Skill Sets for the “Youngers”

Mentoring Moment for 20140210 - 1In a previous Mentoring Moment, I suggested that Mentors and Leaders need to help make sure our young people have the right skill sets to be attractive new hires. I let open exactly what those skill sets might be. Well, a friend recently sent me a newsletter that makes it clear what our employers are looking for in their new hires. Here are the top ten qualities employers feel will help them gain a competitive edge with the right employees.

Washington – With the economy and job market continuing to slowly improve, more employers are shifting their focus from survival mode to gaining a competitive advantage.

Mentoring Moment for 20140210 - 2“Employers want workers who can help them capitalize on the improved economy and benefit from opportunities presented by less competitively skilled and structured companies. They are looking for workers with skills to help them to quickly grow their businesses, cut their costs and improve their operations,” said Dr. David Miles.

“The lower unemployment rate and improved economy represent good and bad news for job-seekers. While there are generally more jobs available, there is even more competition for them. This is putting added pressure on employees to possess ‘must-have’ skills,” added Miles.

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Another Reason to Take Care of Our “Youngers”

Another Reason to Take Care of Our Youngers - 1I am beginning a short adventure in Western Europe. So, I thought I would try to learn a bit about my environment. Things are very different here. The economics, education, families, are very different. Locals do not blink to pay several dollars for a small plastic bottle of Coke or Dr. Pepper or a month’s rent for a nice dinner. The very fabric of the workplace is also very different. The undercurrent often seems to be that Europeans are superior to Americans and that we are a couple of generations behind them socially. But I found one area that we should try to avoid.

Another Reason to Take Care of Our Youngers - 2Please do not interpret anything herein as a criticism of life here. People have been very warm, inviting and friendly and I think I am going to love my adventure. That is not the point. The point that I hope to make is that we, as Leaders can learn from our Western European colleagues as we try to assist and support our younger generation towards greatness.

I want to share some recent research that caught my attention studying why the younger generation and employers are so mismatched. Some of the findings suggest ways that you and I should be focusing on our efforts to mentor, lead and support the younger ones around us.

Here is the proposition:

The problem of youth unemployment in the European Union is not new. Youth unemployment has been double or even triple the rate of general unemployment in Europe for the last 20 years. The events of the past few years have dramatically exacerbated it, however: 5.6 million young people are unemployed across Europe, and a total of 7.5 million are neither being educated nor are they working. Moreover, while young people are eager to work, more than half of those without jobs say they simply can’t find one—all while businesses across Europe insist they struggle to find young people with the skills they need.

Another Reason to Take Care of Our Youngers - 3This sounds terrible to me. There are areas where things may be slightly better, but there are areas where things are much worse. For example, in Italy, the unemployment rate for people under 24 years of age is more that 40%. The root cause for this appears to be

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Music and Happiness

MM - 20130620First of all, it is your responsibility to be happy at work. Let’s be clear, your boss does not care that you are happy if you are productive. Your office mates like you more when you are happy, but nowhere in their job descriptions does it require them to make you happy.

Alas, this is easier said than done. The odds are against happiness at work.

On the other hand, rudeness at work is easy, rampant, and on the rise. In 2011, half of the workers surveyed by Thunderbird School of Global Management said they were treated rudely at least once a week — up from a quarter in 1998. Yikes. And there is a tangible cost of this bad behavior.

Through a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, a recent study shows just how people’s reactions play out. Among workers who’ve been on the receiving end of incivility:

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work
  • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender
  • 66% said that their performance declined
  • 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined
  • 12% said that they left their job because of the uncivil treatment
  • 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers

Here are some examples of what can happen as a result of incivility:

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No Surprises Management

MM - 20130613 - 1Trial lawyers know well the “goosey – gander rule”. What would happen if we apply the “goosey – gander rule” to the concept of no surprises management from the employee perspective?

