Women leaders need to work harder, longer and smarter to achieve the same or similar objectives as their male peers – seriously? We hear this same refrain over and over to the point that many women actually believe it.
There is no data to support this premise. Girls and boys are born with similar intelligence. Society has delivered these differences.
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You are broadcasting messages every day, both verbal and non-verbal, and they tell others what you and your company think of yourself and the world. If you are not aware of the messages you are sending, others are and one’s perception has impact on your strategy’s bottom line.
Your company culture is vital to attracting, retaining, developing and advancing talent. So how do you discover what it is you are “saying?” A little self-examination should start with knowing what your beliefs, attitudes and biases are about yourself and others.
This quiz will help you explore behaviors based on what you believe (consciously or unconsciously), how you show up and recognize some views and behaviors that hamper success. Select the most correct answer for you.
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It is now commonplace to hear stories of Boomer and GenX managers having difficulty managing Millennials in the workplace. Most managers look at it as having to deal with differences in attitudes and experience that can lead to frustration and resentment at its worst. The truth is that the actual monetary costs of not bridging this gap between generations can be tremendous. The inability for generations to relate well with one another leads to the following issues:
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I’m regularly flummoxed when I hear people question climate change, or when folks actually believe that people of color are ‘different’ and worthy of being insulted, underpaid, ignored. What’s up with Congress and why can’t that many smart people find grounds for compromise? And why do women still only earn a fraction of what men earn? Are we not smart enough? Worthy?
With our unique, subjective stances, we attempt to change the opinions of others to concur with us: Liberals attempt to change Conservatives; races try to engender diversity; sellers attempt to convince buyers their status quo is flawed; techies/engineers/scientists/doctors believe they hold the Smart Card of Right/Knowledge/Rationale and work at pushing their opinions accordingly. Yet rarely do we make a dent. Others are ‘stubborn’ ‘stupid’ ‘irrational’ ‘ill-informed’ while we, of course, hold the high ground.
Core Beliefs Maintain Our Lives
The problem that causes all this ‘stubbornness’ and difficulty achieving alignment is the difference in core beliefs. Developed over our lifetimes via our experience and life path and forming the core of our subjective biases, they embody our Identity. And as the foundation of our daily decisions and status quo, it all feels just fine. It’s who we are, and we live – and restrict – our lives in service to these beliefs: we choose jobs, newspapers, neighborhoods and life partners accordingly. While researching my new book What? on the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I learned we even interpret what others say to maintain our subjectivity.
Every day we (our companies, families, etc.) wake up congruent; we work hard to maintain our status quo, aided by our habits and memory. Every day, in every way, we regenerate our biases; in service to maintaining systems congruence, we filter in/out anything that causes us to question status quo. Anything that threatens this faces resistance and conflict as part of self-preservation. Why would anyone disrupt their stable internal systems just because something from outside that attacks our core beliefs tells us to? When pundits say our behaviors are ‘irrational’ they ignore the fact that all of our beliefs are rational to our systems. Everyone seeks to maintain their status quo at all costs. Literally.
And when we hear others spout ideas that run counter to our beliefs and potentially challenge our views, opinions, habits and norms, we feel challenged and set about finding ways to convince others to believe as we do. But our attempts to change minds must fail
Because our ‘relevant’ information, carefully culled from studies, pundits, target intellectuals or politicians to prove we’re Right, is biased according to our own subjective beliefs and likely not the same studies, pundits, target intellectuals, or politicians that our Communication Partner would believe.
Because we’re arrogant. We’re telling others I’m right/you’re wrong.
Because information doesn’t teach anyone how to change, and it can’t even be heard accurately, unless they are already prepared to do so.
Because we cause resistance.
Agreement Requires Belief Modification
As outsiders we will never fully understand how another’s idiosyncratic beliefs create their opinions. Nor do we need to. We just need to find agreement somewhere; we must eschew the need to be Right. We must enter each discussion as a blank slate, without a map or biases, with the only stated goal being to find common ground.
Imagine if you believed (there’s that word again) that you had no answers, no ‘Right Factor’, only the ability to facilitate an examination of a higher order of beliefs that you can both agree on.
Instead of trying to match your own beliefs, find a belief you can match. Maybe you can agree that maintaining climate health is valuable, and merely disagree on causation or cures and move on from there. Here are some steps:
Enter conversations without bias, need to be right, or expectation.
Enter with a goal to find a higher order of agreement rather than a specific outcome.
Chunk up to find a category that’s agreeable to both and fits everyone’s beliefs.
Begin examining the category to find other agreeable points.
Use the agreeable points to move toward collaboration where possible.
I’m a Buddhist. I’ve learned that there is no such thing as being Right. But I’ve also learned that I don’t need to disrespect my own beliefs or undermine my own tolerance level to be compassionate and recognize that everyone has a right to believe as they do. Of course sometimes I’m willing to lose a friend or client if another’s beliefs are so far outside my identity that I feel harmed. But I understand that my stance, too, is most likely biased and defensive. I, too, might have to alter my beliefs to be more amenable to collaboration.
Here is the question I ask myself at times I feel the need to change someone’s opinion: Would I rather be Right, or in Relationship?
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Most of us have first-hand experience with just how ridiculous stereotypes can be.
