Leadership for the Ages – Part Two of Some

In the first post of this series we looked at the one key characteristic that all leaders must have. They must have integrity. Without integrity they can try to lead every day of their lives and it’s unlikely that anyone will truly follow. That’s true no matter what generation the follower comes from.

In this post, we’ll look at the four generations together and start to look deeper at the first group. 

I’d bet you’re already aware of the four generations we’re going to look at but just so we’re all on the same page let’s review. Each expert in the study of various generations has their own name for the groups but since I’m clearly no expert I’ll make up my own.

The first and “oldest” generation we’ll look at is my dad’s. So I’ll call it “Dad’s” generation. The experts call it “The Silents” or the “Veterans” but while my dad was a veteran he certainly wasn’t silent so I don’t know how both could fit. This group was born between 1925 and 1946.

Next we have my generation. The experts call my generation the “Baby Boomers” and since I was born right in the middle of that generation I’ll call that one the “Middles.” (hey, it’s my blog, I can call it what I want) This group was born between 1946 and 1964.

Next we have what the experts call the Generation Xers. I don’t understand why. You would think if they are really experts they could have come up with a name better than that. I’ll call them the “Changers” because in my opinion they changed their world, and everyone else’s faster than any generation before them. The “Changers” were born between 1965 and 1980. 

Finally we have what I call “The Kids.” I mean no disrespect with that name, quite the opposite. This is the generation of my kids and our future is in their hands. What the people of my generation messed up this generation will have to fix. I believe they are up to the task. The experts call them “The Millennials.” I’m not sure why but this much is certain: the world this group grew up in is very different than the one I remember when I was growing up, very very different. This is the group born after 1980. 

So, there’s the four generations. Let’s take a closer look at the first group, “Dad’s.” 

If events shape our lives, and I believe they do, this group’s collective lives were shaped by some big ones. WWII and the great depression come immediately to mind. They struggled to survive. The values they learned in those times are still present today. They possess a great commitment to team members and working together. They, as a group, are the best communicators among all of us. They say what they mean and mean what they say. They typically say the same thing to everyone, there are few games with this group. 

I find the concept of leading anyone from this age group to be almost ridiculous, none of us would be here but for the sacrifices of this group. They deserve as much respect as we can give them. 

Some of the leaders from the  “Changers’ and “Kids,” and sadly even some of the leaders from the “Middles” would dismiss the wisdom of this group. That is a huge mistake for any leader to make. The values they bring along with their wisdom are sorely lacking among many of today’s leaders. 

They are dedicated and fiercely loyal. They seldom waver in the face of a challenge and it’s from this group that great mentors come, to this very day. 

Any leader who discounts advice from this group, solely on the basis that “things are different now” does so at their own risk. Remember, “things” may be different but people are not. Leadership is about people, not things. Advice from this group should be considered priceless!

Procrastinators Have Too Much Patience

Successful people know the difference between procrastination and patience. One simply wastes time and one provides the opportunity to think, reflect, plan, and adjust. 

Patience can be productive, procrastination can’t. If procrastination doesn’t kill your chances for success today then it most certainly will tomorrow or perhaps the next day. But it will get you sooner or later.

Despite popular opinion procrastination is not only a lazy person’s problem. Some very busy people struggle with it too. In fact, one of the very reasons they struggle with it is the fact they are too busy. They attempt to do more than is possible and overload their calendars day in and day out. Their calendars  get so full they have no idea where to start, so they frequently don’t actually get started. 

There has never been a time in history when more “tools” were available to help with the scourge of procrastination. You likely have one of those tools in your pocket… or your hand, this very moment. Yes, the very thing that “helps” us procrastinate, our smartphone, can help us stop. 

There are 100’s of apps available to help us be more productive. I’ve tried many of them but my current app of choice is the native “reminders” app on my iphone. It syncs with my laptop and iPad so I have pings and dings and little red numbers popping up all over. It’s annoying but it also has really helped.

I avoid any app that looks like a simple to-do list. I don’t know a single highly productive person that would go near a to-do list. If you use a to-do list and you think you’re highly productive then  I would tell you you’ll be much more productive when you ditch that liar of a tool. 

I call a to-do list a liar because it fools us into thinking that our “busyness” is the same as productivity. We check something off a to-do list and feel good about getting something done. The question is, should we have done it at all. Maybe and maybe not.

I highly recommend any app that allows you to create a Daily Prioritized Task List. This takes your to-do list to a whole new level. You now do things in order of their importance. That requires thought on how you will use your limited hours in a day. You must decide which of the many things you have “to-do” will provide you the biggest payback and force yourself to follow the prioritization. It may even require you to stop doing some less productive things.

