Debunking Millennial Malaise

Amanda Dreher - Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Liz Selzer, PhD, MA, MDiv


The term millennial seems to bring up a certain frustration from earlier generations. Since this is taking up valuable energy in our organizations, here is a quick look at the issue.


What is the malaise?


Sentiments voiced in frustration about millennials…
“I just cannot handle how entitled she acts! She thinks she is inherently deserving of some sort of special treatment!”
“I don’t understand why it is so difficult to just take responsibility for the work that should be but isn’t getting done.”
“He acts as if hard earned positions and titles have no value. There is just no respect for our hard-working tradition and history!”
“Why can’t they put their phones down and have a real conversation?”


Have you heard these sentiments voiced in your work community? I know I have. While individual Millenials may exhibit some of the above behaviors, the entire generation is not stuck fulfilling a non-productive stereotype. Moreover, complaining has never rectified a situation. In fact, it only seems to create an environment where discontent grows.


There is a positive side to the members of this generation…Where do they excel?


People usually go to the easy answer that Millennials have a strong understanding of social networking and other technical solutions. But there are additional attributes to appreciate. Millennials are one of the most creative generations. They not only come up with the “third door” option, but the fourth and fifth door option as well. They are optimistic about their ability to affect change, and act on their passions for social and ethical causes. They have a robust understanding of how to work in groups as great team players. Millennials have much to offer the business community.


Taking it a step further…


One problem in recognizing and highlighting differences of another generation is that it often encourages judgements of right or wrong; better or worse. I have found that instead of talking about the differences between generations, it is much more productive to start at a place of agreement. Once we can see where we are on the same page with certain aspects of our lives, we move forward on that foundation, instead of from conflicting perspectives. So, what are the similarities we can embrace?


•The value and importance of family. While Millennials do not solely identify blood relatives as family, the concept of familial loyalty is a priority. Family matters, and time spent with family is significant.


•Supportive workplace culture and feeling valued. We want to know what we do matters, that we are contributing in an important way to what our organization does. This is common to all generations.


•To be recognized and appreciated. While millennials typically like receiving feedback more frequently than older generations, being recognized and appreciated is an important factor in keeping all generations inspired and engaged.


•Career development. Seeing a path for development is key for motivation. While millennials do not always see that path as vertical in an organization, personal growth and advancement in skill matter.


•Flexibility…if work is still accomplished. While flexibility may look different to Millennials, our current fast paced world demands more flexibility for all of us. We just need measures we can all agree on to ensure the work is getting done.


Focusing on what we have in common, and using this as a place to begin conversations about the work we do, will help us move forward in the mission of our workplace and promote business success.


Encouraging Millennials to Step Into Leadership

Amanda Dreher - Monday, December 11, 2017


Liz Selzer, PhD, MA, MDiv

Millennials. A huge topic of conversation within our current workforce. Often laced with frustration, these conversations take up valuable energy that could and should be spent addressing the demands of our VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) work environment.


What is the issue? Simply put, older generations often characterize Millennials as entitled and too dependent on technology. While these generations still appreciate that millennials are the most tech-savvy and creative at work (Workfront), they criticize that Millennials are often uncooperative, responsibility resistant and the first to complain. Millennials are seen as inexperienced and not willing to pay their dues


But, the fact is that more than a third of American workers today are Millennials (Pew Research), and they will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025 (Forbes). Regardless of your personal feelings about this generation, they are an important force to be reckoned with. So, encouraging Millennials to step into leadership, and helping them to do this well becomes a key business strategy.


While older generations sometime think Millennials don’t want to take responsibility, my research and experience show that Millennials are ambitious and ready to take on leadership positions to bring needed changes to work environments. They believe technology has the ability to transform work, and they value innovation.
Millennials believe what makes businesses successful in the long term is employee satisfaction, loyalty, and fair treatment (Deloitte).They exhibit a more inclusive and empathetic leadership style, and value leadership development through the entire organization, not just for “high potentials.” The problem is 63% of Millennials feel their leadership skills aren’t being fully developed (Deloitte).


