In spite of good intentions, can leaders (including professors, coaches, mentors, and managers) inadvertently hold people back? The May 2010 Harvard Business Review includes several articles on engaging, managing and coaching high-potential, emerging young leaders. In four years Millennials – people born between 1977 and 1997 – will account for nearly half the employees in the world. These people, and the Generation X and Y that came before them, have grown up and will lead in a world of rapid, incessant change. Styles of leadership and teaching that worked a few years ago are becoming increasingly ineffective. Some bosses, leaders and seminar speakers aren’t aware of this. They want to build up others but unintentionally they stifle their followers instead. Consider the following indications that you might be an unintentional people-repressor. (In the interest of full disclosure I confess that these all can apply to me. I’m working to be more sensitive).
- You’re a visionary. You like to set direction for the future and inspire others to follow. You think you’re motivating and being a forward looking leader. But you haven’t encouraged your team to get involved in the vision casting, shaping an even better vision and thinking through the challenges themselves. You’re not tapping into their brainpower so they withdraw and often feel disengaged from what they perceive as your project. Lacking motivation these people stifle their input and look to move, work or serve someplace else.
- You talk too much. You’re passionate, enthusiastic and articulate so you dominate meetings. You think you are being inspirational and informative, sharing a passion that’s infectious. In reality your talk is smothering and squelching potential growth and creativity.
- You’re creative. You’re always thinking of new ideas, assuming that this sparks creativity. Instead it can create pressure as others try to keep up with the new ideas and have no time to develop their own creativity.
Many high potential people want opportunities to collaborate, make decisions, take risks, and connect with mentors and coaches who guide by asking questions and stimulating thinking rather than by giving enthusiastic or top-down direction. Think about it. What makes these generational differences?