“WHY do you pander to them?”
This question kept being put to Marian Salzman, the boss of Havas PR, by her older workers in the days after the firm launched its latest recruitment advertisement. Featuring eager young things using snazzy mobile devices, the ad highlights the company’s lack of hierarchy, and how recruits can choose their own work and talk back to their bosses, as they begin their “personal development journey”.
Although huge numbers of young people today are starting their working lives in one of the least welcoming labour markets in modern history, those with the right skills have never had it so good.
Employers have become convinced that they are at the start of a period of famine, and that the best talent has to be won at almost all costs.”
Winning the generation Game article from the 9/28 Economist
This article from The Economist really got me steaming.
It almost made my head spin counterclockwise.
This kind of thinking drives me frickin’ crazy.
To be clear. It is not the part about discussing the challenges of managing generations with significantly different expectations in the work place <because … despite all the rhetoric … has always been existent in the workplace in some degree>. That is always a good pragmatic organizational discussion.
But there is this whole idea of pandering and <in my terms> ‘winning new employees at all costs’ using … well … what I would call ‘features’ that is nuts. Absolutely frickin’ nuts.
In other words … selling to young people on why they should be working some place not based on what company does but rather what the company will do for them or give to them.
Is that ass backwards or what?
We cannot be this stupid <business leadership wise>.
Approaching this topic this way is like suggesting you can build a loyal customer base off of coupons or promotions <… oh … you cannot>.
That kind of approach is simply encouraging an addictive relationship in which as soon as you stop the drug <the coupons or price-off promotions … or in an organizational case … the features in the work place> the people will seek the drug elsewhere.
By the way … if you are running a business … this is bad.
This whole issue seems absurd to me.
We have lost sight of what a business is supposed to be.
Attracting young talent … shit … any talent … isn’t about ‘features’ and free cell phones and working from home or even money <insert some exclamation points here> or even ‘personal development journey’ … it is about leadership and purpose and sense of belonging <with a business purpose in mind>.
And when I say purpose I don’t mean some altruistic vision <although it certainly is not a bad thing> but rather ‘doing something’ type stuff … stuff that is exciting, useful, adventuresome, different, powerful, etc.
It’s almost like everyone has forgotten in all this discussion about different generations’ and their likes & dislikes in the work place … is that people, yes, even employees <of all ages> like to be led.
Not always told what to do and how to do it … but led. Think ‘look at the compass and let’s go’ type leading.
So then let’s talk about leaders and leadership and character and managing the younger generation in business.
Just a reminder to get the logical part of my my rant started.
I wrote this in an old past called “elephants and leaders“:
– Inability to deal with younger employee dissatisfaction.
Whew. This one is a humdinger these days. This elephant isn’t even invisible and it gets ignored. In fact, many leaders just stare at the elephant and shake their head and go “oh well, there’s that damn elephant but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
It’s crazy. I have written about this before and, yes, I am going to generalize … but … this doesn’t have anything to do with “this generation’s work ethic” or “young kids just don’t have the same attitude as we did” (gosh, anyone reading that I would hope would feel old if they know they have said it themselves) … this is about leadership.
It’s not about being cool or wearing flip flops to work to show you ‘relate’ to the generation.
In fact, dear leader, they don’t want you to relate … they want you to lead.
A leader doesn’t have to be a ‘giant’ like I have written about before but they have to be a leader. Employees don’t have to like you (although it helps) they have to respect you. And that crosses any generation at any time with any age employee. Being a leader (and however that particular leader utilizes leadership-like charisma) will overcome 90+% generational issues (flip flops in the office should take care of the rest).
This whole generations in the workplace topic is misguided because it is actually avoiding the key topic businesses should be talking about.
Who is leading the damn company?
In other words … what has happened to leadership?
Not everyone can lead.
And not everyone in a leader position is actually a good leader.
Great leadership is inspired by great ideas and great beliefs and a great vision and the ability to make mistakes with nerves of steel … and deal with those mistakes in a way that the organization doesn’t lose its overall ‘hope.’
What does that all really define <albeit you will not see it in any dictionary>?
Strength of character.
They may not be the smartest.
They may have charisma and they may not.
They may not be the best at any responsibility they have had up until that point <functionally>.
But they know how to lead.
And people follow … not blindly <just to be clear> … but because out of respect and trust for their long term hopes.
<note: because I had a fabulous discussion on the significant difference between ‘following and being led’ – of which I believe there is a massive difference between the two – I will offer a follow up post on this topic>
These leaders don’t give ‘features’ to entice employees and they don’t talk about flexible work hours … they give words and inspiration and direction and hope.
By the way.
Hope is not a feature <not even really sure it is a benefit>.
Because I have always wished I could be a great leader I am always watching out for leadership type thinking and words … and I have kept this speech in my files for decades.
– “A Company of Adventurers”
“There had to be something special about this enterprise to attract the talented and venturesome people who have come together to exercise their considerable talents and to derive from it the things that make for full and satisfying life.