How can we provide the leadership development that Millennials need and want?


Create a learning environment focused on everyday leadership development. Millennials are avid information gatherers and 35% see training as a benefit that they look for in a prospective employer. Providing training also helps with retention—new research has found that personal and professional development is the number one reason millennials stay in a job.
The following strategies will encourage needed learning and leadership development for the Millennial generation.


•Organize active coaching/mentoring
Set up a framework so that it is easy for your young leaders to find mentors. Communicate the benefits of being in a mentoring relationship for both mentors and mentees. Help them set aside time each month for mentoring meetings.


•Provide micro-learning burst/just in time learning
Proactively develop short learning experiences that can be immediately applied to their work efforts. Customize actions to fit job demands.


•Encourage social learning
Create opportunities for young leaders to learn together and from each other. Form groups from different departments to encourage a higher level understanding of how the organization works together.


•Develop virtual learning
Make this interactive, practical, and available when people have time to engage with it. Add incentives for completing each block of learning.


•Tie learning to professional development/career plan
Clearly communicate how developmental and learning activities fit into the overall career plan for each employee. Let them know how their role fits into the mission of the organization.


•Model and train for emotional intelligence (EQ)
Due to increased interaction with technology over face to face interaction, Millennials need additional help developing emotional intelligence. As Daniel Goleman asserts, a high EQ is worth twenty IQ points. Emotional intelligence can be taught, so putting purposeful action to developing these skills is a must.


Intentionally building an environment that encourages learning and leadership development for Millennials will reduce turnover and help this growing part of the workforce be more effective as they step into management and leadership positions. Because of this, developing Millennials becomes a critical strategy for businesses that want to stay competitive in today’s markets.


When Do I Need a Mentor?

Amanda Dreher - Monday, December 04, 2017


Liz Selzer, PhD, MA, MDiv

The question came after I had just spoken to a group of college students on the importance of mentoring as a tool to support professional growth. My response was, “Always!”
Any person at any given time can find mentoring opportunities. This is because we can learn from the people we interact with every day. Mentoring does not have to be a formalized process. Mentoring is all about learning from another person. When we have an open mindset, we can learn in many instances from people with different perspectives, more advanced skills or wisdom from being in the trenches. We can do this by purposely seeking out people who know or exhibit the learning we want to find.
In my experience, the best leaders are those who are life-long learners. They have respect for the experience of others and intentionally seek to discover new understanding of situations by observing and asking questions.


That said, I also believe that there is a need to formalize the mentoring process with certain people. This is because the power of mentoring lies in the accountability and encouragement that a structured mentoring relationship gives.
Meeting regularly gives mentees the accountability of knowing that there is another person who is watching and encouraging them to keep up the hard work of growing in their personal and professional lives. Putting structure to mentoring includes writing goals and finding learning activities that encourage mentees to move forward.


Are there times when it is especially important to find a mentor? Yes, whenever you have specific growth objectives. Starting a new job, desiring a promotion, learning a new skill, working on character growth, are all times to find mentors. While it does take effort to find a mentor, it is well worth the energy spent.


How do I find a mentor? The process is not as daunting as you may think. It does require you to be observant and know yourself well enough to know what you need to learn.


1) Decide on your growth goal
What competency or character issue do you want to work on?
2) Observe the people around you
Try to keep an open mind as to who might have skill in the area you want to work on. Consider people in all aspects of your life…family, co-workers, neighbors, friends, acquaintances.
3) Identify exactly what you want to learn from your prospective mentors
Take the time to observe them in action. Identify specific examples of what you want to learn so you can share them with the prospective mentor.


4) Approach the person you want to be your mentor
Tell him or her specifically what you hope to learn. Give examples of what you have observed so they know exactly what you are asking form them. This also let’s them know you are serious and won’t waste their time since you were dedicated enough to the process to take time to observe.


5) Set a timeframe
Too often mentors may think they cannot make the commitment to mentor you because the commitment is unclear. Tell them how long you think it will take you to learn what you hope to learn so they know what they are signing up for.
I want to encourage you to not put this off. Mentoring is one of the very best ways to develop personally and professionally. Find your mentor today!


