Generations And Teams

As if life wasn’t already complicated, now we have three generations vying for the best jobs. Baby Boomers are not leaving the workplace as quickly as hoped; Generation X feels like they “don’t get no respect; and the Millennials expect to make top wages within two weeks. All of this is happening in companies across the US. I work with all three of these generations, and find it very exciting. However, like the Economist stated, managing this can be very difficult.

Although “generation gaps are as old as history,” the current situation maybe different due this environment being one of “least welcoming labor markets in modern history.” Businesses are worried about how to handle multiple generations working together; the Boomers are hard working and productive. Gen Xers are viewed as the best team players, but due to the Boomers not leaving the workplace, have not been able to battle their way to the executive offices. “Generation Y, or the Millennials, are less surprising, good at tech stuff but truculent and a bit work-shy.”

Each of these generations has expectations and dreams, some not realized and some waiting to happen, but each heading on a collision course in our businesses. Thus how we manage these competing demands will be critical over the next five years. Although the Economist argues that there is a growing trend of older workers reporting to younger managers, I don’t think this is a new phenomenon. I think this has been fairly common for the last twenty-years.

The generational difference between the Boomers and the Millennials is unmistakable. A Boomer does not use a smartphone in a business meeting to text, while “a millennial may use her cell phone in a meeting, but is multitasking, rather than being disengaged or rude.”

Maybe these differences aren’t all that important and maybe they are. But the differences are real and due the importance of globalization we need to work this out as soon as possible. Teams need to be able to function well, which mean complimentary skills. I think the Boomers, Gen Xer’s, and Millennials can work together and even thrive.

And that is my thought for the day!

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Lessons From President Obama And The Shepherd Boy David

Well, I hate to admit it, and don’t tell my wife, but I ordered another book. Malcolm Gladwell has written another book, that will be published on Tuesday, titled David and Goliath. As I read the description of it this morning I was compelled to purchase it. It was the description of the book and a Peggy Noonan editorial that motivated me to buy another book.

Noonan wrote about how the world misses the old America, and how Obama has lost prestige throughout the world. I know Noonan is writing for a fairly conservative newspaper, and has obviously skewed her reporting in that direction; but the lessons in this arena, along with the historical lessons from the David and Goliath event, are poignant.

Apparently Noonan has had several conversations with diplomats from various parts of the world who are nostalgic concerning the American leadership of the past. They miss the “dynamism, excellence, exuberance, and leadership of the nation they had for so many years judged themselves against.” Noonan says that even our rivals are confused over our lack of leadership on the world stage. The discussion she had with some of our allies mentioned the words of overreaching in the past, but under-reaching now.

The second part of her article discusses President Obama’s place on the world stage. Due to the Syria event Obama’s reputation has been stained. The line was cross and he did nothing, but “dodge, deflect, disappear and call it diplomacy.” Noonan asked veteran diplomats how the world reacts when President Obama enters a room, is it like “de Gaulle, when he was there France was there, or when Reagan came into the room, people stood, America just walked into the room?” The diplomats answered that it is not like that when Obama enters the room. The world feels President Obama is dignified, but has lost his edge. During his speech at the UN, other diplomats could be seen looking at their blackberries, notes, etc. They have heard it all before.

However, the most important point, at least in my opinion, is the identification of the social risk associated with our loss of leadership in the world. A prime minister from a smaller country stated that “Wealthy societies with people who think wealth is a given, a birthright – they do not understand that we are in the fight of our lives with countries and nations set on displacing us. Wealth is earned. It is far from being a given.” Where America has truly backslid is in our understanding of wealth. We have become an entitled nation that is no longer the world’s bank, but a debtor nation. We now think our life style is owed to us. We want to sit back because we have built bigger barns, and eat, drink, and be merry. But, the world wants to see us emerge again from our doldrums fired up with entrepreneurism and vision.

