Boomers, G-Xers and Millennials

In a couple of months a new wave of graduates will be making their entrance. And I’ve been thinking about what kind of coaching would help them. Remember your twenties? If that question made you smile, maybe you lived them like I did:

  • Learned to be on my own and moved about a dozen times; traveled a lot
  • Made some decisions about what I wanted to try on professionally and where I wanted live
  • Took interesting jobs and started learning what I was good at and wanted more of and less of
  • Learned the nuts and bolts of life via numerous roommates
  • Figured out what made me a joy to be around
  • Figured out what made me irritating to be around
  • Got close to people–we worked hard, played hard and got scared together
  • Learned the difference between trust and wishful thinking
  • Got my heart broken yet survived
  • Found a few mentors
  • Pushed my limits yet survived
  • Experienced the fruits of some really good and really bad decisions
  • Got lost and found several times
  • Learned about keeping my word
  • Started making agreements with my future self about money and health
  • Found out what mattered to me
  • And figured out what constituted “magic” for me in the flow of life

I wrote last spring about today’s twenty-somethings, aka the “Millennials”. Of course they want all the things on that list too. But the world they are stepping into is different:

  1. In 1960, the vast majority of men and women had experienced a major life transition (left home, graduated college, established a career, gotten married, had a child–usually in that order) by the time they were thirty years old. In 2012, that’s true for only a minority of young men and women.
  2. Not surprisingly, 37 percent of twenty-somethings are currently unemployed or under-employed.
  3. College was more of a given until 1990, and people left college with manageable debt. Graduates today are likely to be lost in tuition debt, wondering if and whether they will ever be able to repay it.
  4. Curiously, one in four Millennials think it is likely that they will be famous.
  5. There are long-term social and societal implications to all of the above–for all of us.

I know it’s early. But if you know and love a Millennial, here’s an idea for a graduation gift this year. We at SeattleCoach are designing short-term intensive coaching opportunities for our favorite twenty-somethings. We’ll launch this spring.

If you’d like to know more as we develop this (or know someone who might), contact us directly.

Peace out.
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Which Way Do You Look?

“I’m not doing another not-fun job ever!” She says with so much emphasis I laugh out loud.

She’s fifty-something, successful, confident and skilled in her craft. A leader in her profession. And like so many of the people I work with, Jennifer is restless and longing to do something different and even more significant with the next couple of decades of her life.

I stop laughing and invite her to look towards the future: “OK Jenn, imagine we’re sitting here two years from now and you’re grinning at me because you’ve created a great new chapter. What are some of the things you see? What’s going on out there?”

Though many of the people I work with light up with that question, Jenn looks puzzled. My question hasn’t inspired her. We look in the other direction, “Jenn, tell me about a time when you were at the top of your game—great professionally, knowing you were making a difference and having a blast.” Jenn’s eyes sparkled and she leaned forward in the way people do when they’ve got a great story to tell. I take notes on what I hear in the next few minutes.

Whether you are a Millennial (born between 1980 and 2000) or, like Jennifer, an “emerging elder”, you can probably identify with her restlessness. Sometimes we’re ready for a major shift, sometimes a tune-up will do. You can probably also identify with having a preference for consulting either the future or the past.

What usually happens when you get quiet and think about the course of your life? Maybe especially this time of year. Do you get energized by visioning the future or by reflecting on your history?

  • Some of us love to dream, envision, brainstorm and imagine—your focus goes to the future.
  • Some of us (like Jenn) are more energized as they reflect and remember and look back—your focus goes to what you’ve experienced.

Both of my questions are poignant, both are powerful. You may want to eventually answer both. Both help people to make choices about what to keep and accelerate, and what to diminish and leave behind. But probably, like Jenn, one of those questions inspires you more. Here’s my challenge for you at the end of 2012/the beginning of 2013. Trust your gut to pick the question that most gets your attention:

Door #1     “Imagine we’re sitting here two years from now and you’re grinning at me because you’ve created a great new chapter. What are some of the things you see? What’s going on out there?”

Door #2     “Tell me about a time when you were at the top of your game—great professionally, knowing you were making a difference and having a blast. What was going on?”

Whether your way is to envision the future, or to reflect on your track record, life is too precious not to give yourself a little extra time this Holiday Season to evaluate where things stand for you. Enjoy!

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5 Big Questions

I have a new client who inspires me. Michael is one of those twenty-somethings aka “Millennials” whom I wrote about earlier this year. He is a member of that most documented, photographed, bubble-wrapped, awarded and applauded of generations. (So far, that is.)

Here’s why Michael inspires me: Through his first seven years out of college, he has worked very hard and learned about money and business and relationships and himself. But every morning he goes to a cubicle inside of a traditional command-and-control company. Because he can’t imagine four more decades of work in this environment, he calls me and we hold a strategy session. I begin to ask him “5 Big Questions”:

     1. What do you want more of?
     2. What do you want to offer customers and colleagues?
     3. How do you like to work?
     4. How do you want to be compensated?
     5. Who’s in your corner?

And Michael answers like a Millennial “Everyman”:  He tells me, “I want more complexity and opportunity to learn. I want to become expert and to be able to communicate my ideas well. I want to work with an energetic and respectful team. I want variety and I want acknowledgment that is specific and earned.” (Like most Millennials, Michael has figured out the “show-up-and-get-a-trophy” scam).

I pay special attention to the way Michael answers Question #5. According to Forbes last month, “More than twice as many Boomers than Millennials are doing any sort of offline (read: real world) networking to find employment.” They may have a thousand friends on Facebook and be more than a little isolated and socially unsure.

