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Millennials and critical skill, thinking and attitude gaps

May 7, 2011…/whats-high-school-for.html –

Seth’s got it right. And what he’s not saying aloud is that it’s not enough to address skill, thinking and attitude gaps once young adults emerge on the scene after college. The work ideally should be done way earlier, when people  more receptive to suggestion and modeling. Colleges are starting, with some help, to get the message but they’re for the most part unwieldy institutions. High schools, on the other hand, have an incredible platform.

All that said, we have a crisis right NOW so check out and have your late high school through recent grad children/students register for the June 17 career event. It’s all about skill, thinking and attitude for 21st Century career success.

The real problem behind mentoring/sponsoring women

December 16, 2010

There have been a number of initiatives thrown at this problem — from flextime to telecommuting to mentors and now to sponsors –and the numbers haven’t budged. But the problem is twofold: first, they’re all institutional fixes and second, women’s and men’s brains are wired differently.


Taking them one at a time, the truth is that the institutional fixes should be in place for everyone and are not gender specific. Further, they obscure the need for women to acquire the critical skills (e.g effective negotiating, developing spheres of influence, asking for what they want, taking credit when it’s due, setting boundaries etc.) they need to succeed, particularly in male dominated industries.


Brain wiring speaks to the different ways we think and the different ways we learn. There’s decidedly something top down(teacher/student) about a traditional mentoring relationship which, for many woman, can feel authoritative. This is not empowering and in fact, can let women off the hook for developing their own thinking. Which leads to the next point: women are much more experiential learners so being told something by a mentor does not necessarily translate into sustained learning. And if the woman feels the mentor is an authority figure,  she may bristle at the instruction.

When it comes to sponsorship, influential allies within an organization are definitely assets but I don’t think that having sponsors carry water for women ultimately does them any good, both individually and as a gender. Sponsors again should not relieve women of the responsibility to develop their own skill sets that can help them help themselves.


So, mentorship and sponsorship programs would be infinitely more productive if a) the mentors were trained to have coaching conversations with their mentees (leaving them in action) and b) if women invested in learning the self and career management skills that would help them do for themselves.


Oh, and by the way, shouldn’t sponsorship be earned not assigned?


Influence is the currency of business and ultimately, women have to learn how to bank this themselves. True parity depends on it.



McKinsey Survey: Moving Women to the Top

December 3, 2010

So many thoughts, as this is a more nuanced issue than most people think. First, I’m not sure I understand why it’s surprising that large companies might take the lead on diversity initiatives. Plain and simple, it’s good business for two reasons: 1) because it’s expensive to replace talent and in a large company  the percentages translate into more bodies, and 2) if we subscribe to the Catalyst research, companies with more women in senior roles and also on boards seem to perform better. In a market economy, many things can be explained by following the money.


In terms of what it takes for women to succeed, I’ve been saying for a long time that institutional initiatives are not enough: they’re necessary but not sufficient. even with flextime, telecommuting and the like, the fact is that many industries are still male-dominated so those initiatives don’t do anything to equip women to deal and fare well in those environments. It’s all about skill acquisition and helping women take ownership of their own progress. High among the skills to be learned is the idea that we can’t function in the shadows anymore. WE have to learn that our value is often tied to the amount of business we generate. Shadows  equal overhead and in this economy, that doesn’t fly anymore. So, in addition to these initiatives not changing women’s thinking they also allow us to externalize the responsibility. Much easier to say our not getting ahead is a function of discrimination. Of course that exists but as a gender, it ultimately doesn’t serve us well to effect a victim mentality.

On another point, role models and mentors are great but those relationships are sometimes complicated. All About Eve, anyone?  Hardwired into our DNA is a scarcity sensibility, with women often competing for scarce resources. What could be more scarce than a position of leadership at the top? The net net is that women often don’t operate from a place of generosity; instead, they’re protective of their scarce resources, whether relational or material.  This has to change. The good news is that our daughters have been raised in an environment of parity; I just fear that it’s going to be a big slap upside the head when they’re confronted with the old boys and a less evolved multi-generational workforce. Gotta keep on trying.


