The Four Success Factors of Millennial Leaders

Relay races are won or lost, based on how well the baton was passed. In 2016, some 3.6 million Baby Boomers will retire, and metaphorically pass the baton to 25% of working millennials who are slated to become managers this year. How well the baton is passed will determine if a company falls behind, stays the course, or wins the race. What are the top four strategies that will bolster the odds of a smooth transition? Below are the four things that millennial leaders want and need to run a successful race.  

shutterstock_82356412Corporate learning

Engagement surveys by Blessing White and recent research by PwC confirms that training and development is a priority for the millennial worker. Talent development is a game changer that attracts talent and accelerates readiness to move up the career ladder. 

Career progression

And speaking of career ladders, millennials want to move up and they want to do it two rungs at a time. This is great news to organizations who desperately need to accelerate the growth of high-potentials. Coach to a development and career plan that aligns an individual’s values, passion, and purpose…and then get out to the way!  

Coaching and feedback

Coaching and frequent feedback goes way beyond developing a career plan. Bersin & Associates points out that millennials want frequent and consistent feedback and coaching, and not just when something goes wrong. On-target feedback positively reinforces desired behaviors, and increases the likelihood that those behaviors will be repeated. 

Flexible schedules

Life balance and flexibility also get high marks in terms of importance from the millennial generation. Look for ways to reevaluate old ways of doing things and creatively seek out opportunities to flex. Engage the millennial leaders in finding a solution that emphasizes the end and not the means.


If you are interested in taking full advantage of your millennial leaders, check out: Leadership Lab.  Xponents’ newest program is a 90-day leadership intensive. Schedule a free consultation today and learn how the Leadership Lab can help you.




Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing and aligning unique talent, values, and purpose.

Millennials, Feedback, and the Dreaded Performance Appraisal


Have you wondered why several major companies like Adobe, Juniper, and Gap are deciding to forgo the traditional performance appraisal process? Lately, the question that is on everyone’s mind; Are traditional performance appraisals still a viable approach to performance management? Many in today’s organizations don’t think so, and the majority are reporting that they are not getting what they need from annual performance appraisals. In a recent Forbes article, Donna Morris of Adobe shared statistics from Mercer’s 2013 Global Performance Management Survey. “Only 3% of organizations say their performance management system delivers exceptional value, while almost half 48% say their overall approach to performance management needs work (Morris, 2014).” There are several reasons that the time has come to rethink performance management, and specifically the annual performance review process. In part, the need for change mirrors the changing environment. The workplace looks very different from when the traditional performance appraisal process arrived on the scene 60 years ago.

Why Looking Back No Longer Works

In the early 1950s, change was not at the accelerated pace that it is today. Supervisors oversaw the work of a different workforce, one that was heavily engaged in manufacturing. Today a full 70% of employees are knowledge workers and service providers, according to Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte. “These are people who become more productive and valuable over time…so the more we coach and develop them, the more productive and happy they become (Bersin, 2013).” He further asserts that the changing workforce, in part, creates the need to move from competitive evaluation to coaching and development. Not only is the nature of work impacting performance management, so too are employee’s expectations. A key consideration is the impact of Millennials, and what they want and need to be successful at work. The sheer number of Millennials in the workplace demands attention, as they tip the scales in 2015 and become the majority in the workplace (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). And this trend will continue, with Millennials projected to represent 75% of the workplace by 2025.

There is a considerable impact on performance management as the Millennial generation, or those born between the years 1981-1996, represent a larger percentage of the workforce. In a recent Forbes article, Karl Moore who is a professor at the Desautels Faculty, McGill University & an Associate Fellow at Green Templeton College, Oxford University, says that “Millennials want feedback. They want it now and they want it consistently, or they’ll simply leave. Giving Millennials feedback is a very different game from what we knew in the past. The reality is that feedback has moved from an annual performance review to an everyday occurrence, or at least it should be. Worse yet, too many managers have not come to grips with the concept of Millennial feedback (Moore, 2014).”

