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.


  1. Leads to: how do we get them to ask the question? That's the make or break point for me in leading, teaching, working with gen y. Often, they don't want to ask, why do we put things in front of the register. I do concur though, that once they do, fostering knowledge leads to buy in and effectiveness.

    So, I spend much of my effort trying to figure out how to make them want to ask those questions. One scenario I've found effective, drawing attention to an example that matters. For example, saying, I, as the manager, steam better milk for a cappuccino than you, will you please do it better, like I am demonstarting, is uninteresting, and irrelevant to gen y. However, if one of their peers, whom they otherwise see as one of their own - not a dork, not a teachers pet, etc - is called out, publicly: "oh my gosh, jim, you have the best stinking milk steaming technique. wow, you freaking rock." Then interests are peaked. It can even lead to, wait, show me how to do that, which puts you in much closer context to offer 'why' we do it, beyond just how - and there you have it, the knowledge has been conveyed, let the results ensue, right?

    Another scenario I'm banking on right now: Some times, buy in is illusive. On simple things, you can still simply require or insist, like: you will use this recipe precisely every time. Then, create a situation where the person can see the situation from the other side - and feel like an insider. Send them to another team (store). They see the recipe mistake being made, and they now realize they know something that sets them apart, that makes them 'better'. They now embrace the knowledge that had been forced on them, and are more interested in being open to such information, even in seeking it out, in order to stay further 'on top'.

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