“Knowledge workers must take responsibility for managing themselves.”
Developing leaders is not as formulaic and prescribed as many have believed in the past. Through theories and practices from influential thought leaders and writers, I’ve seen the plethora of approaches and perspectives first-hand. Recently, I’ve grown to appreciate the great investment of time and energy that is required in developing leaders specific to different contexts, sectors and preparing for the unknown future the lies ahead of each of us.
Pushing employees through uniform corporate training and development programs may achieve some goal for unloading company information and molding them into the idealistic walking and talking example of your core values; however, in today’s rapidly changing and greatly diversified workforce, the need for tailored development opportunities is great. I, for one, constantly crave opportunities to grow and learn from individuals and programs that recognize the uniqueness of me through my experiences and strengths.
One of the leading influencers in today’s conversation on strengths-based leadership development, Marcus Buckingham has just written an article, Leadership Development in the Age of the Algorithm in the Harvard Business Review that speaks to the value of changing our approach in today’s world of targeted Facebook advertisements and models like Netflix’s approach to our movie preferences. We’re living in the “age of the algorithm” with formulas and models developing specific advertisements and options for us based on our behaviors and preferences
“Even a decade after leadership training began to recognize different styles and strengths, and even in organizations that have made cultivating high-potential talent a priority, the content served up is generic. Your leadership program tells you that you’re a vital part of your organization’s future, but it displays little understanding of you.”
Through Buckingham’s work with Hilton Worldwide and their leadership team, he shares five steps to creating an algorithmic model of leadership development. One of the most poignant steps that I found to be particularly relevant in today’s world of changing models and strategies was “make the system dynamically intelligent.” This key element allows for learners to learn from each other along the way. As Buckingham writes, “…the power of a dynamically intelligent system that draws on peer-to-peer sharing wholly overturns the prevailing model of leadership development.” Through learning from peers and encouraging sharing amongst learners in your leadership development efforts, each one’s “leadership algorithm” is refocused and refined.
Ultimately, by using an adaptable development lens that shares concepts and lessons to consider rather than formulaic techniques to master, leadership development can be more effective in the future as our world recognizes more of what we prefer, how we behave and what kind of leader we are made to be.
As a part of my graduate school journey, I’m continuing living and learning leadership through courses and projects in and around the classroom setting that I’m in twice a week. One of my current courses is called Creative and Collaborative Leadership and has focused on identifying individual differences through a myriad of assessments and appreciating them in a collaborative setting. Most specifically, I’ve recently been collecting these assessments that I completed and as a part of an assignment have developed my own approach to learning or what is called a PLS.
PLS = Personal Learning Strategy
This strategy is rooted in life experiences in my personal and professional journey thus far that have shaped me into the learning leader that I am today. Thomas writes about these as “crucibles” or in other words, significant life changing events that impact your direction and future. I have had plenty of those that have in large part redirected my pathways along the journey of my life. My assessment results tell me that I learn best in an environment where I can engage in Active Experimentation. Kolb says that this involves taking risks and doing things. This is definitely a clear theme in regards to how I approach life as well as my strategy towards learning. I strive to be active in my work, thinking and living and gain energy from experimenting along the way, whether it be through different team dynamics, changing responsibilities, developing new projects or ideas, etc.
As I think about my PLS through the lens of my strengths, I most definitely resort to my primary theme of Strategic. This strength keeps me engaged from a macro-view of my life and the learning that is taking place. I aim to be strategic in the process of learning but also see a plan of action from a larger scale and vantage point. This continues to drive much of my approach to learning as a leader in my present day contexts.
Altogether, my personal learning strategy is rooted in change. Whether it’s taking a risk or being actively experimenting with a concept or topic in the course of my work or studies, I am motivated and engaged when I am able to see people and systems beyond the course of their present state. It is my hope that as I continue to learn and grow as a leader, I will be able to meet these motivations and form them into a reality of developing people and organizations well into the future of my professional journey.
Are you a Millennial who’s looking for their first job after college? Are you a Millennial on the hunt for a new job?
Between cover letters, resumes, networking and many other things involved in preparing for your first job hunt or brushing up on your skills to find your next job–there’s a lot to know and things to do to help your job hunt go successfully for you. One incredible resource at my alma mater is a new place called the Offices for Strengths & Vocation (OSV). OSV’s founding Executive Director is not just an old boss of mine, but a mentor who is a huge part of my professional journey as a Millennial in the working world. I had the great opportunity to speak in October to a group of undeclared students and found this new office to be a great addition for my alma mater’s student body.
I wanted to pass on this great resource and hope you find it helpful. OSV has some incredible “how to” videos on everything from cover letters, how to dress, dining etiquette and many other relevant topics if you’re on the job hunt. In fact, this week’s video blog is about Millennials in the workplace and is a great piece to watch. Take a minute and check out OSV’s website with links to all of these resources by clicking here.