Are 20-somethings a lost generation?

September 4, 2010


Consider and discuss

Hello world!

November 6, 2009

In response to the NYT Magazine article:

“What Is It With 20-Somethings?”

The Name of the Game

Houston, We’ve Got a Problem

There’s been a lot of buzz about The New York Times Magazine cover story of August 22,

2010, entitled “What Is It With 20 Somethings?”  The article discussed the phenomenon

often referred to as “failure to launch,” referring to the seeming inability of this age group to

establish themselves as independent adults. Nothing new here, as we have statistical and

anecdotal evidence of their delaying assuming grown-up responsibilities: they change

residences yearly or return home indefinitely, decline job offers, decline looking for jobs, hop

from job to job, delay marriage and children, etc.

Much of this, the article argues, may be a function of a newly proposed and hotly debated life

stage called “emerging adulthood.”  During these years, the brain is still developing – thank

goodness – but the pace is uneven, causing a delay in maturity which many see as a deficiency

and employers see as hugely frustrating and counterproductive.  Is this really new? Probably

not. But it’s more obvious now, and perhaps more prolonged, as the sputtering economy brings

it to light.

Whether or not “emerging adulthood” ultimately qualifies as an official life stage or endures into

the future is a matter of semantics; the fact remains that our current crop of 20-somethings is in

crisis now and the real question is how best to support them  through these pivotal,

impressionable, defining years.

The problem, Houston, is actually an opportunity.  While employment prospects are, for the

moment dim, there is significant change on the horizon. Business will eventually recover, likely

not to levels of the recent past but to set points established by this “new normal” and industry

will need a new generation of employees. Boomers, the predominant generation in the

workplace, will also retire in the not-too-distant future, leaving American business with an

immediate need for qualified talent.  Well, then, our Millennials can just rough it in their

childhood homes, toughing it out until the tide turns and then… it’s jobs for everyone.  Right?

Nope.  The jobs of the future require a host of different skills and perspectives.  Daniel Pink, the

author of Drive and A Whole New Mind, posits that we’ve moved from the Information Age,

which required thinking that is rational, analytic and logical — and easily automated or

outsourced — to the Conceptual Age, which requires thinking that is interpretive, innovative,

contextual and able to simultaneously consider all elements of a situation as well as the

implications. It’s no longer about which chapters are on the test but what to make of those

chapters individually, in the context of the whole book and as they impact subsequent volumes.

Different process entirely.

For those entering college prior to 2004, the old model still kind of worked, as a rising tide

carried all ships. But then the current changed and the skills our grads thought they needed

were less and less relevant. We now operate in a newly imagined world where layers of

management have disappeared, ROI is king, there’s zero tolerance of “fat,” all levels of workers

must be able to manage themselves, must be solution-focused and if they don’t  bring initiative,

they shouldn’t bring it at all. Seriously, no trophies just for showing up.

So, what to do? Again, the good news is that their brains are still developing and the temporary

lull in the economy presents them and us with an ideal (second) chance to prepare for the 21st

Century workplace.

This preparation requires intention and a commitment to leaving the “bubble” of college life and

the protection of home behind. This is a time for growth, challenge and change and the best

way for us to midwife the process is to let them go through it, not over it, not around it but

through it for themselves.  According to the literature, if they don’t have the experience at the

right time, unresolved issues will arise later, possibly with collateral damage. Our challenge is to

tolerate the discomfort that accompanies letting them assume responsibility and ownership.

Further, there’s no substitute for experience and while we think we’re helping by managing their

lives, we’re actually doing them a disservice. Instead, encourage them to acquire fine

communication skills, work hard, think creatively, find solutions, be proactive, cultivate

relationships, show initiative and develop a sense of etiquette and protocol, all necessary skills

for interpersonal and professional success. Start now and…

Stay strong.

If you have an “emerging adult,” in need of support, please contact me at to learn about my new skill-based “From Bubble to Boardroom”

program designed to help 20-somethings manage themselves and their careers, in real time.

As always, I welcome questions and comments posted directly to the North Jersey Media web