Relationships – the Key to Generational Leadership

Relationships – the Key to Generational Leadership

One of the key elements of effective leadership centers around relationships.  It is about knowing how to get the optimum performance from the people you interact with and are responsible for, whether at work, in your community or at home.  It is being able to gain their trust; being able to motivate them; and gaining their unwavering support regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.

Trust…what is it and how is it achieved?  Most everyone will agree trust is an essential foundation critical to any relationship, personal or professional.  As a leader, building trust is about: 1) Doing what you say you will do; 2) Being transparent; 3) Showing support for your subordinates and team members, even when mistakes are made; 4) Being respectful of others’ opinions; 5) Being able to empathize with others while balancing the need for results and 6) Ensure your words match your actions.  When people trust your leadership, they will respect and have confidence in your decisions.

Motivation is a complex topic and a lot of opinions and generalizations exist regarding what works, what doesn’t and why.  A considerable amount of the classical theories, still taught today regarding motivation, were conceived in the early 1940’s through the late 1960’s.  In today’s climate, the topic of motivation often shifts to discussions relating to generational differences. 

Generally, there are five primary recognized generations that form our society today:  Traditionalists or Silent Generation – persons  born between 1925 & 1945; Baby Boomers – persons born between 1946 & 1964; Generation X – persons born between 1965 & 1976; Generation Y or Millennials – persons born between 1977 & 1995; and finally, Gen Z, iGen or Centennials – persons born after 1996. 

While each generation has its own unique identity, it would be erroneous to say that everyone classified as belonging to one of these generational categories has the same set of values and beliefs.  While certain characteristics that seemingly apply to the majority of any particular grouping have been published, it is important to remember every person, regardless of what generation they belong to is first, and foremost, an individual; each having their own goals, values and beliefs.  Therefore, what motivates one individual from a generational group may not motivate others within that generation.

During the last two decades a large percentage of managers and leaders in several organizations most likely were Baby Boomers. Generally, the group-think of these individuals was to choose a career with a company and work until retirement age to collect a pension.  Job security was an important aspect of this persona. 

This is vastly different mindset from the general tone in today’s workforce composition, especially when it comes to motivating people to achieve high levels of performance and continuous improvement. Individuals do not seem to be as concerned about a career within a single organization.  There is a tendency to believe most will put their own needs above the organizational needs.  They are willing to switch jobs frequently if they believe it is to their benefit in achieving their career or personal aspirations. As such, the stereotype indicates loyalty is short-term and today’s employer might be tomorrow’s competitor.

Contradictory to the stereotypical profiling of the differences identified within each generation, it has been my observation over the years, the majority of individuals, regardless of generation, want to contribute to the success of their organization; they want to find meaning in their role; want their voice to be heard and their opinions to be considered. 

Regardless of how success is defined in your organization, it is critical to understand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to motivating your employees to give their absolute best day-in and day-out.  Organizations that fail to grasp these basic concepts will find issues with attracting and retaining talent essential to the growth and health of the entity. 

An important aspect of building relationships is the development of good communication skills, especially in the area of active listening.  It involves truly hearing what the sender of the communication is saying, showing genuine interest when someone is speaking, and responding by engaging in dialogue and feedback. While virtually impossible for leaders in large organizations to know everyone; they should leverage every opportunity to expand their network of contacts.  When meeting someone for the first time in the organization, make it personal and about the other person.  Engage in dialogue and leave them with an impression that you really care.

Collaboration is one of the greatest ways to build relationships in an organization.  The use of cross-functional teams working on different projects is just one way to accomplish this.  This process allows participants to provide input and provides a feeling of self-worth and satisfaction when done correctly.

The Nine Steps to SuccessTM Balanced Scorecard methodology expands on Kaplan & Norton’s foundations and provides a flexible strategy management framework that capitalizes on transparency, collaboration and relationship building. When implemented properly, a large cross-section of employees is provided with the opportunity to express their thoughts and contribute to the development of the organization’s strategy.  With few exceptions, this process energizes participants and motivates them to perform at a higher level. This process assists in developing the basis for new relationships, cross-functional communication, and a collaborative work environment where each team member has an equal voice and every opinion is counted as important. Participants feel they are valued, and this helps to form the basis for effecting positive organizational change and building trust throughout the organization.

In the final analysis, the significance of a culture emphasizing relationships, trust, teamwork and collaboration is critical for dealing with the generational makeup of today’s organizations.  It is equally important to realize there are multiple approaches for multiple reasons when dealing with the human element of an organization; no one solution will work all of the time.  Managers and leaders who consistently achieve success, are generally equipped with a multitude of tools and techniques to make them effective. The Balanced Scorecard framework is one of these tools capable of moving your organization forward in meeting the challenges of tomorrow.