This is where Gladwell comes in. “The overarching theme of David and Goliath is that for the strong, the same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness, whereas for the weak, the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.” We as a country have become strong, and have been strong for many years. We now expect things to go our way; therefore we do not work hard. We expect things to be given to us.  We have become Goliath, when in the beginning we were David.

This reinforces my belief that we need to collectively learn how to work again. We need to become entrepreneurs, we need to become people of vision, and we need to emerge from our drunken, drug induced stupor, and become a nation of leaders. This doesn’t mean that we don’t work. Even going to a job every day, getting a paycheck, can be stupefying. We have stopped living. We have stopped being alive and engaged in life. We have stopped fighting the odds.

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the mores of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesian 5:15, 16

And that is my thought for the day!

Time!

Time is at a premium. Time is not a commodity to be used up and thrown away. Time is an investment, which much be used wisely and intently. We all need downtime. We all need to get the required rest needed to be clearheaded. We all need family time to keep a balanced viewpoint about life. We need time with Jesus to fill up our spiritual gas tanks. We need quality time to perform our jobs appropriately. If we do one thing too much it will detract from the other categories of time. So many thoughts about the concept of time!

This is what I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. When one has a demanding job that requires high levels of effort, one needs to recognize they cannot do it all themselves. The advice to leave it at work is wise and important. You need to try and not bring it home with you. Another axiom is how you need to attempt to control the level of adrenalin that is excreted into your system. This rush is addicting, and if not controlled will damage the host. How to accomplish this is my new lesson in life.

When I go home at night after having been high on adrenalin all day I am exhausted. I am a bit chatty, and my wife who is tired too does not need me yacking her to death. So finding the balance is going to critical over the next few months.

The situation is this, a new strategic plan, justifying current academic offerings, and bringing a team together to perform at a high level. This means creating a sub-team here, work with this stakeholder over there, develop new curriculum in my office, and make decisions with this other group. It is a lot of work, but very rewarding.

My goal is to find that needed balance to stay focused, engaged, but not overwhelmed. The only way to accomplish this is with a strong team. I cannot complete the task by myself. I do not have the skill, nor the drive to make all decisions, to write all the syllabi, and chose what all programs need to do. I need to ensure that I have the right people on the bus, and we are working together to make sure the bus is heading in the right direction.

Adrenalin is good and bad. I am the one that will need to control how much I use. I am the captain of my fate. That said, I know I need to keep my faith on the front burner, and rely on my relationship with God to give me strength to meet the demands of this new position. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Random comments on a cold Friday morning; but to be successful in a high stress job, important comments.

And that is my thought for the day!

Integrity, And The Ability To Pass A Drug Test, Leads To Jobs

A while back I worked with someone who was constantly saying that we were going to do something, and then we didn’t. This person always told me who he knew, how he did this activity, or that activity, or talked to this person, that person. We were doing a project, and he kept saying that the data said we needed to take this action or that action. At first I believed him, and we did it, but it failed miserably. That is why I ask to see data now. Show me the data, then I will believe you.

Credibility is something when lost is hard to regain. Peggy Noonan discussed the loss of American credibility in the world in the WSJ over the weekend. “If an American President says there is a redline and the redline is crossed, there is no question: America must act.” Saying something and not doing it creates a credibility gap.

Being quick to listen and slow to speak, can help one with the perceived credibility gap. However, I feel, just like credibility, we have lost many of our old values. Honesty, trust, and hard work seem to be values that are missing in our modern culture.

Bob Funk, president and founder of Express Employment Services, was interviewed for an op ed that ran in the WSJ over the weekend. He discussed “Where the jobs are and how to get one.” He did make one comment I thought especially interesting, Obamacare is helping his company, a $2.5 billion business, because employers don’t want to hire full time because they’ll be required to provide medical benefits. However, this is not the focus of this blog.

Monday his company will issue a report that argues that a great shift has occurred. With the declining labor force participation rate, America’s quality of life is at risk. “With millions of people giving up job searches, the U.S. labor participation rate is the lowest in 35 years.” This is a bigger problem then one might think. On the other hand Funk argues that anyone who wants a job can have one. Interesting, especially with 20 million people out of work.