The Challenges We Face

There are several factors that challenge cultures, and those who manage, to come to grips with feedback. Below are a few of the more common reasons organizations are struggling to fully embrace coaching and feedback:

  • Failed attempts at change because of unrealistic expectations regarding the change effort required to shift to a culture of coaching and feedback.
  • Unable to sell the cost of the change initiative due to the difficulty of quantifying that over time, the value outweighs the cost.
  • Time challenges that are both real and perceived as managers struggle to deliver consistent and frequent feedback and coaching to the entire team. Often, the allotted time for feedback and coaching is spent on problem performers.
  • Coaching initiatives lose steam because of lukewarm results because managers have not developed the skills and confidence needed to effectively coach and deliver feedback that has a meaningful impact.

While the obstacles are real, so too is the potential reward. Those who are able to shift the culture to support frequent and effective feedback will be the winners on many fronts. One of those fronts is employee engagement.

Defining the Opportunity

In Gallup’s report, the State of the American Workplace, the well-known employee engagement researcher states that roughly “30% of American employees are engaged at work, while the rest are not engaged (50%), or actively disengaged (20%).” As a subset of this statistical data, Gallup further evaluates engagement statistics related to feedback, and has uncovered some interesting and meaningful correlations. Globally the “managers who give little or no feedback only engage about 2% of their team and 40% of their employees report they are actively disengaged.” Gallup estimates that the cost of disengagement is $450-$550 billion a year (Gallup, 2013). The cost associated with managers who are not providing consistent feedback is becoming increasingly too high a price to pay.

Developing managers who are both consistent and effective at providing coaching and feedback is an opportunity for most organizations. To take full advantage of what’s possible, the entire culture must intentionally shift, as all managers reimagine, reinvent, and retool what they believe and what they do regarding performance management. Some will roll their eyes, not believing that they need to pay careful attention, because the terms coaching and feedback are familiar. Guard yourself against this way of thinking, and carefully consider if you fully own the vernacular and if you are a practicing student of this unique dialect that facilitates deeper meaning and engagement at work. In the future, nothing less than full participation will be enough.

There is a future calling managers to change the way they lead, and it will change the way organizations practice performance management. Those who answer the call will hold themselves and others accountable for collaboration and partnering, emotional intelligence, leveraging conflict and chaos, and mindfulness and presence. These leadership competencies will create an environment where trust can flourish; and this skill-set will be integrated into the landscape of coaching and feedback. In the future, coaching and feedback will stop being a task that leaders do, and instead become who they are, in any given moment.

If you believe it’s time for a change and want to learn more, read Part 2 of this blog: Why Meaningful Work Matters.

If you are interested in becoming a performance driven organization that’s able to balance a drive for results with caring and connected leadership; redefining coaching and feedback may be an opportunity worth considering. Schedule a free consultation today and learn how to use Cycles of Transformation to grow your team.



Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing and aligning unique talent, values, and purpose.

Transforming Employee Engagement

Business people stand excitedI look at the clock and realize that it’s 4:25 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and I suspect that somewhere between 40 and 80 percent of the workforce, which is literally millions of people, are beginning to celebrate the end of another week; a week where they traded a piece of themselves to pay the rent or mortgage. I imagine them in pubs as these words hit the page, sipping martinis or sharing a beer over this week’s war stories. Parents are rushing to pick up kids, yet another vivid reminder of why they must continue to work in a less than ideal situation, and spouses and partners are relieved that they will soon be in the sanctuary of home where they can let down their guard, be themselves and find comfort as they share their frustration and speak that which is unspeakable at work. How did this happen, this mass dissatisfaction with work?
– Excerpt from “The Cycle of Transformation” by Deb Siverson (that’s me!)

I’ve read a lot about employee engagement, and have personally experienced the lackluster feeling of being disengaged. And here we are in 2015, and the engagement statistics are not improving all that much.

My book, “The Cycle of Transformation” explores practical behaviors and methods to engage employees at work. But before you step down the path of how to transform performance and bring out the best that people have to offer, it’s important to know what the research is telling us about why people are disengaged.