Simply, the “goosey – gander rule” is based on a sense of what is good for one party in a relationship, is good for the other party. In court, the idea is that if a ruling is made one way for a party, when a similar issue arises for the other party, the court’s ruling should be the same. Examples include interpretation of the rules of evidence or the amount of leeway an attorney is given to examine an uncooperative witness. The “surprise” the second attorney feels with an inconsistent ruling is avoided by the application of the “goosey – gander rule”. In court, surprises like this relate to appeals, and avoiding appeals on such matters is a good thing.

Does the “goosey – gander rule” apply at work? We all know that bosses hate surprises and that we work very hard to avoid them (no surprises management (NSM) is a term long associated with the idea that the best way to succeed is not to surprise your boss). What are bosses doing to keep workers informed so that the workers are not surprised? Shouldn’t the “goosey – gander rule” apply at work?

MM - 20130613 - 2James Heskett, from Harvard, suggests that NSM should be applied downward. He has some data that suggests that significant improvements in performance can be associated with leadership that produces no surprises for those lower in the organization. He suggests that NSM applied downward can improve trust of management, increase attention to deliverables and to work tasks by workers, lower turnover and increase profits. To me, NSM is a form of alignment on goals and objectives of an organization and upon the tasks needed to achieve the same.

As leaders, James poses the challenge of understanding what NSM means to your team. What do you think? Is a worker entitled the “goosey – gander rule” applied at work? Is management by surprise a useful tool?


Photo credit: Chrissy Downunder / / CC BY-NC
Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks / / CC BY-NC

Mentoring Moment – Putting Your $$$ to Work for You

The 2012 Tax Season is winding down for most of us. Many of us (although not me) have already received refunds. Question: what did you do with yours? Did you set an example and save anything for the future?

In this Mentoring Moment, I want to speak to some of the younger readers of LV (and after the Saturday before last, I know you are out there!). I rely heavily on some work by Emily Brandon that goes back to the Fall of 2011 when she wrote about “Gen Y’s $2 Million Retirement Price Tag.”

MM - 20130530-1

There is no question about it, “Twenty Somethings” will need to save much more than their parents did for retirement.

A recent research report by the Pew Charitable Trusts says younger baby boomers and Generation Xers face an uncertain retirement because of reduced savings, high levels of debt, and losses during the Great Recession.

The study found that members of Generation X, who are now between 38 and 47 years old, lost almost half their wealth between 2007 and 2010. Young baby boomers, who are between 48 and 57, lost more money but a smaller portion of their overall wealth. The report says both of those groups are struggling to save enough money for retirement and are lagging older groups in terms of their savings. They also hold more debt than those groups did at similar points in their lives.

Retirement won’t be impossible for Generations X and Y, but they will need

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Mentoring Milli-moment (shorter than a full Moment)

For everyone who will be traveling this summer season, for work or for play, I have an important message. You probably do what most people do and take pre-trip safety for granted. Especially on airplanes, we are doing our own things and focused on our families, getting our iToys plugged in and ready for the trip, and so on, and, if you are on a business trip, you are managing a beverage and pretending to do work – to justify the trip and to show off in case a colleague or contractor sees you.

Thus, in the spirit of Safety and Wellness, please allow me to translate at least part of the message we either block out or ignore on flights:

MM - 20130523(Source: New Yorker Magazine)

The same general technique applies to automobiles, too. Folks will be checking, so please comply to ensure safe travels.

What Makes a Good Mentor and Mentee?

Mentor 1How-to books are full of advice on what makes a good mentor. But what makes a good mentee and what chemistry is needed to make the relationship work?

People being mentored should be open to feedback and be active listeners, according to a new research paper. They should also be respectful of their mentor’s time, including being on time and prepared for meetings.

And it helps to follow at least some of their advice.

“Successful mentorship is vital to career success and satisfaction for both mentors and mentees,” said Dr. Sharon Straus, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital and author of the paper published online in Academic Medicine.