Mentor? Coach? What's the Difference?

Amanda Dreher - Monday, November 27, 2017


Liz Selzer, PhD, MA, MDiv

I often get asked this question, and admittedly there are conflicting assertions out there about what role a mentor and coach play in personal and professional development. While I would not argue this to my grave, I knew I had to come to an understanding of these two terms if I was to stay relevant in the leadership development industry.
Mentoring, by my definition, is “a reciprocal and collaborative learning relationship between two or more people who share mutual accountability for helping a mentee work toward integrated personal and professional development and work synergistically toward organizational goals.”


Coaching, by definition, is a set of skills for managing employee performance to deliver results. Coaching is a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance.


In essence, the key difference is the integrated aspect to mentoring that I do not believe works the same in coaching.


•Mentors take a more integrated look at their mentees’ lives as a whole. Coaches are concerned with the aspects of life that affect professional performance.
•Mentors are biased in favor of the mentee, coaches are more impartial, and keep an objectivity to help them see what behaviors need to change to improve performance.
•Mentors are person-focused, looking at their mentee from all aspects that affect their life and decisions. Coaches are job-focused and are recognized for how effectively their coaching improves professional performance.
•Mentors are a sounding board, often letting mentees work their issues out through guided problem solving. Coaches are more directive and instructive, helping their clients to learn new skills and improve existing ones.
•Mentoring and coaching use the same skills and approach but coaching is short term task-based and mentoring is a longer-term relationship.



Both mentoring and coaching are key strategies for personal and professional development, and the best leaders work with both. Life long learning is an important part of being a strong leader, and both mentoring and coaching use the power of relationship to help leaders go one step further in their influence.
There are “Life Coaches” who are much more like a mentor than a regular business coach. They are an exception to this differentiation.


The ABCs of Distance Mentoring

Amanda Dreher - Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Amanda L. Dreher, Esq.

Distance mentoring, or mentoring without consistent face-to-face meetings, is becoming an increasingly important strategy for matching mentors and mentees. Rather than limiting the matching options to the individuals in close geographical proximity, companies are now expanding the mentoring match possibilities world- wide to find the best possible mentor and mentee matches. With the development of technology, we can access relationships and learning in ways that until recently were not possible.


A: Advantages:
Distance mentoring has a number of benefits. Consider the following:
•Opens up new pairing opportunities: If proximity isn’t necessary, mentoring participants are no longer limited in pairing options.
•Lessons restrictions of location and time: Being able to use electronic media for mentoring interactions opens up locations and times that would not be available if the interaction was always face to face. If you are located in different states or countries, if you travel, or work odd hours, you can still consistently communicate with your mentoring partner.
•Allows for more thought on interactions: Since communication does not have to be real time, there are opportunities to be thoughtful about your reactions and input. You can say things the way you want, with thought and consideration.


B: Barriers:
Understanding and addressing the challenges of distance mentoring will add to its success. Address these early:
•Building trust: Without all the non-verbal cues that can be informational in face-to-face meetings, it is more challenging to establish trust. To address this, be extra conscious of communication, be authentic and honest, and avoid any trust-busters. Ask and listen. Give the benefit of the doubt.
•Keeping momentum: As the old adage goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” Momentum can be difficult to maintain at a distance. Make sure you have scheduled out all your interactions and electronic meetings for the duration of the pairing commitment. Remember to celebrate successes along the way. Address frustrations and challenges quickly so they do not slow down progress. Try to vary your meeting agenda so meetings don’t become too predictable. Remember to continue to build your relationship by sharing stories.
•Promoting communication: When communication is limited to electronic interactions, clear misunderstandings can crop up. Avoid making assumptions on written communication. Assume the best and if something does not seem right address it quickly. Verify your communication and make sure what you meant to say is what your mentoring partner understood (and that you understand the meaning behind what is communicated to you).
C: Clues:
Before you attempt distance mentoring, there are several practical ideas that will help you put this strategy into practice.
•Check yourself: Consider your beliefs and feelings about this strategy. If you’re stalling, you may need to make a paradigm shift in your thoughts and emotions. Choose to recognize distance mentoring as a viable strategy, build enthusiasm for it, and find ways to maximize its advantages and reduce its barriers.
•Set expectations: Agree on a regular meeting time, put it on your calendar and keep your commitments. Create structure that works. Discuss early what structure your interactions should take. Adjust as necessary.
Discuss items like:
- what ways you will communicate
- how often you will communicate
- expectations for confidentiality
- how you will give encouragement
- how you will give feedback
- what the objectives for the relationship are


