Generational Differences in the Workplace

Generation conflict can cause an organization a lot of money in productivity.  At no other time in history have five generations co-existed in the US. Labor force, Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and the most current Gen2020.  This is due because people are living longer and working longer.  This mixed, multi-generational environment is a new challenge for management and HR teams.  Falling under one generation does not necessarily mean you were born during the years within the range but if you meet the characteristics and values of the generation.

Several of the prevailing issues are the different workforce behaviors, and those who are unfamiliar with collaboration tools but are expected to work in a setting with possibly four other different generations.  Generalizations and stereotypes exist in an attempt to understand trends.  By having your employees understand how work is done differently in different generations, collaboration between groups tends to happen.  Understanding the different needs go both ways.  “Social learning” is a new concept that employees learn from each other.  Management has learned that by pairing up employees from different generations and by providing them the training, they can both teach each other and develop working relationships.

You can learn more about strategies for understanding–and overcoming–generational differences by reading “Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace.”

Reflection on Immunity to Change

Desire and motivation aren’t enough to see change through.  Therefore, it is best to first understand what you seek to change and then determine your desire to fully commit to implementing it.  I understand that change does not happen overnight, it requires serious dedication.  Yet and still, in my experience, I know it is easy to fall off track and lose sight of the goal.  At times I am consciously aware of what I need to do yet I lack motivation to continue to implement the change I started to pursue.  My actions become inconsistent and/or I psyche myself out.  Eventfully, though, I realize I do not have to begin my transformation in a drastic manner, I can revamp my approach and start with baby steps—Kaizen.

This particularly correlates with how I feel about the mannerisms I am trying to change.  For the most part, I consider myself to be a well-rounded individual who understands we all encompass unique differences.  However, in knowing myself, I accept that I am not and will never be perfect.  Thus, I am continually working towards becoming a better person.  I admit that I need to be a better listener, have better control of my emotions, and even become a better delegator.  Conversely, my “one big thing” is control issues.

I was already aware of my areas of weakness, nevertheless, Kegan and Lahey helped put the significance of my weaknesses into a perspective I had never considered.  I was content simply knowing that there were a few things I needed to work on.  I did not want to think about every aspect of my faults—it makes me feel uneasy.  It truly is a slap in the face once you realize you are unconsciously blocking your own path to success.  With that being said, I appreciate the self discoveries that spawned from reading “Immunity to Change.”  Not only am I aware of my faults and consequences they may cause, now I am also aware that I have the ability to create a game plan by using an immunity map to overcome every obstacle blocking my path to success.

Organizational Transparency

Increased transparency is a consequence to the digital age.  A transparent organization shares information purposely beyond the boardroom with both members and nonmembers alike.  Organizational transparency encourages, honors, and engages with the public.  Transparency is the degree to which an organization shares the following with its stakeholder publicly:

  • Leaders are accessible and straightforward.
  • Employees are accessible and can reinforce the public view of the company by providing superb customer service, when appropriate.
  • Ethical behavior, fair treatment, and other values are on full display.
  • It’s culture.  How a company does things is more important than what it does.
  • Successes, failures, victories, and problems are all communicated.  Results of business practices, good and bath are communicated.
  • Business practices are aligned with the business strategy.  Misalignment can results in disaster.

The reasons why certain organizations have productive and lively workplaces go beyond hiring efficient employees and paying competitive wages. Workplace transparency can increase employee happiness, productivity and decrease the turnover rate. The responsibility of introducing transparency into the workplace falls upon the shoulders of management by keeping employees up to date with workplace changes. Communication is key; it can be as simple as carbon copying your employees in your emails.

Thanks to the evolution of social media, transparency is no longer an option.  It is in the organization’s best interest to talk openly and behave ethically.   Some recognized transparent organizations are Wholefoods, La-Z-boy, and PriceSmart.  These organizations model openness and integrity. When organizations announce their motives to the public it allows the public to hold the company accountable.

The Glassdoor provides an inside look at jobs and companies.  It includes salary details, company reviews and interview questions. Before your next shopping trip or when applying for your next job, check out what others are saying about this organization at

Leadership: The Good, the Bad and the Imperious

Despite what we might have been told (by others or ourselves), there is a leader in all of us just waiting to make an impact. The ability to lead is one of the most sought-after traits to have as a human being, for it demonstrates bravery, a clear vision and stability. But oftentimes, leadership can go to a dark place, and an ordinarily fair person can quickly become the opposite if they are not grounded in reality. In this post I’ll be looking at how leadership can go bad, and what people can do to regain the strength to be a positive leader.