Of course there are a couple of problems with all these apps: I can simply turn off my smartphone (highly unlikely) or just choose to ignore it. (highly likely) I’d bet most people reading this are a lot like me.

That’s why the very best tool to help you with your procrastinating tendencies is a tool that’s been around forever. The “tool” is called a mentor. These days some people call it a coach. 

No one climbs a mountain without a climbing partner and for many people climbing a mountain would be easier than overcoming procrastination. So find a coach or mentor and ask them to help you climb the mountain of procrastination. Share your prioritized daily task list and ask them to hold you accountable to tackle each task in order of it’s importance. 

Virtually every person I’ve ever met could accomplish more than they thought they could and virtually every person I’ve met needed someone to help them do it. The right mentor will remind you of the vast difference between procrastination and patience and never allow you to substitute busy for productive. 

Apps are great but they still can’t replace interaction with a human that has the capacity to care enough about you to truly hold you accountable. I hope they never will.

The Real Cost of Executive Pay

First let me say I’m not sure I should be writing this post; I don’t think it will make either side of this “issue” happy because I have no intentions of taking sides. It is an issue that pops up too often and I’ve been encouraged to write on this subject so I will…. sort of.

Go ahead and call me a weasel but I’m not taking sides because frankly I’m not qualified to say what different levels of organizations should be making. I might be qualified to say what I should be making and perhaps those who work directly for me but that’s about as far as I go. 

I will say however that everyone would be better off if they worried less about what other positions in their organization earn and worried more about how to make their own position more valuable.

So I’m not going to write about how much highly paid people are paid. I going to write about the actual costs associated with being highly paid. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will likely not be surprised that I would look at this from a different angle than most. 

Let’s begin with a true story from a long time ago. Years and years ago I worked for a small business with around 15 employees. It happened that there was an opening for an office assistant and since she apparently didn’t have a lot to do, the wife of the owner of the company took the position. 

She was a wonderfully friendly person. She seemed genuinely interested in people and I think most who knew her would have said she had a caring heart. She was simply a nice person. 

One of her tasks to complete twice a month was payroll. She would compile the necessary documents and forward them to an outside payroll company that would take it from there. 

One winter the owner and his wife went on a well deserved two-week vacation. That wouldn’t have been much of an issue except that she hadn’t had time to complete her payroll work before they left. When payday came there were no checks and no direct deposits. 

That was a problem for many of the 15 employees. Since I was at the time the highest ranking manager around they all came to me to ask where their paycheck was. I ran it down with the payroll company and discovered there were no checks because nothing was sent to them. There was nothing we could do but wait for the owner and his wife to return.

When they returned I immediately shared the “mood” of the team and asked what had happened. The owner’s wife was very defensive and said she didn’t see why “it was a big deal.” She said “surely everyone has a money set aside for just such an occurrence.” 

She was absolutely dumbfounded to learn that no, not everyone could afford to miss a paycheck. She truly and sincerely had no idea that there would be people employed by her husband’s company who lived check to check.

It wasn’t that she didn’t care, it was that she didn’t understand.

She just didn’t understand. 

Money had become the great separator. She had all the money she needed, they were wealthy by any standards and she couldn’t understand the thinking of those who weren’t. They had been wealthy for so long that she couldn’t remember what it was like to not be wealthy. She assumed that everyone was like her and that their thoughts and abilities were like hers too. 

Here’s my point to “highly compensated” leaders: You may not have allowed your income to change you but your income has changed you. The fact that you don’t see the change doesn’t mean that the change has not happened. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about people, it doesn’t mean you think you’re better than anyone else, but know it or not, “things” are different now.

That’s the real cost of executive pay. It’s the separation in thinking between levels of compensation. It really has nothing to do with money at all. It really has nothing to do with executives either. If someone is making $10 million a year and their boss is making $100 million there will be separation. If the boss is a mid level manager making $80,000 a year and their direct reports are making $60,000 a year there will be separation, not as much perhaps but it is still there.  

No matter how much money you make or how high you go in an organization you will never be able to afford the high cost of separation from your people. You MUST know what they are thinking and why they are thinking it. 

Every leader needs a mentor but the higher you go in an organization the more you need an additional mentor from the ranks. This is a mentor, or maybe a better word would be “touchstone” who you allow and encourage to tell you the truth and to tell you what’s happening in the organization. This person (or hopefully, people) is your bridge to reality. This person ensures that you don’t let your title, position, or income level keep you from knowing what’s really happening around you. 

When you let anything come between you and your people you lose the ability to lead. You become so “different” from your people that they can’t understand you and you can’t understand them. When that happens leadership stops. 

I don’t have to tell you what happens when leadership stops.