You Look Great … for Your Age

Bridge and the abyssYes, it’s true. I have reached that magical age where I am told I look great … for my age. I’m not sure that’s a compliment!  Compliment or not, that phrase brought to mind all the many judgments and assumptions we make about people based on age.

Here’s what I think about this whole generational divide. We make it bigger than it really is. Many of us forget that at one point, it was our generation that was going to ruin the world or save it, depending on which side of that divide a person was sitting on.

I was reading an article the other day on this very topic and the author said something along the lines of “as we get older, our adventure window starts to close and we view those with their windows wide open as suspect.”  Millennials don’t have the years of experience we have. Many have wide open adventure windows. They haven’t learned to back away from opportunity because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”  That’s a good thing, but slightly off putting for those of us who have.

Another author said “Why don’t we just view everyone as a person first?”  A great question! When we lump people into a category, we assume everyone in that category views the world around them the exact same way. That has never been true for any generation. In every generation, there are are leaders and followers. There are people who push boundaries and those who prefer to live well within the boundaries of the current norm.  It is the people who push, who question and who perhaps sometimes demand instead of ask, that create change.

We can all learn from each other.  And for those of us who’ve been around a little longer, I believe we have the obligation to create environments where open dialogue happens. Let’s not expect the young and the brash to already know the lessons it took us years to learn.

Let’s crack our adventure window open just a little wider and let’s not take those back-handed compliments personally.  Be patient with the eye-rolling and sometimes condescending attitudes the younger folks give us. After all, someday they will be on the receiving end of them and wondering just how quickly those darn kids are going to destroy all the good they created!

Are you too Smart for Your Own Good?

Young cute professor woman gesturing holding chalkA long time ago, people believed the sun revolved around the earth and that bloodletting was an effective way to treat a variety of ailments.  We now know none of those previous ‘truths’ are true.

Decisions are made based on what we know at the time.  Sometimes, poor decisions are made when all the facts or factors are not known. Sometimes, the opposite is true: For example:

  • When we know we’re not good enough or smart enough or rich enough or poor enough, we give up before we start.
  • Compassion dies and conflict flourishes when we use our knowledge to judge others who have chosen to live or act differently than what we know (believe) to be right.
  • When we know young people are lazy and old people have lost their usefulness, we lose the opportunity to see our world from a new perspective and perhaps, in the process, gain new insight and new ideas.

Many times, what we ‘know’ is nothing more than misconceptions, current societal expectations or even other’s truths we have taken on as our own. Just because something didn’t work once, doesn’t mean it will never work again. Just because it didn’t work for someone else, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. It takes courage to put aside what we know and ask:

  • Is that really true?
  • Is there a better way?

Knowledge is fluid.  Recognize, value and respect the knowledge, experience and wisdom you have, but don’t stop pushing against boundaries of that knowledge.

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This is a revised version of a blog posted way back in 2013.  I am working with a group of very dedicated people and as we continue to grow and improve, all of us have, at times, had to be reminded to open our minds and be willing to put aside what we know.

Good habits, bad habits, old habits and new habits

personal development word cloudHave you noticed how much easier it is to fall back into old habits than it is to maintain new, positive habits?

So often, we know exactly what it is we need to do in order to be stronger and healthier, physically and financially, personally and professionally and yet .. we either don’t make the changes necessary or we don’t maintain positive, new direction.

Why is that? Personally, I think it’s because a lot of times, we don’t really buy into, believe or want the results the change in behaviour or attitude will bring. Other times, quite frankly, we get a rush or a kick out of the results our “negative” behaviour provides.

For example:

Unless you truly believe that taking (making?) the time to connect with your team in the morning is more important than checking emails, that change in behaviour won’t last more than six weeks.

Unless you truly believe that taking a break and stepping away from your computer screen and going for a walk or joining the table in the lunch room is going to improve relationships and productivity, that change in behaviour won’t last for more than six weeks. The same applies if working through lunch feeds your ego and makes you feel indispensable.

