularly those brave enough to challenge me). Creativity and innovation are found in these moments as your team considers ideas outside their comfort zone. One important rule of authenticity: throw out your preconceptions, misconceptions and judgements. These will only divide your team and slow the pace at which your team achieves their goals and deliverables.
Great leaders bring people together, create a vision and clear a path for their team to succeed as a collective. They don’t see age or judge a generation who learned to text before they could write in cursive. Stay true to your principle and engage your staff to do the same – even if they span the generations.
Repeat after me – “age is a number and mine is unlisted”.