According to Neil Howe, historian, demographer and author–Millennials are defined by seven core traits: special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured and achieving. I was reading an article last night online from The Seattle Times and Mr. Howe’s common characteristics got me thinking as to how I fit into the “seven” and if these were indeed common among the others who are a part of the “Millennial generation.”
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself special by any means at all, but overall, I would say that there are significant unique attributes about Millennials as they contribute to society. As the first “connected” generation, Millennials have a new opportunity different from Boomers or Gen X-ers to influence business, politics, leadership and a whole host of fields in ways never seen before.
I would most definitely agree that for the most part, Millennials have been sheltered. I was grateful to grow up in a safe and loving home with two incredible parents and they had a vested interest in protecting my sister and I. However, we were constantly challenged to think bigger and live in the world through traveling during family vacations, experiencing a new culture on a school trip or serving abroad through a missions trip experience. Nonetheless, I was raised in neighborhoods that were above average, virtually free from any crime and constantly safe in a protective environment. I give thanks for two parents who not only loved and raised me, but for professors, mentors, teachers and pastors who encouraged opportunities for learning and growth that have ultimately broadened my worldview today.
The words of Julie Andrews ring loudly in my mind right now, “I have confidence in confidence alone…” as I think about this core trait of the Millennial generation. As a Millennial with the strength of Self-Assurance in my Top Five, I definitely would fit with this. Overall, I find Millennials to exude confidence in many things–whether it be asking questions in the workplace that Boomers or X-ers would never imagine doing when they were younger or maintaining confidence in an unsteady job market as they look for employment–Millennials tend to be confident as compared to our generational counterparts. For myself, I’ve grown to balance my confidence but use this strength in my daily life as a part of who I am as an individual.
As I think about my recent education and life experiences, I definitely find twentysomethings as a team-oriented mix of individuals. Through opportunities to learn/work/develop in teams, both professionally and personally, I have found tremendous growth in my own life, craving for more interaction with those around me. It’s here where I think the greatest contribution can be made; learning from others’ unique strengths as you work together to achieve a goal. I think it’s important to note that as a “connected” generation, Millennials have grown up knowing nothing other than interacting with others in social networks, school groups and neighborhoods.
I would probably have to disagree most with Howe’s belief that Millennials are conventional. Through my own life experience, I find myself often times identifying with other Millennials through “bucking the status quo” (ex: the record number of young voters in the 2008 election) or tweaking the way something is done in the workplace to make it a bit more relevant or current. In no ways, would I say I’m conventional. Another strength in my Top Five is Maximizer. As a Millennial, I personally am looking for new ways for better effectiveness & efficiency as well as opportunities to contribute my own perspectives in a unique way that help move a mission or organization forward.
I’ve found that these next two traits that Howe ascribes to the Millennial generation have much to do with one another. As a child, I was always asked by my parents “did you do your best?” I think this question remains in my life today, because I know that I was never pressured to unreasonable standards of accountability or expectations, however, excellence and personal growth was always the focus. Similarly, I believe this has much to do with Howe’s achieving trait that he connects with Millennials. In no way do I want you to think that I immediately associate pressure with parents or school (as there are countless other pressures we’ve faced and continue to face–from society, culture, media, social networks, etc), however, I do think there are some interesting correlations between these last two traits. I think that our generation has been challenged to perform and succeed as children & adolescents and now as adults we’ve channeled this into opportunities for personal and professional achievement. I believe that Millennials are full of great potential to do great things, but am wary to say that only this generation is capable of such achievement. Nonetheless, we pride ourselves as Millennials on being the “first to do ______” or the ones that have achieved great progress in whatever it may be. We want to make our mark and we want to do it well. However, the challenge remains: if Millennials are indeed achieving at their core, then what will they do for the betterment of nonprofits, their campuses, churches, organizations and the world as a whole when the next generation comes to age?
How do YOU relate to these seven traits of the Millennial generation?
Ever since I was little, I have been interested in research, data and all things information. Of course, all of this clicked when I learned that “Input” was one of my “Top Five” strengths. Needless to say, I have been following the Pew Research Center, @PewResearch on Twitter for some time, very appreciative of Pew’s work for years releasing research studies on a whole host of issues in society.
The Pew Research Center’s recent research into the Millennial Generation, provides quite the comprehensive look at us, “Gen Y-ers,” and chronicles some fascinating new statistics on how we’re reshaping positions and perspectives on everything from the issues that make up the “culture wars” to political behavior to religious activity and beliefs.
On the front page of Pew’s online presence devoted to the “Millennials,” the question is asked, “how Millennial are you?” I decided to take this short quiz two days ago and found the results to be interesting. While I would agree with most of the assumptions made of Millennials, I found myself not lining up completely with every aspect that commonly defines our generation. Nonetheless, check out the quiz and let me know how Millennial you really are.