After many years on the job, it is not uncommon for professionals in leadership positions to lose a sense of modesty. Perhaps this is due to the comfort level of professional consistency that they might have accomplished over the course of time. When a worker in power loses their sense of teamwork, cooperation becomes obsolete; thus creating a cycle of division and insufficiency in the workplace. This rubs off on their team members, who may see this behavior as healthy and normal, or “the way to move up.” Bennet Simonton, a leadership coach, explains “Bad leadership shuts off the natural creativity, innovation, and productivity of each employee and slowly but surely demotivates and demoralizes them. With the “I know better than you” and the “be quiet and listen to me” mentality often projected from management, the majority will act like robots waiting for instructions, even if that is not what management intended.”*

So how can problematic leaders take a turn for the best? The first step is to treat your so-called “subordinates” as equal players in the game of success. Listening to them and focusing on their strengths instead of their weaknesses is not as difficult as it seems when actively applied. Matching an employee’s personal strengths to responsibilities around the workplace makes for a huge success. Clear and concise planning free of haste shows a combination of accuracy and logical thinking. Strong problem solving, being proactive and brainstorming with team members are also excellent strengths to have. But more importantly, striving for success as fairly and efficiently as possible is a surefire way to becoming a prominent and productive team leader.

*Works Cited

Simonton, Bennett. “Good Leadership vs. Bad Leadership.” Web log post. N.p., 2012. Web. 8 Aug. 2012.

Training and Development

Last year I researched variables that generate success for small businesses in an ever-changing economy. Primarily, I wanted to prove that well-structured training programs are the core on which all other factors stand to warrant a company’s merit. Professional Resources stock image

I referenced my learning experiences from relative academic courses and my personal work experience at small companies. Additionally, I gathered data using Google Scholar and OhioLinks as research tools for academic articles that supported my hypothesis. Business success, business development, training programs, and Fortune 500 were just a few of the key phrases I used.

With additional supporting evidence from scholarly articles, I proposed training programs were the common denominator among the most successful companies at the time. Furthermore, my research unveiled the basic fundamentals for training that can be incorporated in almost any industry.

The article I found most useful came from the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). I highly recommend referring to this organization for the latest trends in training and development.

Merit Increases Today

This past week I attended a WebEx about merit increase guidelines for my staff for fiscal year 2012.  This is the first time my organization offers such training and I was really taken back to hear that we will be receiving a merit increase this year.  My organization, like many others have not offered their employees a merit increase in a few years, if not longer.  It turns out that most organizations are giving anywhere from two to three and a half percent increase in 2012.  The truth is that what your organization should pay in merit increase depends on many factors.  Some factors include, what is going on in your market, what is the demographic of your workforce, and how your organization differs from the norm.

Just looking at the average in your company in your area is not enough.  Say a sales person in the industry may be at three percent.  Even though you are not a sales company but you have staff in sales, you may consider giving the sales staff a three percent merit increase.  If you do not stay competitive, you may fear losing the sales staff.  Earlier in your career there is a positive correlation between higher pay and each additional years of service.  For example a staff member with one year of experience the difference between one year to two years may be up to a four percent but a staff with 15 years of experience the difference in pay with only one more year of experience may just be one percent.  If your organization is performing better than its competitors, it may warrant an increase higher than the average. Also, the average should be based on what organizations are paying competitively with market.

Organizations should establish a compensation philosophy that builds a compensation plan with relevant, timely market data, supports business objectives, and executes increases based on rewarding what your organization values.  This will help the organization stay ahead of being just the average.  For a 2012 Compensation Best Practices Report, go to

“Why would I work for free?”

By Sherry Wong

As an ABC (American-Born Chinese), my parents hardly talked about community service  or its personal value. Growing up poor, my parents were more concerned about putting food on the table and making rent than helping others. The times that I did hear about community service, I got the impression it was for punishing celebrities – e.g. Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Naomi Campbell and Snoop Dogg. “I don’t want to do community service. Can’t I just donate money?” That is what I used to say until my Service Learning course – MGT 524 – enlightened me.

I currently tutor a young lady from Thailand through LAPL’s Adult Literacy Program. Since English is her second language and she wants to attend an American university, she is required to take the TOEFL iBT test – it measures a person’s ability to use and understand English at the university level and it evaluates how well you combine your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills to perform academic tasks. I have been working with my Thai student for about seven weeks now and her English-speaking progress is evident.

