Monthly Archives: April 2012

First Step in Working with Multiple Generations

I’ve got all the generations . . . a Traditionalist Dad; a Baby Boomer husband; a Generation Y son; a Linkster daughter and my community non-profit work with multiple Generation Xers.  And everyone is working in some capacity.  Even my Dad, age 94, is a corporate attorney and goes into his office every day.

In today’s work world, we have the opportunity but also the challenge of working with all five generations.  Each generation has different expectations, experiences and expertise to bring to the table.  And each also has their prefered ways of communicating as any parent of a teenager knows.  All of these differences can make the daily job of the project manager, team leader or supervisor infinately more complex and challenging.

First Step:  Know the Generational Context

I’ve found that reading about the “generational context” that each of these generations grew up in has been invaluable in understanding the lenses that they see themselves, their colleagues and their jobs.  It’s amazing the differences in generational perspective!

One of my favorite books is Generations, INC: From Boomers to Linksters – Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work, Meagan Johnson & Larry Johnson, 2010.  Written by a father-daughter team in a lively converational style, this book is filled with research and personal interviews to help us appreciate how each generation perceives their world around them. And the authors go a step further by giving us concrete tips on how to lead and be led by each of these generations.  It’s a must-have book if you’re in a leadership position or now working for someone in a different generation than yourself.

What Works with Each Generation

This is my short cut list of how to maximize the gifts each generation brings to their work.

  1. Traditionalist (1918-1945) Use their life wisdom especially in times of change.
  2. Baby Boomers (1946-1964) Give them new challenges to stretch & grow.
  3. Generation X (1965-1980) Keep things moving & provide autonomy.
  4. Generation Y (1981-1995) Have them take the lead with technology.
  5. Linksters (born after 1995) Tap into their expertise with social networking.

And it goes both ways . . . you may find yourself as a Baby Boomer working for that Generation Y boss.  If so, grab up this book, keep your sense of humor and enjoy the ride!


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It’s All So Complicated!

I’m actually a very patient person.  And I’m bright, fairly tech savvy, can make time and have resources available to me. It’s just that everything in today’s world is so complicated.  These last few weeks have pushed my patience and good humor to the edge.  Here’s my story . . .

I leave in a couple of days for a three week Global Volunteers work assignment in Greece.  I’ll be gone from the office a full month so there are lots of projects to be taken care of both here at the office, at home and in my community work.  But since I’ve lived overseas and travel quite a bit it shouldn’t be hard. Or is it?

Passwords, Passwords & More Passwords 

If you have oodles of time and enjoy the thrill of the chase to solve just one problem per day then tackling the banking industry; the health care system; the mobile phone network or the Greek ferry system will provide hours of entertainment.  But I don’t have that time and energy – and I don’t have a secretary (as I remind my 94 year old attorney Dad with his own secretary).

And everything needs a password, a log-in and then a host of “security questions”.  The funniest was this past weekend when I had to answer a series of “multiple choice” questions from three different banking people asking the most obscure questions – no longer your favorite color or mother’s maiden name.

So here’s what I’ve learned in this entire process.

  • First., punch “0” over and over to try and connect with a live person.  Forget trying to go through the prompts hoping to find one that matches what you’re looking for – it’s just not going to happen.
  • Second, try my sister’s trick which is to simply plead ignorance and say that you don’t use/own a computer and therefore can’t do these transactions on-line yourself.  The live person will usually say “No problem, I’ll do it for you”.  Works beautifully.
  • Third, when you’ve reached the end of your patience, as I did with getting two sets of instructions from my mobile phone carrier, turn the task over to someone who still has the strength to persevere – hubby, Wally, retired Marine who loves a good challenge.  I found myself saying to the young phone salesperson “Are you telling me that this IPhone which is “smart” enough to make spaghetti sauce can’t be used anyplace in Europe”.  Yep, that’s what she was saying ’cause Greece is a GM Country – now what does that mean?
  • And finally, keep your sense of humor and expectations very, very low.  Don’t expect to get an answer to your question the first time around but rather you will be referred on and on and on.  Someday you may get an answer if you still remember or care about the question.

“Leaving on a Jet Plane . . . “

Sharing my story with you has given me some wonderful perspective.  So I think I might just go on down to the Reno airport two days early, order a glass of wine and settle back with a good book.  If you want to call me on my fancy new “loaner” IPhone that I won’t know how to work – please try.  Just don’t ask me for a password!


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Job Interviews: What To Do After

With a delicious sense of accomplishment, you leave the interview ready to celebrate making it through yet-another interview.  It’s been exciting but also exhausting.  And you’re ready to meet some friends for a glass of wine and tell them the story of how the interview went – especially if it’s for a position you really want.

But wait . . . there’s one more step to take.  And that’s a short “performance-based” followup email and a handwritten thank you note.  Sounds like a lot of work when you’re emotionally you’re ready to relax?  Well, this extra step can (and often does) make the difference in how you are remembered and considered for the position.

Your Follow-Up Email Reinforces Impression

First, send a short email to the individual (or individuals) that interviewed you expressing your appreciation for the interview and covering these three points:

  • Your understanding of the needs of the organization/priorities
  • How you can bring unique value to the organization/ie. meet those needs
  • Your confidence that you would be a good fit for the position & organization

And then don’t forget to express your interest in being hired. Amazing how many people never say that either in the interview or in the follow-up written correspondence.  If you want the job, tell them!

Your Handwritten Note – Icing on the Cake

Second, sit down and write a short, short thank you note on a nice card saying simply thank you for the interview, you feel you would be a good fit and you’re looking forward to hearing from them soon.  Just like our mothers used to make us do . . . it’s a habit that sets you apart from the pack.  And that thank you note always brings a smile because so few people take the time to say a personal thanks.

And . . . think of this.  If they offer the position to someone else who then turns it down (happens all the time) and they are looking at an alternate and they see your note sitting on their desk . . . we always want to stay in front of the decision makers continuing to build a positive relationship.  Try it!


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Take a Walk to Clear Your Mind

One of the advantages to understanding the inner workings of our brains is gaining some tips on how to get unstuck and move past those all too-familiar roadblocks. A good example is “writer’s block”. You have something important to get out but the more you concentrate the more you can’t come up with a creative idea or even an opening sentence. You’re stuck in an impasse and the more frustrated you get with yourself the more your mind locks up. Here’s what works for me . . .

Stop right now. Disengage your thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex, by getting up and moving. Let your brain take a break by moving into another quiet activity – not another thinking task – but rather physically moving by walking, doing a routine household chore or sorting your paper clips. Quiet is the key – reduce as much background noise and distractions as you can. You may also find that you are at your creative best at a certain time of day. Mine is early, early morning after that first cup of coffee. My mind is clear, my energy is high and new ideas are flowing.

Now it’s your turn . . . what works for you? And how can you do more of what works for you this upcoming week? If all else fails, go jump in a nice long hot shower. That always works!

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Your Brain At Work

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, David Rock, 2009.

So many colleagues recommended this book that I just had to pick it up. And it’s everything as promised. I even got it for my ‘ole IPod to listen while I’m at the gym.

Rock helps us understand the intricacies of brain science by taking us inside the thinking of two young professionals, Emily & Paul. He tells the story of their everyday work lives from the perspective of what’s going on in their brains (scientifically) – what gets in the way of their career success and how to move past those habits and behaviors that don’t work for us anymore. A fascinating read!

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