Strategy Management Group, The Institute Way: Simplify Strategic Planning and Management with the Balanced Scorecard, Howard Rohm, David Wilsey, Gail Stout Perry, Dan Montgomery, 2013.

The Center for Generational Kinetics, Generational Breakdown: Info About All of the Generations, 2019.  Retrieved from: 

Society for Human Resource Management, What Motivates your Workers?  It Depends on Their Generation, Kathy Gurchiek, 2016.  Retrieved from:

Four Hooks, The Generation Guide, Millennials, Gen X, Y, Z and Baby Boomers, 2015.  Retrieved from: 

Leader Communicator Blog, Trust in the Workplace: 6 Steps to Building Trust with Employees, David Grossman, 2019.  Retrieved from:

The Essential Four C’s of Leadership

The Essential Four C’s of Leadership

On November 14, 1965, Major Bruce Crandall and his flight of sixteen helicopters were lifting troops for a search and destroy mission from Plei Me, Vietnam to a landing zone designated as “Landing Zone X-Ray”. After the fifth troop lift, his unarmed helicopters came under such intense enemy fire that the ground commander ordered the second flight of eight aircraft to abort their mission and return to base. Major Crandall made the determination the group of soldiers on the ground were in dire need of additional ammunition and made the decision to adjust his base of operations to a closer location to deliver this ammunition and evacuate soldiers who had been wounded.

Medical evacuation was not the assigned mission and Major Crandall sought volunteers to assist him. He and one other aircraft proceeded to Landing Zone X-Ray with complete disregard for their personal safety. Despite the intense, relentless engagement of the enemy, Major Crandall’s flight of two aircraft was successful in loading the seriously wounded and evacuating them to safety.

His voluntary actions motivated other pilots and instilled into them the will and spirit to follow his lead, thus resupplying ground forces with much needed supplies and providing a means for evacuating injured combatants. As a result of his leadership and perseverance, Major Crandall completed 22 flights on that day, providing critical resupply to the infantry battalion and saving numerous lives of injured soldiers by evacuating them to a location where they could be medically cared for.  His actions and demonstration of true leadership motivated others under his command into following his path and turn a series of hostile, extenuating circumstances into victory.

Aristotle referred to Courage as the first virtue of leadership. It is courage that makes all the other virtues of leadership possible. Being a leader often means being out in front; it means confronting reality and taking a hard look at your organization. What is the truth about our current state? It is about saying what needs to be said when it needs to be said. A lot of individuals shy away from confrontation and circumstances where there is a potential for conflict. Being able to have honest conversations help organizations work through issues, as painful as the trek might be. Major Crandall was more concerned with what he perceived was best for the mission, more so than his own personal safety or comfort. He was willing to make the decisions to get the job done.

Commitment is the second C of Leadership. As a leader, you have to be willing to do the hard things, even when not popular. This translates to being able to confront performance issues, whether they lie with people or processes. When process issues are ignored, they become toxic over time and have a negative impact on the performance of the organization. Dealing with these issues up front and directly have a long-term positive impact on both the organization and its culture.  Major Crandall disobeyed an order which could have had a detrimental impact on his career. Major Crandall wasn’t worried about his career. He was committed to getting much needed supplies to troops on the ground and evacuating those in need of medical care, regardless of the personal cost to him in terms of career, and even his life.

As with courage, leaders must be committed to the mission of the organization. Not only must they be committed, but they must be able to live and communicate their commitment to the rest of the organization for it to be successful. Leaders must be committed to the teams of individuals who work for them. Leadership isn’t about you!  It’s about the people you lead. It’s about believing in individuals and enabling them to be successful.  Major Crandall’s “leading by example” philosophy motivated others to follow his lead and make the mission successful. He took the responsibility for the decision, but his actions enabled others to contribute and perform by emulating his actions.

Another critical area in leadership is Consistency.  John Maxwell states, “Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” Consistency is what established our reputation not only as leaders, but also as organizations.

Customers and employees don’t want to be surprised. They want predictable results and outcomes. If I order a blue Chevrolet Corvette Z06, I don’t want a red Volkswagen Beetle.  Likewise, in the workplace, employees generally desire an environment where expectations are known, shared and not ambiguous. Leaders who do are not consistent create environments of fear, anxiety, insecurity and discontent. One of the most damaging things a leader can do is to say one thing and do something totally different 24 hours later.  It throws the entire organization into confusion. Major Crandall was very clear in his intent. Not only did he ask for volunteers and describe exactly what he was planning to do; he then did it 22 times in a single day.  His actions were consistent which resulted in others getting on board and seeing the value of what was being accomplished.