I learned that community service is not just court-mandated for naughty celebrities. I
learned community service is not simply about donating money. I learned through my
Service Learning experience that community service is about giving back (time) and
paying it forward. I attended Los Angeles public schools and I remember every teacher
who helped me succeed along the way. Their kindness compelled me to give that same
time and focus back to my Thai student. When my Thai student and I started working
together seven weeks ago, she was very quiet and timid. Now she is incredibly talkative
and humorous while doing it all in English. I know I am making a difference and there is
no better feeling.

Q&A: What is Strategic Planning?

by David Norgard, Adjunct Faculty, AULA BA Program
Strategic planning answers a basic question: Where do you want to go as an organization?

photo by Kazi Shefaet Rahman, Illuminatus Rex, via Wikimedia Commons

Another way to put it is: What do you want to see happen? Or, again: What do you want to accomplish? That question begs another: How are you going to get there? How are you going to realize your aspirations? A sound strategic planning process helps leaders arrive at informed, clear answers to these most basic questions.

Why should we bother? (Who knows what the future will bring anyway?)
A popular adage used in strategic planning is a retort to this question: If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. Nevertheless, some of us are familiar with situations where much time, effort and money was spent on producing a very elaborate plan, only to have it put into a three-ring binder, placed on a shelf, and collect dust until a new occupant in the office threw it out. A good strategic plan is valuable in that it provides a continuing reminder of what you really want and need to accomplish, even in the midst of a hundred other possibilities and detours. It provides clarity about mission, vision, values, and priorities… And that clarity helps leaders make more informed decisions about everything from program initiatives to infrastructure requirements.

What does the process involve?
The strategic planning process can be relatively quick and simple or lengthy and complex. How extensive the process should be depends largely on the size and complexity of the organization. For example, an agency with a single program and a budget of less than $1M requires a far less elaborate approach than an agency with multiple programs and an operating budget over $5M. Nevertheless, every strategic planning process, however abbreviated or extensive, should include these elements:

  1. Review existing Mission, Vision, and Values Statements and revise and refine as appropriate. If no such statements exist, draft them so that the organization has succinct descriptions of what it does (mission), what it wants to accomplish (external vision), and how and/or why it does its work (values). These statements are the foundation of a strategic plan.
  2. Assess the organization’s current situation and context by gathering and analyzing information from both internal and external sources. Most commonly this is done through a “SWOT Analysis” – a survey and review of internal strengths and weaknesses and external opportunities and threats.
  3. Build agreement about strategic priorities. The assessment will likely point to where the organization needs to focus its time and energy. Arriving at consensus about strategic priorities sets up the plan’s overall framework.
  4. Identify functional goals and specific objectives. The goals explain how the established priorities will be achieved in general, and the objectives detail how each project will be tackled. They provide the “finish work.”
  5. Adopt the plan and commit to reviewing it regularly. A strategic plan should be formally adopted by a vote of the board. An annual review and revision is best done by a committee composed of both board and staff members.

Who should be involved in the process?
At a minimum, the board of directors and the senior staff need to be involved actively in all major steps of the process. Sometimes, a planning committee guides the process and coordinates the participation of others. The assessment stage particularly may involve getting input from a range of internal stakeholders and external experts. These may include affiliate (national/local) representatives, allied organization leaders, clients, donors, members, neighbors, partners, referral sources, sponsors, and authorities on the subjects most relevant to the organization’s purposes.

When should the process be undertaken?
Every organization without a strategic plan should have one. So, in general, there is no virtue in waiting. However, there are certain circumstances when some delay is prudent. Do not attempt to launch a planning process if the organization is about to change executive leadership or is in the midst of dealing with a crisis.

What happens when the planning process is completed?
It is critically important for the plan to be monitored regularly and revised as appropriate. Even more importantly, the plan is worth nothing without an implementation schedule. As soon as the plan is adopted by the board, prepare a timetable that assigns goals and objectives to lead individuals and provides dates for progress and/or completion. A date should also be set for an annual review.

In addition to being an Adjunct Faculty member in the B.A. Program of Antioch University Los Angeles, Guest Blogger David Norgard is the founder of OD180, a consulting firm that develops strategies for nonprofit organizations. He has also held leadership roles on various nonprofit boards and committees. At present, he serves as the President of Integrity USA, the Episcopal Church’s LGBT advocacy group. A graduate of AULA’s M.A. in Organizational Management program, David currently serves as Chair of AULA’s Alumni & Community Advisory Board. He also holds a B.A. magna cum laude from Augsburg College and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, where he received a Dean’s Citation for Community Service and an Award of Distinction among Alumni.

