outcome generation 1: it is an outcome oriented world

outcome result highighter

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“We promise according to our hopes; we perform according to our fears.”

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François de La Rochefoucauld

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Well.

In an era when so many young people face uncertainty over their economic future and employment … in this wacky business world in which technology seems to becoming the new ‘labor’ for business productivity <please note I am not suggesting technology is reducing ‘people jobs’ because it is not … simply shifting them> … we have become the outcome business generation.

I say that to begin a business rant about how I believe our future resides in having every young person finding the skills to be successful <and generate results> but also to develop their own character <and resilience to manage their generation’s version of business> AND have them reshape the current business world.

I say that because we are an increasingly outcome oriented world and focus.

focusIn fact it may be the sole ‘go to’ focus and criteria for success. At least that is the current business environment and current business leadership focus.

How did we get to this place?

How did we create this misguided direction young people focus on <and business>?

How did we come so far down this path seemingly on misperceptions?

Let me suggest 3 things on how we got to this outcome generation business model:

 

–          Fear <performance according to>

–          Boomers <older people> – beliefs & attitudes

–          Boomers <older people>- perceptions

 

First.

Fear.

Businesses are promising hope and a full business future to everyone and anyone interviewing and showing interest in walking thru their doors. But. Once in? It becomes performance based on fear. Fear of not generating outcome & results. At least that is the inevitable leadership message.

Someone can put a positive spin on ‘we believe in business success’ or ‘results are the ultimate measure of effective skills’ or even ‘your ability to meet the outcome objectives despite such obstacles shows real character’ but in the end … it comes down to fear management.

 

Second.

This beliefs and attitudes thing.

We current older folk grew up in a business environment in which the typical overly successful ambitious individual was always one who always seemed to desire what was just out of reach and go to almost any length to get what they thought they deserved … often believing they were not only above everyone else but also above the common rules <and in some cases … above law itself or some bent version of law>.

That was an attitude and a belief. A broad playing field of ‘do whatever it takes’ mentality.

outcome secretThat was a belief in results & outcome as proof of success. And it has bled into how we older folk think about how to live our lives in general. Shit. Even “the Secret” has embraced outcome <therefore we have gobs of people in the midst of life convinced the Secret to Life can be found in focusing on outcomes>.

Anyway.

Because we know this ‘secret’  … this attitude/belief inevitably created a misperception among older folk that the current generation feels they deserve the same ‘outcome success’ … without the work <when the reality is they don’t want what we have>.

Well.

Not exactly.

Of course when in business you want business success. And the young are certainly willing to work for it … they would just prefer getting it differently.

Regardless.

My generation’s <older> management style has beget its own uncomfortable outcome. A younger generation basically unhappy <or constantly chafing more so than frustrated imageusual in past generations>.

I also believe that it’s possible to become so focused on the process of reaching our old folk business goals … our desired <or demanded> outcomes … that we not only lose sight of some of the other important things.

We forget that ‘outcomes’ are not the end all be all.

We forget ‘winning’ in business can come in different sizes and shapes.

Of course making some sacrifices to achieve results is expected. There is always a price to pay to get where you want to go.

But let’s be clear … young people are NOT taking for granted all the ‘good things’ we have going for us now but rather they are challenging the journey we took to get the ‘good things’ and oucomes. They not only second guess our ability to balance ‘whatever it takes’ but they second guess our moral compass. They are certainly second guessing ‘do what it takes to win’ mentality.

They also certainly second guess our obsession with time.

Why?

Maybe they have watched us older folk for so long endlessly obsessing and endlessly cycling through some constantly changing to-do list or watching us spending gobs of time simply arranging and rearranging a schedule <not doing … just planning on doing> or watching us wishing throughout the day <out loud most of the time> that ‘if there were only more time’ only to find out that at the end of the day … well … you were at the end of the day.

Frankly.

Old people are stubbornly holding on to the past attitudes … and it is negatively affecting our future. Not only are we creating an outcome skewed generation but also one driven by fear <of not generating outcomes or else>.

By the way … this outcome mentality the older generation has … and is … impacting kids even before they get to the workplace <which will inevitably bleed into work>.  Here is an example:

 

Five students were shadowed during a year of high school. The students attended a high school where 95% of its graduates attend college. The students in this book were forced to cheat, act different, etc. in the pursuit of high grades. The author of the study mainly addresses the “force” as coming from the inadequately structured school system, family, and in the end, America itself.

In looking for some insight from students regarding how school can be better a few of the students had some respectable suggestions such as fostering student engagement by allowing students to pursue topics that actually interested them and connected to other courses as well.

 

Ok.

On the more positive side … we can also impact our children in good ways:

 

In a classic experiment, the psychologist J. Philippe Rushton gave 140 optimista pessimista glasseselementary- and middle-school-age children tokens for winning a game, which they could keep entirely or donate some to a child in poverty. They first watched a teacher figure play the game either selfishly or generously, and then preach to them the value of taking, giving or neither. The adult’s influence was significant: Actions spoke louder than words. When the adult behaved selfishly, children followed suit. The words didn’t make much difference — children gave fewer tokens after observing the adult’s selfish actions, regardless of whether the adult verbally advocated selfishness or generosity. When the adult acted generously, students gave the same amount whether generosity was preached or not — they donated 85 percent more than the norm in both cases. When the adult preached selfishness, even after the adult acted generously, the students still gave 49 percent more than the norm. Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.

 

Suffice it it say this outcome focus is affecting our youth’s education. Our school systems are seemingly not really places that foster learning <which has a disturbing ironic side to it> mainly because it is being built as a reflection of America’s own stressed out, materialistic, and results <test scores> culture.

