Monday, January 19, 2009

Leadership in the Workplace

Navigating the rough waters of leadership transition

George, Brad, Brianna, and Nate are connected by their jobs; the four of them make up the IT department at Handover Corporation. They also represent four distinct generations. They all have their own specialties, and when the day is done they go their separate ways—that is, until the company sends them on a white-water rafting trip to encourage team building. Surviving the rapids, they return to work to discover that their CEO is stepping down, sending the company into a tumultuous transition. They rely on the skills they just learned in order to survive and remain in the boat together.

This scenario serves as the plot of a unique new book, We’re in This Boat Together: Leadership Succession Between the Generations, by Camille Bishop, Ph.D. A career educator with thirty years of international teaching experience, Dr. Bishop knows exactly why the average business book fails to resonate with readers. “So many business books are full of great information, but they’re boring,” she comments. “I wanted to write something that was interesting and would grab people’s attention, but would also present good information.” The result is a business book that is as engaging as it is informative.

The transfer of power within an organization is rarely easy; however, in light of the looming economic crisis, more American companies have been forced to make difficult decisions regarding personnel. The face of leadership is changing in companies across America, and the stakes have never been higher.

Excerpt taken from the Preface of We’re in This Boat Together by Camille Bishop, PhD
(Used with permission of Authentic, ©2008)

In today’s workforce no one is exempt from the fact that four generations are currently represented. From the worlds of business and education to nonprofit organizations and churches, a similar scenario exists. One might find in the same company a seventy-year-old working alongside a twenty-two year- old. Down the hall, a Gen Xer might be consulting with a Baby Boomer. What are the defining qualities of each of these generations? Many questions come to the surface:

• Are there generational differences in work ethic—and if so, what are they?
• How does each generation relate and respond to authority figures?
• How does each generation perceive women in leadership?
• What are their expectations in the workplace?
• How do they balance the demands of work and home?
• What are their views about money and fiscal responsibility?
• How does each generation view the role of leadership in an organization?

These questions reflect the need to better understand the values and behaviors of each of these four generations. Research indicates that our perception of leadership is linked to the particular generation in which we grew up. Without that knowledge, transitions in leadership can be very messy. Insight and appreciation of generational differences can prepare a workplace for a much smoother changeover.

The Silent Generation consists of those born between 1925 and 1942. They are the children born during the Great Depression and the generation sandwiched between the first and second world wars. Boomers followed the Silent Generation (1943–1960) and were raised in an era of opportunity, progress, and optimism. They also experienced a radically changing society marked by rebellion, shifting social norms, and outward challenges of authority. Growing up in the shadow of the Boomers, Gen Xers were born between 1961 and 1981. They are technologically savvy and were raised in the age of dual-career families. Finally, Millennials, some of the newest members of the workforce, were born between 1982 and twenty years thereafter. A “plugged-in” generation, they have been around technology since birth. The Internet world of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and ever-present e-mail is as natural to them as breathing.

Each of these distinct groups of people see life differently because of the times in which they grew up. Just consider the differences that might exist in financial matters between those who grew up during the Great Depression and those who were raised in the “instant credit, no-payment-until-next year” society.
Might there be a clash between Henry, a member of the Silent Generation who sees leadership as the general who goes to the helm, and Jason, an Xer who is distrustful of leaders and prefers collaboration? You can almost feel the white water forming.

How can we navigate the rapids of transition? The answer to that question is the reason for this book. So grab your oar, don’t forget your life jacket, and push off into the white water. It is going to be quite a ride!

We’re in This Boat Together: Leadership Succession Between the Generations by Camille Bishop, Ph.D.
Authentic/ISBN-13: 978-1-934068-37-3/203 pages/softcover/$14.99
http://www.authenticbooks.com/

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