Funk says there are three conditions to finding a job. First, you need to have integrity; second, a strong work ethic; third, you need to be able to pass a drug test. Funk thinks, “the notion of the dead-end job is poisonous because it shuts down all sense of possibility and ambition.” I also like his comment, “a job, any job, is the best social program in American and the ladder to success.”

The conclusion of this opinion piece demands that we ponder over its truth. “If Bob Funk’s warnings about unemployment and the jobs market are accurate, then almost everything Washington is doing to address the problem is either beside the point or counter-productive.” Therefore, we should revisit our current actions and adjust, especially if our standard of living is in question.

It may be more basic than this though. It may be that we, as a nation, have lost the hunger to work. We now want to lie, cheat and steal to get what we want, hours in front of the TV. I think there are lessons to be learned from the Eastlake Community in Atlanta, Georgia. The community came together and worked hard to change it from a crime-ridden burg to one that is a model for community improvement and education achievement. We all should look at and see how credibility, integrity, willingness to work hard, and the ability to pass a drug test came into play at Eastlake.

The time is now to stop talking and saying what we are going to do, and take some action. Oh and by the way, this person that I used to work with, I never trusted a word he said.

And that is my thought for the day!

 

 

Freedom!

As I sit in my recliner reading and thinking about the day, wondering what I want to write about, I began to reflect on my life. Over my 62 years I have changed a lot. I have grown from a little boy who did not even know how to properly sweep a garage floor, to an Associate Professor at a college. I have grown from a mediocre student to earning a doctorate, not because I am this extremely smart person, but I was somebody who had the support of a wife and children and could finish the work. I had the freedom to accomplish something, to change something, to want to make a difference.

I remember when I stood in Red Square in Moscow, Russia. The young Russian people that I had met while visiting were flush with excitement about their new found freedom. I stood in Red Square looking at the Kremlin, Lenin’s tomb, and St. Basil’s Cathedral, and rejoicing in the change of Russia from a totalitarian government to a quasi-democracy. At least at that point in time!

The freedom to pursue life and liberty is a wonderful privilege, one that has made our country great and economically strong. The connection between freedom and our dreams is undeniable. As I thought about this I began reading one of the books I am currently reading, and the chapter in Asmus and Grudem’s book were discussing the role of freedom in our pursuit of life and liberty.

The freedoms they discussed could be placed in two categories: social and economic, but I believe the connection is strong. If we have the freedom to move upward in social and economic status, depending on our ability to take initiative to do what is needed to advance, then collectively we are better off. However, there may be social barriers to keep me from pursuing that desire. Therefore, there must be freedom for all races, and all national, religious, and ethnic origins to pursue their dreams. If the dominate group creates barriers to this ability to advance then we are not free.

There needs to be a gender freedom too. Women and men must be free to pursue their dreams. This includes the freedom to be educated, the freedom to access information, the freedom to change if we want, and the freedom to not change if we want.

This freedom should be extended to the market too. Employers need to be free to hire and promote based on merit, and to hire and fire in a fair manner. However, workers should be free to be rewarded for their work. And workers should be free to work any job they are qualified for. Companies should be free from the need to pay bribes, and free from excess government regulation. And if we are to be a free country then we must be free to start or end a business based on our own desires.

The connection between political and economic freedom has been demonstrated historically for hundreds of years. Economies suffer within totalitarian regimes, while political leaders fostering democracy tend to create economic and social advancement.

So American voters, we must never forget, that a great price has been paid for this freedom we enjoy. This freedom has allowed us to become the largest economy in the world. We cannot take this for granted. Our ability to earn money, take classes, and improve our lot in life based upon our initiative, and is deeply rooted within the ethos of our nation. If we give this up because we have decided to stay home rather than doing our duty, I am thinking of King David when he had his affair with Bathsheba, we could lose it all.

