Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for August, 2014

Encourage candid dialogue among generations.

Thought I’d share the following article with you that I had published in the business section of our local paper. I found the discussion I refer to here, to be a profound reflection of our evolving culture.
Encourage Dialogue Among Generations
by Donna Rawady
Published in the Democrat & Chronicle,
August 13, 2014:

I recently facilitated a roundtable discussion for the Rochester Women’s Network. This conversation among professional women of all ages prompted a fascinating dialogue on addressing the powerful opportunities we have, as young and seasoned professionals, to collaborate for success.

Among the 25 women who participated were a high school senior ready to begin her career, recent college grads, young professionals who’ve been in the workplace for under 10 years, and women in their 60s with decades of experience. The dialogue among these women was candid, highly informative, and thought-provoking.

If you have the opportunity to bring multiple generations to the table within your organization, I highly recommend it. If the conversation is well-facilitated and candid, it will offer a better understanding of the strengths and challenges of multigenerational teams, and provide a stepping stone towards improved collaboration.

Here are a few questions you may want to ask participants, if you choose to sponsor or facilitate a multigenerational roundtable discussion.

• What are the most valuable contributions of your generation to today’s workplace?

• What do you feel are the most valuable contributions of your young and/or seasoned colleagues?

• What do you find to be the most significant misconceptions, if any, about your generation at work?

• What is your experience of the most significant challenges of multigenerational teams?

• What tidbit might you offer your colleagues to help them better understand what you may be looking for in a collaborative relationship?

In today’s business environment — more than ever before — our ability to understand and learn from one another across generations is not only an awesome opportunity, it’s a requirement. A candid conversation is a great start.

Reorganizing? Think ideal structure first, then consider internal talent.

Before sharing this, I want to say that I believe that it’s important for organizations to value each and every person and the specific talents they bring to their roles in an organization. I know there are times when roles and responsibilities can be, and are, adjusted to best meet a valued individual’s strengths. Or, there may be times when we might support a valued person with resources that may help them transition out of a position that is not a good fit.

However, if a business leader is considering reorganizing a department or an organization, I highly recommend that the exploration begin with documenting the ideal roles and responsibilities that would ideally be part of the new organization, without consideration for the existing talent in the organization. If that sounds cold, I assure you it’s not. It’s simply a way to creatively and strategically explore your best organization without presenting obstacles relating to existing resources.

Of course, your employees’ skills and talents will be crucial to your new organization. And of course you may need to adjust your organization based on limited or unavailable resources. Yet, in the initial planning stages, you may want to ask yourself these questions, among others, to help you stick to exploring the “ideal”:
– What roles, skills and talent do we need to move the organization forward?
– Ideally, what will each role provide in the new organization?
– What specific skills and knowledge and/or experience will each role call for in the new organization?
– Which of these skills are crucial and which are negotiable or perhaps able to be developed?

Once the roles are defined, along with the needed competencies, skills and experience, then it’s time to take a close look at the individuals and talent you currently have to fulfill these roles. In doing this, there may be a perfect match to some of the skills required and there may be gaps. The identified gaps may offer a guide to an individual’s professional development plan, or it may disqualify someone from being considered for the role, depending on how crucial the gap may be, and how transferable the needed skills may be.

The main idea and recommendation here is that you’re avoiding driving your strategy based on the strengths and/or gaps in your current organization, situation and/or internal talent. Instead, you’re creating your strategy based on what the ideal components are to the success of your business.

This approach in no way hinders what may be your later choice to adjust a role to best fit a highly valued employee who is making significant contributions. Nor will it get in the way of your choosing to adjust the structure of your organization to best suit the ensemble of talent and resources available to you in your existing organization. It does, however, allow you to openly and creatively explore your options so that the strategy you take will be based on intentional choices versus limitations.