Relationships at Work - Your Honest Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blind Spots.

What Leadership Needs to Understand and Connect with Gen Z

April 02, 2024 Russel Lolacher - leadership and workplace relationship advocate Episode 148
What Leadership Needs to Understand and Connect with Gen Z
Relationships at Work - Your Honest Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blind Spots.
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Relationships at Work - Your Honest Guide to Building Workplace Connections and Avoiding Leadership Blind Spots.
What Leadership Needs to Understand and Connect with Gen Z
Apr 02, 2024 Episode 148
Russel Lolacher - leadership and workplace relationship advocate

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with speaker and expert leadership development coach Tammy Dowley-Blackman on what leadership needs to understand and embrace from Gen Z in the workplace.

Tammy shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • The need to understand and embrace Gen Z.
  • The importance of generosity in leadership.
  • Rethinking professional development.
  • Creating collaborative work environments.
  • Prioritizing open conversations about career paths.
  • Bridging generational gaps through mentoring.

And connect with me for more great content!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with speaker and expert leadership development coach Tammy Dowley-Blackman on what leadership needs to understand and embrace from Gen Z in the workplace.

Tammy shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • The need to understand and embrace Gen Z.
  • The importance of generosity in leadership.
  • Rethinking professional development.
  • Creating collaborative work environments.
  • Prioritizing open conversations about career paths.
  • Bridging generational gaps through mentoring.

And connect with me for more great content!

Russel Lolacher: And on the show today, we have Tammy Dowley-Blackman, and here is why she is is awesome. She's a national speaker and CEO for Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group, LLC, which is a boutique consulting firm, helping organizations in their communications, organizational leadership development, talent acquisition, and more.

She's an expert leadership development coach through the Brand Leadership Institute and a former adjunct professor teaching nonprofit management and fundraising. And she is here. Hello, Tammy.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: Oh, good to meet you, Russel. Thank you for having me.

Russel Lolacher: I'm excited to talk about, oh, leadership from a, looking at the Gen Z lens.

But I have to start the first question, which I asked all of my guests, Tammy, which is what's your best or worst employee experience?

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: Oh, hands down. My best experience was just out of college. I was graduated from just recently graduated from Oberlin college.

I moved to New York to to start work at Brooklyn Academy of Music, also referred to as BAM. It is the oldest performing arts institution in the country. I am not a performing artist. I don't know how to play an instrument but I love the arts and it has been transformative .... I say it was the most transformative experience in my professional life.

One, because I ended up with two just incredibly talented supervisors and I split my time between them. The first person was a nationally recognized. leader and particularly in dance. And now she was being asked to lead what's called the next wave festival, which is still going on and just learned so much from her name is Liz Thompson in being just a visionary.

This woman could think about new ways of doing things, bringing people together. She was willing to take chances on new programming or, and also wanted us to make community development a central part of our work. And then I split my time and went to Mickey Shepherd, who was developing a brand new program at BAM, called 6 51 Arts, which still exists.

And I literally was employee number two. And it was incredible. But, and Mickey was interesting in that she brought you along into every piece of the work from the very minute you walked in the door. So for her, and this is where that lesson about Gen Z and the work I do in Gen Z is so important, she did not see age.

She did not see that you were just recently graduated from college. What she saw was talent. And what she saw as her role was to nurture talent. And so she was just so generous in the way in which she too was a visionary much like Liz Thompson, but she also saw her being a visionary as what am I doing today to bring other people along, the kinds of questions. And just not only an acceptance of who you are, where you are in your career, but a mandate that you were going to do big things and you were going to be a contributor and she made space for you. She was just incredibly generous in that way.

And is still a mentor to this day. Hands down. Best, best experience.

Russel Lolacher: Thank you for sharing that. I love those stories. And it's funny that we look back on that time. I'm considering it's probably more than 5 or 10 years ago. I'm guessing. But needless to say, we're pulling those things going, I haven't had a leader like that since.

Or I haven't had an experience like that since, what would you say was some of the, maybe the number one thing that you wish from that experience had been carried through your leadership experience up until today, like what is something that you're like, I wish more leaders were THIS,. based on that.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: I wish more leaders understood their generosity matters. Their generosity and being open and sharing the table, inviting you to be at the table, inviting you to learn. That's what Mickey Shepard was so amazing at is that again, she knew that everyone was going to bring something extraordinary and had an expectation that you would bring something extraordinary. And that's what I think leaders really have to remember, and particularly in managing Gen Z. There's so many ways in which Gen Z may not know all of the things that we know because they have not done as much, have as much work experience. We know that this is the generation that comes with the least amount of professional work experience, certainly not for all, but for many.

