The week@work: Olympics close: memories remain, the power of vulnerability, workplace lessons from the cineplex, and Seattle’s millennials @work

This week@work the world’s best athletes headed to the airport and the rest of us, mere mortals, returned to our workplace. A CEO discussed the benefits of embracing vulnerability and a movie critic found workplace advice at the multiplex. In Seattle, the most recent additions to the workforce ‘gig’ their way to dream jobs.

As the Olympics came to a close on Sunday evening, there were three stories that continued to resonate from the ‘workplace’ of track and field.

‘That girl is the Olympic spirit’: After colliding, runners help each other cross finish line’ Marissa Payne for the Washington Post

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For track and field athletes, the Olympics offers the biggest prize of their careers. A gold medal is a tangible symbol of years of hard work and dedication. But on Tuesday, long-distance runners Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the United States proved hardware doesn’t always trump heart.

After the two collided on the track during the 5,000-meter race, resulting in a bad leg injury for D’Agostino, the two urged each other on and both eventually were able to finish the race, albeit seemingly sacrificing their chances at a finals berth along the way.

“Everyone wants to win and everyone wants a medal. But as disappointing as this experience is for myself and for Abbey, there’s so much more to this than a medal,” Hamblin told reporters after the race.”

‘This Great-Grandmother Coaches an Olympic Champion. Now Let Her By.’ Karen Crouse for The New York Times

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“The great-grandmother who could pass as Barbara Bush’s kid sister waded through the stands at Olympic Stadium on Sunday night, trying to get close enough to congratulate the South African runner Wayde van Niekerk, who had just captured the gold medal in the 400 meters and broken one of the oldest world records in men’s track and field.

This is Botha’s first Olympics. She competed — without distinction, she said — in the sprints and the long jump when she was young and began coaching in 1968 while living in her native Namibia, then a territory under the rule of South Africa. Her first athletes were her son and daughter, but when they reached a certain level, she passed them off to other coaches, she said, “because I feel that’s not always a good thing as a parent to coach your own children.”

The woman who didn’t believe it prudent to coach her own children has earned the trust of her athletes by treating them as family.

“She doesn’t see us as athletes or as people; she sees us as her children,” said van Niekerk, who asked Botha in late 2012 if he could train under her at the University of the Free State, where she has been the head track and field coach since 1990.

Van Niekerk won the race from Lane 8, considered a disadvantageous position. Botha said it didn’t bother her that he was in an outside lane. “Because every lane is the same distance,” she said.”

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Can Ashton Eaton Save the Decathlon?  Mary Pilon for The New Yorker

“Ten years ago, Tate Metcalf, a high-school track coach in Bend, Oregon, was trying to find a college that would give one of his athletes a scholarship. Ashton Eaton was a talented sprinter with a fierce long jump, but Metcalf received mostly lukewarm responses. His coach felt that Eaton would have the best shot at getting into a Division I college if he competed in one of track and field’s multi-event disciplines, like the heptathlon or the decathlon. Metcalf knew it would make Eaton, who was raised by a single mother and had never had any private coaching, one of the first people in his family to go to college. So he suggested it. “Sure,” Eaton replied, as Metcalf recently recalled. Then Eaton said, “What’s the decathlon?”

Eaton, who is twenty-eight, is now the defending Olympic gold medallist and world-record holder in the event. “He’s the face of track and field,” Metcalf said, sitting underneath a giant banner of Eaton draped over Hayward Field, in Eugene, Oregon, at the Olympic trials earlier this summer. “But nobody knows it because he’s a decathlete.” It’s true: though he has a gleaming smile, press-perfect interview skills, and historic talent, Eaton has remained virtually unknown relative to his Olympic-champion counterparts and even some of his decathlete predecessors. The one place he’s remained indisputably famous is Eugene: here, his face graces billboards and bus signs; the local minor-league baseball team recently distributed Ashton Eaton bobblehead dolls as part of a tribute night to him. “I haven’t seen them yet,” Eaton told me. “It’s a little weird.”

The decathlon hasn’t always been a path to athletic obscurity. Many consider the winner of the event, which can trace its origins to ancient Greece, the “world’s greatest athlete.”

On Thursday evening, after two days of competition in ten events, Olympian Ashton Eaton repeated as gold medalist in the decathlon. He continues to hold the title of ‘the world’s greatest athlete’.

One of the best series in journalism is Adam Bryant‘s weekly column in The New York Times, ‘The Corner Office’. Bryant poses five or six questions to a selected CEO, and their responses appear in the Sunday Business Section. This past week, Christa Quarles of Open Table shared ‘early leadership lessons’.

