Sunday, December 27, 2009

More Bang for your Buck

You can get the most out of your Gen Y employees by trying to understand them and then utilizing the strengths they carry to truly dive deep into company opportunities or strengths. Too often I feel that the Generation gap creates an uncomfortable medium between previous ways of business and personnel management that Generation Y mind set belongs to.

More often than not (and many studies have shown) Gen Y’s top priority in working for an organization is not $$. This says a lot in context to the fact that there are many rising “stars” and high performers in most organization’s Gen Y population. These high performing skills are overlooked or not fully tapped because they’re inability to match and appropriately react to the organization’s set culture and politics or lack the humility and or patience.

It’s so important though, to keep these people resources within your organization and to further enhance the person’s ability to deliver results, instead of brushing off the entire package because of age or culture match. Patience has never been a stereotype of Gen Y and neither has loyalty but most high performing Generation Y’ers will often struggle with leaving a company they believe in and especially if they are confident in what they could do if given the opportunity to create the change needed.

From the business perspective:

It’s expensive to replace employees, especially ones that have been performing for you for many years, because in addition to the cost of hiring and training a replacement your also paying for the loss of results for the time it takes the replacement to get up and running. The largest cost comes from having this high performing Generation Y employee going to another organization and delivering results to another company or worse driving the same results to a competitor, ‘cause let’s face it - A high performing Gen Y’er will quickly and easily procure another comparable position with relative ease.

One of the key differences in the professional history of the generations is the amount of job hopping that Gen Y will do vs Gen X and significantly more vs Baby Boomers who tend to be the current senior leaders in most organizations. So knowing this is the root problem for productivity and cost effectiveness from the overall organization’s point of view. Losing high performers is never easy but losing your Gen Y high performer can be more detrimental because they can and usually come far and in between. High performing Gen Y’ers have the ability to bridge the gap from senior leaders to other Gen Y’ers and if they’re not satiated they can and will leave for other opportunities - and most high performing or savvy young professionals will, can and have started their own companies if they feel that viable options are not available. Creating an even bigger loss in productivity and potential rise in threat level from competing businesses or revenue drivers to your company.

In the end addressing this issue should be handled like any other problem that an organization faces not just as an HR issue. Personnel problems and costs will become increasingly problematic if the proper systems are not in place to retain the Generation Y demographic within your organization.

From the Gen Y Perpective:

Finding value and satisfaction in what you do vs finding value and satisfaction in other organizations while balancing the cost/benefit of salary and amenities. If you understand what I’m talking about then you are the Gen Y that I’m talking about.

How do you know when is enough actually enough? is the grass greener on the other side? How much are you willing to risk? and how bad do you really want what you want?

I find that most of the young professionals I encounter day in and day out have a very high sense of self worth and a very keen understanding of their place in an organization’s hierarchy. Most of the times though its with a “group think” mentality meaning that generally speaking not all high performing Gen Y’ers even want the highest salary or the highest title. They prioritize being valued, being integral, having the ability to impact and influence, and job satisfaction at a higher level.

So if your struggling with your career or retention I offer you a quick exercise that I use when I’m at a crossroad. What is it that you want? I ask myself “if I had _______ I’d be so happy”. What you put in that blank is usually not even what it is your looking for, it’s simply a means to obtain what you actually need to be content. For example I’ve been courted by several companies recently to join their organizations. Usually this is a no brainer because I love what I do and truly believe in Starbucks and desire to move up, but the companies that have asked have been more than interesting to me. It made me double check my status and situation and really assess my “happiness” at my current organization.

In the end I filled the blank in with “a promotion” but the promotion is not necessarily what is going to make me happy - it’s the indirect benefits that come from it.

-Challenge/Job Satisfaction

-Larger area of impact/influence/responsibility

-Higher Salary

-Change of Pace/Something New

-Status of Title

I know this is a very specific example and it won’t be the same for everyone but I wanted to share because it’s much easier for me to navigate my choices and life this way and I hope it helps other young professionals. As Gen Y’ers we tend to be more complex in our needs and obtain the confidence to demand it. That self worth can be used to do amazing things but it can also lead us to quicker than needed decisions.


Gen Y’ers are the future workforce and we need to cultivate a compromising system to allow for avenues of growth. Look at HP creating YEN (young employee network) and also allowing for the option of switching job type (lateral movements) every two years to all their employees. Ideas like that are the start of long term retention and cost saving, and cost savings is something that this recession has taught all businesses to be much more savvy about. It’s usually not a line item on business P&L statements but losing performers and the indirect influence they have on the overall organization can truly be a huge savings in cost as well as the building blocks to sustainable growth.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mob Effect

I've been incredibly busy with work and volunteering the last few months and haven't written anything tactical about management and leading generation Y in quite a while. I thought I would write something that could aid other managers in their respective fields and industries to lead their team in the right direction.

I'll explain my tactics and philosophies in building the team, training, retaining, and changing the culture of your team through generation Y employees.

Talking with my peers, colleagues and fellow young professionals in small and large organizations I find that we all perceive our company's current cost saving measures differently and with different foci on what is important. Our values our created as individuals but also as a collective group within the community of individuals we work with. This is what I call the mob effect. It's one portion of how we has human beings react to change -but for some reason I find that gen Y is overtly reactive, emotional, and vocal about their perspective. Instantly seeking validation through "likes" on facebook or retweets on twitter, or even a ":)" or "tots" via text message. On the other end of the these updates and messages the "friends" or public agrees or disagrees and it creates a larger group feeling a certain way with so much shared abundance of information.

