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When it comes to managing others, there are so many factors that can influence whether or not workplace teams fail or succeed.

Each group has its own dynamic, its own character, its own preferences and strengths, dislikes and weaknesses.

Change one person in the line-up, and you can dramatically amplify or diminish the self-belief or confidence of the individual members.

Place them in a new environment or set them unfamiliar expectations or responsibilities… and the transition can either inspire or oppress, delight or provoke them.

Nevertheless, in the nearly two decades I have spent as a corporate trainer, I have learned that managing teams to express their optimal performance comes down to four critical keys.

1. Getting communication right

Teams are made up of people, and people have their own personal aspirations and individual concerns, pressures and fears. A manager has to make the time to check in and communicate with those who will be looking to him/her for direction, motivation and feedback.

Funnily enough, effective team-related communication is not just about a manager asking the right questions and listening attentively to responses… it’s also about timing. Knowing when to ask the right questions, is as important as knowing which questions to ask.

A crisis is hardly going to be the ideal time to learn about a teammate’s background, or their more personal or family circumstances. Conversely, when things are going smoothly, not inviting team members to share their professional opinions and suggestions, is a squandered opportunity for effective, team-boosting communication.

Establishing good channels of communication, and making it safe to share views and show up authentically at work, is a vital component for the health, unity and impact of a team.

2. Aligning company vision and purpose

Does a team believe their organisation is setting the right goals? Do they feel its purpose and vision are aligned?

Noone wants to work for a company that, deep down, they believe is failing to live up to, or is out of touch, with what it says it wants to accomplish.

There are those who believe that the only things employees should care about are a steady pay cheque and a stable job position. But this is a cynical and very short-sighted perspective, and produces teams who fall apart at the first sign of crisis or disagreement, or whose members simply disappear when a financially more attractive offer comes along.

In order to get the best from its people, an organisation has to continually challenge itself to ensure that what it says it stands for, is being expressed in the goals and initiatives – i.e. the purpose – that it professionally undertakes.

And managers must rely on effective communication, to ensure that awareness of such alignment reaches their team.

3. Aligning company’s and employees’ goals

This also works the other way.

A manager who has taken the time to discover each team member’s dreams and aspirations, must also demonstrate how the company’s goals are aligned with, and serve to advance, each individual’s own personal targets.

The performance momentum that this builds in terms of team members’ goodwill, focus and willingness to invest individual energy and creativity and stamina – often outside of their ‘official’ responsibilities – is immeasurable.

And finally…

4. Maintaining organisational transparency

This is, perhaps the biggest hurdle to ensuring the unity and high performance of teams.

Large, long-established organisations often have a culture of secrecy baked into their structures, and the higher one rises up the ranks, the greater the ’emotional’ distance between the leadership and employees.

Just as people prefer to work with companies that have integrity, and whose initiatives, practices and stated vision all line up… they also prefer to be employed by organisations where they feel confident they know where they stand, and where the ‘higher ups’ don’t seem to be distant or making unspoken ‘deals’ or taking covert decisions about their future.

The other side of this is that people need to feel like their input and suggestions matter, and in work cultures where the leadership is on a metaphorical ‘mountain of Olympus’ while the employees are framed as powerless, insignificant cogs in a machine… resentment, mutiny and abandonment for better opportunities will be unrelenting dangers, undermining the cohesion and high performance of a team.

Managing isn’t an easy task, and getting the best out of people of varying backgrounds, abilities and aspirations is one of the hardest responsibilities to undertake.

Nevertheless, applying the four keys mentioned, over time, and with patience, persistence and dedication, will yield a team that is empowered, inspired and motivated to give its best not just when things are easy, but, even – and perhaps especially – when times are hard.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/

“Put your smartphone down, when I’m speaking to you!”

Did you assume the hypothetical person with the phone was… a young person? Perhaps even… a Millennial?