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“The importance of embracing vulnerability. Early on, especially when I worked on Wall Street, God forbid that you declare any granular weakness, because people would pounce on it.

But the paradox of owning what you know and what you don’t know is that you actually seem more powerful as you expose more vulnerability. I’ve become more comfortable with exposing my vulnerability and not being afraid to go there.

When I give criticism now, I’ll talk about how I failed in a similar situation. I try to humanize the criticism in a way that says this is about an action, it’s not about you as a person. I want to make you better. If somebody feels like they’re in a safe place and they can hear the message, they’re more likely to change.”

Theater critic A.O. Scott may seem an unlikely source of management wisdom. This week he suggests ‘Even Superheroes Punch the Clock’.

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“This summer, your local multiplex is home to an extended business seminar. There are sessions on crisis-management and how to deal with office romances (“Star Trek Beyond”); on office rivalries and mission-statement drafting (“Captain America: Civil War”); on start-ups (“Ghostbusters”) and I.T. disasters (“Jason Bourne”). Every action movie is a workplace sitcom in disguise.

What is “Suicide Squad”? A bad movie, to be sure — and yes, I’m aware of opinions to the contrary (thanks, Twitter) — but also a movie about difficult personnel issues….The central problem of “Suicide Squad” is one that bedevils department heads and midlevel employees in every corner of the modern economy: team building.”

The last story this week is journalist Kirk Johnson‘s profile, ‘Debt. Terror. Politics. To Seattle Millennials, the Future Looks Scary.’

“Part of Jillian Boshart’s life plays out in tidy, ordered lines of JavaScript computer code, and part in a flamboyant whirl of corsets and crinoline. She’s a tech student by day, an enthusiastic burlesque artist and producer by night. “Code-mode” and “show-mode,” she calls those different guises.

This year she won a coveted spot here at a nonprofit tech school for women, whose recent graduates have found jobs with starting salaries averaging more than $90,000 a year. Seattle, where she came after college in Utah to study musical theater, is booming with culture and youthful energy.

But again and again, life has taught Ms. Boshart, and others in her generation, that control can be elusive.

Even for someone who seems to have drawn one of her generation’s winning hands, it feels like a daunting time to be coming of age in America.

“I don’t just expect things to unfold, or think, ‘Well, now I’ve got it made,’ because there’s always a turn just ahead of you and you don’t know what’s around that corner,” she said.”

A final thought this week @work – When we find that ‘dream job’, in an uncertain global economy, we realize there is more to what we do than the compensation: money or medals. The Olympics is our quadrennial reminder to honor our values. Thanks to @abbey_dags and @NikkiHamblin.

 

Photo credits: ‘Fireworks explode during the Rio 2016 closing ceremony’   Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times, ‘Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin’ @NCAA, ‘Ashton Eaton’ Matt Slocum for AP, ‘Ans Botha and Wayde van Niekerk’ Twitter, ‘Suicide Squad’ courtesy of Warner Bros.

The generational divide – #wearehere and #Brexit

A collection of amateur photos taken by ordinary British citizens, on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, served to bridge a century, and punctuate the generational divide that led ‘the lost generation’ to war, and ‘the millennials’ to #Brexit.

The topic #wearehere started trending early Friday morning as British citizens headed to work and encountered young men clad in the uniforms of World War I. For a few hours, in London, Aberystwyth, Birmingham, Sheffield, Salisbury, and Plymouth, the ghost soldiers of the Somme walked among their contemporaries.

Many of those first encounters were recorded on Twitter and Instagram, as commuters received cards from these ‘soldiers’.CmRNYS-UkAUqr3d“Thousands of volunteers took part in a UK-wide event on Friday 1 July 2016, as a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. 19,240 men were killed on the first day of the battle in 1916 – the bloodiest day in British military history.

‘we’re here because we’re here’ saw around 1400 voluntary participants dressed in First World War uniform appear unexpectedly in locations across the UK. Each participant represented an individual soldier who was killed on that day one hundred years before.”

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Charlotte Higgins reported on the day for The Guardian newspaper. “The event, which unfolded without advance publicity, can now be revealed as a work by Jeremy Deller, the Turner prize-winning artist…Deller worked with Rufus Norris, the artistic director of the National Theatre in London, and theatres throughout the UK to train the volunteer army.

Deller was approached to devise an artwork to mark the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme by 14-18 NOW, the body responsible for art commissions commemorating the war. “I quickly realised that what I didn’t want was a static memorial that the public went to to be sad,” he said. “In the 21st century I felt we had do something different. So I thought about the memorial being human, and travelling round the country. It would take itself to the public rather than the public taking itself to the memorial.”