The Courage of Commitment, Part 2: Burnout and Perseverance

by David Norgard, Associate Faculty, MA in Organizational Management Program


Burning bright now, but... (photo by Sebastian Ritter via Wikimedia Commons)

As mentioned in my first article on courage of commitment, most leaders of faith-based and community and membership organizations genuinely want to make a positive difference. We want to have an impact – on individuals, on their communities, on the environment.

Sometimes the vision is even grander. We want to change our society, our world – or some aspect of it anyway. And this is all very good because we know that change doesn’t happen without people willing to step up as change agents.

Yet sooner or later, the road toward progress no longer invigorates us with exciting challenges and illuminating vistas and meetings with inspirational figures. On the contrary, the problems seem intractable. The views have long since become tedious. The individuals with whom we contend generate more stress than comfort. What we dared to call our mission, our calling, has become our burden, depleting us more than invigorating us.

The Road Too Long, the Summit Too High

We call it burnout and the metaphor is apt. It is as if, in serving as a light to our chosen corner of the world, we have not stopped to put more oil in our lamp and our flame has nearly gone out.

There are two kinds of burnout:

  • The road too long. In the first instance, we do not blame ourselves. We recognize that our efforts are sound, our motivations sincere. Yet the pace of progress seems agonizingly slow, the force of our impact distressingly minute. We have worked so very long and so very hard, yet the end is not in sight. And eventually, it is only sane to wonder: Is it worth it? Or, is it futile? This is the burnout of perceived hopelessness – hopelessness despite our best efforts.
  • The summit too high. In the second instance, we do blame ourselves. We come to the sinking realization that we were not the right person at the right time after all. We are not up to the challenge. We know how to empower volunteers, perhaps, but what is actually needed is a magic piper to elicit major gifts. We have skills and good intentions. But in the given context, we really don’t have what it takes. This is the burnout of perceived inadequacy, when our best is not good enough.

Avoiding Burnout

So how do we avoid these self-defeating interpretations of our situation? How do we avoid either turning back or just wandering away? The answer depends on whether the perceived challenge is a road too long or a summit too high.

In the first case, it is fundamentally a matter of perception of context. If we are engaged in one of the great historical struggles and wearied by the likely prospect that we will never see a battle won, let alone the final victory, then the hopelessness on the surface may be covering a deeper problem. Perhaps the real issue (yes, ironically) is hubris. In the great works – against war, against global warming, for peace, for a humanity in harmony with the rest of creation – even a moment’s reasoned reflection will remind us that our entire life-work is, after all, but a short leg in a long relay. When we are at our best, we are all team players, and to the team with the most courageous and persevering players goes the victory. In any profound struggle, there are but a few Mandelas and Salks and Churchills who are cheered as they cross the finish line. Most of us are here to ensure that the baton is passed to the next runner. Our hope and our satisfaction rightly come from ensuring – simply yet crucially – that the forward movement continues.

In the second case, there are two possibilities. Maybe we have been deceiving ourselves. Maybe we are in the wrong position or the right position for too long. If that is so, then the courageous thing to do is to step aside and let someone else step up.

But it could also be that we have simply not been good stewards of our strength. We have let ourselves get too tired, and with the exhaustion has come self-doubt.

Then, What To Do?

We take rest. We stop and reflect, even if the voice of duty keeps chirping, “There is still work to be done.” We rest anyway. We close the inbox. We step away from the conference room. We turn off the mobile phone… And we look back. We look on what has been done thus far, what has transpired to date because we have stayed true to our mission. In the words of Dag Hammarskjold, we say to ourselves, or perhaps a confidant, “For everything that has been, thanks.” …and most critically… ”For everything that will be, yes.”

And at the first stirring of renewed creativity, which is the signal of renewed hope, we proceed to act. We banish the hope and we act, with confidence

A Final, Personal Reflection

When the conflicts are waxing and the money is waning and the glow of accomplishment is growing dimmer rather than brighter, it is tempting sometimes to say, “Enough.” But a mission is there to be done, a calling is made to be answered. And so, if the call is indeed heard and the mission remains true, what can we do? We can go on. We may need to rest… but in the service of saying – again – “Yes.”

