A few months ago I attended a conference themed The Elephant in The Room, in Terrigal NSW. One of the other key note speakers was Avril Henry, who is a widely acclaimed keynote speaker, consultant, business and career coach, mentor and author, and who is passionate about generational, gender and cultural diversity, developing collaborative leaders and positive workplaces. Her consulting business has worked with organisations in the private and public sector, to change their culture and build their leadership capability.
Avril is the author and co-author of several books on leadership and the different generations at work, and her last book, Leadership Revelations II How Australians Lead In Crises, was one of the Australian Financial Review BOSS magazine’s best brain food books of 2012. She talked a lot about why people simply quit their jobs, in spite of the fact the CEO’s and managers believe they are good employers.
Although I did not buy her latest book at this event (I will get to it), she talked a lot about the changing workplace environment, and how owners, CEO’s and managers need to make significant changes in their own thinking and practice to keep good staff. Baby boomers do things very differently to the generations that preceded them, and so on… her presentation was actually very funny especially on the various generational differences, and if you see her name on an event program, do go along. You’ll also learn a lot.
At this event I met up with a friend of mine who I had not expected to see at a dementia conference, a lawyer in practice on the Central Coast, who talked to me (before Avril’s presentation) of how he has been wanting to retire from his legal practice, and has been ‘working hard with young lawyers’ in the hope they will buy his practice, and how he could not understand why they ‘just up an leave’ after all of his hard work ‘training’ them. Of course, with some encouragement he bought Avril’s book, but I suspect remained confused why his more old fashioned management style and operation was not acceptable to younger people.
As Chair of a peak global organisation for people with dementia, it is now imperative for me to learn how to manage a company or a team, with younger people who have been brought up within the realms of democracy, rather than the autocratic way I was brought up, and the autocratic way of my hospital nurses raining, where the Matron followed up on us with white gloves to make sure we had cleaned the wards properly. No wonder I ended up slightly OCD with housework for so long!!!
Some personal friends of mine in SA have owned and operated a health care sales business for a number of years, which they are managing with an old fashioned management style. They have just had to employ their seventh secretary in less than twelve months, and their staff turnover in all areas is consistently high, but they simply cannot see it might be their management style, and not the fault of the ‘younger generation’.
Always, it is imperative we look in the mirror to see what we are doing, that might be turning people away from us. For me, that is, I think, the hardest thing to do in the world, but perhaps, the most important place to start. It is hard to get caught up with the things that need doing when you run an organisation, many of which make little difference to the lives of the people your organisation claims to support, yet need to be done to run an organisation.
The trick, I think, is to keep everyone engaged and on the same page, in ways they really feel like they are an integral part of ‘your team’. I am currently struggling with this a little, as there is so much work behind the scenes to do every single day!
“Rarely does someone leave a job because of the expense report policy, the location of his or her workstation or the wall color. Most people quit a job because they can no longer tolerate their boss or they have lost faith in senior management…. Conversely, people will stay at a company or in a job during thick and thin if they respect and believe in their boss.”
His article reinforces my thinking about managers and CEO’s, and if they don’t get it right, how much damage they can do to a company. He talked about managers having a vision, stating:
“It needs to convey optimism, enthusiasm and aspiration. This is personified by what you communicate (verbally and in writing) and your daily actions. People want to understand what they are working toward and how to measure success. They will work hard if they know you have a game plan.”
I also believe people will work hard, for their managers and CEO’s if they believe in them, and their vision, especially if they feel they have been a part of creating the vision. Managers and CEO’s also themselves are willing to walk their own talk. Actions must match words, in everything we say and do. I also believe in this day and age, staff need to feel like they are being listened to, rather than being told what to do and how to do it. Everyone needs to feel like their contribution counts.
Listening may be one of the keys, but actions based on this listening, must follow. And we must get to know the differences in thinking and working, between the many generations now working together. The baby boomers are nothing like Gen Y, X, Z or beyond… and nor do many ever they wish to be. I look around me at many of the managers and CEO’s today, and if I was employed by them, I very much suspect I too would quit.
Adding a late addendum… the very worst thing CEO’s and managers can do is lie to their staff, as the world is a very small place these days, and just like politicians who lie, they do get found out.