How many times have you written up an employee, or had a serious performance conversation with a member of your team? and what you said and how you said it is fodder for the rest of the team by day end? Or how many times have you not said anything and your "in-action" is messaging the wrong message and that gets out not only to your team (through gen y's need to share) , but neighboring groups and teams? With the amount of information that is shared and collected so freely and easily its more and more imperative for managers to become leaders than simply be managers or Gen Y will collect and share data and essentially mob into one hive mind/group and make a collective decision that might not be the direction your organization has asked you to take the group. The scenario I'm painting is a bit extreme, but I wanted to get the idea of the mob effect explained so that I can explain how to navigate it and leverage it. Take the negative aspects of Gen Y and make them work for you and your organization.

1. Eliminate negativity. Any change cannot take place without the will and energy to change. Like a bad virus a negative team member will infect the rest of the group. Treat it quickly and early and if it still persists - take the member out of the equation.

2. Recruit and Borrow Aggressively. There are people that are successful all around you in the same organization, or competing, or neighboring, or indirect or anything. Get out there and aggressively search and find the right people, knowledge and resources to obtain your goals. This is to operate your business while you slowly build, hire and train "your" team of people that you interview and choose.

3. Keep them happy and create clear goals and objectives. Create validations on behaviors that you want. Create quick and severe punishments for behaviors that are un acceptable and continually push and grow team members. Make it competitive and develop skills and cross train. Read Jack Welch's Auto Biography it explain this a bit better than me but "continually hire great people and continually performance out employees that are not elevating or escalating the organization or group.

4. Most important! make it "cool" to be the best at what you do. Change the culture of the group and control the mob effect. This part takes time and as your building your team and taking out the negativity in your team the collective mob thought will all be geared towards your direction because only people that understand your vision will be left. Reward monetarily and with praise and recognize those that strive for greatness set in the parameters of your organization.

The main points to keep at the top of your mind is to understand that you are constantly communicating wether your verbally talking or not. Also understand that any message you send to any gen Y is a message to all gen Y. Gen Y is a culture of sharing and individuality and as that culture progresses it actually becomes the exact opposite of individuality but collective mob effect. Don't fear it, embrace it and own it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Finding Balance

Have you ever felt over committed and stretched so thin that your not even sure why you do what you do? and more importantly is what your doing the most important and vital thing to get yourself "caught up"?

Its been a very interesting month for me with the culmination of many various volunteer groups, committee work, board, council group and Starbucks obligations, leading to a point where I quite literally cannot keep up or seem to get caught up. This has happened to me before in many more instances than I would like, but in all the prior situations I've come to the conclusion that "where there is a will there is way". That will has forced and guided me to become more and more developed in my planning and organizing skills by utilizing technology and systems to accomplish my ambitions and goals of wearing more hats and being more things to more people.

As I get caught up in another moment like that now in my life I've come to the realization that it's all about balance. There are two very specific situations in the last few weeks that have helped guide me to my conclusion of finding balance and happiness.

The first hit me when I was on my 4th hour of emails, fairly stressed but determined, when my friend texts me. Trying to be reactive and kind I respond via text, and as I go back to emailing I end up responding to one of his emails, while we are still texting. Long story short we end up texting, emailing, and instant messaging - 3 separate conversations. It became a joke and he added facebook to the mix. I'm sure it's a gen Y thing to always be so connected and reactive, but the tricky part of it is that I was satiated in my need to keep with my systems, emails get responded to by amount of work time, quick ones first and then filed in the proper mail folder. Texts are their own category with its own system and same with facebook etc. I learned two things.
1. sometimes being too organized and disciplined can actually lead to more inefficiency
2. If your inundated with "To do's" how do you dictate what gets done right now and what gets pushed out? which leads me to my second epiphany.

All week long I'm going through the motions of where my iphone tells me I need to be, color coded by what "hat" I need to be wearing. *After planning something in the macro level I let my iphone tell me where to be and what to do. Every thing I did and every event I attended I questioned myself, is this a better use of my time than that? I've never questioned the planning that I've put in place on my calendar before, but with my "time" resource dwindling and commitments increasing it becomes much more apparent that something has to change. And so I come back to the same conclusion as before "where there is a will there is a way". So I'm going to try a couple of tactics and systems to enlarge my capacity and develop the skills to do more in my day with less time or cut things out.

The interesting thing about this time around is that I'm not stressed out about it anymore. I know where I'm headed and through trial and error, success and ambition I will eventually get to the level that I want to be at. I just need to take a moment to smell the roses and enjoy what I have.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Win-Win-Win Philosophy

What is the future of business and success? How can you ensure your one step ahead of the curve? Here is my personal prediction and perception of how to navigate through the cultural changes caused by the generational differences and find "success".

You have to start thinking broader, mixing macro and micro and focusing on the obvious while keeping in mind the bigger picture- Just like Gen Y.