ImageIn addition to being an Associate Faculty member in the M.A. in Organizational Management Program of Antioch University Los Angeles, David Norgard is the founder of OD180, a consulting firm that develops strategies for nonprofit organizations. He has also held leadership roles on various nonprofit boards and committees. At present, he serves as the President of Integrity USA, the Episcopal Church’s LGBT advocacy group. A graduate of AULA’s M.A. in Organizational Management program, David currently serves as Chair of AULA’s Alumni & Community Advisory Board. He also holds a B.A. magna cum laude from Augsburg College and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, where he received a Dean’s Citation for Community Service and an Award of Distinction among Alumni.

Nonprofit Leadership and the Courage of Commitment

The Common Predicament

"Meetings and speeches and decisions — oh my!"

We all have personal reasons for working or serving in the nonprofit sector, and they are not necessarily all altruistic. Perhaps we appreciate the distinctive organizational culture nonprofits tend to have (in comparison to commercial enterprises) or the community connections that we often gain by being associated with a nonprofit.

Yet nearly all of us have joined the nonprofit sector, whether as professionals or volunteers, because, whatever else we might desire from the experience, we also want to make a positive difference. We want to make some contribution to the common good, however defined.

So we get involved. We join a board or we take a new job. Then, either quickly or gradually, we become immersed in the ebb and flow of the organization’s life and we are content that we are “doing a good thing.”

Yet no matter what the organization is or what it does, that contentment is eventually disturbed. One scenario is that we come to a crisis. We need to make a decision (or support one) that will be controversial and incite criticism, even opposition. It is a situation that calls for the courage of boldness.

The other scenario is less dramatic but no less problematic. We become exhausted and start to burn out. The road to progress – to actually having an impact – begins to appear endless, and we wonder if we will ever accomplish anything even close to what we originally set out to do. It is a situation that calls for the courage of perseverance.

The Courage of Boldness

It is often said that leaders are recognized by their ability to do three things consistently well:

  1. lead a meeting
  2. deliver a speech
  3. make a decision

Taking a stand on matters of substance comes with the territory of leadership. It cannot and indeed must not be avoided.

Sometimes it is easy, of course. We take positions which are popular with our constituencies and doing so brings joy to us and to them. At other times, though, it is just the opposite. Responsible stewardship of our institution requires that we make tough decisions which will be unpopular at least and give rise to virulent objection at worst.

This latter scenario could be the fate of many of you as programs are downsized and staffing is reduced and cash reserves are depleted. We are entering a time when boldness will be called for repeatedly.

In such a time as this then, it becomes critically important to accept the sober reality of authentic leadership: In order to reach the farther goal of contributing to the common good, periods of painful steps are unavoidable.

In these periods, equal measures of self-confidence and openness to others is critical to survival. On the one hand, you must not waver once having reached the point of personal conviction. On the other hand, you must not close yourself to the possibility of receiving new information and insight which lead to new conclusions.

Lincoln (who has been much in the press again these days) held this balance of self-confidence and openness extraordinarily well. It was one of the essential factors of his political genius. Thurlow Weed, one of Lincoln’s political associates, said, “His mind is at once philosophical and practical. He sees all who go there, hears all they have to say, talks freely with everybody, reads whatever is written to him; but thinks and acts by himself and for himself.”

We could not have a better example to which to aspire amidst the present economy.

A Final, Personal Reflection

In a second installment, I will focus on the other aspect of courage of commitment, that of perseverance. For now let me close with a personal observation from my twenty-plus years in the nonprofit world.

At its best, every organization holds to a single essential noble purpose. It has been created to teach or to heal or to preserve or to provide.

In any given context, a leader, too, is given a single essential mission, the success of which is critical to the organization’s success. It may be that the leader’s mission is to rebuild. Or it may be to reorganize. In good times, it may be to expand or to professionalize. Whatever it is, the authentic leader will know it… and proceed with determined commitment. And while open to new understanding, he or she will not be swayed by passing storms of criticism. He will do the right thing, thinking and acting by himself and for himself.

In addition to being an Associate Faculty member in the M.A. in Organizational Management Program of Antioch University Los Angeles, Guest Blogger David Norgard is the founder of OD180, a consulting firm that develops strategies for nonprofit organizations. He has also held leadership roles on various nonprofit boards and committees. At present, he serves as the President of Integrity USA, the Episcopal Church’s LGBT advocacy group. A graduate of AULA’s M.A. in Organizational Management program, David currently serves as Chair of AULA’s Alumni & Community Advisory Board. He also holds a B.A. magna cum laude from Augsburg College and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, where he received a Dean’s Citation for Community Service and an Award of Distinction among Alumni.