Generation Z has been called "millennials on steroids." They've been called "the next big retail disrupter." They're the influencers of tomorrow.
And they'll also change the way savvy leaders engage and motivate their employees.
Here's another in my series where I pick a topic and connect with someone a lot smarter than me.
This time I talked about emotional intelligence and leadership with Dr. Steven Stein, the founder and CEO of Multi-Health Systems (MHS), a three-time Profit 100 (fastest growing companies in Canada) company that helps improve leadership skills and emotional intelligence for Fortune 500 companies, the military, government organizations, and professional sports teams. He's also the author Emotional Intelligence for Dummies and the international best-selling The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success.
So yeah. He knows a lot about emotional intelligence and leadership.
Let's start with this: Managing millennials gets a tremendous amount of attention, but Generation Z is a wave that is about to hit the leadership shore.
We looked at 250,000 people, broken down by generation. We found that Generation Z is significantly different than the other generations in a number of ways.
For example, one is independence, or the ability to take actual steps. Generation Z struggles in this regard: Generally speaking,feelings of fear, trepidation, and hesitance keeps them from performing as you might expect. They also have more information available to them than any other generation, but relatively speaking they're not effective problem solvers.
Another difference is in stress management. They're much less able to manage and deal with stress.
Any theories as to why?
There are a few possibilities. Generation Z tends to have more helicopter parents, parents who are afraid to let their kids take risks and don't want to see them fail. Unfortunately, once they get to the workplace they're afraid to take initiative or take certain steps because they're worried about failure. In effect they haven't been given the opportunity to learn how to fail, and that failure is okay.
So for all the stories you hear about Generation Z being entrepreneurial... it's not necessarily true. So as a leader, you shouldn't automatically assume a new employee will take initiative, take risks, be entrepreneurial within your organization... in many cases you'll need to encourage and nurture those behaviors.
So if I'm hiring people who are from Generation Z...?
Look for people that have actually shown leadership ability. Look for people who actually led something. And look for people who have actually experienced some failure. Say, "Tell me about a time you failed at something and how you managed it." And then dig into specifics.
Another thing we ask is, "Tell me what you're passionate about. What really excites you?" You want them to love what they want to do. If you need a graphic designer, you want graphic designers who are also into art and photography as hobbies.
We look for people who have passion and can show me that they actively pursue that passion.
Ultimately, managing Generation Z is fundamentally the same as managing anyone: you have to know your people as individuals and have sufficient emotional intelligence to effectively motivate and engage them.
That's true, but there's another aspect of emotional intelligence that often is forgotten: the people you lead are watching you for clues, too.
One example is performance reviews. You may think all that matters is the content of the appraisal you deliver. But your employees are watching how you present it, your mannerisms, your style... they're measuring and assessing you based on temperament and emotional intelligence as well.
That's also true when you, as a leader, make a mistake.
True. There are a number of studies that show that medical malpractice claims are more likely when the physician doesn't talk things through, doesn't show empathy... beside manner is often more important than the actual level of care.
As a leader, it really isn't the fact you messed up. If you're up front about that, if you own it, if you're willing to talk about it, people respect that. And they'll work harder to try to help overcome that mistake.
So say I'm a leader and I want to better use emotional intelligence so I can be more effective.
The best leaders build a relationship with their employees, so the next level is the ability to focus and use your emotions in a positive way.
If I'm your boss and I really want to galvanize you, I need to show passion in order to get you charged up. Whether it's really high performers and leaders, or athletes, or musicians... it's all about using emotions.
You can use emotions to make decisions, to motivate yourself, to motivate other people, and to really win the crowd. It's not about logic or what makes logical sense. It's the ability to find out what gets their people excited -- that's what we find in highly emotionally intelligent leaders.
That's why one of the things we do in our organization is select people largely on EQ. We know what gets them excited, we know they embrace the mission of our organization, we know talking about our mission makes them passionate.
Take that to the practical level.
Employees must have the technical skills. That's a given. But we don't just hire programmers; we hire people who care about the work we do. They want to learn and develop and do more.
You want people who want to plug in to your mission. That way you know what already motivates them and how you can keep them motivated.
For example, we conducted a study on Air Force recruiters. They had a 50% turnover rate in the job, and when we tested 1,400 recruiters we found that the ones who stayed in the job were high in EQ. They were strong in areas like assertiveness, empathy, and problem solving.
So the Air Force realized that if their recruiters didn't have empathy, they wouldn't be successful. But they took it a step farther: they didn't want to deselect good people so they figured out a way to train them in empathy.
We were able to increase retention rate by over 90%.
When you select the right people for a job, using the right criteria... it's amazing what can happen.
That's great, but if I'm a small business owner with limited resources... how do I find ways to know I'm selecting the right people?
Granted, the most sophisticated level is to use a validated EQ test. If you can't do that, then it's up to you to decide the qualities you need and ask good questions during the interview.
If you need assertiveness, ask for examples of when a person stood up for himself or herself. If empathy is important, ask, "H do you feel when someone you're competing with doesn't do well?" Some people say, "I feel great." Some people say, "It kind of bothers me." Neither answer is right or wrong, but the second answer does indicate person who does not feel their doing well is dependent on someone else failing. That's what I look for: people who have self regard but also concern for others... people who are confident but not overconfident.
Then I would go to passion. What excites you, what gets you going, what do you do in your spare time... the goal is to see if the work aligns with their passions. Nothing is worse than someone who wants the job just to get by for the next year or so and will just put in time while they do that job.
Of course if you're a poor leader you may turn an initially engaged employee into a clock-watcher.
That's especially true with Generation Z. They want to come to a place where they will learn more, where they will personally benefit, where they can build their own brand... they don't just want to work for you. They also want also to learn.
What will you teach them? You have to be prepared to answer that question from the beginning. They'll leave if they're not interested or don't feel their growing and developing.
If you decide that it's your job to give them what they need, they'll definitely give you what you need.
Of course that's true for any employee of any generation. That's what emotionally intelligent leaders do.