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“And also the public wouldn’t know in advance that there was this thing happening – they would encounter it in the shopping centres and carparks and outside schools and in everyday British life. And I wanted to avoid heritage places – churches, war memorials. I wanted to take it to the public.” His key idea, he said, was to “avoid sentimentality”.

Look at the photo of the finale at Waterloo Station. A group of soldiers at the center are surrounded by their contemporaries, telegraphing the moment to social media. Two generations, a century apart facing unknown fates @war, and after #Brexit.

CmcwkjWWcAAb1sy.jpgThe politics of the early 20th century led to over a million British, French and German casualties in the Battle of the Somme between July 1 and November 18, 1916.

The rhetoric of current political leaders called into question today’s younger generation’s European identity.

So what have we learned in 100 years?

Someone thought it would be a great idea to preserve the peace and form a European Union. For all its frailties, its crowning achievement was replacing nationalism with an overlay of a ‘European’ identity; a multilingual, multicultural generation that travels freely across the continent to study, work, live and love.

Francesca Barber, a self-described ‘transnational’, gave voice to this dilemma of altered identity in the wake of #Brexit.

“I was born in Washington in the late 1980s, grew up in Brussels, moved to London and then returned to the United States, where I lived in New York City; Providence, R.I.; and San Francisco.

My parents are English. My first language was French. I went to a Belgian school and the European School in Brussels, where my classmates almost always spoke at least three languages.

My childhood was defined by endless car journeys across Europe. And as an adult, I have enjoyed the benefits of cheap deals on low-cost European airlines. Most of my friends have gone to school and worked in at least two European countries. I am part of the Erasmus generation. My friends and my roots are everywhere — and only now do I realize how much I took that for granted.

The “Brexit” vote on June 23 was the most serious geopolitical event for Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. But lost in all the geopolitics is another important message: It was a resounding vote against globalization from a country that has for so long been a proud champion of globalization.

But this vote was also a rejection by my fellow countrymen, from my parents’ generation to mine, of everything I cherished about Europe, Britain and my own childhood: the sense that our differences were less important than our shared experiences.”

Maybe it’s time for a ‘we are here’ for the European millennials – a ‘counter Brexit’, public art project.  What if, on a Friday morning, all over Britain, young workers approached commuters with CV profile cards, each participant representing a dream lost to Brexit? Mr. Deller, Mr. Norris we could use your help here.

 

 

We need a ‘sense of urgency’

Has a ‘moment of silence’ replaced a ‘sense of urgency’? In a time when we’ve run out of words, maybe we can find a path to action in the advice of a leadership guru.

I was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania this past weekend, at a retreat with a group of ‘millennials’ whose common bond is a college scholarship financed by an amazing philanthropic couple.

Early Sunday morning, there was news of a shooting in Orlando. With few details, numb to the continuing violence in our country, we joined our small group discussions, formulating solutions to the most challenging problems for the next president. We did not discuss gun safety.

As I drove home Sunday afternoon, through the farmland and burgeoning developments that dot the Pennsylvania landscape, I listened to the story emerging from Florida, in the unsteady voices of seasoned journalists who were reporting one more time from a scene of unimaginable violence.

Early Sunday morning another group of millennials, whose common bond was their identity as LBGT, celebrated life in a club, ‘Pulse’, in Orlando. Many did not return home through the central Florida landscape of Universal and Disney.

I have watched too many news reports over the past 48 hours. I finally turned away after watching Anderson Cooper of CNN deliver a heartbreaking narrative of those who lost their lives.

Enough.

We should be safe @school, @work, @home and @play.

I want our leaders to pause for a moment of silent remembrance, but I also want them to be leaders. I want them to represent their special interests, their constituents.

And I want millennials to assume ownership, set the agenda, and take action; before more members of the most promising generation are lost.

We need a sense of urgency. Professor of Leadership Emeritus at the Harvard Business School, John Kotter‘s 2008 advice to business leaders has equal resonance with our challenge today, “create a sense of urgency by getting people to actually see and feel the need for change. Why focus on urgency? Without it, any change effort is doomed by insidious nature of complacency in all its forms and guises.” Step One – “overcome the fear and anger that can suppress urgency.”

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The week@work – It’s still 3 minutes to midnight, an engineer’s regret, a world run by millennials and the myth of the ‘best jobs’ lists

This week@work began with the announcement that the ‘Doomsday Clock’ has remained at 3 minutes to midnight, and ended with a remembrance day for NASA astronauts lost. Millennials will soon assume a larger role in global leadership and may move the hands of that clock backward, and ‘astronaut’ does not appear on either list released last week, ranking top jobs for 2016.