And so I think when we are thinking about how we bring them and how we we not only think about their place in the workforce, but how we also onboard them into the workforce, into our workplace. That generosity making that be what leads you, will also lead them. And. That does not lessen your expectation that they come prepared or lessen your expectation that they work professionally, does not lessen your expectations of any kind.

I think it certainly was my experience and what I wish my leaders understood. It heightens expectations. People would like to meet those expectations.

Russel Lolacher: And we're still becoming fully formed humans at that time when we're coming of like So those impressions have huger ramifications than we do as fully formed.

Like how many people still go back to your high school as a reference 20, 30, 40 years later? This is no different. These are impactful moments. So those first mentors, those first leaders reference points for rest of your life. As a Gen X er, that was a huge thing for me as well, going, Oh, so this is what leadership looks like?

Good and bad.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: Right. Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. It carries through.

Russel Lolacher: So talking Gen Z, or Gen Zed, as us Canadians like to call it.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: We love you, Canadians.

Russel Lolacher: Ah thank you! a big fan of definitions. I think that's important to at least start off to a place where we're talking common language here. When we're talking Gen Zed, Gen Z, how would would you define this generation? Whether it's, you span of born, I don't I don't think it's by when they're born, but really the traits we're talking about.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: And I do give a reference around that, when they're born is that it's somewhere between 1995 and 2012. And depending upon what you're reading, give or take a year or two but, I do think for people who don't know the generations it's, helpful to give a little perspective.

And so we're really talking about those Gen Zers who at this point are their oldest are going to be almost 30. And those who are young are just about to become teenagers, 12, they're 11, 12 years old. And so it really is important to understand because then when you talk about what they bring, it makes sense when you think about the parameters of what the years they've grown up in.

And so it is, if you've got a Gen Zer who's closer to 30, that Gen Zer actually is one of the few who actually has experience in being tech savvy, but also knows what it means to not have tech all the time. But if you talk to a Gen Z er that's closer to 17 or 18, that Gen Zer only knows being tech savvy.

And I don't know that in the workforce, sometimes that leaders, those who are either educating Gen Z and training them, or those who are then hiring and managing them, I don't know that they always realize that, and I think they just dump everybody into the same pot and they're all the same and they're really not.

You really have some Gen Zs who are closer to millennials, and then you have those who are, much further away from that. And, but the, constant trait that the couple of traits that I see that are consistent there is a tech savviness. So again, whether it's that older one who has some or that younger one is all tech savvy, it is also this trait around having less work experience.

Again, as I said, this is the generation that comes the most least knowledgeable about the workforce and it isn't their fault. It's really just was by design of there was so many more activities. There is the so much pressure to ace the test. Now in COVID, fewer colleges are mandating that you take a test to get into college.

But even if you're not going to college and you're trying to do some kind of other vocational program, or you're trying to do other things, it might still be that you have to do something that's that that required you to put a lot of hours in whether it's athletically or whether it was about the arts, there still was a culture when these kids were growing up that was much more about having to be highly specialized and on target.

And there was very little time to do much more exploration, like you and I would have experienced. So those are some of the, two biggest, I would say, is consistencies. But lastly, I would just also add that we found that this is the generation that brings to the workplace and into relationships, they're most diverse. And I don't mean diverse just in terms of their religion or sexuality or, their race or ethnicity, but diverse in how they see the world, what they think about, what they're interested in. They also see work very differently in that work does not have to be all consuming. That is not meant to be disrespectful, though I think some older generations might sometimes take it as disrespectful. They're just saying there's got to be a way to have a balance and they're much more interested in what the questions are and the way to explore what that balance might be.

Russel Lolacher: I recently talked to a to a guest Jen Buck, who talks to a lot of leaders and executives.

And she said the number one thing that she hears from exec is their worry about the competence of this next generation of leaders. I'm curious what you what you would say to that current executive who has this concern about Gen Z.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: I would say, and this is what we do in my company, so there are three companies under Tammy Dowley-Blackman Group and one is a traditional management consulting firm that works across sectors, one is very specific to Gen Z call it Looking Forward Lab. And the other is working around women's entrepreneurship.