 

Third.

This perception about younger people by us older business folk.

Let’s call this attitudes towards work and work ethic. The perceived decline in work ethic is perhaps one of the major contributors of generational conflicts

In the workplace older employees complain that younger workers are uncommitted to their jobs and work only the required hours and little more.

Conversely, Boomers may be workaholics and reportedly started the trend <the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Office of Diversity, 2006> coming in on the heels of those before who have been characterized as the most hardworking generation <Jenkins, 2007>. Regardless … the prevailing stereotype is that younger workers do not work as hard as older workers do:

 

<note: while this specific research is slightly dated I am using it because it is the best written reflection of more recent research I have reviewed>

 

Whether the younger generations do not work as hard as previous ones is debatable.

A cross sectional comparison of 27 to 40 year olds versus 41 to 65 year olds in 1974 and 1999 indicated that both age groups felt that it was less important that a worker feel a sense of pride in one’s work in 1999 than in 1974. In both age groups, work values among managers declined between 1974 and 1999 (Smola & Sutton, 2002). Both age groups were also less likely in 1999 to indicate that they believed that how a person did his or her job was indicative of this individual’s worth. In 1999, both age groups were also less likely to believe that work should be an important part of life or working hard made one a better person (Smola & Sutton, 2002). Furthermore, older employees had a less idealized view of work than younger workers did.

Indeed, it was postulated that after witnessing the lack of employer loyalty toward employees, the latter consequently developed a less idealized view of work. Other sources of evidence do not support the claim that there is a decline in work ethics among younger generations.

outcome reults graphFor instance, Tang and Tzeng (1992) found that as age increased, reported work ethic decreased, indicating that younger workers reported higher work ethics than older workers.

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Once again … I tend to believe most issues in today’s workplace have nothing to do with young people or any skills they may or may not have … it is more about the older folk.

Their attitudes and behavior and perceptions. And because of that … well … we promise one thing and manage to another.

Look.

We’ve all been the givers and receivers of broken promises. In life and in business no one can say that they haven’t let someone down. But this ‘promise one thing manage to another’ is important. And I don’t even believe most older managers even recognize they are breaking promises.

And it not only bleeds into the work place attitudes & culture … but it bleeds the organization of its lifeblood.

Work ethic is a tricky thing to discuss.

 

Research has shown that work ethic varies with education level, whether a person works full-time or part-time, income level and marital status.  The lower the level of education of an employee, the higher their work ethic has been found to be. People with full-time jobs were found to be less likely to endorse a protestant work ethic than people with part-time jobs; and people with low incomes and those who were married tended to report stronger protestant work ethic (Tang and Tzeng, 1992).

The perception of how hard one works may also be associated with how individuals themselves approach tasks as well.  For instance, boomers have often been characterized as being process-oriented, while younger generations, as being results-focused, irrespective of where and when the task is done.

While younger workers focus on high productivity, they may be happier with the flexibility of completing a task at their own pace and managing their own time, as long as they get the job done right and by the deadline.

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So … while we wring our hands and bitch & moan about ‘these young people today’ with other older business folk … if we could keep our pie holes shut for a minute or two and listen … REALLY listen … we could hear the dismay and despairs of the fall of their dreams.

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“From where you are you can hear their dreams. The dismays and despairs and flight and fall and big seas of their dreams.”

Dylan Thomas

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We older folk <managers & leaders & parents> are so focused on outcome that we are losing sight of our future generation aspirations, hopes & dreams. Even on a practical sense of those words.

If you look at the typical path of life for most people maybe about 90% of the journey is spent working toward achieving various goals and only maybe10% in the actual results <and I am most likely skewing the results number high>.

Yet.

In the business world we invest 90% of our energy focused on result analysis <and rewards & such> and only 10% on the journey. And … please … please don’t tell me this doesn’t affect how the young perceive how things should be done <or that it is ‘good lessons for them to learn’>.

Because we are teaching them not only the wrong lessons but also ones they do not believe in. and the risks are high <for our future> By the way … our outcome focus also further widens the gap between the haves and the have nots … for different reasons:

 

–           outcome orientation for middle/upper class means ‘do whatever it takes’ to achieve outcome type attitudes … that includes bending the rules, cheating & plagiarism <at its worst> or simple manipulation of the system to my benefit at its best …

–          outcome orientation for lower middle/lower class means ‘give up’ <lose hope> because (a) they do not have the resources to compete with middle/upper and (b) they have an inherently lower probability of attaining the success middle/upper does so why put the energy in <and put the energy elsewhere instead>.

 

But that is a separate rant.

Anyway.

Research is loud and clear. If you don’t model values <or something other than outcome>, verbalizing, even enthusiastically oroutcome results still fucked passionately, may not help in the short run. And in the long run verbalizing is less effective than doing while saying nothing at all.

People often believe that character causes action … well … when it comes to producing a young moral business generation we need to remember that action also shapes character. Our behavior … relentless pursuit of outcome & results … builds or unbuilds the next business generation.

In the end.

This ends up being a large complex issue of changing attitudes & behaviors … of older business people not younger business people. Or maybe even on a larger scale … older people and not younger people.

This also ends up meaning some troubling self reflection.

Maybe all of us older folk need to take a step back and as the psychologist Karl Weick says:

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“How can I know who I am until I see what I do? How can I know what I value until I see where I go?”hope fear

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Maybe the better question is …

“how often do I make promises on hope … and manage behavior by fear?”

We created this outcome generation an some of us cannot wait to ‘unmake it’ so that young people don’t live in constant fear of “am I generating outcomes” and instead build businesses of substance & value beyond simple transactions & outcomes.

 

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Written by Bruce