10 Ways to Create a Workplace that Supports Young Leaders

1. Replace a traditional hierarchical power structure with one that is more collaborative and project based. Younger generations need to know that they can work across departments or up or down the power structure to get a job done.

2. Give young employees multiple responsibilities. Young leaders are accustomed to multi-tasking and will feel stagnant if they are just given one task.

3. Show flexibility. Remain open to different ways of doing things.

4. Encourage involvement in community work or industry trade groups so young leaders can develop external contacts and leadership experience. Permit time off from work if necessary.

5. Provide opportunities for rapid advancement. Titles aren’t as important to young leaders as meaningful work and the ability to assume greater responsibilities quickly.

6. Appropriate pay and benefits remain crucial. The tough economy may make young workers willing to settle for less at the outset, but they won’t stay long if the economy improves and they feel they are being paid less than they deserve.

7. Be prepared to negotiate promotions. Young people are more likely to cut a deal to end up where they want to be. For example, a young worker may say, “I’ll spend 18 months learning the sales side of the business if I can move into the marketing department afterwards.”

8. Create workplace culture that allows all employees to shine and contribute ideas.

9. Provide year-round performance feedback and mentoring programs so young workers have a realistic sense of how they are doing and a sounding board to help them work through issues.

10. Teach management skills and conduct leadership training sessions so young workers have the tools that they need to reach their potential.

 

 

From Young Gun to Top Dog

From Business NH Magazine

In the recent hit movie Up in the Air, an arrogant young MBA tries to revolutionize a corporate downsizing company by conducting scripted video firings to save on travel expenses. It does not go well. The young woman gradually discovers how much she has to learn from her much older co-workers and how little she understands the business.  She emerges a more thoughtful, empathetic person who will no doubt be a much more effective leader in the future.

The movie amusingly highlights three essential truths:

1. Effective leadership is much more than coming up with a great business idea that gets you noticed. It is also the ability to listen to other people, refine ideas and inspire everyone to work together toward a common goal. It’s less about “me” and more about “us”.

2. You need to be ready for leadership. The skills that got you noticed may not be the same ones that will make you an effective leader.

3. New leaders have to have thick skin. They have to be ready for criticism, generational conflict, jealousy and isolation. Then they need to know how to win people over to their side.
If you want to become an effective leader, you need to be prepared. First, realistically evaluate whether you have what it takes to be a leader. Then, map out a strategy to both climb the corporate ladder and flourish near the top.

10 Essential Characteristics of Leaders

Santa Clara University and the Tom Peters Group compiled this checklist of key characteristics of good leaders.

1. Honest - Display sincerity, integrity, and candor in all your actions. Deceptive behavior will not inspire trust.

2. Competent - Base your actions on reason and moral principles. Do not make decisions based on childlike emotional desires or feelings.

3. Forward-looking - Set goals and have a vision of the future. The vision must be owned throughout the organization. Effective leaders envision what they want and how to get it. They habitually pick priorities stemming from their basic values.

4. Inspiring - Display confidence in all that you do. By showing endurance in mental, physical, and spiritual stamina, you will inspire others to reach for new heights. Take charge when necessary.

5. Intelligent - Read, study, and seek challenging assignments.

6. Fair-minded - Show fair treatment to all people. Prejudice is the enemy of justice. Display empathy by being sensitive to the feelings, values, interests, and well-being of others.

7. Broad-minded - Seek out diversity.

8. Courageous - Have the perseverance to accomplish a goal, regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Display a confident calmness when under stress.

9. Straightforward - Use sound judgment to make good decisions at the right time.

10. Imaginative - Make timely and appropriate changes in your thinking, plans, and methods. Show creativity by thinking of new and better goals, ideas, and solutions to problems. Be innovative!
Consider whether you are truly cut out to be a leader. Then take steps to put yourself in a position to become one.

How to Prepare for Leadership

Realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses.  Are you great at coming up with ideas but not so good at communicating the new ideas to others? Terrified at public speaking? Disorganized?  Take a hard look at your weaknesses and develop a plan to address them. For example, enroll in your local Toastmasters chapter to practice public speaking or ask a mentor to help you improve your writing skills.