And I say all of them because there's some things that cut across all three, because we ended up working with a variety of age groups and in a variety of sectors. But what I say to that answer is that it is about, as much our responsibility as to what we're teaching them. So I can't have an expectation that you come into my workplace and know everything that I want, if I've actually never given you any opportunity to experience it. And that goes back to the point that this is the generation that has the least amount of work experience. So I can't expect you to understand how we might write for a particular kind of medium, or I can't expect you to understand what it means to be in a professional setting if we, a, you've never had that experience. And now in COVID, it's been even more difficult. I learned my own daughter, my only child is a Gen Zer, and I'm listening to she and her friends, as they've been looking at internships and thinking about internships. There are internships that are completely remote.

That is not something that ever could have been a concept when I was going to college. And I know it dates me but point is that, that how can I expect you to know what it is like to actually to show up then professionally in person? How can I don't have an opportunity to mentor you. I don't have an opportunity to show you things.

You think about how many things we see when we're just in a space, in a meeting, in a conference room for an hour. You get a chance to watch body language. You get a chance to see different people interact. You get a chance during a break to ask some questions. You get a chance to potentially be asked, follow me back to my office and I'll give you the rest of the detail. When you're on a ZOOM, the ZOOM is done and everyone goes away. So I just offer that. I think that certainly Gen Z has as much responsibility as any generation to manage itself, to learn, to read its audience and to get itself a game plan for how it would like to be professionally positioned, but I also believe there's work for us to do as we welcome and enter them into the workforce to better prepare them in ways that they may not have had an opportunity and may not have had an opportunity regardless of economic status, regardless of where you went to school, college or didn't attend college.

It is just by virtue of the nature of what work looks like and how we're, interfacing that is so different. So I think we have things to offer that we should offer.

Russel Lolacher: I want to touch on that on learning and that development that we as organizations... Well, we have responsibility , There's, there's a position we have to take.. So what, what would you like to see from traditional leadership programs or support in any way that any way that you'd like to see organizations maybe change to better embrace Gen Z as they're entering this workforce, especially not having that experience?

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: Yeah, so some of it is what we've tried to design and to deliver.

We've been asked to do it is really rethinking professional development. And I've said this many times before, professional development, like much in our world, everything's changed. And again, this isn't just about what age you are, what country you live in, what kind of work, what sector, it's just a lot of changes here.

And one of these is how we think about professional development, or even how we think about onboarding new people. So in some of the organizations and clients we've been working with across corporate government, nonprofit and philanthropic, we've been really asking them to think about what onboarding looks like and what's the results you want.

And then we work our way back. To then everything all the way to what we, how we should onboard differently. And in part of that onboarding, I've said things like we really need to think about professional development sooner than later, professional development and things like executive coaching. A lot of times have been thought of is as their, their perks for later.

You get those things when you're more seasoned, and I've been arguing that we actually need those things sooner to help mitigate some of these things that were a person might not know, being new to the workforce, being a Gen Zer and just not had many opportunities to gain that knowledge otherwise. And so that's really the place where I think we need to start.

I also think the way in which we also make assignments around work and who's doing the work, having the ability to be able to, to be able to do that work in concert with someone who's a bit more established and not just those who supervise you. Actually creating work groups that are mixed ability mixed across the organization or company in terms of department.

Your interests, your work style, we all have something to learn. And so we've also been developing not only employee resource groups, which have that idea has been around for a long time, but actually work groups, working groups in an organization where they are coming together to do work, pull things apart, design, innovate.

And that's something that's been really interesting watching. Again, you've got a Gen Zer there, but someone who's got 20 plus years and they're coming together, not because I'm supervising you, but because we're here learning together. We're here trying to figure out this problem together. And that's, I've been empowering for everyone. And it takes some pressure off too.

Russel Lolacher: You, you mentioned you mentioned onboarding and this is, I love the idea of onboarding be better, be more intention filled. The problem is it tends to end there in a lot of organization.

It's the, Oh, we onboarded you. We're not talking to you again until you leave. There's very little understanding of the employee journey, which where we're supposed to get into stay interviews and exit interviews, or I like to call them thrive interviews because truthfully we don't want people just to stay, we want them to actually grow and nurture. So looking at it from a Gen Z lens, I'm going to throw it in there when I can.

How look at it for them around keeping them and retention wise? Because as you say, Gen Z looks at work, not as I'm going to be here for 300 years. I'm going to be here till I don't want to be here anymore. How does an organization approach that?

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: So there are two ways, and we actually were working through this with a client recently in that I said, let's be honest. And that some people don't want to stay and shouldn't. So let's actually talk about that forthright upfront and let's actually do that.