An interesting statistic is that 89% of employers believe that employees quit because of money. The truth is only 12% leave for financial reasons. The majority, 75% are believed to leave because of their boss. The relationship between manager and team member is a key driver of engagement and this directly impacts bottom line results.

The research from Gallup and Blessing White suggests that another factor impacting engagement is being disconnected from the work itself. The majority of us want to contribute in a way that is meaningful, and 40% of surveyed employees were unaware of the big-picture vision, strategy, and tactics of the organization. However, it is more than awareness that connects us to a mission; it is alignment with our personal values, vision, and purpose.

The other data point I want to showcase, is that 47% of highly engaged team members receive feedback at least once a week. Almost half of engaged employees are receiving regular feedback. And it isn’t just the “here is what you did wrong,” variety of feedback. It is recognition and reinforcement of successful outcomes.

Three things to remember about employee engagement:
• Focus on strong connected relationships between managers and employees
• Align individual values, vision, and purpose with the organization
• Practice the art of effective coaching and feedback

For more information on how to unleash potential in the workplace, order a copy of my book…and check out this article on the 5 Practices that Crush Employee Engagement.

If you like this blog, I think you will like my book The Cycle of Transformation. Available now!
HighResolution_Warnke_ DebSiverson20121208-9332-EditDeb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.

Employee Engagement = Effective Leadership

Most people want to work for a manager who practices the leadership qualities of being genuine, caring, and fair-minded.  The majority of us don’t expect to be coddled or to have our mistakes swept under the rug.  We don’t need a protector who saves us from the harsh truths of our reality.  On the flip side, few want to work for Attila the Hun. We merely want to be treated with respect and in a way that allows us to maintain our dignity, so that we can be the best version of ourselves.  This month in FastCompany, Mark Crowley says that “several studies in recent years have shown a remarkable number of people believe they work for a bad boss.  As evidence of how deeply this affects engagement, 35% of U.S. workers polled by Parade magazine last summer said they’d willingly forgo a substantial pay raise in exchange for seeing their direct supervisor fired.”  Ouch!

Organizations would be wise to hire mangers that are able to balance a drive for results with the ability to be an empathetic developer of people.  Without this balance, one side of the equation wins out and employees are left feeling the sting of the harsh critic or the impotence of the care-giver, and neither archetype is capable of supporting people to maximize potential.  Maximizing potential may seem “the icing on the cake”, but the frightening truth is that we risk more than the opportunity to experience what is possible.  Bad bosses have a significant and meaningful impact on employee disengagement.

Gallup is releasing their newest report his month, and while they “encouragingly note that there’s been a slight improvement to employee engagement since the Great Recession, it’s hard to cheer when you realize 52% of Americans admit to being disengaged in their jobs, and another 18% to being actively disengaged.”  According to Jim Harter, one of the main areas of focus to get things back on track: hiring managers that are “deeply caring and capable of seeing, supporting, and adjusting to the differences in people.”

In my leadership development practice, often I notice the struggle is “How do I practice transparency and build confidence?”  “How do I hold others accountable and assume greatness?”  Balancing between being up-close and engaged and allowing space for exploration requires deep listening to what is needed in every moment.  This level of leadership presence can be elusive.  Today’s workplace is filled with pressures, distractions, time limitations, and stressors.  How does a leader stay connected to both the big picture and his people?  How does she drive performance without driving away her most valuable resource?

Engaging others is about connection, but before you can be truly connected to others you must start with your connection to the best version of yourself.  When I am my most compelling-self it is because I am less concerned with my ego, and more grounded in my talents, values, purpose, and passion.  When the people I work with are the most compelling it is because they know who they are and how to contribute to something bigger. If leaders want to improve workplace engagement, each of us must recover first to the relationship we have with our self.  Effective leadership requires continually asking the question:  who am I, and what am I uniquely suited to do in this present moment.

