Do your orders create confusion?

Do your orders create confusion
Do your orders create confusion

I had a boss once who was incredibly smart. He started his career in technology as a developer. He worked his way up to team lead, manager, director, and eventually VP.

While he maintained his technical knowledge, he also developed a deep level of business acumen. The combination of the two led to a fast-tracked career for him. He was well known and admired throughout the company. He advanced quickly.

Despite his esteemed reputation, he had one serious flaw. When he gave direction, people often didn’t know what he wanted. I would sit in meetings with him and he would ask someone in the room to follow up on something. After he left, the person he spoke to would ask the room, “Do you know what he wants me to do?”
Continue reading Do your orders create confusion?

Take Time for Leadership

Take time for leadership
Take time for leadership

I once worked on an engagement where the president of the company flew in for the monthly steering committee meeting. He would schmooze the client, take them out to lunch, and assure them of their importance to the firm.

And that was true. This was one of the largest engagements we had in the firm. This was a very important client.

We had many consultants on the project. While some were offshore, more than half of them were in the same building in which the steering committee took place.

The first couple of times, we convinced the president to meet with the team. We felt it was important for the president of the company to give them some of his time and say thank you in person. They worked hard and we thought it would be a good morale boost.

It was. The team felt good meeting with the president of the company. They liked being thanked.

We did it again the second month he was in town. Once again, it made the team feel good.

On the president’s third visit, we suggested meeting with the team. He demurred. “They don’t seem to like it.” He said. “Nobody asks any questions.  It’s just awkward.”

It’s true that nobody said much in these meetings. Many of these people were lower level team members. Some were just a few years out of college. They’re also technical folks. Many of them are more comfortable writing code than dealing with people. Many were probably a little intimidated by him.

Regardless of their response, they enjoyed meeting with him. That twenty-minute exposure to the brass made them feel appreciated. It made them feel important. Many went home and bragged to their spouse about meeting the president of their company.

The president continued to fly in every month for the meeting. But he never met with them again. The team members knew that he was on site. They knew he didn’t meet with them. We tried to explain that he had an early flight for some other meetings. But they still felt blown off.

These meetings made the president feel awkward. There was uncomfortable silence after he thanked them for their work. He missed the point though. That meeting wasn’t designed to make him feel comfortable. It was designed to boost morale. The meeting was about the team members, not the president.

Leaders have two jobs

I’ve seen many examples of this from people in leadership positions through the years. A leadership role is really two jobs. One job is the day-to-day work that has to get done to achieve the organization’s goals. Reports need to be reviewed. Meetings need to be attended. Decisions need to be made.

The other job is the leadership part. A leader has to make sure people are happy and motivated. A leader needs to communicate the vision repeatedly to make sure everyone is working in lockstep to achieve the organization’s mission.

If a leader only focuses on the daily task work, but doesn’t take time for leadership, they really can’t claim to be a leader.

Long term effects

Time management experts talk about the difference between important and urgent tasks. When we prioritize our to do list, we tend to focus on the urgent issues, putting the important tasks on the back burner.

The here-and-now forces us to be tactical. Leaders need to look forward strategically to make sure that the organization is going in the right direction.

Does your organization have the right skills to compete in the future? Time should be spent assessing that concern. If it doesn’t, how will you deal with it.  It could involve training of your existing staff. You may need to bring in the right people with the necessary skills. It may require some of both. But neither will be addressed if you don’t take time for leadership.

Communication avoidance

I’ve worked for leaders who avoid communication with lower level folks. Leaders are busy people. They don’t have time to answer every question from every person in the company. That’s what the chain of command is for, right?

But when someone talks to you, it doesn’t take that much time to listen to them. If you look at your watch every thirty seconds and do whatever you can to end the conversation, it sends a message. The message is that you don’t care about the concerns of someone in the organization that serves you.

It’s common to have a monthly or quarterly meeting to communicate updates to the team. In consulting, team members are often scattered about at various client sites. This periodic update meeting is a rare chance for consultants to feel a sense of a home base. It’s a chance to catch up with people they don’t see often and to hear what’s new within the firm.

There are many reasons for management to cancel a meeting like this. There are a thousand other commitments. A meeting like that takes a lot of time to prepare for.

But when they do cancel that meeting, the consultants miss a chance to connect with the firm. Regardless of the reason the meeting is cancelled, many will immediately assume the worst. They must be avoiding the announcement of bad news.

Communication is important within any type of organization. It’s even more important within consulting firms. When people are spread out at many locations, they need the connection that communication provides.

