A question I like to pose to leaders when teaching empowerment during webinars or in-person training, “Would you ever impose your value system on your team members then have the expectation those same team members will work faster, harder, and smarter for you?” I often get audience members nodding “no” in reaction to my question. More often than not, Baby Boomers in the audience (ages 57-75) are more emphatic than others when responding to the question.
We have all heard the term, helicopter parents. This reflects a Baby Boomer who will go to bat for their kid’s problems in their life because no one went to bat for the Baby Boomers when they were growing up. Baby Boomers also have a tendency to make many decisions on behalf of their kids/Millennials, yet those same Baby Boomers were trusted to make many decisions on their own. Organized or supervised play days were used by Baby Boomers when their kids played together. In other words, they monitored their kid’s activity versus sending them out to play on their own. Ironically, back in my day, my mom, a traditionalist, would have opened the kitchen door at 8am in the morning and placed her shoe right between my shoulder blades, and kicked me out of the house. Two rules; don’t die and be home before dinner. Compare that to the Millennials, (age 25-40) who have had more parents, teachers, coaches, and tutors telling them what to do. Are there exceptions, you better believe it.
Picture this scenario, a longer tenured leader calls a younger tenured team member into their workstation. The leader begins to tell the younger employee, they they will be giving them a chance to make a name for themselves in the organization. In other words, they will get a chance to make a huge footprint to demonstrate what they can do. The Baby Boomer leader then tells the employee, “Since no one ever held my hand when growing up, I will not be holding your hand.” The leader then begins to sermonize the younger employee that a person cannot grow and develop by asking permission versus making a decision. The younger employee then asks, “What did you want me to do?” The leader responds, “See there you go again, asking me permission. Go out and give this project a shot and I will see you in two weeks.” Ironically, the leader begins to think they are the brightest person on the planet because they are giving their younger employer the power to use their own ingenuity. However, the younger employee then walks away feeling a bit anxious wondering what specifically the leader wants them to do.
After about an hour later, the anxious employee sends the leader an email and asks, “What is it you wanted me to do?” The leader responds, “I am not going to do this project for you, give it your shot and I will see you in two weeks.”
Two weeks later, the employee delivers the project to the leader. The leader glances quickly at the project contents and frustratingly responds, “This is not what I was looking for!” The shocked employee angrily responds, says, “If you knew what you were looking for-why didn’t you just tell me?” The Baby Boomer leader then mutters under their breath, “It is hard to find good people these days!”
What’s the moral of the story? Leader’s you are right – a person learns when they make a decision versus having someone else make the decision. But leaders, build in frequent checkpoints with younger employees. Don’t give them decision-making authority and then put them in a silo all by themselves. Ask them to follow up with you daily to make sure the younger employee is progressing and potentially getting the direction they may need. However, if you choose not to play a role in supporting your team members, they likely will be on Indeed.com looking for their next job and a leader who will support them. Of course, eventually, the leader will likely blame the employee for leaving by saying, “It is hard to find good people these days.”
I will end this blog the way I started it? “Leaders, would you ever impose your value system on team members then have the expectation those same team members will work faster, harder and smarter for you?” Leaders, your team members were not raised in your house. Leaders Are MADE, Not Born.