Baby Boomers are getting older and nearing the age where they will stimulate certain industries such as the medical and financial planning industries etc. On the flip side Generation Y by default will help mold and create the new parameters of business culture simply through becoming the dominant work force and business leaders over the course of the next 2 decades.

You need to take into consideration what Generation Y will bring as it becomes not only the dominant work force but also the dominant buying power in our nation. So what does Gen Y want? and what would drive this generation to not only work but to buy and promote?

The win-win-win strategy and philosophy is something that I strongly believe in and I predict will be instrumental for all businesses in the next few decades. I have found that Generation Y and to a certain degree Generation Next will change the culture of commerce, community and government as it comes into full swing as the dominant player in the workforce, community and politics. It's a cyclical balance (and projection) but I guesstimate that the successful businesses and entrepreneurs of tomorrow will be savvy in being balanced and multi faceted to be truly remarkable.

The win-win-win Philosophy is seamlessly incorporating earning revenue by community involvement and other various social services which in turn alleviates tax payer $, to in turn allow the government to take the savings to stimulate the economy, and the cycle continues again.

I have a great example of this and although it may be the exception to the rule, the philosophy and mindset is what I'm trying to communicate.

At Starbucks in Downtown Mountain View CA on Castro Street I was able to hire a cafe attendant with down syndrome named Jeremy. Jeremy is an excellent employee with perfect attendance and performance, always looking for ways to develop new skills and continue his employment with Starbucks. Jeremy "wins" because he has a job where he gets to be an active member of the community, earns a paycheck and benefits, belongs to a team and helps build awareness for people with developmental disabilities to all the people that frequent this Sbux.

Starbucks wins because we just earned an employee that will never be late, always excited to work, never needs to be re-trained, will learn new skills, grow with the company and never want to leave. And as an added bonus - something that helped me truly understand the possibilities of the win win win . . . .business grew! Customers old and new would hear about Jeremy and to support his employment would drive for miles and miles, sometime skipping many SBUX locations to come and purchase their coffee at the Castro St. location to support Jeremy's employment. I made more money from trying to do something good for someone in need! It was an unexpected benefit which was a very easy and unique sell to my company.

The government wins because now that Jeremy works at SBUX he also earns benefits that comes with anyone working PT to FT. He gets to earn stock options, 401k, medical, dental, and all the other plethora of discounts that SBUX partners get, and he earns his wage and pay. When we have people with special needs they qualify for supportive services funding paid by the gov't and tax payers. Although having a PT job at SBUX does not eliminate his needs for supportive services, over time and with enough participants it will lead to a decrease in gov't spending and involvement. The eventual savings can go back into stimulating businesses that focus on: being green, working with delinquent teens, supporting the elderly, etc etc as these businesses make their revenue in their respective industries.

Generation Y'ers tend to choose to purchase products from companies that have a sense of community involvement and it's an incredible anomaly since the inception of Corporate America, but- it's "cool" to do good. The more Gen Y pushes and gears companies to share their profits with social aspects in their local and larger community through their purchasing power, companies will focus their energies in being more active members in their communities because it's not only the smart way to make money but potentially the only way. As an added benefit or "win" the government will be able to perpetuate the cycle by funneling it's savings or funding towards business and economy. It's the cause and effect caused by Generation Y's growing age, position in economy and embedded culture. This is the Win-win-win philosophy.

Let me know what you think? and feel free to check out Google's app all for good, done in collaboration with the First Lady, as well as we include initiative in collaboration with Maria Shriver our CA's first lady.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Obama leading Gen Y

I think it's absolutely fascinating that President Obama has placed our first Chief Information Officer in his administration with the sole purpose of uploading as much analytical data the government collects and uses in one central location with with ease of use and accessibility of standard formatted files. I just finished downloading an excel file quantifying CA residents by year, age, sex, and race. I don't know what I personally will do with the information so abundantly given and freely shared but it's exciting to think about the potential that it brings. And even more so the simple idea of the government creating such transparency with it's data, it's wonderfully catering to the newer generations in a way that asks for collaboration and sharing. Again it can be harmful as well because with all sharing and openness it's the will of the user and with the data being so manipulatable you really have to ask yourself why take the risk? what is the point?

Why create a centralized place to gather information? why make it accessible to the general public and share such information via the internet?

I've been speculating and trying to wrap my brain around it with no real tangible reasons that I can ascertain but I do know how it makes me feel. It makes me feel interested, excited, and it gives me a sense of belonging and ownership. I also would like to add that the website and "idea" gives so much transparency that it eludes to accountability and trust. I feel more secure knowing that we will know what the leader we elected is doing and the metrics to either hold him accountable or create opinions or understanding of his actions. It makes me feel like I'm part of the "team" or networked in. Lastly it's so in tune with Generation Y. We don't have to ask what? why? how? can I help? who do I talk to? we simply are given the information and encouraged to collaborate and expand and create new ways to optimize and revolutionize. . .and share!

Our current administration is trying something very new and very generational as a small part of it's strategy to lead this country and create buy in into it's policies and procedures. Using technology and data sharing to create transparency and collaboration with the public, twittering updates and finding new forms of mediums to create not only government accountability and public and private collaboration but ultimately buy in and trust. I can't speak for the country and all the generations but I truly feel that this change in operations and medium will truly impact and sing a strong note with Generation Y.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Clear and Concise Message

Navigating through the myriad of stimuli that Gen Y faces is a daunting challenge. In our current day of age we are a generation that has access to an inexhaustible resource of information and mediums of communication. The level at which we can now communicate and "share" is in a sense global and covers almost everything you can think of.