Finally, the fourth C of Leadership is Compassion. General Douglas MacArthur was quoted as saying, “A true leader has the confidence to stand along, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” 

Compassionate leaders seek to influence others, not demand, but encourage others towards success and opportunity.  Because of the innate nature of this leadership trait, when exercised, it provides the basic ingredients for forming a healthy work environment: stability and psychological safety. When employees feel they are in a safe environment, they are more willing to take risks which can result in more innovation in the workplace.

Compassionate leaders have a zeal for what they do. They believe in themselves, their organization and their people. Their actions inspire and motivate people to greatness. Major Crandall was compassionate about the circumstances the troops on the ground would face in a very near future if not resupplied. He was equally compassionate about ensuring those who were wounded while fighting for our country received an opportunity to receive medical care and survive. He translated his compassion into action which inspired many others to follow him and turn what could have been a very bad day into a very good one.

There are many other “C” attributes of leadership, Confidence, Character, etc., but in my way of thinking, the four listed here are critical for any leader to be successful, whether in industry or in life.


Brandon Wenerd, brobible.  Retrieved from:

Bill Treasurer, Entrepreneurs’ Organization.  Retrieved from:

John Mawell, What’s So Critical About Simple, Daily Practices?  Retrieved from: 

Kevin Eikenberry, Leadership & Learning.  Retrieved from:

Douglas MacArthur. Retrieved from:

10 Common Mistakes That Young or Inexperienced Project Managers Make – Mistake 10

10 Common Mistakes That Young or Inexperienced Project Managers Make – Mistake 10

Refusing to Ask for Help

One of the most common mistakes made by inexperienced project managers is the belief that asking for help will make them seem incompetent in the eyes of their peers and management. Nothing could be further from the truth. Good project managers know their limitations and always see out help at the earliest possible time.

Refusing to seek out help can result in schedule slippages, and cost overruns. If the project manager delays too long in seeking help, the number of options to correct the problem can diminish. Sponsors should encourage project managers to ask for help at the earliest possible time, but not to expect the sponsor to be the dumping ground for all problems that the project manager cannot resolve. Remember the story of the Titanic the “unsinkable” ship. How many more would have survived if the Captain called for help the minute they struck the iceberg?

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10 Common Mistakes That Young or Inexperienced Project Managers Make – Mistake 9

10 Common Mistakes That Young or Inexperienced Project Managers Make – Mistake 9

Not Fully Understanding Requirements

The more inexperienced the project manager, the greater the likelihood the project manager will use his/her interpretation of the requirements rather than consulting with the subject matter experts. This can lead to misdirection in the technical approach and expensive changes in the later stages of the project.

There are underlying issues that can create this problem, the most prevalent one being the timing of when to bring the project manager on board. The 6th edition of the PMBOK® Guide discusses understanding stakeholder requirements. Oftentimes, it is not the project manager that directly interfaces with the stakeholders initially but more so sales and marketing personnel that may be required to prepare a proposal as part of competitive bidding. The project manager then inherits the requirements and may not be fully aware of the assumptions that went into the preparation of the proposal. The sooner a project manager can become involved in a project the better. When they understand what success is supposed to look like they will make it happen.

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10 Common Mistakes That Young or Inexperienced Project Managers Make – Mistake 8

10 Common Mistakes That Young or Inexperienced Project Managers Make – Mistake 8

Failing to Understand What Stakeholders and Sponsors Want to Hear

One of the requirements to pass the PMP® exam is an understanding of Cost Management and more specifically, the formulas attributed to earned value measurement. Although there is obviously merit in this, earned value measurement is only part of what stakeholders and sponsors want to hear. It is imperative that, as part of stakeholder management, project managers interview the stakeholders to learn what information they deem as important.

Every stakeholder may want a different set of tracking metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs). The project manager may then find it necessary to develop a different performance dashboard for each stakeholder. This could incur significant costs if not planned for in the budget.

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10 Common Mistakes That Young or Inexperienced Project Managers Make – Mistake 7

10 Common Mistakes That Young or Inexperienced Project Managers Make – Mistake 7

Gold-plating the Deliverables

Most project managers want to placate the customer. However, there are limits as to how far the project manager should go. Gold-plating the deliverables after the scope has been agreed to can be very costly. In addition, the customer might be led to believe that they can get these gold-plated “add-ons” for free on future projects because the new standard had been set. Do not fall into this habit as it will inevitably will come back to haunt you.

Read mistake #6 >>

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