“Martyl Langsdorf’s “Doomsday Clock,” which first graced the cover of the Bulletin’s print edition in 1947, has served for 69 years to focus the world’s attention on the most pressing global threats. The time on the Clock reflects whether we are more or less safe than last year, and compares the current situation to years further in the past; the decision on where to set the Clock’s hands is an attempt to reconcile the achievements and breakdowns in security efforts, broadly defined, that occur each and every year.

Last year, the Science and Security Board moved the Doomsday Clock forward to three minutes to midnight, noting: ‘The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.’ That probability has not been reduced. The Clock ticks. Global danger looms. Wise leaders should act—immediately.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2016

While many hold personal memories of where we were on January 28, 1986, those closest to the program provide a cautionary tale on leadership, communication and the value of trusting the voice of your employees.

As NASA observed a ‘Day of Remembrance’, NPR correspondent, Howard Berkes, returned to Bringham City, Utah to interview Bob Ebling, ’30 Years After Explosion, Challenger Engineer Still Blames Himself’.

“Thirty years ago, as the nation mourned the loss of seven astronauts on the space shuttle Challenger, Bob Ebeling was steeped in his own deep grief.

The night before the launch, Ebeling and four other engineers at NASA contractor Morton Thiokol had tried to stop the launch. Their managers and NASA overruled them.

That night, he told his wife, Darlene, “It’s going to blow up.”

When Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, Ebeling and his colleagues sat stunned in a conference room at Thiokol’s headquarters outside Brigham City, Utah. They watched the spacecraft explode on a giant television screen and they knew exactly what had happened.”

The Economist contemplated a new global order when the millennials take charge, ‘When the young get older: their time will come’.

“Where some see a generation in crisis, others think the young are adapting quite well to the challenges of a changing world. They flit from job to job not because they are fickle but because job security is a thing of the past. They demand flexible hours and work-life balance because they know they don’t have to be in the office to be productive. They spend six hours a day online because that is how they work, and also how they relax. Their enthusiasm for new ideas (and lack of spare cash) has kickstarted money-saving technologies from Uber to WhatsApp. They take longer to settle down and have children, but so what? They will also be working far later in life than their parents did.

In every generation, the young are the first to take to the streets to demand reform. Sometimes their fury leads nowhere, but autocrats still fear it. That is why China’s government rolled tanks over the Tiananmen Square protesters, and why it censors social media today. Young Africans, for their part, may not put up indefinitely with gerontocrats such as 91-year-old Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and 82-year-old Paul Biya of Cameroon.

In democracies, young people will some day realise that signing online petitions is no substitute for voting (just as their elders started voting when they acquired grey hairs and mortgages and sent their children to government schools). When the young show up at polling stations, democratic governments will heed their views. And when the millennials start calling the shots more widely in society, they will do so for a long time. For thanks to steady advances in medical technology, they will remain healthy and able to work for longer than any previous generation. Indeed, if scientists’ efforts to crack the “ageing code” in human genes bear fruit, many of them will live past 120.”

Where are the jobs? That’s the question the experts try to answer each year, identifying the best jobs and best places to work.

U.S. News and World Report announced their 2016 Best Jobs Rankings and glassdoor.com ranked the 25 Best Jobs in America. Orthodontist, dentist, computer systems analyst, nurse anesthetist and physician assistant led the U.S. News Top 100. The glassdooor.com list’s top five included data scientist, tax manager, solutions architect, engagement manager and mobile developer.

It’s always good to have a snapshot of market driven job titles, but it doesn’t help if your ‘dream job’ doesn’t make the list, or even exist. The myth of these lists lie in the impermanence of work. The top jobs this year may vanish from the list next year. It’s about the work you want to do, and the job title you imagine or may create.

Three additional stories this week were reported by journalists at The New York Times: an analysis of the success of Iowa’s economic development, commentary on the career of a veteran NFL quarterback who found joy in his sport but will now have the long off season to consider lessons from a loss, and advice on how to raise a creative child.

‘In Iowa, Jobs Are Plentiful but Workers Are Not’ Patricia Cohen

“At 3.4 percent, Iowa’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country. With major metropolitan areas — crowded with hard-hat construction sites — painting an alluring picture of steady economic progress, business leaders here retain a sunny optimism that is rarely heard from the presidential candidates.

But now that Iowa has achieved a tightening labor market that is the envy of most other states, many companies are confronted with a different set of challenges pushing them to rethink everything from recruiting to economic development.”