Also known as a member of Gen Y, born (roughly 1981-95), stereotyped as self-absorbed young professionals, preferring to edit Instagram photos than pick up the phone to clients?

(That really IS a stereotype, by the way.)

To answer the question… the person absorbed in using their smartphone could have been of any age.

From a Millennial to a Gen Zer (the generation born roughly 1996 to 2000), to Gen Xers, Boomers and members of the Silent Generation, too.

Almost EVERY generation by this point, whether in or out of the office, has discovered the benefits of, and formed a certain level of dependency on, their smart device of choice.

Why? Chiefly because of the convenience such devices provide, but even more because of the connection, and the empowering feeling of having a say in shaping that connection.

Which brings me to the point of this post… Purpose. More specifically: Millennials’ demand for and near-religious devotion to it, whether in or out of the workplace.

So great is their need to find purpose in their work, accuse their critics, that Gen Y will walk away from perfectly well-paid, stable jobs, leaving expensive vacancies for HR to re-fill after spending only a relatively short period of time with a company.

Yet… if we are honest… EVERY generation of workers appreciates meaningful employment, and for their efforts to have a purpose beyond profit. Why? Because this is a very human need, no matter how old or young we may be.

It’s just that… unlike Gen Y, older generations were born in more authoritarian and less-technologically-empowered times. Eras where you earned your dues over time, and a J.O.B. was perfectly acceptable – even if all it did was pay the rent and put food on the table, and wasn’t going to win you a Pulitzer prize or reinvent the toothbrush.

Millennials, on the other hand, were brought up with a very different picture of the world and their role in it.

Gen Y were taught by parents and teachers that they would change the world, and were groomed to expect to be agents of innovation. So, given their relative youth and ambition, not to mention, their ease in creatively collaborating with peers, finding ‘purpose’ in their work is a ‘luxury’ they believe they can afford, while staying in a job without ‘purpose’ appears a far greater threat to their future longterm.

This can certainly be a headache for HR departments, tasked with filling job positions that might have been retained by recruits of older generations, not to mention, spending time and money retraining replacements.

But it’s just as much an important warning sign to a company itself, that perhaps it’s not as aligned with its original vision as it needs to be.

Or perhaps that it needs a different ‘Why’ in Simon Sinek’s words, beyond merely turning a profit.

After all, Millennials are not just potential employees, but customers and consumers, too. Their perspectives on what is important, their values and their unique approach to work and life, can neither be ignored nor dismissed.

Meanwhile, retention headache or not, we can all stand to benefit from their desire to make time, creativity, education and effort count towards a meaningful initiative.

Because finding purpose, just like the ease and connectivity offered by smartphones, is something that ultimately appeals to every generation.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/

Why is it that sometimes, the thing that we want most, actually backfires on us, and can even make us miserable?

At this point, it is well-documented that Millennial or Gen Y employees truly value flexibility in the workplace and are unafraid to ask for it…

And yet… if they are given such flexibility, the additional pressure to manage their time while continuing to manage their social and personal lives, often proves overwhelming to them, leading to the stress and burn-out that this generation is experiencing at epidemic levels….

Let me give these thoughts a bit of context.

I’ve been a corporate trainer and a mentor for almost two decades. Over this time, I’ve seen the values and working preferences of several generations, up close and personal.

And what I have observed of Gen Y or Millennial workers (i.e. those born between 1981 to roughly 1995), they greatly value being able to structure their work around their other life interests. The famous ‘work-life balance’ that managers complain about and which their Gen Y colleagues continue to demand.

Now, this makes complete sense when you consider Millennials came of age during the rise of the internet, apps and smartphones, designed to harness online power to organise and carry out everyday life tasks in a matter of clicks.

But…

Unlike the generations before them, specifically their Boomer and Gen X bosses and managers… Millennials have had less practice in deliberately limiting themselves, their options – and in particular, their time.

They have had incredibly structured lives growing up – structured by parents and teachers willing to provide them with the scheduling and support they needed, so that they could focus on their studies, their interests, their potential, their aspirations.

