Alex, what do you consider typical characteristics of your generation?
Though I am very hesitant of naming any characteristic as something ALL Generation Y’ers have (because we are undoubtedly the most diverse generation thus far), I believe that many Gen Y’ers exhibit entrepreneurial type characteristics. That is, Gen Y’ers tend to be natural problem solvers, creative, and willing to put forth the effort to fix problems IF they believe that something will come from it. The challenge of being entrepreneurial at a relatively young age is that many people see us as inpatient, “not willing to wait our turn,” and having no respect for the way things were done in the past. I push back against these negative characterizations of us with two main lines of thinking:
Yes, some of us are inpatient, “not willing to wait their turn,” and have no respect for the way things were done in the past. But, this could be said about every generation that preceded us. Society must remember that we cannot, and should not, attribute any characteristic to any entire group of people.
Yes, we may seem impatient, but I believe that this is more a result of the environment we were raised in than us wanting to be disrespectful. Gen Y’ers were born in the age of cellular phones, Instant Message, Google, and Facebook. All of these tools drastically increase the speed of which information is communicated and the speed of day-to-day life. Additionally, growing up with tools such as Google has allowed us to quickly find solutions to problems and collaborate with people all across the world with ease. Is it really surprising that many see us as being “The generation of now?”
I propose that society has benefited a great deal from Gen Y’s “impatience.” Wanting results/information “NOW” has led to many technological innovations (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Uber, DropBox, BitCoin, and the hundreds of mobile apps) that have not only benefited the private sector, but has also resulted in public benefits such as Twitter being utilized by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to quickly communicate information during natural disasters. Finally, I believe that our impatience has encouraged the government to begin working towards becoming much more dynamic, nimble, and adaptable. This is because the Government is beginning to understand that we want results Now and will not allow them to “wait us out.”
What do you expect from corporate leadership in today’s business world?
As I refer to in my book “The GPS Guide to Success,” an aging population, coupled with the relatively low number of Gen X’ers in the workforce, will allow Gen Y’ers to assume leadership positions MUCH earlier than their predecessors. Thus, the question corporate leadership must answer is, “How do we prepare Gen Y’ers, in five to ten years, to assume leadership positions that their predecessors needed 10 to 20 years to prepare for?”
To answer this question, organizations must realize that great leadership skills do not come with age, but with experience. Today’s leaders must consciously and actively provide Gen Y’ers opportunities to assume complex challenges earlier in their career. The focus should shift from traditional training formats (i.e., classroom & webinar) to more action learning and informal training opportunities (e.g., work groups, details, taskforce, special projects, etc.). If leadership decides to provide their employees with informal learning opportunities it is essential that the Gen Y’ers are provided a safe place to experience early successes and failures.
Ultimately, there are only two possible outcomes of allowing Gen Y’ers to assume more complex projects/roles.
What engages you most in the workplace and makes you go the extra mile?
I love large, complex, sensitive, multi-stakeholder challenges that require strong leadership and negotiation skills to be successful. Ever since I was a child, I have actively searched out and enjoyed taking on challenges that require me to push myself to new heights in order to be successful. One example is when I was 24 years old I was asked to create and manage the executive leadership development program for a U.S. Federal Agency; which later resulted in me managing three government wide leadership development programs. Upon assuming this role I knew that I would not only be one of the youngest federal employees managing such large inter-agency programs and that I would have to gain the trust and respect of my peers who were much more senior to me, but I would also have to mend strained relationships which had formed between the Department and its internal/external stakeholders. My ability to ensure that all sides felt heard and that their interests were being addressed allowed the Department to host a number of very well attended events and buffer the negative effects of the sequestration budget cuts.
What kind of development opportunities do you expect to be offered by your employer?
I am not a huge supporter of traditional training methods (i.e., classroom and webinar) because they remind me of weight lifting machines at the gym. Like weight lifting machines, traditional methods tend to be designed to only develop one area (i.e., competency) at a time. Conversely, action learning type developmental opportunities are much more similar to free weights; allowing us to develop multiple areas (i.e., competencies) at once. Thus, I expect to continually be assigned to more and more complex, politically sensitive positions, which require me to bring organizations/individuals with competing interests together to create solutions to challenges that benefit the public. I also expect to continually increase the number of people I supervise so that I can continue refining my leadership skills.
What is your preferred way to communicate in the workplace?
Effective communication is one of the most important competencies to me, yet I believe that it is at the root of 80% of the challenges organizations face today. In addition to the “normal” communication methods (i.e., email, instant message, text message, and phone calls) I take advantage of every opportunity to meet people in person and to build relationships before there is a problem that needs to be addressed. When working to build relationships I recommend the F.R.O.M. approach. The “F”, for Family, means that the first questions asked should be light hearted, such as asking about the person’s family, where they are from, or where they went to school. The second set of questions, R, should be geared towards what the individual does for Recreation. Taking time to talk about the F and R allows us to find similarities that will lead to much more substantial relationships in the future. The final two topics, O and M - i.e., Occupation and Money (i.e., Business related issues) respectively - should not be addressed until we are comfortable with one another.