‘Carson Palmer’s Memorable Season Ends With a Forgettable Night’  William C. Rhoden

“I’ll look back at this season at some point, but not tonight,” Palmer said. “This is the only game that’s on my mind, not the other 16, 17.”

Despite Sunday’s disaster, this was a season in which Palmer reclaimed some of the joy that the business of football and the grind of the sport had taken away.”

‘How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off’  Adam Grant

“Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world…What holds them back is that they don’t learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn’t make new.”

 

The week@work – The pressure to succeed @school, @work and @amazon

This week@work includes articles that echo a growing concern that we are not adequately preparing our children for the future @work, millennials expectations @work, and Amazon’s culture that just may be more in line with those expectations.

Are we teaching our children to fear failure? Contributing Atlantic writer Jessica Lahey answers the question by narrating a parent – teacher conversation. The parent is expressing a concern about a child who is achieving academically but losing the desire to learn.

“The truth—for this parent and so many others—is this: Her child has sacrificed her natural curiosity and love of learning at the altar of achievement, and it’s our fault. Marianna’s parents, her teachers, society at large—we are all implicated in this crime against learning. From her first day of school, we pointed her toward that altar and trained her to measure her progress by means of points, scores, and awards. We taught Marianna that her potential is tied to her intellect, and that her intellect is more important than her character. We taught her to come home proudly bearing As, championship trophies, and college acceptances, and we inadvertently taught her that we don’t really care how she obtains them. We taught her to protect her academic and extracurricular perfection at all costs and that it’s better to quit when things get challenging rather than risk marring that perfect record. Above all else, we taught her to fear failure. That fear is what has destroyed her love of learning.”

Innovation is the product of failure. At a time when global competition is intense, there is a shortage of the curious, the questioning.

It’s time to reevaluate our priorities and help “kids rediscover their intellectual bravery, their enthusiasm for learning, and the resilience they need in order to grow into independent, competent adults.”

What happens when these adults move into the workplace? What are their expectations?

In 2007 the Gallup Management Journal published the results of a poll of job seekers asking what was important to them in their job search.

“Nearly half of job seekers say the opportunity to learn and grow, the opportunity for advancement, and earning promotions based on merit are extremely important when looking for a job”

It follows that the quality of management and the relationship with ‘the boss’ are critical factors in recruitment and retention.

“Companies know they must offer competitive compensation packages when fighting for talented employees, and they must offer the right types of work for those seeking jobs. If they don’t revise their recruiting pitch to include concrete examples of great management, and if they don’t have great managers in the first place, then job seekers will listen to companies that do.”

Hopefully great managers will allow employees to fail. But apparently not, according to the next story about the generation we continue to label as millennials.

In a post for Inc. Chis Matyszczyk gives us four reasons these folks are leaving their jobs.

“They’ve seen what corporate life did to their parents, so they’ll take it just in small doses, thanks. They see through their bosses (and their bosses hate them for it). Millennials look at the corporate world and understand how uncertain the future is. Most of their role models got rich quick.”

If the expectation is to take corporate life in small doses, perhaps a resume should include some time at the world’s biggest retailer.

Welcome to orientation at Amazon. The ‘above the fold’ story in The New York Times today describes the corporate culture at Amazon. As all things Amazon the culture reflects the values. leadership principles and vision of Jeff Bezos.

“Amazon may be singular but perhaps not quite as peculiar as it claims. It has just been quicker in responding to changes that the rest of the work world is now experiencing: data that allows individual performance to be measured continuously, come-and-go relationships between employers and employees, and global competition in which empires rise and fall overnight. Amazon is in the vanguard of where technology wants to take the modern office: more nimble and more productive, but harsher and less forgiving.”

Key to Amazon’s success is Jeff Bezos’ realistic view of the new employer-employee contract – one based on mutual utility.

“…he was able to envision a new kind of workplace: fluid but tough, with employees staying only a short time and employers demanding the maximum.”

A few additional articles from the week@work:

‘Design As Strategy’ Adi Ignatius for The Harvard Business Review, September 2015 issue: “…illustrates some of the ways design thinking is starting to power corporate strategy.”

The Perils of Ever-Changing Work Schedules Extend to Children’s Well-Being‘ Noam Scheiber for The New York Times, 8/12: “A growing body of research suggests that children’s language and problem-solving skills may suffer as a result of their parents’ problematic schedules, and that they may be more likely than other children to smoke and drink when they are older.”

‘The Makeup Tax’ Olga Khazan  The Atlantic 8/5  “Years of research has shown that attractive people earn more. Thus, the makeup tax: Good-looking men and good-looking women both get ahead, but men aren’t expected to wear makeup in order to look good.”