So I'll give you a great example. In this particular organization, what they couldn't figure out is there was a friction that was occurring once someone hit a three year mark in their organization and if they weren't a senior leader. And to the CEO's credit, this person really wanted to understand it and really wanted to invest time to figure it out because they weren't sure. Is this a leadership style issue? Is this a department issue? Is it that these team members aren't enjoying the work? Do they not feel equipped and we should give them some different training? Was really open to what it might be. We go in, we work through it, we figure it out. And there was actually two things I came out with and identify for them.

One is this idea of professional development sooner because it was waiting until people were much further down the road. It felt like it was holding something back. And there's to your point, people want to thrive. They want to do their best work. So why wouldn't we resource that to some degree? Even in an economical way, we can do programming that's good, solid professional development that you can cover many people in the organization, and it doesn't have to just be one on one. So we introduced that idea. But the second idea I introduced in was a little startling was I said, and you actually need to have a conversation at a year two as to really an open, honest conversation if the person wants and should stay. Because the way they were structured is that it was very difficult to move up after you've been a junior person to any role above that, not because it was keeping out or didn't appreciate or didn't want to retain. It literally just was the structure. And so if in fact someone wanted to move, then you needed to be thinking about what did that move look like and to help them craft that role, but it wasn't going to be for everyone.

Some people might say, no, I'm good. I'm going to actually exit and go off to graduate school or I've got some new opportunities I might want to try, but by never asking the question, it made people feel uncomfortable and they didn't know what to do and they were feeling the hesitancy and feeling some of the tension around.

Where do I go here? But nobody was having the conversation. And so by offering that could be the way at the two year mark, introduce it at the onboarding, say at your two year mark, if you remain here, we're going to talk about what would it mean for you to continue to thrive here. And we are completely open to what that conversation may bring us.

You might decide to say to us, I'm staying one more year and I'm going off to apply to graduate school, med school, law school, whatever it might be. Or you might say, I'd like to stay two more years and here are the things I'd like to do. And then to think about, and if that's, it's impossible to go beyond that.

Then how can we help you to figure out where to go and to help you get there? That's generosity. That's acknowledging from the very beginning. You have something to bring here. You can be a contributor, but we also get it that the way we're structured, in mass, everybody's not going to have a space to move forward.

There's just no way to absorb everyone. So let's have a conversation at that two year mark and let's do it openly and honestly so that you don't have to feel guilty about applying to graduate school and trying to hide it or you don't have to feel guilty about trying to find a new job. Let us help you.

That opened up so much and it gave the, Gen Zers great confidence. It lowered the tension and it helped managers to understand this is very different than, again, what may have been their experience as an older manager. And they were open to it as well.

Russel Lolacher: It's ironic that we're focusing so much on Gen Z, I'm going to back and forth it, but we're also, we're being and embracing diversity by doing that, but we're also not doing it enough because of course, within Gen Z, there are diversity and there's no generation that I've encountered that is more passionate and understanding and aware of DEIB and the importance of it.

So as leaders that come from an organization that looks like employees, bracket done. That is the umbrella of everybody. How do you approach a generation that is much more aware of what you're doing and not doing from a personalization standpoint?

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: Yes, this generation is acutely aware and and not afraid to let you know where you're falling short.

And that can be a bit disconcerting for leaders who didn't grow up that way themselves and that they didn't have those conversations with their leaders and, they did, they feel, can feel very put off by it. And so in thinking about this, you have to give, again, create space. And I think some of the ways to do this so it doesn't have to feel either... it doesn't have to feel confrontational. It doesn't have to feel like you've put anyone on the spot, is I've watched some really great leaders create the way in which they use some of their time together. So whether they just make it part of a natural staff meeting, twice a year for these conversations, whether they've included in, their annual, I call them advance rather retreat. We're not retreating from anything we're advancing, but the annual gathering of team, they've added something there around, let's have conversations about what do people need? How do people how are people settling in? One of the other things though, and this is feels old school, but it's been incredibly helpful is what we call these pulse checks.

And so we've got plenty of teams we work with. They do an annual, a survey of satisfaction of team members. But what we've encouraged them to do is to not just limit it to annual. You don't have to put a ton of time. It's a very time consuming to do it annually and to to get the data into analyzing and so forth.

We're not trying to make them recreate that big lift all over again, but these pulse checks are really three, four questions. You just send it out as a quick survey. Data comes back and you can have it where it comes to it's across the entire organization. It can be across just your department, but really important information.