•Communicate, communicate, communicate: Communication is critical and may become a stumbling block for those who enter this new challenge without intentionality. Black and white written words, such as those in email, text, and LMS systems, carry the color of your perceptions. Therefore, your communication may not be received with its exact intended meaning. We have to err on the side of “over communication.” When possible use real time communication.
•Cultivate trust early: Be intentional about working to build trust. It is difficult for learning to occur if the mentee and mentor do not feel the mentoring relationship is a safe place to discuss, to learn and to grow.
To build trust:
- meet more often at the beginning
- use visual interaction whenever possible (e.g. facetime, video conference, SKYPE)
- send appropriate pictures
- tell stories
- be authentic and vulnerable
- listen without agenda
- encourage whenever you can


•Take on a learning stance: Instead of assuming things about your mentee/mentor, show genuine curiosity about your mentoring partner. Ask open-ended questions and really listen to the response. Strive for understanding.
•Discuss cultural differences: If there are cultural differences, discuss them up front. Recognize and celebrate differences. Also, work to find touchpoints. Connect on your similarities and learn from your differences.


Make the ABCs of distance mentoring work for you and open up a world of possibilities.


Trust: The Critical Ingredient

Liz Selzer - Thursday, August 17, 2017


“I feel like there is a lot going on behind closed doors…”
“I don’t think he is being honest with us…”
“I just don’t trust her…”

The unraveling of trust in leadership might be the reason your organization feels like it is stalling out. An environment of mistrust hurts productivity more than you might think. The above sentiments of mistrust will affect your work setting, and have proven to be the beginning of stalled initiatives, defensive postures, and toxic company culture. This is the point where work becomes a job instead of a joy.


Having the privilege of developing leaders over the past 20 years has given me the opportunity to consider what truly makes them strong. You know, the type of leaders we passionately follow, leaders who inspire us be more and risk bravely. One thing stands out: Trust is a critical aspect to effective leadership. Jesse Lyn Stoner, author of Full Steam Ahead wisely points out that "People follow leaders by choice. Without trust, at best you get compliance." A compliance mindset kills creativity, stifles energy and halts momentum.

Experience has shown me that lasting leadership is not as much about charisma as it is about character. Trust is not engendered through polished speeches and positional authority, but instead by authentically addressing your team. Trust is not as much about appearing right as it is about approaching difficulties with integrity. It is not looking for blame but rather the celebration of the learning from mistakes. Trust is not about the short-term wins, but about many truthful actions over time.

So then, how do we build trust with those who look to us for leadership? Start with giving others your trust. When we trust our team members, it paves the way for them to trust us as leaders. Model authentic humility. Be honest, always. Communicate often and in as many forms as possible. If you don’t have the answers, tell people that and then work to find them. Ask for people’s perspectives and respectfully consider them. Take the time to actively listen to all the members on your team.

Building trust takes time, but in the end, it will save you time as your team is motivated by your authentic vision, creative because there is the safety of trust from which to springboard ideas, more efficient because they aren’t wasting time self-justifying and self-protecting, and productive because they know what is expected of them. Take time to cultivate trust; it is one of the most effective paths to successful leadership.