So how does one create movement and grab the attention of the generation leading the masses in global communal sharing of information? It's through a clear and concise message.

Undaunted, simple, clear, and unchanging. I've been struggling a lot with various groups that I work with both professionally as well as personally. It seems that the economic downturn may have created a cause and effect, a reactive flux in what needs to happen because the cause was so immediate and clear. So many months after reacting and reacting I come to realize that I may have lost my focus and priorities.

Its important when managing or working through Generation Y to keep the message clear because we are constantly bombarded with data and new information. And when we are forced to work through these chaotic times Gen Y'ers tend to lose their focus or determination. For example I manage two stores currently, and I recently took a vacation. When I got back the clear and simple message was almost all forgotten and the store culture and work was fairly skewed by the leader I put in place. Granted I've only been at these stores for a short amount of time and it was expected to a certain degree, but it's interesting to me how aligned everyone got once I expressed the clear and concise message again.

There will always be a million things going on and as we get older . . . it becomes 2 million things but if you can message the main priority clearly, concisely and create consistency you can create traction with a diverse group of highly action oriented, capable but terribly entitled and frenetic group.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

change takes time . . .

I've had some great conversations in the last few days with a number of people who have really impressed on me the functionality and the simple truths of the generational gaps. I wanted to write about some of the thoughts that were shared and some of the revelations that I have had from them.

The first major point that I learned was that our preceding generation is not necessarily savvy with the usage of all the mediums of technology or at least at the rate at which we progress with new technology. I was talking with a friend/colleague/mentor about the frustrations I had with the inefficiencies of some of the methods that we would use to execute our business and various other volunteerism groups. I felt that the major loss was in communication and hierarchy systems that caused bottlenecks and politics vs the end goal achievement. His reply to me was that as much as there needs to be amiability to accept change in technology and grow with its resources; the end truth is - change takes time and traditions are not as easily broken. If you really want to achieve an end goal then I would also need to realize that I'm actually hindering the end goal by not comprimising to the systems in place.

It was a very eye opening moment for me, to realize that I could with my good will and intentions be the reason that the end goal could be hindered even in the slightest. I still feel very confident about my idea of what a more efficient method could look like but by trying to force change without thinking of my audience I was in turn slowing the end goal down.

The next idea that I learned the last few days is that as generation Y'ers we tend to be much more public and out spoken. Call it righteous or opinionated but the very fact that I'm writing this blog so publicly and confidently about tactics and my point of view on such an abstract topic as business, management and generational differences is in itself proof of that. There have been so many times where I have given the feedback that I need to work on my composure and or tact when working with people. Granted that I can't say for sure if I'm loved and respected by my staff, supervisors and peers but I can say that I rarely hold back what is on my mind. It feels too natural to me to be honest with my thoughts and opinions to any audience. When I'm not sure I ask, when I don't agree I disagree, when I enjoy something I recognize it, and I will speak my mind the same way without reservation or fear to whomever I'm working with. This in idea is great but in applicability it is also troublesome and can detriment the organization's flow of operations immediately.

Not everyone is open to feedback, open thoughts, direct engagement without politics and its not necessarily the way the world works. Change takes time and in order to effectively achieve the group's end goal its very necessary for generation Y to learn to these systems and processes and utilize them as the change happens if the result is to achieve a goal.

My last reflection on this topic is that the value of achieving a goal has to be more important than doing something the most efficient way, especially when the frustration of the inefficiency only creates further inefficiency. It goes both ways- and as time progresses so will change.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Technology & the Socialist Community

I'm an avid gadget and tech buff. Always reading up new and hot items coming off the line or soon to come out, especially paying attention to the functionality and flexibility of its systems. Yes its a hobby and its also a passion in certain degrees, but it also serves a major purpose for the masses that are like me. I believe that we are looking for optimized way to be more efficient.

When we look at new gear and tech that comes out we are comparing its functions and capabilities with the systems that we currently have. We are asking ourselves is it cool? but really we are asking ourselves will this make my life easier and more effective? The demand in our culture to be more effective and do more with less is so great that we are creating the demand for products and services that give us more ease of use and increasing functionality.

With this continual augmentation of technology with a focus on effectiveness, I wonder what are some of the fundamentals that we as Generation Y prioritize. I personally feel that we drive most of our focus through "sharing" be it social or professional. The idea is that we are continually looking for ways to be more connected . . . with everything that we can with as little outlets or peripherals to carry around or maintain.

Can your phone access the internet? what speed? can it read pdf? can it word process? how much is it? and as googlenomics start to come into play in the next decade and the masses will enjoy relatively if not complete free connectivity - how fast? what can't you do on it? how large is it? There are a million questions again varying between different people and how they utilize their peripherals as well as live their lives, but the fundamental of "sharing" information stays the same.

So in a way I find it very unique that as a capitalistic economy our inner need to share, post, read, recirculate information is creating a common area of information where the masses can pull from and benefit. For a very specific example, I say to one of my employees "oh I'm really looking for a new tv. I'm really excited about some of the new technologies coming out with it. Maybe I'll go to Best Buy?" They say to me "why? why don't you check online, craigslist, amazon, etc. price check, read feedback, reference tech sites for reports?" Get the exact same product but through a million different channels and look for a better price with much more research and information.