And you can do this once a month, once every three months, whatever it might be, but for you to be able to create space so I can quickly tell you something that's going really well, but I also can quickly tell you things that are not so you can identify it early. And we're not waiting until it's my annual performance review, or we're not waiting until it's something festers and blows up. We can get the information sooner. It doesn't mean that everybody's happy all the time. It doesn't mean that everybody will choose to stay in the organization, but it just might be a way of being able to open up conversation and it certainly builds trust.

Russel Lolacher: This reminds me so much... now I'm old enough to remember the when they happened around millennials, because everybody was like, Oh, millennials, children the time. And it got to a point where I'm sitting in a room, I'm going you know millenials are 45 now, right? They're your middle management. Yes. Yes. And I feel like we're playing this game all over again.

So what would you say to an organization that is suddenly now, COVID pandemic has certainly opened our eyes to different ways of working generationally, diverse, diversity wise. What would you say to a different generation that's looking at Gen Z going, this is why you need to embrace these new workers.

You've talked about their honesty and that to me is a boon. That feedback, truth to power is absolutely important. What else are they bringing to the table that leadership may not realize when they're nervous about these new youngins?

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: New youngins. They're not afraid to have harder conversations.

And so they have been some of the leading voices around some of these hard conversations around race. They're not around ethnicity, around what people are experiencing, around how politics are entering our workforce. And this is not about always again about confrontation. They're just not afraid to have the conversations because they are having them together themselves Gen Zer to Gen Zer, and they want there to be an opportunity for, more space.

The other thing that I think is really important is to understand that they are also less inhibited around talking about wellness, for example their mental health. They're less inhibited in hearing your personal story, they're less inhibited around hearing that you failed something and you're trying to now figure out how to do it differently.

These are just things that other generations just didn't get the chance to do. And certainly their space. We certainly want people again to remain professional. We don't want this to become a space where it is alienating because someone in oversharing, that's not what I'm advocating at all. But this way in which Gen Zers are understanding that we're human beings, we are, and we are in a workspace and workspaces will certainly have humanity, will have humanness in them.

And so they are open for that. What I think is still critically important is that we have to, we really do have to think, though, about how we again create that space for learning, though, because I have had plenty of Gen Zers say to me, I'm a little worried about entering the workforce or I'm scared. I don't know, actually, how to say I don't know how to do this, and I'll give you a great example.

There's a way in which I've talked to many managers, and they assume because Gen Zers are the most technologically advanced generation ever. Somehow they've translated that in their minds that means then you'll be able to just jump in and figure everything out. And so a Gen Zer is then is some of them are saying, but I'm afraid that I don't want to look poorly.

I don't want anyone to think that I'm not grateful for the opportunity, but I'm struggling. I'm struggling because I actually don't know how to connect all of these dots. I don't have experience in this. I'm struggling because I work remote. And, the people who have children or they've been at their career 20 years they love working remote and I get it because they don't have to do the commute and because they've got family demands. But I'm lonely. I'm lonely and I don't have a way to connect. I see people on a screen on ZOOM, but we do the meeting and they're gone. So again, I just think that we're, trying to understand, give everybody place, meet them where they are.

But with Gen Zers having to, really connect with, they understand that there's a human being behind all this work, and they really want that to be a consideration. And again, there's a middle ground here. Understanding your humanity, understanding that there's a person behind the work does not absolve you from doing the work, does not absolve you from learning what the procedures and protocols are of that organization you've joined and really revving it up so that you can become a full contributing member.

We're in a middle ground. It's not the either or, and sometimes I'm working with managers to stop thinking it's an either or and putting that pressure on a Gen Zer to not think they've got to respond as an either or. It can be a both and.

Russel Lolacher: Based on your experience of talking to Gen Zs, what do you think their challenges are that they're going to have to face interacting with these older generations? Because we've talked about it from from another generation. I want to talk about it from what the Gen Z generation may need to prepare for.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: Yeah, Gen Z is having to... and again, this is what we try to do through Looking Forward Lab, and we try to catch them early on. So we're building partnerships with universities so that we can do work while they're there.

And it's not in any way intended to take away from what you can get from your traditional career services. It's meant to supplement. So we're really trying to think about what that looks like. And how we do that in a way that again, continues to push and say, you need to be here, be a full contributing member. And how are you going to do this work?

But we're also trying to get them to be open about what they bring to the table and not to be afraid. And there's brilliance around creativity. There's brilliance around understanding again, intuitiveness or understanding diverse audiences. There's a brilliance around how to link up the minds of Gen Zs are moving so fast because they're used to technology moving fast, being able to quickly research and all of that, like, why wouldn't we want to hone in on that and use that brilliance. So I'm always reminding them that they bring incredible things to the table, but I'm also reminding them to come with humility. I remind the managers to come with humility. I also can't tell you how many times I've had a manager say I had to figure it out, why can't they?