Lead Them

Liz Selzer - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

  • Leading authentically involves truly wanting to understand others for the sake of learning, not for the opportunity to manipulate. This begins with yourself. If you want to be influential with others, you first need to know yourself. Then lead by learning from others, taking the time to actively listen, intentionally observing, and interacting in such a way that you are able to move past superficial outward impressions.This process can end in a more complete comprehension of your people, leading to more effective choices and decision making for your team as a whole. The best team work happens when everyone's strengths, abilities and passions are executed in synergy with each other. 
  • Ask questions. Get to know your team members by asking them questions like:
- What motivates you?
- What are your passions?
- What is your personal vision?
- How do you learn?
- Under what circumstances do you perform best?


1) Highlight strengths.

 Attract and engage employees, then help them develop and make the most of their strengths. Focusing on strengths will provide personal satisfaction as well as increased contributions to the workplace bottom line. Be sure to validate the team's work and their potential future impact. Validating people has a progressive power as people step into ownership of their influence.


2) Promote ownership.

 Help them find ownership in a common vision. Learn what really matters to the individuals on the team and make that part of your motivation strategy. As they learn to take ownership, encourage them by showing authentic humility and respect toward their efforts.

3) Emphasize curiosity.

Cultivate curiosity and a life-long learning organizational culture. Set the example by showing that you are teachable and desire to learn from everyone. People will follow your leading in this and the learning environment that results will reduce stress through acceptance and increase understanding and respect within your team.


  • 4) Clarify strategy. 
  • Don’t make people figure it out or guess. This saves everyone time and energy. Giving regular feedback, both encouraging and corrective, will provide accountability to that strategy. You really can’t over communicate this connection.
  • 5) Tell stories.
  • When stories are included in your view of the future, it paints the picture of why your authentic leadership vision matters in a tangible and authentic way.
  • 6) Push forward. 
  • Expect what is reasonable from others, but push people forward toward creativity and innovation in their areas of strength. Energize past the comfort of complacency. Help people see the bigger picture and how they are critical to success and moving forward. Advances and improvements then become a matter of course.
  • 7) Secure resources. 
  • Make sure people have the resources that they truly need, not just the ones you think they need. Everyone is different. Again this may take additional time, but in the long run the efficiencies are worth it.
  • 8) Become obsolete. 
  • The goal is to mentor or coach your team until they do not need you anymore, to get them to a point where they are comfortable in their influence and their unique way of making their mark on their work and on those around them.



Change Hinge: Becoming Proactive

Liz Selzer - Friday, March 31, 2017


There are big changes on our company horizon, and we want to be as proactive about these changes as we can. What hints would you give us?"


If you are trying to make a change happen, understanding the change process is helpful in letting you know what type of resistance you might encounter from others who are involved. You then can understand how to help move them through the process so that they ultimately accept the change. The following steps should help you help others navigate change.

  • 1) Normalize the discomfort, loss, and potentially challenging adjustments they will need to make. 
  • Help them see that their feelings of resistance and frustration are a very normal part of the process of change, and that they can take control of the process by making decisions about how they will proactively move through the change.
  • 2) Get real feedback from all areas of your organization affected by the change. 
  • Show people that their feedback was reflected upon and important, even if it wasn’t implemented. People don’t need to “get their own way,” they just need to legitimately feel that “their way” has been considered.
  • 3) Model positive change attitude. 
  • As a leader, people will take their cues from you. If you are not proactive and positive about the change, others will have a difficult time as well. Be authentic about the losses you may face because of the change, but model how you are proactively finding the positive aspects and moving forward.
  • 4) Mentor your team through the process. 
  • Help them see where their skills will still be used and how their future contributions will matter. Vision cast how this change will contribute to the effectiveness of your organization and the specific reasons it will be positive for the team.
  • Identify the positives the change will bring about. Be very specific. Don’t assume people can see these without your articulation of exactly what the desired outcome is. Remember you have thought through this change and know why it is important, but the people you are working with most likely have not had that opportunity.  
  • 5) Keep channels of mutual communication open. 
  • Make time to hear what people are thinking. Solicit suggestions for how to make the change happen smoothly. Be very clear in your communication, making sure the messages around the change are clear and repeated so everyone understands why the change is occurring and what the future will look like after the change is implemented.