The thing that really interests me about this simple example is that it made me realize that it covers everything! My employees with me included are sharing our status and events on facebook and interfacing and in effect sharing common information. We are collectively gathering the diversity, talents, interests etc of our staff. Although its not necessarily a huge priority in immediate top line sales it is something to recognize.

Generation Y is helping to create the very community of information thats accessible and editable - all the time. And their demand for products and services that feed into it only create the technologies that foster it. Supply and demand.

I'm not really sure what my point is or even if I'm justified in saying any of what I just said but I thought it was an interesting thought regarding the direction of Generation Y and its effect on our society.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Proactive Approach

We as human beings have a highly limited attention span varying between what engages and intrigues us. Take the average attention span in a work environment and cut it down a little bit more to accommodate Generation Y. In no way is this a statistic or truth. I truly don't have any data to back this up beyond my personal experience and opinion. I have found in my experiences managing generation Y that multi facets of a job mentally bog down my employees especially when I relay the urgency of all the priorities.

Generation Y tend to have the ability to multi task and do a tremendous amount of small tasks at the same time. They usually look for instant gratification or quick fixes and many small successes. It's very common for Gen Y to connote frenetic movement with success and accomplishment. It's interesting though when you look at the bigger picture and see the long term growth and end result of such activities. They usually burn out or end up dropping a lot of priorities and becoming more reactive problem solvers than proactive stable workers. Not to say you don't need the rockstar employees that can do everything all at once and magically be at all places at once. Especially when they make you scratch your head wondering if they have 2 brains and 6 arms and more so when you do truly need to react with the utmost urgency. At the end of the day you need to capitalize on those extraordinary individuals and hone in on their ability to teach and condition others how to be like themselves while you show them how to do less but get more done.

In any job, in any industry you will have a mission and an objective and to stay in line with those goals there will be multiple priorities with varying levels of urgency. In many instances the resolution or tactic to the end goal will have contradicting messages as well as multiple priorities that are deemed as equally high priorities. Navigating through the desires of your organization's fundamental mission, your employees development and buy in, and your customer's satisfaction is what causes so many Generation Yers to quickly become wrapped up in the reaction vs the long term vision and movement. I've heard it called by my mentor as the "shiny object syndrome" where we get bogged down by changes and direction and start reacting to every new "shiny object" that comes are way because as humans we are mentally wired that way.

The key to bringing your team out of this funk of always having to "fix" problems is to stay true and stable to your long term vision. Balancing between reacting and pro-acting towards your long term vision. There will always be reactions that need to happen especially when managing people. People will get sick, forget to request off to study for a final, have a random and urgent family function come up. . . . etc.

You learn to deal and react and find your highly capable and reliable people and lean on them but you start to find solutions as you do so, so that the problem never happens again. I always choose to over staff my store and/or bank numbers of employees that can work or cover shifts from other stores.
This is by far the most basic but fundamental tactic that I use to ensure high productivity and growth in revenue. It's how I stay proactive vs reactive and control my store, and try my best to never let my store control me.

Over staffing will reduce hours on average across the board throughout your employees. So you communicate very clearly what the parameters of earning hours are. Another blog post will go over "clear and concise message" but you basically leverage what qualities you want out of your team by giving the most hours to performers who exceed your expectations and are dependable. Over staffing also allows for people to request days off with the ability of having many willing people to come in to cover their shift. Anyone that doesn't perform will get little or no hours or at the very least will always know exactly where they stand with you, and know exactly what to be like by role modeling after the higher "hours" earning employees. This is by no means a Starbucks tactic, its just something that I do because I refuse to be immobilized by "shiny objects". When you don't have to worry about your employees being able to cause disruptions in your vision and also at the same time giving them resources to readily pull upon in needs of crisis; you naturally eliminate the problem causing employees and develop responsible employees.

I befall reacting often as my time and energy is pulled every which way by my company, employees, friends, family and everything else I entertain in my life but I continually try and plan ahead and stay true to my vision for every aspect of my life so that I can be pro active vs reactive and in essence do more with less. To foster Generation Y to have this mentality you need to create systems to condition the way they think in a structured way so that in the end of the journey your store will rarely have any situation deter it from it's smooth operations.

As a manager your store is a representation of your leadership. You are only as good as your weakest person.

Soft Push

I'm not sure if this is a topic or strategy to better lead generation Y but as I work at Starbucks and predominantly manage Gen Y'ers I wanted to write about a process that I call Soft Push.

I've had the fortunate opportunity to be transferred more times than I have fingers. I'm writing today about my strategy and tactics that I employ when I get transferred to a new store. In most cases being transferred or taking over a store does not mean that its a positive move and entails many opportunities that need to be changed in the store.

Soft Push starts off with coming into the store with the mindset of doing exactly as the strategy's name. Softly Pushing. Its coming with the idea that you need build a certain level of rapport if you want to change any process, culture, or systems the store already has in place. Its the balance between building trust and relationship while moving the needle and creating the foundational changes that need to be made to turn a business.