When you choose a job, what do you look for in a new challenge?
The first aspect of a new challenge I look for is the opportunity to influence change. I enjoy and have proven myself to be very effective at finding solutions to complex, multi-stakeholder challenges and implementing those changes/improvements. Simultaneously, I seek to understand how the results will benefit our customers, constituents, and/or society. Understanding, believing in, and being able to clearly articulate the intended outcome of the change is extremely important because ultimately we have to gain the “buy-in” from multiple stakeholders and convince them that the change is in their best interest. The final criteria I look for in a new challenge is whether the challenge presents me an opportunity to learn something that I do not already know. I am typically not too concerned with this because I am always able to learn something new regardless of the challenge I assumed.
What historic events, values or philosophies have influenced you most to become the person you are today? How did they shape you?
My biological father left when I was just a few days old. However, instead of a clean break, I was always reminded of him because I spent half of my life living with his parents and relatives (who I love and appreciate with all my heart). My biological father was not some guy off the street and was actually a well-respected officer in the military. I spent over half of my life working as hard as I could hoping to prove myself worthy of his attention, which I never received. It was not until College that I realized that I should not work to prove myself to him, but because it was the best thing for me. I use this example because so many youth experience this or similar “negative” events like this in their own lives. And, yes, it did hurt for a long time, but I look back on it now and know that I would not be the man I am today if I had not had that experience.
I, like many people, have experienced very negative events in my life. However, it is those “negative“ events that test us and provide us the opportutniy to become more resilient. Additionally, because of the support of my friends and family members, I can honestly say that every “negative“ experience I have overcome in the past has been followed by something extremely positive. I am now much more resilient to very difficult challenges and much less afraid of failure. I am confident that when I am going through major challenges in my life, that as long as I persevere, continue to work hard, and remain the kind hearted individual that people know me to be, things will always work on in my favor. I believe that this is the case for most people as well. If we honestly look at our past successes, I am fairly confident that each sucess was preseded by some “negative” event that somehow provided you the skills, put you in the right place, or simply gave you the right mindset to take advantage of the success opportunity. It is all about perspective; whether we respond to “negative” events with “why me” or “how can I learn from this opportunity.”
What are the priorities during this phase of your life?
My priority during this phase of my life is assuming larger and larger responsibility. This is extremely important to me because I want to continue growing as a leader, executive, and person. Also, as I state in my book, I truly believe that when we do our best to help others it will ultimately result in positive results for them and ourselves. That is, every time we help someone three things happen: 1) we begin to build/strengthen our relationship, 2) we have the opportunity to learn more about whatever topic we are assisting them with, and 3) the foundation for later cooperation and collaboration is created.
Please complete this sentence: For me, my job is…
… an opportunity to develop and strengthen the skills I will need to effectively serve my community in the future. There are particular skills that I should have in order to reach my future goals, and as I see it, every job/experience, positive or negative, is an opportunity for me to develop those skills.
What do you wish your colleagues from other generations would know about Gen Y?
I want them to know what best motivates Gen Y’ers. Again, the biggest complaint I typically hear about Gen Y’ers is that they are impatient and want everything “NOW”. My advice to other generations is to mentor and challenge Gen Y’ers to reach their goals “NOW” instead of telling them all the reasons why they cannot reach their goals “NOW.” I understand that some believe that they are “protecting” us from failures by holding us back from new challenges, but, really, what is the worst that can happen by letting us take on new, sometimes unrealistic, challenges with effective mentorship and guidance?
Thank you, Alex, for these valuable insights!
In this section you hear from Gen Y talents in their own words, what they think, what influences them, how they view their career and what they expect from employers.
This month, GAIA Insights has interviewed Alex D. Tremble, founder and CEO of GPS Leadership Solutions, based in the USA.
If you are a Gen Y talent (born 1980-1995) and would like to be featured here, take your chance to tell employers what you expect from the working world!
Download this interview questionnaire and follow the instructions in the Word file. We look forward to hearing from you!
Gen Y Talking Archive:
Layton Cox (USA)
Lindsey Hooker (USA)
Kern Carter (Trinidad / Canada)
Benjamin Loh (Singapore)
Jessica Johnson (USA)
Soo Chin Hor (Malaysia / Singapore)
Emma Nordbäck (Finland / USA)
Laura Hong (USA)
Ryan Gibson (United Kingdom)
Alexandra Baiz (Venezuela / USA)
Hans Balmaekers (Netherlands)
Irina Slinchuk (Russia)
Matthew Gordon (Canada)
Rasha Bitar (USA)
Cristian Miquel (Chile)
Lisa Mangelsdorf (Australia)
Eduardo Estellita (Brazil / Belgium)
Thomas Pieper (Germany / Switzerland)
Ashley Lauren Perez (USA)
Aleksandra Maria Czajka (Poland / USA)
Sopha-Mith Kong (Japan / Germany)
Tarciana Barretto Caricio (Brazil/Mexico)