Meeting in person is important. If that can’t be done, a weekly newsletter providing critical updates allows people to at least know what is going on. It’s not the personal touch, but it’s better than nothing.

Conclusion

People in leadership positions are busy people. They need to do everything they can do to keep the lights on. But they also need to take the time for leadership. They need to be focused on the future and make sure they are navigating the ship in the right direction.

The people in the firm want to be led. The personal touch of a brief meeting and saying thank you means more to them than most leaders realize. Communicating regularly with your staff can make a world of difference in their effectiveness and their level of morale.

How often do you take time for leadership?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Personal Weakness Assessment

Personal weakness assessment
Personal weakness assessment

I remember the performance evaluation I received after the first year of my career. My boss was a great guy. I liked him personally. But he was a bit non-confrontational.

The review was outstanding. Anyone reading it who didn’t know me would think I was going to be CEO in just a couple of years. I was great at everything.

But I knew that wasn’t the case. I had one year of a professional career under my belt. I felt like I did well. But I had a lot of things to learn. I walked out of his office with a nice feeling. But more than anything, I felt a little empty.
Continue reading A Personal Weakness Assessment

Do you copy the right people?

Copy the right people
Copy the right people

Most of us get more emails in a day than we would like to admit. Most of us have at least two email accounts: work and personal. As a consultant, I have an account for my firm, my client, and two personal accounts.

I have a daily routine of going through and killing all of the junk items. I unsubscribe when appropriate.

Then I have to go through all of the remaining emails that may or may not apply to me. Some I have to act on. Some are just sent to me as an FYI. Many of them I look at and wonder why I was included. This can be more annoying when it becomes an on-going thread.

On the other hand, I learn in meetings and side conversations that an email thread was sent around to a group that I should have known about, but I wasn’t included.

Removing people from an email thread

Often, an email is sent to a large group of people because the sender is unsure who can resolve an issue. As the thread evolves, it develops into a conversation with only a few critical participants.

Any remaining people may see the on-going thread as noise. At that point someone, preferably the original sender, should ask who on the thread would like to be removed.

Other times, it may be obvious that some people should be removed from a thread. Make sure the email isn’t being sent to unnecessary or inappropriate recipients.

Adding people to a thread

It is also imperative to make sure the right people are involved. Some people need to be involved to help resolve an issue or participate in a conversation.

A critical manager may need to be involved so that he or she is aware of an on-going issue. The best way to add that person is to “Reply all” to the email, add that person to the recipient list, and add a “+ Bob”. This helps make it explicit to everybody that the person(s) has been added to the thread.

If a manager just needs to know the outcome, it may be better to wait until the thread comes to closure. At that time, you can forward the final email of the thread to the manager. Provide a short summary of the issue and its resolution. Make sure to copy anyone who needs to know that this person has been informed. If the manager wants additional detail, the entire thread is below for their reading pleasure.

Copy the right people from the beginning

When sending an initial email, it’s hard to know if it’s going to be an epic thread that goes on for weeks, if not months. But when you send any email, consider the fact that it might. Stop for a moment to consider the list of people you are sending the email to.

Do you need to have everyone on that list or can you add people later if it evolves?

Are there others who should be on this distribution that can lead to a faster resolution?

An additional consideration is multiple people with similar names. I once sent an email to someone named Chris when I meant to send it to Christine. This leads, at a minimum, to delays when you send to the wrong person. You also could be intending to send sensitive information within your organization. If you accidently send it to the wrong person, it could be a major security breach.

Be careful with “Reply all”

Sometimes someone will send out an email asking a group of people to provide them with some information. This usually warrants a simple reply to the sender. Does the whole distribution list need to know your lunch order for that meeting next week? Reply All only when it’s necessary.

Conclusion

Email has become the communication mode of choice.  It’s quick and easy to send an email or reply to one that has been sent. But in our need to be quick and efficient, we often don’t stop to think about what we are sending and to how many people we’re sending it to.

Take a moment every time before you hit Send to think about the distribution list. You may begin to save people a little unnecessary time out of their day.

How often do you copy the right people?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do You Take Time to Save Time?

Take Time to make time
Take Time to make time

I saw a great cartoon the other day. It was drawing of two cave men pushing a cart with square wheels. Another cave man is offering them round wheels to replace the square ones. To which they respond “No Thanks. We are too busy.”

It’s easy for us non-cave people to sit in our third person realities and ridicule this irrational behavior. But if you didn’t see yourself in it, you may be in a little denial.