I start off by immediately trying my hardest to get to know every single employee and customer that I can for the first few weeks. And when I mean getting to know them, I truly mean getting to know them, even in their personal hobbies and interests as well as with their perspective on work. That interest in people serves two purposes: 1. it creates interest back and immediate fondness and rapport. 2. it also tells you a lot about the culture, personality and limits of your people.

People always ask me how I "change" stores so successfully so quickly? What systems do I use? what strategies do I have? but it has nothing to do with my systems or process. A system and process is only another tactic; its the people that run the systems and processes that create the end result. You can get from point A to B in a million different ways; its the manager that gets to Point B the fastest and creates sustainability that is successful. In order to be that manager you need to learn to balance between pushing your team to change while making sure you work on the relationship so that they don't despise you. If you remember the movie the "Bronx Tale" when Sonny say's "be strong enough so they respect you, but love them enough so they don't hate you". Although I hate relating successful management to organized crime the philosophy and skills of leadership are the same no matter what your industry. So when people ask me what my strategy is I try and explain Soft Push because the strategy is not tactical its building relationships and indirectly building your team and constantly adapting and fine tuning to ensure that your pushing but softly.

During this rapport building your looking for ways to optimize the work flow. Work the way they work, and try and understand why they do things the way they do it. People at the bottom always have more knowledge about what they do than what we give them credit for and the best ideas come from the people actually doing the job. And then you softly push them to the desired change needed. You find the key people that you know will speak up and have built a good rapport with. Start asking them questions, ie "so . . . why do we have these here and do this? isn't there a better way to do this?" "it really bugs me when I have to go back and forth twice to do the same job, do you know what I mean?" and always finish it off with a "what do you think we can do?" and even if the idea they propose is illogical or worse you support it and foster it. The actual end result is not as important at this phase as the soft push in culture is. Its creating ownership from your team, empowering them to think about efficiency and the bigger picture. These small steps, although slow and sometimes arduous will in actuality lead to a faster and more sustainable turnaround of profits, work environment, and ultimately customer experience in the bigger picture or 6 month view of the business. So when that bad idea from an employee is executed to failure, you make sure to laugh it off and assure the employee the problem can easily be fixed and encourage them to try a different tactic until they land on something better.

Once you have the team agile and accepting of change you can start weeding the bad players out and truly creating the systems and vision for your business. Working on optimizing the layout for work flow efficiency, focusing on sales building, people development you name it.

The tricky part in Soft Pushing is to never get stressed out, when utilizing this strategy especially with Generation Y'ers because the first couple of weeks will be text message mania! with successes and failures, he said she said, this and that. Always stay calm and positive and encourage thought and build rapport while analyzing your people's threshold for ambiguity, patience, intellect, social skills, and creativity. Most people don't care how much you know but how much you care. You can learn more about how to lead your people when you let them tell you what they need to work on. Encourage it and gather as much information because once you have your core team soft push becomes power play (which I'll go over next time).

I will say that this soft push strategy has worked for me and I've fine tuned it to a pretty confident skill level, is it the best way? I don't know. I've seen managers come in and fire and replace the entire staff, I've seen managers try and gain "buy in" and change the store manually, and I've see everything in between. Over the years I've found my method to be the most optimal in saving labor costs, morale, and turning the business around the quickest and effectively. Who knows? Its my blog so I'll say what I want. :) And with my audience being Generation Y workers I utilize their mediums of communication and culture to help them relate to my end goal. Learn your balance. People say you can't be all things to all people, but with proper planning and diligence you can get fairly close and fairly close is all you need for a short amount of time for Generation Y to want to follow your leadership.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bridging the Gap

I remember when pagers were the trendy item to have. I also fondly remember the numeric code language used to communicate with one another via pager just like text messaging without the ability to respond instantly and wherever you were.

434-40111-8-11 = hey how are you
11143123-8-11 = where are you

Don't ask how it makes sense but I do remember that I was extraordinarily apt in communicating in pager text talk. When cell phones became smaller and more cost effective it practically eliminated the pager industry and completely buried the language of numeric pager text talk.

Fast forward many years later to today with SMS and now MMS as mainstream mediums of communication.

To be quite honest I truly loathed texting and was a late adopter of it. I was brought up to have concise phone conversations with proper phone etiquette of introducing yourself and requesting who you were looking to speak to. I will even add that I still mail a handwritten letter or card to thank people for large gifts or events. Albeit I don't do it quite as often as I used to and I think its because I'm progressively switching to the Gen Y's preferred method of communication - text messaging.

Informal, quick, responsive and fairly culturally accepted to "text" even in the company of other people. The main reason I started to adopt text messaging with its very specific communication restraints and effectiveness was because as a manager of Gen Y'ers I found them to be my main customers and focus; like I expected them to focus on our customers I found that I had to focus on them to get to my customer. Although I still find it hard to effectively communicate via text messaging and I find that sometimes it takes longer to deliver a message, it has it's advantages.

Quick, informal, responsive, specific, multi task

Depth, miscommunication, emotion, passive aggressive in the sense of being intrusive to your day to day

Although there are many strengths and weaknesses that I have not thought of, my ultimate decision to not only adopt but accept and flourish in the text messaging culture to give my "customers" what they want allows me to more effectively lead them to get the desired result.

