Millennials: the next greatest generation

GGcandoitNeil Howe has a theory about generations. The founder and president of LifeCourse Associates has been studying them for most of his adult life. Each era of about 80 years has four generations that repeat themselves cyclically, according to Howe.

Baby-boomers are an ‘Idealist’ generation, much as their great-grandparents, the Missionary Generation, were at the beginning of the last era. They rebelled against Victorian values at the dawn of the industrial revolution. They fought for protections for women and children working in harsh factory conditions and for women’s suffrage. Boomers, for their part, fought for the end of the military draft and for civil rights.

Idealist generations are followed by ‘Reactives’. Generation X mirrors the Silent Generation. They are, by nature, rebellious and cynical.

In Howe’s model, Millennials would follow the same script as The Greatest Generation (as Tom Brokaw dubbed them in his wonderful, eponymous book). They are a ‘Civic’ Continue reading “Millennials: the next greatest generation”


Our craving for connection and people of a certain age 

I drove 8 hours to Long Island last week to gather with a group of people of a certain age that I haven’t seen for decades. Yes, it was my high school reunion.

To say I had a great time doesn’t cover it. It was a warm, wonderful, grin-inducing affair. I can’t express how happy I am to have made the journey.

But, why? Why did I so much enjoy spending time with people who are essentially strangers?

Dr. Brené Brown

In a TED talk that’s been viewed more than 30 million times (The Power of Vulnerability), Sociologist Brené Brown tells us that human beings – all human beings – crave connection with one another. We only achieve connection when we have the “courage to be imperfect,” she says. We must be “willing to let go of who [we] think we should be in order to be who [we are].” That’s why we trek many miles Continue reading “Our craving for connection and people of a certain age “

Why We (Over) Celebrate the United States of America

flag-fireworks1From time to time, we travel to Europe on vacation. We enjoy their way of life and their respect for their history. They have managed to create a modern economy while maintaining their local and national customs. In some sense, it harkens back to an earlier time – at least for me.

Unlike most European cultures, we Americans don’t have centuries of tradition. Perhaps that’s why our celebrations – such as the 4th of July – tend to be loud, boisterous and overwrought.

America hasn’t been around that long and the waves of immigrants that have come here Continue reading “Why We (Over) Celebrate the United States of America”

From the Birdbath and Back Again

1218_zoomEd Binkerd has died. He was 78 years old.

You’ve probably never heard of him and the death of someone his age is not remarkable in and of itself. But, Ed was a remarkable man — remarkable for his warmth, remarkable for his generosity of spirit, and remarkable for his charm and wit.

I first met him aboard the Bottom Line, a yacht whose owner has hosted many for an evening cruise or dinner on Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway. There was something about his ramblings and intermittent chuckling that caught my attention. He wasn’t just entertaining; he was intelligent, warm and funny.

He was “between opportunities” as we say of professionals on the hunt for a job. Soon Continue reading “From the Birdbath and Back Again”

The Governor’s Budget vs. the Free Market

jeffersonquoteIn the tug of war between the welfare state and free market capitalism, New York’s recently passed budget represents a setback for the free market. Wrapped around the promise of free college tuition for the middle class, the budget adds a new entitlement to an already overtaxed economy. Programs like free tuition, family leave and minimum wage increases all add to the cost of doing business in New York, a state that has relied on Wall Street employment to bolster job growth and tax revenue as the upstate economy flounders.

The governor seems to be unaware of the connection between his policies and a Continue reading “The Governor’s Budget vs. the Free Market”

Turn yourself inside out: values-based leadership beats financial incentives


Much of our lives are governed by the drive to attain credentials. We measure our kids by their grades, success at sports and SAT scores.   We measure ourselves by an endless stream of degrees, titles, certifications and awards all of which are beautifully presented on our LinkedIn profiles.

Is that how you value yourself?  C’mon…  really?

Life isn’t about how we’re graded; it’s about who we are.  And, who we are is very complicated.  While our analytical mind expresses logic and reason, our emotions assign Continue reading “Turn yourself inside out: values-based leadership beats financial incentives”

This is where we’re going; this is why we’re going there

This is where we’re going; this is why we’re going there

A common complaint among CEO’s is that they’ve hired talented people – people with great potential – who won’t or don’t step up the company’s greatest challenges. They expect to be told what to do and how to do it.

A common practice in response is to have a one to one conversation intended to encourage the employee to “think strategically” or to be unafraid to make mistakes. This technique usually has little or no lasting impact.