When I talk of this company, I am not thinking just of a legal or business entity. I am using the word in the older sense, as in a company of scholars, as a company of adventurers, or a company of voyagers. I think our companionship partakes of all these things.
Our relationships are subtle and highly sensitive relationships ….
Our job must be to share authority without losing it …
The whole staff must have a proprietary feeling about the company’s work.
We are a permanently dissatisfied company and so far as I can see, we shall not run out of things to be dissatisfied about. I think our work, in most instances, is the best of its kind in the world – and yet not good enough. Not as good as it is going to be. There has not been and there should never be a year when it is not better than the year before.
Our audience is getting more demanding all the time – it is not a question of talking down to them. The problem, the opportunity, is to talk far enough up to them.
We must be dynamic for purposes bigger than ourselves. “
Author: Sam Meek, ex – CEO of J. Walter Thompson – delivered in 1965.
That, my friends, is someone to follow.
I would trust my future and ‘personal development journey’ to this guy. I don’t know him and I imagine I may not even like him if I met him <he sounds like a ball buster who is never satisfied> but I don’t have to like him … I just need to follow his damn ass toward another frickin’ adventure.
‘Be dynamic for purposes bigger than ourselves’?
Sign me up.
I will even pay for my own cell phone and I will come into the office and not work remotely.
This is character driven leadership. Not ‘feature-driven’ leadership.
This leader may not always be always popular <or well liked> mainly because they don’t fear telling people that they are wrong <because they are influencing the organization through a set belief/attitude structure>.
This type of leader influences throughout the organization like a pebble in the middle of a pond with their philosophy and beliefs and hope … as guidance for ideas and purpose.
A character driven leader tends to be respected <but … and noted earlier … not always liked>.
A character driven leader works towards what is “right” <not what will make people happy> and the benefit of the organization & people rather than acting in order to be recognized.
A character driven leader empowers responsibilities that enhance the people and the organization <and often will be almost invisible in the success … unless they also combine charisma with character>.
The best leaders don’t just lead.
They have character.
They recognize that business is about dollars and cents <in that if you don’t generate enough dollars and cents you have no business> but they also recognize that dollars and cents isn’t why they themselves come into the office day in and day out … and that their organization doesn’t really want to come into the office day in and day out for that.
Frankly … these types of leaders know that ‘features’ and ‘money’ is a house of cards from which to build an organization.
By the way … that is a Business Truth regardless of an employee’s age, experience or generational attitude.
Hope is a tricky thing … particularly in an uneven seemingly semi-chaotic world.
Therefore part of a leader’s burden is giving hope in the face of fear.
And a substantial portion of the burden is while the vision and hope and desire he/she is offering is somewhere over the horizon … many of the organization are worried about ‘hope today.’ Fear is shoved splinter by splinter into the hand offering long term hope.
A great leader absorbs the daily pain, removes splinters and keeps everyone moving toward the horizon.
And maybe most difficult? Encouraging action when there is a temptation to freeze … and there is a temptation to doubt … and <sometime even worse> a temptation to second guess..
I could say this about everyone … but suffice it to say … young people want someone to ‘show the way’ or at least show ‘what could be.’
And be believable.
By the way <once again> … nowhere in all of that … even if I squint between the lines … do I see any pandering or features or free smartphone giveaways … all I see is some tough love and hope.
I am not suggesting this is the easy way.
In fact … offering ‘choose your own work’ or ‘lack of hierarchy’ or any of those things – which possibly compromise a good efficient and effective organization – is actually much much <insert many more ‘muches’ here> easier.
But you know what?
The heights of leadership is rare air coupled with a burden of many aspects.
The greatest accept the burden.
And by the ‘greatest’ I not only mean the individual as a leader … but an organization … a business … as a leader.
So, please <said with dripping sarcasm>, stop with the ‘doing whatever it takes to get the young people into your organization’ tripe.
So, please <said with dripping sarcasm>, stop overstating the generational issues in the workplace and get on with leading.
Because, frankly, any leader bitching about ‘behavior in the workplace’ when referring to emailing or using smartphones in the office or any of those types of things needs to get their head out of their proverbial ass and just frickin’ lead.
In the end.
All my ranting aside.
People working toward a common business purpose – who are well led – are focused, passionate <when needed> and pragmatic <see ‘working hard’> when it is called for and they get good shit done.
Now there is a vision … ‘getting good shit done.’
I could start a company with that vision alone … keep my head in the game as a leader focused solely on that in guiding a business … and I gotta tell ya.
People would line up to join. Young, middle aged and old.
Well my friends.
That is called a “tangible display of hope.’
What do I mean?
– 1. I hope I can be dynamic beyond my own purpose.
– 2. How will I do that?
– 3. By getting good shit done.
“Choose their own work and talk back to bosses”????? … please … someone just frickin’ lead.