Its common knowledge and a simple but fundamental business philosophy:

Listen and understand what your customers want and give it to them.

I find that many managers struggling with managing Gen Y'ers have a huge disconnect between the generations' cultural differences. More often than not Gen Y'ers don't like to be managed and prefer to be lead, and in order to lead you need to see your employees as your customer and listen and understand what they want and . . . . . give it to them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Social Networking

Its not that it's bad or good, it's simply a change in the way we communicate and socialize. A very over efficient way to keep in touch with friends and family, present, past, and even possibly future.

I remember many years back when websites like Xanga and Friendster ruled the social networking sites. Then came along hi5 then a multitude of other sites finally falling on myspace and now facebook. I'm sure there will be more as we progress but the truth is that social networking is going to be around for quite a while. Its to easy to stay connected and up to date with . . . well everyone and anyone.

Its also an important fact to note "how" Generation Y uses social networking in difference than any other generation. There is the very obvious and immediate reason of having the ability to re connect with long lost relationships and stay in tune with a multitude of people with little or no work. And there are many layers to why Gen Y'ers prefer a multitude of facebook friends vs. allowing the natural progression of losing some of your friends as you grow or at least the ones that were really never even "friends".

Its also interesting to see how new technologies are aggressively embracing social networking and staying "connected". For example I have Loopt that not only lets you give your network of friends; status updates it also gives them your exact location on a map. I also have loopt set up so that it notifies facebook of my status update, location with a map, as well as my twitter account. Is it necessary? I truly don't know but as much as I digress from it when I notice that I'm losing the "Real life" interactions that aid me in influencing and leading my team at work I always come back around to Facebook. The convenience and instant gratification of the whole system creates a quick fix for our natural need for socialization.

I also want to note that businesses are now gearing towards finding ways to create revenue through the masses through social networking with failures and marginal success. Its an inevitable process for something that draws this many people to a central place will also draw a way to make revenue. I'm fascinated with the failures of Facebook to post online purchases of their users to their public space for visibility to their networks, and the successes that companies have creating brand loyalty through twitter and other social networking sites. I can gaurantee that as social networking develops along with our technology someone will figure out a novel and ingenious way to make sales off the numbers of consumers gathered.

And then you have Linkedin which is another topic in itself.

You can also create blogs to write in more detail what your doing or how your doing and you can choose to follow or subscribe to RSS feeds and updates. You can twitter status updates and locations and again follow and subscribe. There are just so many ways that we communicate and socialize with so many layers that fulfill so many needs and functions. The end result is to at least check it out and play around with some of the mediums that our Generation Y so embraces because its understanding or rapport that will be the foundation to leading Gen Y.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bigger Purpose

I've found that in my years of managing many Generation Y'ers that there are very simple and profound ways to effectively lead them. Today I'm writing about a specific method that I've personally found effective for me that covers some of the simple tactics that add to the more complex strategy.

I have found that its imperative to fully explain how the small details in your operations lead to a greater purpose. For example an employee might question "why we place our products before the register instead of spreading it through out the store?" It's been my recommendation to always take the time to think about the question and take a moment to answer. If you know the answer and can explain how "its important to streamline all the sale items before the customer gets to the register" it will explain to them why we don't utilize the space in the rest of the store as well make it easier to explain to them the importance of presentation and organization of the limited retail space before customers get to the register.

You have just created a more knowledgeable employee as well as someone who understands the importance of the processes. There are times where these questions lead to more questions. And it is for this reason its always good to understand the bigger picture. Generation Y will try and understand how their simple task adds to the bigger picture at the end of the process, and questioning old processes helps streamline and create efficiency above the status quo. Don't be afraid to say you don't know the answer and to inevitably question the process to fully understand the bigger purpose yourself so that you can not only be knowledgeable but be able to explain it to your employees. And after investigation, it doesn't make sense, don't be afraid to question it yourself - and try and fix it.

I've also found that having a bigger purpose in community involvement has helped create more buy in, rapport, and ownership - and if nothing else simple loyalty. Loyalty is something that Gen Y'ers are not known for.

Give them something to work for. "We are working so hard and we need to achieve these goals because if we can work a little harder the extra will go to helping "XYZ" out."

It's really hard to explain the mindset of this community involvement and willingness to give back, or to have an opinion and "cause" but the best example that I have to further explain would have to be Project (Red).

Project Red works towards saving lives by supplying medical supplies to 3rd world countries, educating people about AIDs and preventative measures etc. Many companies work with Project Red, where they will label an item they have as Project Red and portion of the proceed goes to Project Red and their cause. I believe Generation Y leads this change in cultural adaptation to making money and being socially responsible. People will continue to buy merchandise such as clothes, computer, coffee but if you can buy what you need and help someone live better at the same time and the company makes money with no cost difference to you the consumer . . . what would you do?

Gen Y'ers will live their independent lives feeding their instant gratification needs but wanting what they do at work and purchase as consumers to be socially responsible and for it to have a bigger cause and purpose.

Financial success, stability, social status and social popularity are still inherent in all generations but as Generation Y comes into full stride in our workforce and as they become the dominant purchasing and spending demographic in our nation its important to understand that they also care about the community and social impact of their purchases.