As humans, we are usually victims of routine. We get into habits and don’t like to change them. I often catch myself doing things out of habit. If I step back and think about it, I may rethink my actions and figure out a better approach.

More often, this happens when someone else observes my behavior and asks, “Why are you doing it that way?”

I usually respond with something intelligent like, “Well that’s how I’ve always done it.”

Even after someone explains a simpler or more efficient way to do things, I sometimes resist. Even when people offer me round wheels, I like living in my comfort zone.

Taking a different approach to something usually involves additional thinking. If you drive the same way to work in the morning, you usually can do it without much thought. You habitually turn where you need to turn. You probably park in the same general area every day.

If someone tells you an alternate route that might be faster, you’re suddenly out of that comfort zone. You have to concentrate a little more on where and when to turn.

The same happens at work when we do something routinely. You may do it that way because it’s the easiest and most efficient way. But the situation may have changed. There may be a better way now.

Changing the way we do something often requires an investment in time as well. If we changed the wheels on the cart, we would have to stop what we’re doing, take the square wheels off and put the round ones on.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I have the time to invest doing all that work. But if I’m honest with myself, I’m probably just too lazy to change my ways.

I’ve caught myself doing intense manual work to make changes or find data in a large spreadsheet. And I’ve caught myself saying that there has to be an easier way.

I’ve had to force myself to investigate the many Excel commands that I’m not familiar with to find the easier way to do it. I not only find that easier way. But I also learn a new Excel function that I can use later. (I usually learn a couple of functions just finding the one that works best for that situation.)

Routine is generally good. It can make you more efficient when you can do things with little effort. But it’s important to frequently stop and analyze what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Is there a better way?

You might just find some round wheels.

Are you using square wheels anywhere?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Roll off: Sudden Death or Drawn Out?

Sudden Death
Sudden Death

Like most rational human beings, I hope I don’t die for a long time. But without being too macabre, I do think about death occasionally. Every once in a while someone will ask the question, “How do you want to die?”

I’ve never been able to come up with a specific way to die that sounds, I don’t know, desirable. But I’ve often said something like, “suddenly,” or “without any suffering.”

About three years ago, I lost two childhood friends. One died instantly of a heart attack in his sleep. One day here, the next day gone. The other died after a long battle with cancer.

I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to my friend who died of a heart attack. But I rationalize that he didn’t have to suffer.
Continue reading Roll off: Sudden Death or Drawn Out?

Getting to Agreement

Getting to Agreement
Getting to Agreement

We live in divided times today. And as much as we want to complain about it, it is nothing new. Abraham Lincoln famously said “a house divided cannot stand.” There are many examples of major disagreements throughout history. We humans can be a disagreeable group of people.

You see it on projects on a daily basis. We disagree about how to implement software and who to hire for a project. Different people disagree in different ways. Some people get mad and start to yell when someone disagrees with them. Others stay calm and try to plead their case.

Can’t we all just get along?

A good consultant is able to work with diverse people with diverse goals and diverse opinions. They figure out how to “herd the cats” in the direction of a successful engagement.

Here are some tips on bringing people together and getting to agreement when warring factions butt heads.

What problem are you trying to solve? When people disagree, sometimes they are simply disagreeing on what the actual problem is. The first step is to make sure they agree with what they are trying to solve. This gives them a common vision and the first step toward agreeing with each other.

What assumptions are you working with? In the U.S., we have Republicans and Democrats. There are two primary differences between them. The first is the role of government. Republicans want a limited role, while Democrats usually advocate more government involvement. The second is taxation. Republicans want lower taxes, particularly for the rich. Democrats want to tax the rich to pay for the increased government programs.

Each group is working on diametrically opposed assumptions. Trying to bring them to agreement is a great challenge because of the vast difference in their assumptions.

What do you agree on? Try to find areas where they agree. Most Republicans and most Democrats agree on world peace. They may disagree on how to get there, but finding their common beliefs and values is a great starting point.

Finding as many points of agreement as possible, not only provides a starting point, it develops trust between the two. When they realize how much they have in common, they realize that they are not that different. They’re likely to approach their differences in a more cooperative light.

Find a middle ground. Once you have identified their areas of agreement, it might be easier to identify opportunities for compromise. Points of agreement are a bridge; a meeting of the minds. With that connection point, you can begin breaking down additional walls to see if there is any point of compromise.