Every time a new client like Michael contacts me, I start with a free strategy session. Together we explore questions like these, and we find out if now is the time to dive into them. Give me a call if you think you’re ready for some big questions–and some significant next steps. Especially if you’re a thoughtful Millennial like Michael. I have a soft spot for you.

(And if you’re Michael’s boss, call me.)

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Who’s better at catching a Frisbee?

My clients demonstrate to me every day that human beings love accomplishment. And that along with accomplishment, we love acknowledgment. In this morning’s Wall Street Journal an article used the Frisbee metaphor to explain that as rules and analysis become more complex and voluminous (in politics, in managing people and goals, in running a business), we become less effective at making great things happen– and at giving and receiving acknowledgment when we see great character or great behavior in action.

The point of the Frisbee metaphor is that border collies usually catch Frisbees way better than people do, because they by necessity keep it simple. “The impulse of regulators, if asked to catch a Frisbee, would be to encourage the construction of long equations related to wind speed and Frisbee rotation that they likely wouldn’t understand or be able to measure.”

As a coach, I help people and teams to get reacquainted with both accomplishment and acknowledgment. After years of doing this, I believe that most people are starved for both. Along the way, these are my personal Frisbees as I work with my partners:

  1. I help people and teams to figure out what’s in their way, maybe what hurts. Mostly I think we just get afraid (of trying, not trying, of getting embarrassed, of not knowing, of saying the wrong thing–even the wrong word! of not being good enough, of disappointing or creating conflict, of getting sued or in trouble with HR, or of losing control, or of not being unique–or being too unique).
  2. Then I help them to identify their strengths and abilities and assets and restlessness and passions. (Those things can so easily get foggy.)
  3. Then I help them figure out what they want, what success would actually look like: We’ve all got our Mt. Everests and our basecamps to think about. And then crucially,
  4. In our partnership, we negotiate what needs to happen this week. What can each team member be counted on to do? My goal is for each client to leave each meeting with a next-step so clear and measureable that they could explain it to their grandmother and she’d get it.

So how about you today? What do you want to accomplish? How about your team? What’s your Frisbee?

Read the full article here: http://on.wsj.com/Q0JngF
Frisbee photo: AP/Bela Szandelszky

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A Rowing Coach Has to Decide . . .

A 13 foot oar hangs from the ceiling in my office on Lake Union. It was used for years in the big racing shells that row past my office, through the Montlake Cut and into Lake Washington.

For ten years I rowed these “eights” competitively, and practiced the lessons of this beautiful sport. The old oar in my office reminds me of how those lessons apply today as I coach the men and women who walk under it. The lessons are many, but as I watched the US Women’s Eight win the gold in London a few days ago, I thought of one that applies to the executive leadership of many of my clients.

When a rowing coach puts together a competitive eight, she asks her rowers to compete for their seats: Who should be in this boat? Who should be in which seat? The same questions any good leader has to ask. The questions of strength, time, skill are pretty easy to measure. But veteran coaches also have to ask a very intuitive question, “Do I choose the eight best? Or the best eight?” Which eight can row as one? Each rower unique, committed and connected.

The eight best? The best eight? Guess which crew usually wins?

To read more Lessons from Rowing, click here to read my article, “Getting to Whoosh!”

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I’ll miss you Nora Ephron.

‎”At a certain point in your life you have to know that if things are ok, at some point they won’t be. In the meantime, do all the things that you say you want to do when you have those hypothetical conversations about what your last meal is going to be. Because when it comes time to have your last meal you’re going to be too sick to eat it or you’re not going to know it’s your last meal and you’re going to make the mistake of having a tuna melt.”
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Our graduates are in trouble . . .

You know if I blog twice in one month, something has to be especially compelling. So here goes. (This isn’t all doom and gloom–read all the way through to the end.)

I’ve been thinking about this year’s graduates. Here are a few factoids:

  1. In 1960, the vast majority of men and women had experienced a major life transition (graduated college, established a career, gotten married, left home) by the time they were thirty years old. In 2012, that’s true for only a minority of young men and women.
  2. Not surprisingly, 37 percent of twenty-somethings are currently unemployed or under-employed.
  3. College was more of a given until 1990.
  4. In the 1970s and 1980s, people left college with manageable debt. Graduates today are likely to be lost in tuition debt, wondering if and whether they will ever be able to repay it.
  5. One in four “Millennials” think it is likely that they will be famous.*
  6. There are long-term social and societal implications to all of the above–for all of us.

Whether you call them Gen Y’s or Millennials (i.e. people coming of age right now), our recent high school and college graduates are in trouble. They also bring with them unique gifts.

The opportunities are still there. And in today’s “freelancer economy”, we can coach twenty-somethings in the necessary skills and resilience for capturing them.

If you know and love a Millennial, here’s an idea for a graduation gift this year. We at SeattleCoach have designed a summer package that will help graduates:

  • To understand and begin to use their key strengths
  • To find vocationally where their interests and aptitudes intersect
  • To learn and practice key professional communication and networking skills (+ a good handshake)
  • To find ways in the market place where they can offer their best gifts professionally and inter-generationally
  • To complete a baseline resume and practical understanding of how to customize a cover letter
  • To practice interview skills and preparation
  • To establish a solid and simple web presence (and savvy about social media)
  • To get lots of immediate feedback
  • To know how to take a calculated risk, and
  • To create appropriate visibility for all of the above

This generation is longing to learn this stuff in the context of mutual respect.

Send them our way, and we’ll help them get it.

Contact me
directly for more info about this summer package, and forward this to others in the Seattle area.

* The Barna Group, 2012.

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