We make a lot of promises to ourselves and those around us because we’ve read blog posts, research paper, or participated in workshops, etc but unless we believe that the change will provide a personal benefit (yes .. sometimes, being selfish and looking after YOU is absolutely the right thing to do) … we quickly fall back into old habits.

Or perhaps we’ve just decided to make too many changes all at once. Outside of one person I know (whose New Year’s Resolution list generally tops 20 bullet points!) most of us need to focus on change in one, two or maybe three areas at at time.

Whatever the reason … if you’re finding yourself falling back into old habits, ask yourself why and refocus. Find YOUR reason, not anyone else’s or, take your list, prioritize and focus on one, two or three at at time. The others aren’t lost .. they are just on hold.

Managing Negative Ned, Fearful Frieda and Other Personalities in the Workplace

Leading a team is not easy.  Teams are made up of unique individuals with their own wants, needs and personality types.  Leading and managing those different personality types is especially important when you are introducing a new challenge or changing a current process.  Some people just don’t like change and they have no problem letting you know!  Of course, how they do that depends on their personality type. Perhaps you recognize some of the following?

Resistant Rhoda won’t even let you finish your sentence when you bring up a suggestion or new procedure. Resistant Rhoda say things like “Stop right there.  I’m not changing how I do this.” and “But, we’ve always done it this way.”  Resistant Rhoda does not like change. One way to get Resistant Rhoda to consider change is to compare her way, the old way to the new way.   Walk through the process step by step, highlight areas that have not changed and clearly explain the why behind necessary changes.

Negative Ned doesn’t walk; he shuffles.  A black cloud of negativity follows him everywhere.  All suggestions for change are met with either of two phrases: “That’s not going to work.”or “That’s just stupid.”  When Negative Ned starts, ask him to explain to you why he thinks it won’t work. There is a good chance he won’t be able to come up with a good reason, in which case you need to explain the rationale behind the change request and if possible, show him examples of how it will work.

Analytical Art is a numbers kind of guy.  Analytical Art wants proof; he wants to see the numbers, the research and the rationale.  Show it to him. Make sure he clearly understands what outcomes are expected and why the change has been made.  If there are examples of other organizations or departments that successfully made the change and achieved the objectives, share that with him as well.

Watch out for Sabotage Sue.  Sabotage Sue will eagerly agree with anything you say as long as you’re around. As soon as you turn your back or leave the room, Sabotage Sue is whispering with other team members saying things like “I really don’t understand how that can possibly work.” or “Why are they making us do this?”  Try inviting Sabotage Sue into the planning process.  Ask for her advice on how to get the rest of the team to buy into the process and then have her help you introduce the changes to the team.  She will be less likely to sabotage the plan if she helped develop it.

Pushy Pete usually catches on to change quickly.  He jumps on board, takes on the challenge and then makes sure that everyone who doesn’t catch on as quickly knows it.  Pushy Pete takes every opportunity he can to point out others errors. One way to counteract this is to recognize Pushy Pete’s ability immediately and ask him to help you train others.  Coach him on how to do this effectively and then lead by example.

Fearful Frieda is just scared. She doesn’t like change, she is scared of making a mistake and she lets you and everyone around her know it.  Acknowledge Fearful Frieda’s concern, work with her closely or assign a mentor to help her.

The reality is that Fearful Frieda is being the most honest when she clearly expresses fear.  Chances are that Negative Ned, Resistant Rhoda, Pushy Pete, Analytical Art and Sabotage Sue are also scared of change but instead of admitting it, throw up different defence mechanisms to hide their fear.

As a leader, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge that change can generate fear.   When asking your team to take on a new challenge or change a process, clearly share the vision and the objectives, share the why, acknowledge the challenge and then invite them into the process.  You can’t change their personalities and you may never get all your team members to the point of eagerly embracing change, but with patience, you can gain their trust and help them overcome their resistance to change.