The tricky aspect of compromise is that both sides need to give a little. But it takes one person to start the process. If you can convince one person to give in a little, it sets the example to his counterpart. They will be challenged to give some more. It may take each side to give just a little in multiple alternating sequences to get anywhere.

This is the hardest part. When arbitrating this between two sides, it usually requires creativity. Providing hypothetical situations can force each side to see the other person’s perspective. You might describe scenarios where one person’s approach would fail and their counterpart’s would be successful.

Based on their deeply-held assumptions, they may think your scenario is unlikely or impossible. It is your job to convince them that it may be more realistic than they think. This should be done as equally as possible with both sides of the argument.

The ultimate creative solution may look completely different than what either side proposed. The critical point is to make both of them feel like they own the solution together.

Document any agreement. You probably won’t succeed every time. Some sides are just too stubborn. They may be under too much pressure from their factions to give an inch to compromise. But if you are successful at getting either side to compromise, make sure that it is written down and published. This enforces the agreement and reduces the chance of either team backing out of the agreement.

When documenting the agreement, all credit should go to the warring parties for getting to agreement for the common good.

Conclusion

Whether you live in the political world, the business world, or some other type of community, you will always deal with people who disagree. Some are more willing than others to work towards a solution of compromise. Some simply can’t be budged. But working in a strategic, creative, and methodical approach with two groups that disagree can help in getting to agreement.

Have you ever been successful facilitating two parties to agreement?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Overplaying Your Leverage

Overplaying your leverage
Overplaying your leverage

Our current president has been given the opportunity of doing something that many new presidents do. With his party holding a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, he has leverage.

This gives him the ability to push legislation through congress with relative ease. Bill Clinton and Barak Obama both started their presidencies with majorities in both houses.

This led them to use their leverage to push legislation through congress as well. But those two former presidents lost those majorities in the mid-term elections two years later.

While there are many factors involved, it is safe to say that taking advantage of their majority leverage may have offended some voters. This could have caused them to swing to the opposite party when voting for congressmen two years later.

I’ve seen similar occurrences in the business world. Someone has a very powerful position and uses it to manipulate people. Sometimes they mistreat their employees, making them do unpleasant tasks or publicly berating them. Sometimes they force policy through to the chagrin of their peers within the company.

But the same thing can happen that happened to the former presidents. Someday that powerful manager is going to need something from some of those people he was so abusive to. Then they learn a valuable lesson: Overplaying your leverage has political consequences. Those people may be a lot less willing to cooperate with someone who showed them no respect in the past.

While working in business and politics are different animals, we all know that there are plenty of politics that go on in the business world. It may be necessary to “play nice” with people even if you have the power to be otherwise.

As a parent, some of the best advice I received from a friend was to pick your battles. Kids get out of line a lot. If I had reprimanded them every time, that’s all I would have done. And the kids would probably get pretty tired of my demands.

I learned that you let some things go and pick the fights that are worth fighting.

Two types of power

The same thing goes for getting things done at work. You could force things through with all of your power. But that could be short lived. In the business world, you have two types of power, official and unofficial power.

Official power is the power that the company bestows on you for your position. If you’re the boss, you have official power over the people that report to you.

Unofficial power is what you get from people that will help you out. If you are nasty to the people that work for you, they will probably do the minimum work that they must do under your official power. But if you treat them well and they respect you, they will give you additional unofficial power. This will likely get more done for you by your people.

You get unofficial power from other people within the organization. When you cooperate with your peers and help them get what they want, they will likely grant you unofficial power. You will get their cooperation for help on a project or to help get a policy changed.

Overplaying your leverage can hurt both types of power. You don’t get much unofficial power if you are seen overplaying your leverage too often. It could also stunt your growth in the company. Make enough people mad and the word gets out that you’re not a team player. If that gets back to the executives, they may be more likely to pass you up for that next promotion. That’s a big hit to your official power if you can’t build on it.

So here are some tips for balancing your power in the workplace.

Play nice. Perhaps you have a powerful position. You may be able to get your way at the expense of another department’s manager. But you may need that manager’s help someday. Establishing a reputation as a team player could give you more unofficial power than your official power. And that could come in handy.

Treat people like you would like to be treated. Some see it as a sign of weakness to be nice to people. “I’m not here to be liked. I’m here to get things done.” But being kind and fair is not being weak. In fact, it could give you enough unofficial power to make you much stronger.

Give and take. Some people see everything as a competition that they must win. They don’t stop to think what the other person may want. That type of person doesn’t see win-win scenarios very often. They only see things as win-lose and they don’t want to lose. Open your mind and negotiate with people in a way that will make them want to deal with you again.