Flash forward to their working life today… and whenever work-related flexibility is granted to Millennials, their professional tasks and deadlines end up competing with the parallel opportunity for them to explore and participate in lifestyle options older generations were not distracted by… simply because they didn’t exist!

Think about it… when you can identify, follow and participate in so many online forums, arrange dates, book workout classes, sign up for language classes and organise meet-ups for innovative collaborations… it’s far harder to set yourself the kind of limits that return your focus to meeting work-related goals.

What happens next is that Millennials try to do both – i.e. carry out professional tasks while SIMULTANEOUSLY managing their personal and leisure time, leading to overwhelm, stress and, often, dramatic burnout.

So, how should managers of Millennials respond?

Should they simply take flexible working hours off the table for their Gen Y employees? Or should they cave in, despite the time management challenges, hoping in this way, to retain a job-hopping generation of workers?

As it happens, the answer is… neither.

Flexibility of work is a GOOD thing. And more and more, I believe we will only see more need for it and it’s unwise to eliminate it as an option.

Rather, to get the best from their Gen Y team, managers need to keep flexibility on the table IN ADDITION to making it very clear about what they will STILL be required to carry out (and by WHEN) in terms of work.

Managers need to zero in on the deadlines and the deliverables, and let Gen Y know they will support them in setting an appropriate timeline, preferably with key milestones, to help them handle the challenges of distraction and overwhelm.

In other words, managers today have to wear two hats: one as the authority who keeps Gen Y on task… the other as the coach who ‘supports’ and guides them in implementing healthy time management.

I elaborate on how managers can support their Gen Y team in this way, in an online course I am currently developing, called Millennial Advantage. More about this course in future posts!

For now, let me end by saying that: if you, as a manager, are willing to go the extra mile for your Millennial teammates by facilitating and helping them manage their desired flexibility… they will reward you with a truly innovative ability to think outside the box, act as ambassadors of your organisation among their peers, and use their comfort with tech-based work to better serve your clients.

To learn more about my corporate training services and to book a free consultation, please visit: www.leonidasalexandrou.com/services/evolution/

Becoming a Formula One racing champion doesn’t happen overnight.

No matter how much talent you are born with, you still require

  • a daunting level of fitness to withstand the intense physical forces while driving,
  • continuous learning to master a new car and getting familiar with the bends of each circuit
  • advanced communication to engage your supporting team
  • absolute focus while maintaining flexibility of reflexes
  • emotional resilience in handling mistakes and accidents that can occur in a split second

Similarly, for any organisation seeking to grow and establish themselves as number one in the eyes of their clients, their in-house high-flyers must be ready to take on and overcome the competition… And that takes a long-term investment in their high-performing capabilities.

More than that… it takes a willingness to learn, unlearn and re-learn… because the pressures to change and adapt in the disrupted workplace of the 21st century will only keep picking up speed. And there will be curves and bends and new forms of technology to incorporate and competition to take on, with every passing year.

That’s why, I named the corporate training track of my services EVOLUTION, because my mission is not simply to raise the performance levels of managers and their team…

It is to bring a methodology of continuous ‘review and renew’, and to get your people comfortable in adjusting, often in ‘real time’, to the dizzying, unplanned shifts in a company’s life cycle.

Over the next few weeks, I will explore the different workshops of my EVOLUTION track of training services.

From sales training to strategic leadership to people development to advanced communication… EVOLUTION’s dynamic and CONTINUALLY-updated curricula are for corporate teams ready and WILLING to engage in the stress-testing, rebuilding, adapting and updating of skills that the Fourth Industrial Revolution continually demands.

So, rev your engines, and prepare for a powerful, behind-the-scenes tour of the high-performance programmes I have built over the years, dedicated to helping corporate teams thrive in an exciting, exponentially-shifting future…

Ready to boost your team’s high performance? To work with me or book a free consultation, please visit me here.