We all have “tells”. Little quirks in how we communicate that betray our emotions or frustrations. Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, puts it this way:

“Loaded messages come in many guises. At times they arrive courtesy of a person who uses sugary sweet words but who seems to have a malevolent undertone. Our radar picks up something else – some hidden agenda perhaps – that leaves us feeling uneasy and reluctant to trust. It wasn’t anything the person actually said, but rather something in the air around the message that didn’t feel good. Our impeccable radar warns us to obey our instincts and be careful.”

So, the reaction we get is the opposite of what we would like. “Just tell me what to do, boss.”

People need to be inspired before they will blaze a trail. Scott suggests that leaders develop a stump speech “—the speech you must be prepared to give anytime, anywhere, to anyone who asks or who looks the least bit confused. Your stump speech must be powerful, clear, and brief.

“This is where we’re going.
This is why we’re going there.
This is who is going with us.
This is how we’re going to get there.”

Now, your agenda isn’t hidden. It’s out in the open.

The stump speech becomes a yardstick against which all decisions can be measured. If you’ve really hired people with talent and potential, they’ll get it after they’ve heard it a few million times.

And, they’ll step up.

It’s great to live according to your values… But, what are they?

It’s great to live according to your values…  But, what are they?

The New York Times article was titled “What happens when Millennials run the workplace?” I couldn’t resist reading it. (What Baby Boomer could?) The writer endeavored not to take an editorial view, but came off a little condescending anyway. He shared anecdotes about typical office drama and how it plays out in a company whose entire management team and staff was born after 1980.

There was the reaction of the CEO when an employee challenged him in public. He spoke of his difficulty controlling his temper.

“I was a little taken aback by the tone, but I told her I would address it…”

As an occupant of a few corner offices, I might have told him it won’t be the last time that will happen and it gets easier as time goes by.

Of course, I had the benefit of a few mentors during my formative years in management. There was Lt. Jon Norager, my first boss in the Navy, and Bill Downie, who kept me on track during my first post-military assignment. In my new book (The Reluctant CEO: Succeeding without Losing Your Soul) due out on May 16, I created a composite character as mentor to the young protagonist.

Here’s the anecdote in the Times article that triggered my thought that this young CEO may need a mentor.

A young man in his employ lied about going to a funeral in order to scam a week off. Then, he blogged and tweeted about it so everyone in the company knew. Following a discussion with his CEO, he was allowed to stay.

In my last post (A Baby Boomer who believes in the Millennial Generation), I expressed my admiration for a generation that insists on living according its values.

So, what values is this young CEO modeling?

In a company, values start at the top. You get what you tolerate. If you tolerate lying, that’s what you’ll get.

I recall my 20’s as a confusing time. It’s not always easy to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong in the complex social environment of a modern workplace. In the absence of a mentor, how does one work through tough issues?

What often guided me – what still guides me – is to imagine what my late mother would have said. And, Mom – my Mom and probably yours – never taught me that it was okay to lie.

Would I have fired a young man who lied to get some time off and then bragged about it? Yes, I would have. Maybe I would have lost a talented contributor. But the team would know what I did and why. Lying will not be tolerated.

Most challenges faced by CEOs young and old are not quite that simple. When managing a workplace populated by a diverse group of people, one encounters different opinions on what is right and what is wrong.

Swarthmore professor Barry Schwartz, co-author of Practical Wisdom: the Right Way to Do the Right Thing, tells us we need the moral will to do the right thing and the skill to know what that is.

As for me, I simply imagine what my Mom would say.

A Baby-Boomer who believes in the Millennial Generation

A Baby-Boomer who believes in the Millennial Generation

Stick to your guns, kids! That’s my message.

Among the generalizations about Millennials is the oft-repeated aphorism that they won’t make the mistakes their parents made, being loyal to institutions that will screw them over whenever it suits. Their parents worked hard and played by the rules and what did it get them? Layoffs, foreclosures and underemployment!

Millennials want to work for companies that express their values articulately and live up to them. And, why shouldn’t they? Won’t the world be a better place for it?

study conducted by The Center for Women & Business at Bentley University concludes in part: “They [Millennials] are confident in their abilities and strive for career success, but will not tolerate unpleasant workplaces that do not allow them to be their authentic selves in expressing their personal and family values. On the other hand, they are loyal and dedicated to companies that allow them to stay true to their personal and family values.”

In my new book (The Reluctant CEO, due out in June) the protagonist is frustrated and angry until an intervention by his family, friends and colleagues makes him realize that he is neither leading nor living according to his values.

The message:

You should let your values influence your behavior, your choices and your emotions. Your values give you purpose for getting up in the morning.

If you don’t behave according to your values, you will constantly be at odds with yourself. You’ll be in physical distress, treat others badly and destroy the relationships that you value most.

So, again, I say: Stick to your guns, kids!