It is a wonderful thing for a business to step from start-up into the threshold of small business growth …but often this is a pivotal moment for many businesses. I have a saying or mantra that I refer to when working with business owners and students, “It isn’t what happens to you that counts the most, but rather how you respond to what happens.” This is very true when it comes to organizational change. If you don’t respond well, it can be the deal breaker for your business and before you know it things are spiraling out of control, and possibly be at risk of circling the drain. READ MORE »
You attend a buyer’s tradeshow and find that your products are not as sellable or priced right to attract potential retailers and you don’t get the appointments for vendor visits that you anticipated. OR… You give a presentation at the investor’s meeting and find that your projected profits for the next year are not impressive enough for several of your investors to stay active and they opt for exiting rather than extending their current investment contracts. OR… The new factory space you anticipated moving into suddenly becomes unavailable due to new building code requirements and delays the expansion of your business… What will you do now? How will you respond? What will everyone think? Will this be the demise of your business and your professional reputation? READ MORE »
Workforce generational differences can create challenges for small business owners.
Currently, we have five different generations active in the workforce. Each generation has different expectations when it comes to work habits. A generation is defined by a group of people that are in the same age range that were raised in about the same area geographically and experience the same life events. Parenting styles also play a part in generational traits. Generations can be divided into the following categories, birth years and traits:
Defining Workforce Generational Differences
Matures, 1900-1945 (The Silent Generation) They were influenced by the Great Depression, WWII and Communism. Due to the strength of the military, this generation rose in the workplace in the command-style management that made them respect authority based on hierarchy and protocol. They are practical, have a dedicated work ethic and show authority a great deal of respect. They believe in self-sacrifice and they are very conscious of money and value each penny earned.
Baby Boomers, 1946-1964 They experienced the opposite of the Matures as they grew up with unlimited opportunity. Television was a cultural experience, as was the Vietnam War, the needs of children and women, the Sexual Revolution and the Civil Rights movement. With population density the Boomers were forced to compete in the workplace, which made them work very hard. They are optimistic, and driven to do good work. They felt that what you do in your work defines who you are in life. They also treated money in a different way than their parents by spending more on non-essential things like recreational items.
Generation X, 1965-1980 (Latchkey Kids) This group experienced global economic erosion and saw how their parents’ jobs were restructured. This led to social problems such as higher divorce rates, rising crime and unwed births. They were introduced to the personal computer and saw the fall of the Soviet Empire. The Gen-Xers grew up self-sufficient with both parents working. They learned not to trust societal promises and that nothing is permanent. Gen X has a skeptical outlook. They consider themselves free agents that don’t respond well to micromanaging. They expect to be getting what they work for and want to be entitled to rights and privileges that they earn. This generation works for their lifestyle and have high expectations of those in leadership roles.
Generation Y, 1981-1994 (Millennials) This is the first generation that has been celebrated by their parents and extended family. They were raised by parents who over compensated their own broken childhoods by continuous praises and awards. They feel they are greatly appreciated by everyone. Gen Y was raised in a technological era where cell phones, the Internet and instant communication all emerged. They were impacted by 9/11 and the wars in the Middle East. They are confident, but not great problem-solvers. They don’t differentiate work and life as they feel their work should reflect their lifestyle. This group is greatly influenced by their peers and have the perception that everyone should be treated fairly. They do not value money, as it has been something that they come by from their parents or by chance.
Generation M, 1995-2005 (Multi-Tasking/Linksters) This group is just entering the workforce. They are mentally able to balance conversations and stimulations that are happening simultaneously. They are able to follow examples that they are shown. This generation does not respond well to criticism. They have been told that anything is possible and that they are not at fault when things go wrong. They are used to being a part of a team and they are involved with highly-scheduled activities. They do not think outside of the box very well and tend to struggle with how to handle free time. Their culture has taught them to crave attention and to be comfortable sharing private information about themselves. They have been impacted by social media and always having an electronic connection in some way and often more than one.
Finding generational harmony
In order to build a cohesive team in your business it is helpful to consider the generation that your employees fit into. Research shows that Boomers and Matures feel younger than their actual age. The younger generations do not share this feeling and often perceive or treat the Boomers and Matures older than they feel, often causing a great deal of animosity when it comes to working together.
Everyone must consider the different values and expectations. A Mature or Boomer will be respectful of the fact that you need to double-check to be sure that you are authorized to complete something. They have a respect for authority and find value in hierarchy-structured management. They are also more cautious and believe in doing things the right way first. A Gen X employee might be bothered by this and feel that a Mature or Boomer lacks leadership and decisiveness. Gen X questions those in charge and has learned to doubt leadership because of the failure they have experienced in the economy and government.