I, for example, proudly break the stereotype of the reserved British person by being blunt and speaking my mind; seldom will you find me acquiescing about things I’m passionate about for the sake of English decorum.
While politeness is a stereotype that doesn’t personally cause me much grief, it’s important to remember that many stereotypes are actually quite dangerous—even the ones that seem harmless.
Take millennials, for instance. There’s no doubt that millennial talent represents a valuable asset for the continued success of many companies. However, much of the furor around unlocking the mysteries of millennials in order to win their talent does a unique disservice to an entire generation (and, for that matter, the generations of Boomers and Gen Xers as well) by forcing individuals into predefined silos of what broad groups of professionals are supposed to say and do:
Millennials are entitled.
Millennials can’t thrive in a traditional corporate structure.
Millennials can’t make decisions without everyone’s input.
Add your favorite millennial stereotype here.
I’m guilty of falling into this trap myself, but daily interactions with colleagues, friends, customers, and job candidates are constantly shaking loose many of the preconceived notions I have about working with millennials. Here are six things I’m learning.
1. Authenticity Beats Formality
I recently interviewed someone for a key role based in Dublin, one critical to the success of a new product. Eventually, the role will grow to cover the whole of Europe. In contrast to many candidates before her, this woman chose to forego a formal conference call or in-office meeting. Instead, the interview was held on Zoom (which the candidate had just downloaded onto her phone) from a cafe in Dublin. I was impressed with her drive, openness, expertise, and energy—the fact that she was in a cafe on her phone was irrelevant to her obvious competence. Her authentic self and desire to win beat any formality that other candidates may have felt were relevant. She got the job.
2. Matrix Beats Hierarchy
Driven millennials are great at getting the right things done through the matrix—no matter what. A colleague in our Atlanta business center recently took the initiative to enable a product feature that will drive more sales. Pulling this off required matrix management across IS, marketing, customer service, product management, and product development. Despite what might otherwise be a complicated juggling act, there was no hesitation or time wasted in waiting for senior personnel to weigh in or offer approval. Instead, the feature’s execution was handled quickly and efficiently, and when it appeared, everyone loved it.
3. Humility and Raw Ambition Go Hand in Hand
I am lucky enough to know a couple of hyper-successful millennials, one in sport and one in media. Both are internationally renowned; both have had almost overnight success; and yet both show extreme humility despite their stardom. Supportive messages from these people on WhatsApp or Twitter are a frequent sight (How can I help you? Is there anything you need? Really appreciate your feedback!). That’s not to say that these guys aren’t ambitious—they want more, they want to win, and they definitely want to earn big and be well known. They just do so in a way that takes people with them, and shows humility and appreciation every day.
4. Winning at Digital is Not a Millennial Thing
I have learned not to assume that all millennials are social media gurus. In fact, working with small businesses (a major facet of my day job) has shown me that plenty of millennial business owners don’t understand how to use social to market their businesses. Additionally, they often ignore digital business tools (like online accounting) that might help them to accomplish more. The truth is that anyone can adopt a “millennial mindset,” and doing so is essential for success in an increasingly digital world. For example, Richard Branson (who is decidedly NOT a millennial) has always been a fantastic example of someone who knows what it takes to build a brand—which today means taking full advantage to technology to transform your business and connect with customers; ignoring this instantly ages people, regardless of how old they actually are.
5. Diversity-mindedness Connects Us All
No-one knows it all. Human hunger for knowledge keeps us sharing, reading, learning, and connecting. Do millennials want to learn from older people more than those in the generations before them? Hard to say. However, an acceptance of people of all kinds—of diversity—is definitely a key component to the millennial mindset. And this open and inclusive perspective is one that can effectively bridge the generation gap between millennials and their older colleagues—provided that a respect for authenticity over formality, the matrix, and engagement versus top-down communication are shared priorities.
6. Transformation Matters, Logistics are Trivia
Job interviews often end with questions to the candidate and closing statements from the candidate to the interviewer. Here are some real examples of things I’ve heard. Guess who said what:
The commute is long—how flexible are you to working from home?
What is your take on corporate philanthropy?
What is your view on the USP that would enable this product line to leapfrog the competition?
What books are you reading at the moment and why?
That’s right – millennials!
For all business leaders looking to discover the secret to the millennial mind, here’s my advice: Millennials are just people—there is no special key to winning their talent or unleashing their abilities. The most important thing I’ve learned is that every person—millennial or otherwise—is nuanced, complex, and undeniably individual. Drive, pluck, and determination are ageless qualities, and those that have them are the ones that naturally rise to the top. That is no secret. If you want to learn what makes millennials tick, talk to them; ask questions; be genuinely curious without prejudice. Who knows what great potential you might discover once stereotypes are out of the picture?
About the Author
Nick Goode is the Vice President Product Management — Cloud & Sage One, Sage’s cloud accounting and payroll solution for start-ups and small businesses. Goode is accountable for the commercial, channel, product and marketing strategy for Sage One worldwide. Goode is previously Head of Sage One for Sage UK, and prior to that, Head of Marketing for the Accountants Division at Sage. His LinkedIn can be viewed at https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickgoodeuk and his Twitter handle is @nickgoode.
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