Dr. Straus examined mentor-mentee relationships at two large academic health centers, the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine and the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, where she is director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine. She said

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Mentoring Moment – Career Killers

career-fair-2011-4_lHistorically, first quarter hiring has often been followed by some form of corporate housecleaning. And we all struggle to avoid being housecleaned. So, in the spirit of offering some career leadership advice, please consider the following Mentoring Moment for today.


Here is a (short) list of career killers for employees to avoid:

  1. Clock watching.  This includes stopping work before your proper quitting time and intentionally working at a slow pace to avoid more work. This behavior sends a message that you feel you are on your own time after work and you don’t want to be bothered by telephone calls or emails after quitting time. It is increasingly risky to do this and not become branded a ‘9 to 5 employee’ who can’t or won’t handle responsibility well.
  2. Sitting on your hands.  Employees who do this fail to report problems they are aware of or suggest solutions to them.
  3. Disclosing confidential information.  This conduct comprises offering privileged information to a potential employer during an interview, posting it to social media and with friends or co-workers. This behavior may in fact be illegal and carry civil or monetary penalties.
  4. Using social media to bad-mouth employers.  There is a growing list of employees who have been terminated for

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Mentoring Moments – Tip or Bribe?

Tip or Bribe - 1Is that a tip you are paying or is that a bribe?

Too few people see the relationship between tipping and bribing and even fewer understand the difference. Consider this: Research has shown that in places where people tip heavily, bribes are more likely to exchange hands as well. In addition, Countries with higher rates of tipping behavior also tended to have higher rates of corruption.

New research shows that there’s actually a line between the socially acceptable act of tipping and the immoral act of bribing, according to Magnus Thor Torfason, an assistant professor in Harvard Business School’s Entrepreneurial Management Unit. Professor Torfaon’s basic thesis is “It is generally considered a good-natured pro-social thing to tip, but bribing is considered to be antisocial and negative,” Torfason says. “So this relationship between tipping and corruption is counter-intuitive in the United States.” The line between the two is both fuzzy and gray.

This is a complicated area with a lot of “gray” turf. There have been many attempts to legislate proper behavior around the world, with varying success rates. It sure would be nice if there was some sort of globally acceptable standard. But, until the various cultural norms around the world harmonize and until there is a mature and common body of Law, gray areas will remain. The business you work for probably does business all over the word, and we need to adapt to local customs and practices in order to successful and legally manage our business – all the while keeping out of trouble back home in the USA.

I am a simple man, so let me offer some simple guidance.

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Mentoring Moment: Ethics

Is it still cheating even when you think you are helping others?

We have all seen situations where we wonder why certain decisions have been made, and, sometimes the decision seems to conflict with our personal standards of ethics. In fact, the importance of personal and professional ethics has become so important that many colleges make ethics a required course. Think about Enron, Parmalat, Martha Stewart, Bernie Madoff and the Wall Street debacle caused by phony baloney home loans, and you will see what I mean.Wally dabbles in crime

This Mentoring Moment (MM) is about intellectual honesty and ethics, and in particular the rationalization of questionable decisions that are made on the basis that the decision maker is not just furthering his or her personal interests but also the interests of others – making it is OK to cheat and be unethical. This is a particularly dangerous type of situational ethics leading to intellectual dishonesty. Hopefully, you chuckled a bit and agree with me that Wally in not on the right track.

Research has identified a number of axioms in the area. Here are just a few:

  • Ethical dilemmas occur regularly and often involve resolution of differing interests (or conflicting positions): by behaving ethically, people are able to maintain their positive self-image and personal ethos; by behaving unethically, they can advance their self-interest
  • People often resolve this conflict through “creative” reassessments and self-serving rationalizations, such that they can act dishonestly enough to profit from their unethicality, but honestly enough to maintain a positive self-image
  • When individuals have the opportunity to cheat in situations where the probability of being caught and reputational costs are minimized, most people cheat
  • People are more likely to engage in unethical behavior if they split the spoils of such behavior with another person than when they are the only ones benefiting from it because they find it easier to discount the moral concerns associated with unethical behavior that benefits another person than to discount behavior that only benefits oneself

At this point, let me offer an example.

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