Time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days
Why would stories of glory days be boring? Think about the last time you listened to someone recount a story of great times gone by. Did the story engage you? Did it bore you? Was there a connection?
Some organizations with deeply rooted histories hold dear to old accomplishments and identities, resting on well-deserved laurels and reputation. These are the revered ghosts of hard work and inspiring lessons, burned in the history books and held up as an example for all to aspire to. At some point, however, there are fewer of the old guard left than there are new faces, and those glory days are merely words on a page – barely even two-dimensional. Those idols lose their potency for lack of a face.
We have all seen the spate of publications in recent history about the changing face of the workforce. There are multiple ways in which our work environments are changing but I focus here solely on generational differences because those dynamics are so fundamentally important to maintaining a well-oiled machine. Organizations are made of and driven by people – human beings – and at some core level this should considerably inform how we think about leadership. Sure, leadership is about decision-making, business acumen, coaching, collaboration, strategic execution… and it is also very much about motivation and engagement. These are the levers that need to be available to any leader in order to make work not just happen but happen beyond expectations.
We are inarguably in a time when there are ever-increasing demands on our time, attention, energy and emotions. This is a common thread in communities and corporations alike – and across generations. As business leaders, how do we compete and in this case, how do we help our colleagues maintain strong alignment and focus to our business mission, vision, value and strategy? By tapping into our human sides, our authentic selves, we can reach employees at any level with great impact. I often hear clients talk about clearly communicating the “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) to participants of a learning initiative. In that instance, it is all about making learning personal. As leaders, we can take this into a generic context to think about how we connect the WIIFM for our colleagues. The days of employees showing up and being present because they have to are quickly fading. Much louder now is the need to give employees reasons to want to show up and give their all.
I’d like to revisit the idea of glory days for a moment. A company’s legacy is important because it represents accomplishments through hard work – trial and error, failure and success – and can provide rich models from which to learn. At the same time, fresh perspectives and voices are critical to a company’s evolution and relevance. What most of us don’t realize is that glory days aren’t only about ancient history (so to speak); a great company moment could have happened as recently as last month.
A lesson is valuable regardless of timing and by changing our perspectives on what legacy means we open the door for greater inclusivity – across generations. To invoke one of my favorite truisms, “It’s not an either-or, it’s an and-both”. Engage your team members and colleagues by listening to and hearing their stories, ideas and perspectives, both mature and new. No one point of view is better than another. Being able to help colleagues consider and value all perspectives can help leaders draw the best and most innovative work from their teams.
How can you, as a leader, demonstrate the value of glory days new and old? How can you facilitate connections around your team and across generations to encourage collaboration and engagement?