Monday, August 22, 2016

Chasing Relevance by Dan Negroni

"Today's companies need to bridge the gap between their manager's skills and perceptions and millennials' skills and needs in order to create an engaged, productive workplace that delivers results" - Dan Negroni

Millennials.  As a management leader, I have to admit that I’m a little weary of hearing about them. Every time I turn around I hear about what they want or don’t want, how they act or that they don’t want to work, their phones are hinged to their heads, and how they are free spirits and want to work when and how they want. It’s a good thing that the Z generation is up and coming so we can hear about them instead right? Don’t get me wrong, I parent some millennials and from experience I don’t believe everything that the media spits out.

I’ve had some personal experience working with millennials, both positive and painful. The majority are focused and determined to make a difference while being key team players. Looking back, they represent what I wish I was when I was growing up. They have fresh ideas and are truly committed to having an impact. They are focused on the external, not just on themselves. Then there are the others – the kind that you tend to read more about.  I have worked with mixed teams and too many of my days were spent hearing about having fun, drinking, the best eateries, fashion, bars, and drinking again. Sadly some of them needed “parental” management guidance and they only focused on the task at hand, not the big picture. Did I mention their interpretation of a dress code?

As if you can’t tell, I admit to some millennialism biases. I grew professionally in a slightly different time and within the confines of the uptight banking profession. My perspectives are a bit different but I love change and am open to it. As a manager, I feel that I lack some tools to lead this generation and admit that we need to better understand each other with all of our faults and strengths. I needed a millennial “how to” manual. Along came Chasing Relevance – 6 Steps to Understand, Engage, and Maximize Next-Generation Leaders in the Workplace by Dan Negroni. Finally, a book that speaks to all the stereotypes regarding Millennials (and me!) and how to foster their growth for future leadership opportunities.

Dan is a realist. He parents millennials as well and his word description and images that people have about millennials made me chuckle.  Clearly, he also treasures them and realizes that they are our future. There is a gap between our generations that isn’t going away. If you aren’t managing or working with the millennial generation now, you will be. Today’s leaders (X generation for the most part) need to bridge the gap with the Y generation to model, mentor, and challenge them to lead. Guess what? It’s kind of our fault that the millennials are well, millennials, because it’s how this generation was raised. Everyone received awards, some of us helicoptered our kids, they learned impatience, and they became hooked to technology. Hmmm….

As leaders we must shoulder the responsibility to mentor and bring our generations in sync. To do this, Dan encourages us to focus on the following;

  • Create powerful and authentic relationships at work
  • Promote behavior that creates an open culture that delivers value and purpose
  • Teach “real-deal” skills and accountability

We can do that right? Effective managers have been doing this for ages. Not so fast. Dan encourages us to first look inward at ourselves and “work from the inside out”. In short, in order to empower others we need to empower ourselves first. Only you can control you and you need to understand yourself first before you can serve or impact others. Uncover your true strengths and weaknesses in order to become a better you, “relish” who you are to share with others, and make connections bring results.

Working from the inside out with Dan’s guidance was fun for me.  He guides us through a journey to better understand ourselves by examining 5 key points:

  1. Understand the power of relationships
  2. Know your strengths
  3. Recognize your skills, passion, and values
  4. Define your personal brand stamp
  5. Develop and deliver your story to others to impact others

After reflecting on these areas and really doing some homework on ME, I felt refreshed because I understand myself more clearly and better understand what I can bring to the lives of others via leadership or through mentoring. Dan led me down a path to put into action what I learned from inside me to influence those “outside”.  He has an integrated 6 step plan that effectively uses what you’ve learned from your inside reflection to help address any disconnect that you have with the millennial generation as a leader, mentor, guide, or teammate. The B.R.I.D.G.E plan not only builds on developing and building relationships, but generates increased engagement, empowerment, results, and innovation. What more could we ask for as leaders? With the right tools, we can build strong teams and bridge any gaps.

The B.R.I.D.G.E plan is “like a recipe and cooking lesson combined. It takes the inside-out ingredients from Part One [of the book] and turns them into a delicious dish to serve others”. I love this analogy! Here’s your recipe for success once you discover your “ingredients (you!)”:

B Bust Myths to break down assumptions and barriers
Real Deal creates real deal authentic relationships with your teams
I Own It - develop this mindset that makes YOU accountable and responsible for results
Deliver Value through the coaching and mentoring of others
Goals In Mind - establish meaningful and shared goal based on a vision
Empower Success by leveraging strengths and relationships to bring success to all teams and the organization

Part One and Two of Chasing Relevance eloquently come together to form the perfect sandwich. This sandwich consists of the first part of the book which is thick with individual learning and insight. A whole lotta meat and cheese. Part two has all of the best condiments and toppings that bring the sandwich together. The condiments are what “make’ the sandwich and make your tummy grumble. You can’t have one without the other. What an incredible sandwich Dan presents us all with.

At the beginning of the book Dan admits to once having his own thoughts about millennials and promises to help change the reader’s perspective. He was successful in doing so with me. I better understand the gaps between our generations and leadership styles and why we all act like we do. I better accept that my generation had a hand in “making” millennials. Thus, it is up to me to do what I can to be a mentor and coach because so many millennials haven’t benefitted from strong or consistent guidance. Hence, their behavior is different and they really need us for leadership and guidance.

Chasing Relevance engaged me from the first chapter and I literally read it in two readings. I found myself nodding in agreement  while reading , yet really pushing myself to agree that change is a two way street – it’s not just “those millennials” that need to step up. The author was very frank and honest about even his own initial feelings towards the Y generation. He “gets it” from both sides of the millennial issue and I admire his enthusiastic passion to make a difference to mentor our millennial generation. He shared stories that really resonated with me while giving me insight as to how it must feel to be a millennial in the workplace. Often, they feel left out of meetings, segregated from their leadership, or not given the big picture. It makes it tough to succeed.

Chasing Relevance is peppered with creative statistics and engaging graphics that quickly sum up Dan’s points regarding generational gaps or public assumptions. Moreover, the book flows very quickly and engages the reader chapter after chapter. The book satisfied my visual side with meaningful pictures and the layout of key points.

The word millennial is thrown around so much today that you would need to be a cave dweller not to have heard the terms and assumptions regarding this generation. I encourage you to pick up Chasing Relevance by Dan Negroni to truly understand who the millennials are, what they stand for, why they annoy some people, and how they will be our future. Most importantly, you need guidance for accepting them and understanding their point of view and work style so that you can step up to the plate and mentor, guide, and lead the millennial generation to be effective and empowered leaders.  We all have a stake in impacting the future so please pickup Chasing Relevance today to make a difference for the leaders of tomorrow!

Dan Negroni author of Chasing Relevance