Do you ever catch yourself in a moment and think… “wow, I am really responsible for this,” or “seriously, this is great, something must be wrong…wait,” or “I am really happy and successful, surely there must be doom lurking somewhere, right?” What is wrong with us? Why is it that we seemed to be programmed to doubt ourselves when things are going in a positive and optimistic direction? Why do we question our own success?
FEAR…we are scared to think about what might happen if we actually succeed. If we reach our goals, what is next, how will we reach the next one and how much harder will we have to work? What happens if we don’t reach the next goal? Is it that we are setting ourselves up for failure? Be honest, how many times do you bow out of a challenge because you are afraid that at some point you will not succeed? Does it make you a little uncomfortable and uncertain when you can’t anticipate what will happen?
FAILURE…have you tried something new before and you feel that you failed or that it didn’t go exactly how you envisioned it? What about the experience, wasn’t that worth something? Didn’t you learn something? When that path led you to a different one, were you able to see the potential in a new opportunity? Sometimes what we consider failing or unsuccessful is actually exactly what needed to happen to bring new prospects to us.
So now the big question in this collection of “what ifs” – Think about a time in your life when you took a chance. Did you win or lose; succeed or fail; What really determines the value of that experience for you? Did that step outside of your typical zone of normalcy help build the person that you are today? Did you build experience, did you gain knowledge, did you become more confident as a person and a decision maker? How can you say yes to any of this and consider that attempt a failure?
You can’t. You will always be ahead of the game when you take the chance that might allow you to become a better version of yourself. If you don’t do this for yourself, what message does that send to others, especially those who look to you when they make choices and life-changing decisions?
I always refer to that saying: Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. I then follow it up with – because how cool was it to be in the game at all??? If you aren’t willing to put yourself in a position of possible success, you won’t grow, you won’t improve and you won’t be your best self…but if you take the chance, face the fear and step up to the line…you just might!
Maybe it was the was the influence of being a child in the 70’s and the impression I got from those great movies like Saturday Night Fever, Roller Boogie or Xanadu, but I have always found great inspiration from all things DISCO. So, a few weeks back, I was reminded of this when I was shopping with a good friend in an eclectic boutique. The store had many cool things for sale, but the one thing I wanted to buy was a disco ball. Unfortunately, the shop owner was not willing to part with this, so I decided to just go ahead and order one online. I was so excited when this arrived! I took it straight to my office at the college and decided that it had to be installed in that office.
Working in an educational environment, sometimes things can seem very “institutional.” We need to have things around us that inspire, motivate and foster creativity. That is exactly what has happened! I can’t believe the difference this disco ball has made. One of my awesome students installed the disco ball above my desk. When he finished, I pulled up my Pandora account and created a Disco station. Since the ball was installed, my office has become very FUN! I have been in a GREAT mood and having disco music playing has proven to be not only motivational, but enjoyable. Many of my students, colleagues and visitors have taken a moment to bust out a groove or two and we have shared some laughs!!! Who knew that some funky mirrored ball along with the atmosphere filled with Gloria Gaynor and the Bee Gees could put everyone in such a jovial mood and allow folks to take a small step outside of their comfort zone?
When I walk into my office, instead of being overwhelmed by the work ahead of me, I see the disco ball and smile. My disposition is automatically lightened and I realize that great things can happen that day! As I leave my office, I turn to lock my door and I look through the window and I see the disco ball hanging and it leaves me feeling like I had FUN at work and a great time interacting with others. It has not only inspired me, but many of my students and cohorts have mentioned that they have enjoyed it too!
So, besides seeing that I am a bit weird and might have an odd obsession with polyester bell bottoms and dance floors that light up…what can you take away from this? Do you have something that puts you in a good mood and stirs up emotions of fun, relaxation and creativity? Why not incorporate this into your daily routine by having it around you and accessible? You might be surprised by the influence it can have on how you handle yourself and situations you are in. It might also allow those around you to learn more about you and see you “enjoy” yourself and become more comfortable with your work and your environment. Sometimes we take ourselves and the tasks we have too seriously that it stifles our innovative thinking and we get bogged down with focusing on the end result. We need to remember to allow ourselves time to grow and be inspired along the way. That is what leads to great ideas, new approaches and awesome problem-solving.
Find your disco ball, whatever that might be…maybe it is an old arcade style video game, a life-size poster of your favorite politician, a Star Wars light saber or a beaded doorway from the 60’s…whatever it is that makes you smile and reflective of the possibilities you have. Bring that inspiration into your daily routine so that you can then inspire others and allow them to see the magic. Everyone can benefit from the disco ball effect if they allow themselves to!
Do you have something that you greatly enjoy and that brings a smile and/or sense of excitement to you? How can you incorporate this into your daily routine?