Change Hinge: Finding Control in the Chaos

Liz Selzer - Friday, March 31, 2017


"I currently work in a company that is going through a big change and the process seems chaotic. How can I help my team move forward in the process instead of standing by and watching the change happen?"


As Margaret Mead wisely counsels: “If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.”


After going through the first step of understanding the very real losses that people feel when navigating a change, helping people find a sense of personal control in the chaos will help. Change will always be a part of life and our ability to move through it in a healthy way is critical. Understanding the change process and our ability to make choices in the midst of change will allow us to move through it and give us that element of control. This is true even if we did not choose the change.


During change, the point of critical choices people have the ability to make are the decisions to move forward, accept the change and identify what aspects they can control. If this decision is not made, people will stay in a very unhealthy place of loss, uncertainty and discomfort. Movement away from discomfort in the loss and toward the anticipation of what will happen as a result of the change hinges upon these choices. Accepting the change often requires a conscious choice to accept the change and move forward. It does not necessarily mean the person agrees with the change or thinks it is the best course.


However, the choice to accept the change does mean that the person is no longer at the mercy of the change. It means as they move through the change, they will investigate how the change can bolster what they are doing, how it may encourage them to grow in their leadership, and how it may stretch their understanding of their strengths. On the other hand, staying in limbo and indecision will do nothing for their understanding of the new work roles or the future success of their career.


Once we make the decision to accept the change, things begin to move in a positive direction:

-  There is a new energy as we begin to imagine how the change can be a part of our personal mission, leadership, and empowerment of our teams.

  • -  The components of the change are becoming clearer and the effects of the change are starting to materialize.
  • -  Our thoughts and actions are practical and applicable as we now navigate through the elements of the change with intentionality.
  • -  We can now see how it affects our common vision and goals, and how to become more productive as we move forward.


An understanding of the point of critical choice helps minimize the negative effects of the process, helps us see where we might get stuck, and helps us take control to keep moving through the process instead of getting mired in uncertainty and the very real discomfort of going through change.

Change Hinge: Recognizing Loss

Liz Selzer - Friday, March 31, 2017


"I currently work in a company that is going through a big change. The tension and the anxiety are almost palpable. What is a good first step in understanding why this situation is so stressful and what can I do about it?" 



The most common error in managing change is underestimating the affect it has on people. Many leaders think if they just tell their employees to change, they will. They do not realize how upsetting it is to give up familiar work patterns. Always remember the potential impact of disruption and allow time for adjustment.


First, recognize the losses that occur with a big change. Regardless of how positively the change is embraced, there is always a loss of something. This is the nature of change – one thing stops so another thing can begin. When a change is first put into place, people are likely uncertain what the effects of the change will be. Because of this, they may be cautious and possibly become stalled as they think about how these losses will affect them. There are several types of loss that are common in the work place.


  • Security-Employees no longer feel in control or know what the future holds. They have trouble seeing how their strengths and skills will be perceived after the change, or where they will stand in the organization.
  • Competence-In change, people often feel they no longer know what to do or how to manage their tasks in light of the change. They may even feel embarrassed when faced with new tasks if they are unsure of how to do them. This can make it difficult to ask for the help needed to learn the required new skills.
  • Relationships- The familiar contact with people like old clients, co-workers, or supervisors can change or possibly disappear. In this type of situation, there is potential for people to lose their sense of belonging to a team or an organization.
  • Sense of Direction-In some changes, people may lose an understanding of where they are going and why they are going there. Meaning and mission often become unclear.
  • Territory- At times, there is an uncertain feeling about the spaces that used to belong to individuals or teams. This can be work space, understanding of responsibilities, or what particular job assignments are still theirs. Territory losses include psychological space as well as physical space.


Each of the losses described has a cost. Any type of loss, even of a work space or familiar technology, can trigger an emotional response that resembles grief. As a leader, you will need to help your team members move past these losses and to accept and move forward in the new direction. People who do not display any feeling of loss often save it up and become overcome by a seemingly small transition. It is healthier to express and acknowledge loss when it occurs so those involved can move through the transition process more quickly.




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