Find out what others think about you and your leadership potential. Ask for honest, one-on-one feedback or take advantage of a formal 360° survey if your company’s human resources department offers such reviews.

Go above and beyond. Volunteer for opportunities to take on special projects or lead work groups. Ask to participate if your company offers a mentor or leadership development program. Present a new idea, attend workshops and trainings, stay current with your industry’s news and take advantage of every opportunity to show your dedication and interest.

Build relationships.  Do the leaders in your company know who you are? Will they think of you when a leadership opportunity arises? If not, it’s time to work on relationship building. Ask someone whose career you particularly admire if he or she would consider mentoring you or at least serve as a sounding board for you. Make a point to hold a brief conversation with key decision-makers at company outings and events.  Volunteer to speak at a company meeting on a topic you know about or report back about key points that were presented at a conference. Toot your own horn carefully so you become known as a competent, knowledgeable contributor.

Get known in your industry. Enhance your knowledge, skills and networking opportunities through industry trade groups. Volunteer for committees and take advantage of opportunities to assume leadership roles.

Have a firm grasp on reality. Are there opportunities to move into leadership positions in your company? Does the workplace culture fit with your leadership and work style? Have a frank discussion with your superiors about your move-up potential.

Pitfalls for Young Leaders

You’ve got a new job with a more impressive title. Your skills have been recognized. You’re feeling great. You’re excited about the tasks ahead of you. And then reality sets in.
Being a leader is hard work. Some people will resent the fact that you got the job and he or she didn’t. Others will feel that you are too young. Your former co-workers start treating you differently and everybody has an idea about how you could do your job better. Be prepared to be overwhelmed for a little bit and watch for these pitfalls:

  • Out-of-control ego – You got noticed and your ego got stroked. The problem is that your ego may be telling you that you are better than you really are. You will not get far if you carry on as if your ideas are the only good ones and your job the only important one.  Your job now is to pull people together as a team to move a project forward.  Success requires empathy, careful listening and good communications skills. If you need help figuring out how to deal with difficult people, consider asking the advice of a mentor or executive coach.

  • Fuzzy boundaries – Now that you’re a boss, you can’t socialize, gossip or have gripe sessions with co-workers the way you may have when you were “one of them”. Set boundaries right away before information is transmitted that should have remained confidential. You may be saddened by the changed relationship with former co-workers, so remind yourself about all the positives that come with your new responsibilities.

  • Resentment from Older Workers – Why should someone nearly twice your age follow your lead? Older employees will certainly be asking that question and you better have a good answer. Address the issue head-on with preemptive empathy. Openly acknowledge the issue by saying “I bet you’re wondering why I got this job. Let me tell you a little bit about my background and more importantly, I want to find out more about you and your ideas.” It is important to acknowledge the talents of older workers and recognize that their work styles may differ from your own. Be clear about your business priorities and plans and ask for their input and advice.

  • Generational Conflict -- Is it OK to check email on a Blackberry while in a meeting? Can employees step out of a meeting to take phone calls? Are flip flops acceptable footwear? The answers to these questions often depend upon the age of the respondent. What Baby Boomers consider disrespectful is often standard workplace behavior on the part of 20-somethings. Head off any generational conflicts by soliciting feedback and then putting rules in writing so misunderstandings can be avoided and a respectful atmosphere maintained.

  • Disillusionment – It’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed when starting in a new position. If you are still feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or disappointed six or nine months later, it’s time to take stock. Do you still want to do this? Do you like leading a team or do you prefer more individual work? Do you have the skills to get the job done right? Is the company culture right for you?

True leadership is not about power, paycheck or status. It is about respect. After all, without respect, there is no trust. Without trust, cooperative work becomes impossible and results plummet. In your quest to become or remain a young leader, never lose sight of the importance of respect. If you respect the opinions and work of those around you and earn their respect in return, you are well on your way to becoming a true leader.


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