When leaders lead from the center, the very core of who they are, then we can truly impact employee engagement by creating authentic and connected relationships with others in the workplace.

If you like this blog, I think you will like my book The Cycle of Transformation. Available now!
Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.


Employee Engagement: Who’s Leading?

Everyone is talking about Employee Engagement these days, as they should.   Based on numerous surveys, employee engagement is at an all-time low.  We know the impact of low employee engagement is lost productivity, higher attrition, increased expenses, and according to Gallup, costs American businesses $300 billion a year.  But whose responsibility is it, the employee’s, management’s, or both?   I asked the question of my LinkedIn community, What one thing would you suggest to improve employee engagement during 2012?   The majority of their suggestions pointed to management.  While I agree that managers and organizations play a critical role, we must also look to ourselves and what part of our own engagement we are accountable for.  We own the life that we create and that means both in and out of work.  Ultimately, we decide if we want to sit in the corner or join the party.

While I’m looking forward to sharing the suggestions on the organizational side (watch for my next blog post) I decided to start with the individual’s role in employee engagement.  The more I researched how individuals can take personal responsibility for their own engagement at work, the more I saw a link to leadership principles.   This makes perfect sense because being a leader means being proactively engaged in creating destiny.   It comes down to three basic concepts:

  • What do I want and need for myself
  • What does the organization need that I have to offer
  • What am I willing to give?

The first bullet has everything to do with understanding one’s own unique talents, gifts, values, passion, purpose, and mission.  I used to see this very one dimensionally.  What I have come to know is that this is multi-dimensional and constantly shifting depending on what is happening internally and externally.  I recently had dinner with an old friend who I had not seen in several years.  We talked about the journey of getting to know yourself over and over again as you age.  That feeling of looking in the mirror and not recognizing the face that looks back at you.  To remain fully engaged, we must never stop looking in the mirror.  When I pay attention to what excites me and what bores me, I find that what I value is at the root of those feelings.  Who I am at the core is the same, so when I pay attention there is a rediscovery and remembrance of who I am, but in truth at different times I hunger for more or less of some pieces of myself.  My skills have grown in some directions and atrophied in others.   Who am I now?  I’ve come to believe that staying engaged means holding the question of who you are and what you need.  It is taking care of yourself first, because when you do there is so much more of yourself to give.

As I listen to the organizational system that I am part of, bullet two asks me to pay attention to how I can serve what is needed.  Aligning what I have to offer with what is needed in the system is like taking a telescope and dialing it in to first focus on myself, and then out to observe the bigger picture.  In-out-in-out.  What do I need to feel successful, happy, fulfilled?  What does the organization need to be profitable, achieve objectives, and meet shareholder expectations?    What do my colleagues need from me; encouragement, honesty, mentoring, feedback?  What do I need from them; input, acceptance, the benefit of the doubt, tenacity.  Engagement means listening carefully and often to the state of the state. When we check out we lose touch with how things are becoming.  That disconnection leads to a lack of engagement and connection to the system you are a part of.

Finally, I make the decision, what am I willing to give?  No matter how much pressure my manager puts on me, there is no one else but me who decides.  I don’t decide just once, I decide over and over again, day by day, and minute by minute.  Others can support me in becoming more aware of who I am and what motivates me, they can point me in the direction I should go, and they can support me in developing a path toward success.  They can hold me accountable to some level of activity and even results.  Yet even then, I ultimately determine if I will live up to my full potential.  Will I give you 50% of what I am capable of, or 80%, or 100%?  I always choose, either intentionally or unintentionally, that the buck stops here.

Here is the part that fascinates me: my level of engagement is some complex dance that I do with myself and with the organizational system that I am part of.  I can decide to dance a Salsa, or a line dance, or an intricate ballet with a troupe of other dancers.  Or I can stand against the wall and wait for someone to ask me to dance.

What do you think? Comment below and share your opinion. Or schedule time with me to see how we can help.

If you like this blog, I think you will like my book The Cycle of Transformation. Available now!
Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.