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It Depends is Always the Answer

It Depends
It Depends

I’ve heard people – mostly clients – that joke about the fact that you have officially made it as a consultant when you learn that the answer to everything is It depends.

There is a lot of truth to that. It’s not a matter of being evasive. And it’s usually not a matter of hiding behind the fact that the consultant doesn’t know the answer.

The answer always raises a client’s eyebrows, if not their blood pressure.

“It was a yes or no question. Can’t you just give me a plain yes or no answer?”

The answer to that is, of course, “It depends.” And there are several reasons for that.

Nothing is black and white – even with facts

Imagine that you are meeting with the CEO of a manufacturing client and she blurts out the question, “Should I invest in additional capacity?”

Would you simply answer “yes” or “no”?

Granted, most clients would provide some context around a question like that. But it is a major decision. There are reasons that the answer would be yes. There are reasons that it would be no.

In business, most decisions like this involve a lot of context. The consultant’s job is to understand the critical components of context and weigh the pros and cons of each decision. They then present reasons for yes and reasons for no and make a recommendations supported with assumptions.

There are many variables involved

Republicans and Democrats love to boast how their own party’s philosophy is better for the economy. Republicans argue that lower taxes stimulate the economy by reinvesting those funds. Conversely, Democrats claim that taxing the rich will fund social programs that will help the poor to be more successful and thus, help the economy.

Both sides argue vehemently that they are proven facts. When the economy is strong, each side points to decisions their party made. When the economy dips, each side blames its opponent’s practices.

The fact is, there are so many factors and inputs that affect the economy, that anyone can blame someone else or take credit.

When a client asks for advice on what to do next, the answer is…it depends. It depends on a thousand external variables that could affect the outcome. In this case, it is the consultant’s job to point out as many of those variables as possible. Then, work with the client on determining their assumptions on how they will affect the decision.

We need to sort out fact from opinion

Decision making is the practice of determining cause and effect. We implement plans with a desired effect. As neutral as we’d like to think we are, we all have our bias.

Do employees perform better under pressure? Or do they do better when you provide positive encouragement? It depends. It depends on who you ask. Ask two managers and you’re likely to get two answers.

This has been a debate in management circles for many years and isn’t likely to be settled any time soon. It is based on the opinion of whom you ask.

Facts are hard to refute and can prove a causal effect. Opinions are based on assumptions. Some people’s opinions are so strong that they mistake them for facts. It is the consultant’s job to diplomatically help sort the two out.

We can’t tell the future

Many decisions are based on speculation. All the signs may indicate that we should invest in additional capacity. But the stock market could crash next week sending the economy into a tailspin.

What sounds like a sound decision today always depends on unknown events that can happen in the future.

A better answer than It depends

Although I argue that “It depends” is a legitimate, and even a necessary response to many client questions, is it the best answer? For many clients, it can sound like a cop out. It’s a way of hiding behind an even less legitimate answer: I don’t know.

Perhaps a better approach is something like, “There are many variables to consider with a decision like this.” Alternatively, complex decisions are rarely black and white. When there are many variables to affect the decision, there are usually many decision options to consider.

When that is the case, consider a decision tree where you can determine the odds of different variables affecting the decision. This can help the client understand the complexity of the decision, while facilitating them to the correct decision.

Conclusion

Clients turn to consultants for decisions. And while consultants want to please the client, their job is to facilitate decisions rather than make decisions for the client. When difficult questions are asked, the answer is almost always that it depends. The consultant’s job is to diplomatically explain what it depends on. This is the best way to help the client make sound decisions. It is the best way for the consultant to become the client’s trusted advisor.

How do you answer your clients’ questions?

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Millennials May be the Next Greatest Generation

next greatest generation
Millennials: The next greatest generation?

I can’t remember whether it was on Facebook or Twitter that I saw it. It doesn’t matter. It was just another post slamming the millennial generation. They’re so full of themselves. They’re always staring into their phones. They have such a sense of entitlement.

Some of the posts approach it with pseudo-psychological theories. Social media has turned them into uber-narcissists. The “everybody-gets-a-trophy” syndrome has taught them not to succeed. They have a constant need for attention.

And for every one of those complaints, I can point out some from the millennial generation that fit the description. I’ve worked with millennials right out of college. As a parent, I’ve raised a couple and coached many. I’ve watched a lot of them grow up.

There are many that are major pains in the neck.