Never forget!

And that is my thought for the day!

Boeing, The Good Jobs, And Carl Ichan

Kudos to the Boeing Company! Earlier this week Boeing’s new version of the Dreamliner took flight. The 787-9, which is 20 feet longer than older versions, “can fly a few hundred miles further without additional fuel, and – with a capacity of 270 to 290 seats – can hold 40 more passengers.” Boeing has learned a lot with this program. The new version of the Dreamliner was 70% designed internally, which is different from the original 787. Boeing recognized through the problems faced during the launch of the original 787 that the supply chain did not have the skills they thought it had. Therefore, Boeing moved some of the design and manufacturing responsibilities back in-house. “It is easier to manage something when it is across the street, than on the other side of the world.”

Enrico Moretti described in his WSJ article where the good jobs are and why. He notes that some areas in our country have not recovered from the recession, and some, like Seattle, have. The regions of our country that have recovered are heavily dependent upon innovation industries. Innovation means the ability to think, which means education. “Since 1980, data show that the economic success of a city has been increasingly defined by its number of highly educated workers. Cities with many college-educated workers and innovative employers started attracting more of the same, and cities with a less-educated workforce and less innovative employers – such as traditional manufacturing – started losing ground.” This tells me that education still has value.

The last topic I’d like to touch on is Carl Ichan. I am more of a Stakeholder advocate, than a shareholder advocate. However, when someone invests in my company they should have the right to a reasonable return on that investment. Ichan’s editorial this morning in the WSJ was very interesting. “Challenging the Imperial Boardroom” describes quite well the tension between the principle, or owner within a company, and the agent, the hired manager. In the editorial he describes what he calls a dysfunctional system of corporate governance.

He discusses the “Business judgment rule,” that allows Boards to ignore the will of the shareholder. Or how a board can issue a flood of new stock, when an investor purchases 10% to 15% of the company’s stock, “to dilute those holdings thwart a takeover because it may cost them their jobs.”

Whether one agrees with Ichan or not, Principle-Agent Theory is a relevant area of research for business theorists. Owner rights is well defined legally. The manager is hired to run the business in order to maximize profits and give the shareholders an excellent return. Therefore, I won’t dispute Ichan’s premise, but being a manager I understand the bigger picture.

Whether a company is well run or not can be a subjective measurement. The manager may see the company’s mission differently than the shareholder. The other stakeholders may be receiving value from the company but the shareholders may feel they are not getting the level of dividends that they think they are supposed to get. Each player’s perspective is framed by its worldview.

For Ichan to whine about Michael Dell, and brag about his huge returns to his investors, annualized at 16%, I think is too narrowly focused. Don’t get me wrong, if a company is not being run well, as evidenced by its inability to perform its mission, then it should be taken over by those who can run it well.

I am tired of people being destroyed by large investors who take over a company because its market value is less than the sum of its assets and then the investors sell off the assets and turn a nice profit. I am also tired of the narrow profit focus that Ichan and his cronies have. However, I also believe that profit is still important, and the shareholders deserve a return on their investments.

Good business means good relationships. Ichan is trying to disassociate himself from the new aristocracy by calling board members Imperialists. Not a good strategy. He is a part of that Imperialism, and I am sure he has a very large crown that he wears periodically to remind his employees who is king.

And that is my thought for the day!

Social Entrepreneurship, An Idea Who’s Time Has Come!

Whenever I leave my office I walk down two flights of stairs and then out the door. I always look to see if a colleague’s door is open as I walk out. If it is open, I always poke my head in. He says it doesn’t bother him, and I hope that is true. In these couple of minutes that we exchange comments, I am always encouraged. Yesterday was no exception. I discussed an article I read on Social Entrepreneurship (SE) from this week’s Economist, and how I heard about an anonymous donor who gave a substantial amount of money to help us start our new SE major, and he stated that the concept of SE is an idea who’s time has come. The idea has been around for several years, but I agree it is time to get serious.