So to draw from the upcoming workforce: give them a reason to work hard and foster their ingenuity . . . give them a purpose and goal. Make it real and genuine and ensure that your support is 100% wether your the point person or not.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What is Generation Y?

Ipod listening, trendy clothes wearing, iphone using, twittering, facebooking, downloading, text messaging, connected to a local wifi, commenting, researching, sharing, and creating a new blog about their perspective on life. . . and the crazy thing is this is all happening simultaneously as they walk down the street to their Starbucks to get their sugar free vanilla soy latte.

This is obviously an exaggeration, but in all reality the differences between "how" we communicate and socialize has changed more rapidly creating a large divide between the generations. Where emailing and cellular phones were considered a huge progression in communication and socializing, with the drawbacks and strengths being you were always connected or accessible. Gen Y actually takes that one step further and embraces the accessibility publicly through twitter, and facebook, linking with their social and professional networks and always being public with everyone that is interested. Creating a whole new medium for commerce as well as socializing and developing one's values and ideals.

Its confusing to most Gen Y'ers how the simple handshaking, eye contact, and presentation of their outfits can and could matter to their effectiveness in most organizations. They tack on more to their personal styles and opinions - searching for humor, purpose, and belonging to a niche vs following the main stream. They multi task to the point of spreading their focus on so many areas simultaneously that it usually hinders their ability to connect and influence; searching for instant gratification in socializing, and use frequent informal methods of communicating. They lean towards questioning the purpose for tasks to understand the bigger picture and have a need to know "what" they're doing falls in line with their opinions and values. Direction taking is not as necessary or culturally accepted unless they know what it is they're doing and why and that also includes the fact that they are more confident in questioning authority.

Its hard to decipher how to reach, build rapport and ultimately to lead this new generation but to understand the weaknesses as well as the strengths will directly aid into creating actionable tactics on leading Gen Y.

I've covered some traits of a stereotypical Gen Y'er and some of the negative points but to further bullet point it from a manager's point of view. . . . :

Unable to function without questioning
Unwilling to bend personal values even in the face of organizational values or changes
Alleviated fear of risk creates unsound judgements and actions

Optimizing for efficiency
Ability to understand the bigger picture
Multi tasker
Alleviated fear of risk creates novel and new ways of thinking and growth
Savvy in social events and bigger picture thinking
Willing to give back to a cause or have a cause & purpose

Please feel free to comment and let me know if there is anything that you think I can add to the list.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Its probably the most noticeable and shocking aspect of the generation Y that people notice first wether they realize it or not; that's why they are uncomfortable or perturbed when you interact with Gen Y. The entitlement aspect of who they are and the idea that they automatically deserve "something". Who knows how it came to be, beyond the fact that its simply there and hard to detect. Its a tricky balance to recognize it and then to have to manage it. Hopefully if you can understand it though it will help you recognize it and then you may be able to learn how to manage it.

Entitlement goes something like an employee of mine that would say "you better promote me since I've been here for almost 2 years and I know how to do everything, or you should or I'm going to leave" or some variation of that. Or entitlement could be in comments like "I'll just get a better job where they will respect me and better utilize my strengths" even though they might have no experiences beyond the skills that they have learned here. And oblivious of the fact that the skills they have learned were from the same place they are upset about. Its that they don't appreciate the idea that they need to prove themselves, its the mentality that they can already do it or already deserve it.

I've seen this entitlement work both positively and detrimentally for generation Y and for myself. I lead fearlessly and work with a fervor that would scare the most diligent. I don't doubt that I can achieve and always feel confident that I can do things that may be higher than my position or pay grade regardless of my experience or even if I don't have any knowledge of it at all. Its the just-throw-me-in-and-I'll-figure-it-out attitude. This superficial confidence allows for me to achieve and reach higher levels than those with fear or an aversion to risk and security, but on the flip side my development and growth tends to be riddled with trials and obstacles that I could have avoided if I had taken a slower more progressive route to learn and develop the skills that were needed to excel. And the most notable thing for me is that when I do take a moment to reflect on my past and growth I always admit that I know more than I thought I had did when I said I knew it all. Which is something we all say but the difference between Y and X is that Y will rarely reflect, and will rarely be grateful for the growth unless it's shoved into their faces.

And its with that mentality that we usher in our newest generation into the workforce. Its no longer a game of working hard, putting in your time, and learning skills and earning raises progressively. Its give me first and I'll give you my will and work back. Learning to manage it is diverse in tactics and methods as it is complicated to understand, but its a mentality that we all need to understand to truly lead and motivate generation Y.


I'm very new to blogging but I've been entertaining the thought of writing, sharing and explaining some of my experiences, failures and successes in managing the generation Y that most companies are now hiring and decided that blogging would be a good way to try it out. I'm not sure how I will structure it or if it will be even beneficial to anyone more than myself, but I look forward to documenting my philosophies, best practices and learned ideas from managing and working with generation Y over the last few years.

I'm currently a Starbucks store manager and even consider myself partly generation Y but I've come to many cross points in my years of managing Starbucks stores all over the south bay and up the peninsula. Learning from my reports that have various backgrounds, as well as the diverse customers that have taken the time to talk with me, and of course all of the many managers that I have had through out my 12 store, 5 year career with Starbucks.

Please feel free to comment and give me feedback on anything and I hope you enjoy.

Young Han