But more often than not, they’re great people. They’re responsible hard workers. And they don’t resemble the stereotype that so many people like to describe.

They’re lazy and not driven to succeed

In the 1960s, the old folks worried about the “hippie generation.” They just sat around and smoked pot on campuses to avoid the war. People asked, “Is this our country’s future?”

The answer was a resounding “Yes.” The world may not be perfect today, but we have survived pretty well. That generation brought us some pretty nifty inventions and a thriving stock market.

The millennials that I know are driven to succeed. They’re just driven to a different definition of success than many of us have. It might be a result of everyone getting a trophy. But they don’t see the world as a zero-sum game. They don’t necessarily believe that there must always have be a winner and a loser. They are very collaborative and don’t feel the need to compete with their peers at work. They’re focused on us all succeeding together.

They also see work-life balance as a big factor in success. They don’t necessarily believe that the guy who dies with the most money wins. They see success in quality, not quantity.

They have a sense of entitlement

I have seen this behavior in many millennials. I also saw it in me at that age. I believe it is a symptom that every generation learns once they face the reality of life. Growing up, my parents gave me everything I needed and a lot of things I wanted. It created the byproduct of teaching me that life was easier than it really was. At some point in my life, I started paying for rent, student loans, groceries, etc. I realized that I wasn’t as entitled as I might have thought.

Millennials need to mature in the same way. It may take them longer though. Their parents were more prosperous than any previous generations and bought them a lot more stuff.

They will learn. In the meantime, people tend to get mad at the victims rather than the culprits.

Their faces are glued to their phones

Correct. They do that. But I see people from every generation do it. I look around in restaurants and see middle-age couples dining out and staring in their phones. Although it is illegal in Illinois where I live, I see people of all ages do it while they drive. Many blatantly hold the phone out in front of them blocking their view of traffic.

Granted, I have had to tell some millennials to put their phone away during a meeting. But I see it as a maturation and education issue. If nobody in their past taught them not to do it, teach them.

They are disrespectful

Many years ago, child abuse was swept under the rug. It was rarely brought out in the open. Often, the victim was made to feel at fault.

Today, while it is not reported to the degree it should be, more people are aware of the issue. It is discussed more frequently. Millennial children were taught to speak out.

While some disrespect is attributable to developing some maturity, this generation was taught not to be afraid to speak up. They won’t be intimidated by the older generation. They may need to develop some diplomacy, but most of them will.

Necessity will prevail

In 1997 Tom Brokaw wrote “The Greatest Generation,” about the generation of people who grew up during the Great Depression, and went on to save democracy fighting World War II.

I remember an anecdote Brokaw told in the book about growing up in his small South Dakota hometown. His mother worked in the local post office and a resident came in complaining that some kids had tee-peed some trees in town.

His mother kind of laughed it off and asked flippantly, “Oh Bob, what kinds of things were you doing when you were eighteen years old?”

He looked at her and said, “Liberating France.”

Admittedly, that “Greatest Generation” set a difficult bar for the rest of us. But it was the necessity of the depression and then the war that they were required to step up. I thank them for doing such a great job.

Every generation and every human being reaches a point where they have to step up to survive and to thrive. I’m confident that the millennial generation, and most of the individuals in it, will do that.

Every generation also reaches an age where they forget how self-consumed and entitled they were in their youth. It’s a generational tradition to condemn the succeeding generation for much of the same things they did when they were the same age.

Maybe we didn’t have smart phones at that age. But we played our share of video games. We wasted incredible amounts of time just “hanging out” with friends. We drove around in our cars going nowhere, wasting unacceptable amounts of fuel.

I can’t imagine how we would have been with smart phones at that age. Or maybe I can. We’d be constantly glued to them, texting our friends and taking selfies. We would be kids.

Conclusion

I for one want to hand this world off to a generation that isn’t intimidated by me. I believe it will make the world a better place.

This generation is one of the most intelligent generations to ever exist. I learn from them every day. If the older generations would swallow their pride, work with millennials, and see their positive traits, we would get a lot more done.

If you think millennials are a bunch of no good, lazy ne’er do wells, you’re probably looking at the wrong end of the glass. Take a hard look at your own generation at the same age. You may be surprised at the similarities.

Kids!
I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!
Kids!
Who can understand anything they say?
Why can’t they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
What’s the matter with kids today?

– Kids (From the Broadway show and motion picture “Bye Bye Birdie,” 1963

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

Image courtesy of Pong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

101 Tips for Success in Consulting