I am convinced that by using entrepreneurial tools, we can create better communities and help people climb out of poverty. I am convinced that through the power of business we can increase social capital. However, it will take entrepreneurs who know how to manage resources, gain collaboration, and have the necessary drive for completing the task to create success. As I read, I am coming across more and more examples of how this is happening.

The Economist wrote recently about Social Entrepreneurship in India. The title of the article was “Cut from a different cloth.” The social need involved feminine hygiene, and the 300 million women in India who prefer “rags, dry leaves, straw, or newspapers” over sanitary pads. AC Neilson reports that “70% of women in India cannot afford sanitary products. Many who can pay do not, as they hate having to ask for them in drugstores that are usually run by men.”

Due to the enormous social and economic cost related to missed time at work, women dropping out of school, etc., Social Entrepreneurs “in many developing countries are attempting to discover a solution to this problem. Two of these entrepreneurs is Jaydeep Mandal and Sombodhi Ghosh of Aakar Innovations, a Delhi-based start-up. “They have developed a machine that produces low-cost sanitary napkins using as raw materials agri-waste such as banana fibre, bamboo, and water-hyacinth pulp. Each machine can churn out 1,600 -2,000 pads a day, to be sold for 40% less than branded mass-marketed products.”

Just this idea alone could have been considered a SE, but there is more to the story. “To bypass the current female-unfriendly distribution system, Aakar aims to sell its machines for 250,000 rupees ($4,000) a time to groups of women.” Then the women can manufacture and sell door to door their products. A very interesting idea, but another SE endeavor caught my eye this morning in the WSJ.

The article was entitled “The Atlanta Model for Reviving Poor Neighborhoods.” The East Lake Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia looked at the mixture of poor neighborhoods, crime, and low educational performance, and created a new way of raising neighborhood expectations. They accomplish this through using the human capital available within those “neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.”

For years charities and non-profits, as well as inefficient government activities have attempted to reform impoverished neighborhoods with mixed results. Now East Lake Foundation has found a way to change the low performing actions of a poverty stricken neighborhood into an almost crime free, economically balanced one, while producing the highest performing schools in the state of Georgia.

What did they do? First they focused on one neighborhood.  Next they worked with community and city leaders on every major issue at the same time: mixed-income housing, a cradle-to-college educational program, job readiness, and health and wellness opportunities.” They saw these issues as part of an overall system, and attacked the system holistically. I would add that community, government, and business stakeholders were brought together by the entrepreneur to create success. I hear the wonderful music in the background making me feel all emotionally happy, but what tells me this is successful?

Violent crime is down 90% in this community located in the Southeast Corner of Georgia. Crime overall is down 73%. “Employment among families on welfare has increased to 70% from 13% in 1995.” The article in this morning’s paper also describes the other 30% as elderly or disabled, or people currently in job training. “The income of these publically assisted families has more than quadrupled.” Home values have increased, new stores (including Walmart) have moved in, while restaurants and other services have returned to a neighborhood that even the police would not go into at one point in time.

Another factor involves education. “After negotiating with Atlanta Public Schools to secure the city’s first public charter, [they] built Charles R. Drew School. The K-8 school which opened in 2000, offered longer schools days and an extended school year. It now serves 90% of the children in East Lake neighborhood. Based on measures by the Georgia Department of Education, Drew is the top performing elementary school in the Atlanta school system.”

I could write about this all day. I could tell you that the East Lake Foundation bought surrounding property including a golf course, which will be where the final FedEx Cup playoff will be played next week. Or how children in the neighborhood are hired as caddies at the golf course, which supplies 179 new jobs for the community. But I think I have said enough. This SE endeavor demonstrates the power of entrepreneurship to create positive social change, which can give people hope for a better future.

The motto for our business department at Warner Pacific College is “Transforming our world through the power of business.” And this is what we intend to do, just like the examples above.

And that is my thought for the day!