Fight the Under-Management Epidemic

By Barry Pruitt

dateWed, Aug 27, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

“Check the source before you believe the message” – Barry Pruitt

I learned early in my business career to follow the above advice. It may have started when I needed a shirt and tie to go with classic suit for an onsite speaking opportunity. As the young man behind the counter began to advise me, I noticed his unpolished shoes, ill-fitting pants, and baggy shirt. I remember thinking to myself, “There’s no way I’ll make this purchase from this young man who does not portray the look that I seek.”

I later was able to use this lesson in hiring, i.e. I didn’t hire people without bookkeeping experience to manage my books, or take advice on painting from someone that had never painted, or take printer advice from anyone that didn’t own or hadn’t purchased a printer, or take auto purchase advice from someone that had never purchased a car. You get the picture – check the source.

This week, top of mind for me is my experience in working with different generations. I was mulling over the session we had last week with Dane Hewlett, Ph.D. To be honest, I was comparing the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) to the different generations that I had experienced, and worked with, over many years. It quickly became clear that each generation had representatives in all 16 MBTI styles. During the same session, we explored the four quadrants in The 7 Habits for Managers by Stephen Covey, and I realized that getting the right informational source was not urgent but important (Quadrant II). So, as I pondered what I should know to work with all generations, it was important to check a source better qualified than me to answer the generation question.

That brings me to my guest responses today from Bruce Tulgan, author of It’s Okay to Be the Boss and the classic Managing Generation X, and Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y.

Q. First on my mind was to better understand how the generations differ from each other? What are some of the key things I need to know as a leader and business owner?

Bruce - Members of generation X are naturally entrepreneurial; they were raised in an environment that lacked supervision. Therefore,they prefer to work in an unsupervised setting. Members of generation Y tend to need more supervision; they grew up with doting parents, and have always been supervised. Since they have been over-supervised, they typically want to be more independent, but that isn’t necessarily the environment that they thrive in.

Q. How do these differences play out in the workplace?

Bruce - There are certainly some tricky generational situations as Generation X and Generation Y become leaders and companies are doing things with more of a Boomer mentality.

We are always tracking the big picture, tracking the landscape of human capital management and day-to-day supervision.

Q. How do you address workplace issues in mixed generation groups?

Bruce - The funny thing about issues in the workplace is that it is best to put a spotlight on the authentic common ground they share, without which they would not be there. So finding something they all care about and coming up with a solution or short cut is the first step.

I also focus on doing more work better and faster. I often find unnecessary interdependence, which gets people tangled up. We have to rely on, wait for, and coordinate with; all of these take time. Eliminating these unnecessary interdependencies moves the group closer to the efficiency they are seeking.

Q. What do you think the current unemployment rate will mean as we move forward? Will companies experience a talent vacuum when the economic tides turn?

Bruce - Employers certainly have been trying to get more lean and flexible. A primary point has been when it comes to human capital management. There are smaller fixed core groups (on-site uninterrupted,exclusive, relatively long-term fixed-salary employees) and increasingly larger groups of contingent workers (temps, consultants or independent contractors).
As the workforce becomes more fluid, and long term fixed employment becomes less the norm, downsizing has happened quickly. 

If you lead or manage people across generations, listen to Bruce’s advice. Perhaps more important, don’t forget the lesson to always check your source. Don’t believe everything you hear. Don't let team members get away with:

  • "Nearly everyone" - instead ask who, what, where,when, why questions
  • "Our customers want" - instead determine the % of customers, the % of overall revenue, the manner they were asked, are they A or B or C customers, are they "who" customers, etc.
  • "It's common knowledge" - instead determine how common, how true, how relevant, etc.
  • Any general statement that has not been proven true - at minimum, label it as opinion, hunch, personal belief, etc.

Check your source, before you believe the message – a point that will serve you well in leadership. – Barry Pruitt

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Barry Pruitt


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images