Monday, January 04, 2010

Managing across the digital divide - or how to manage teams largely comprising the “now” generation!

Key points: the way the ‘facebook’ generation works is radically different. It is a different ballgame to manage this generation as against earlier ones.

Some of the areas this generation is different includes:

  • Direct and upfront – don’t hesitate to mince words
  • Confident (sometimes overconfident)
  • Know it all (or at least they think they do)
  • Don’t know what they don’t know – but it does not matter
  • 2 year experienced behaves / knows more than what a generation ago a 10 year experienced knew
  • Don’t really think they need to have gained practical experience in something to be an ‘expert’
  • Wide not deep
  • ‘Demand’ not request
  • Global perspective
  • Know what they want (at least for now)
  • Really don’t care what they want or need in the near future (forget long term future)
  • Very ‘transparent’ with each other – everyone knows what everyone else is earning, who thinks what
  • Open – want the world to know their every thought, every move, what they did last evening, this morning, this instant…
  • Are networked like never before – rightly said the facebook generation, know their friends of friends of friends… and can read what they are doing this instant
  • Use technology like never before – don’t hesitate to spend more money on a mobile-phone than their parents did on, say, a two-wheeler
  • Arrogant - don’t know the meaning of humility. Being humble is a sign of weakness for them
  • Question ‘why’ and ‘why not’
  • They think rudeness is a strength
  • Have not seen a downturn – is difficult for them to adjust to a thought that life could also be tough on them

The above constitute amazing strengths, and many chinks in an otherwise good base to build on.

Given the above context, let’s see how difficult or easy it is to manage across these people.

Those who have been managing teams which started work in the old millennium and have not worked with a large number of fresh pass-outs, have not experienced the direct, sometimes blunt, challenging approach of the ‘now’ generation.

Many of the earlier generation have grown up believing in not answering back, in being reticent, humble.. for them the approach comes as a surprise and, sometimes rude, shock.

How does one manage this generation?

Acceptance of their being different – For starters – don’t ‘manage’ them. Work with them. It will be good if one accepts that it would be easier to mould to what this generation is, than to comment / complain that they are different, to cry that “they are not what we were when we were their age”, “they don’t know what we have gone through and they will never go through the same to reach where we have reached” etc etc . This soft sentiment is wasted on this bunch.
Accept that their drivers are vastly different from what yours were, or perhaps are.

Get Involved, but give them their space – show involvement, be involved in their activities, but don’t get too close if you are not in their generation.

Understand – make a conscious attempt to understand why they are doing what they are, their drivers, what triggers them

Anticipate – you know what they will do on a particular stimulus or input. Anticipate and prepare your response.

Do not show them the moon – they are way too smart to be taken in by sweet words and promises, they will read through it. It is better to be upfront and blunt with them than to be circuitous.

Coach mostly, don’t be highly directive – they have a habit of independence, use it to a combined coaching - learning advantage. Give them their space to learn.

Let them be creative, but manage it - let them explore their creativity, let them experiment where they can and where it is not too risky, maybe sometimes even if it is a risk. But be careful, and keep a tab, their overconfidence could be leading them to think they know more than they actually do.

Be direct – subtle hints don’t work here, they will probably go unnoticed. Be direct in your feedback. Use facts, not probabilities.

To be we learn more

Copyright 2010 Anurag Sharma

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