And I say, you know what, that's not fair because you didn't like having to figure it out. It wasn't a great experience. It was awful and you wish someone was helping you and guiding you and mentoring you. So why don't we do this for this generation? But at the same time, having expectations and asking them to understand this and you're in a workplace and we need you to be able to step up and do your work.

And if you've got a question, then you talk to us. I, one of the teams I work with in New York. I love when we're in person in their office. And when you go to the restrooms, I thought this was so brilliant to put it here because if you just handed it to people, they probably might quickly put it away.

But when you go into their restrooms and you close the door, there's a sign on every door that says 'there is no shame in'. And it goes on to give you this list of things. There's no shame in not knowing. There's no shame in asking questions. There's no shame in bringing an idea, whether you know it's going to work or not.

There's no shame in not feeling well. There's no shame in grieving. There's no, it gives this long list. It is so beautiful. And it's a reminder for any of us, but I think it's particularly for the younger folks on their team. I think it is that way of I, if I said it to you, you might get a little flustered and embarrassed.

Do you, you think I'm doing something wrong or, I'm not supposed to be here, but literally in a private space like that, I can engage with it. And it might just be that thing that calms me that day and gives me the confidence to be able to say, Hey I'm, having a great time here and I want to do well. How do I thrive and let me go ask the questions so I can do that.

Russel Lolacher: I love that you bridge the gap between it being something that's on a wall to it being something you actually have to do as well. How many times have we seen things on a poster, we're like that's not true. And I don't believe any of those things, but it's so nice you've decorated the room. I like the actions connecting you... If you want to build this culture that embraces Gen Z, you have do things that are uncomfortable, that might be different for you as a different generation. Cause I, as soon as I hear you say that, I know so many people like, oh, that's stupid.

Oh, that, that makes me feel uncomfortable to even, Why would we need to put that out in front of everybody? and

these are, some of them are good leaders. It's just an uncomfortableness that they're just not used to.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: Yeah. And I, what I would say is that, the this, company and the CEO is not a Gen Zer, the CEO is a Baby Boomer, but that CEO would tell you that, they find it just as helpful to see that and remind themselves as the Gen Zer, that they are managing work stress.

They're managing, the, conflicts are in what their board might want of them and what the team wants. They're managing revenue cashflow. They're managing their own home life. They're saying these things make it just as easy for them to be able to say to the team, I'm really sorry today.

I'm, really not clicking on all cylinders. I really need you to just be patient with me today, or today, I'm sorry. I can only focus on this because of the pressures of this. And I just wanted you all to know and be transparent about that, that I'm not ignoring, but I really just got to sequester myself and get this done.

So that person would say to you that it is just as an important reminder for for them as a Baby Boomer as it is for the Gen Zer.

Russel Lolacher: It benefits all generations. and that's the thing you Z doesn't you know Gen Zers hate meetings. I hate meetings! I'm Gen X, you know. We just didn't think we could say anything., Now the Gen Zs don't care, and they're being so open and honest. And it's just you could, say stuff. You could tell people that's a horrible email. You could do that?! So, I, I agree with you in embracing everything Gen, Z is asking and wanting is what other generations need and want to, we just didn't know or didn't know we had the psychological safety to do it. To do it.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: That's exactly right. But again, also reminding Gen Z, there is something amazing to learn. Tons of amazing things to learn from those who've been in this particular organization, company, or in the workforce. So don't, again, you've got a way in which you're entering, there are things that are important to you, there are things that you know, but also other people know a ton of things as well and be open to that.

And that's also been powerful to watch Gen Zers saying, wow, I really want to go to such and such, because I know they've done this five times already, why wouldn't I go to them and ask for some assistance here? Or, wow, I didn't realize my co worker here who's worked here for 10 years. Actually, before they came here, they were doing a project similar to what I've been asked to do.

And they said to me, Hey, if I could be of any assistance, just grab me. So it's not just again what Gen Zers needed. And it's, I'm trying to bridge the gap saying, what do we all need? How would we all do it? And how do we interface as best as possible together. It's not about singularly just Gen Z, but it is an amazing conversation because Gen Z is entering the workforce.

And to your point, they're doing things, bringing things to the table prior generations never thought they had any power, ability, capacity or safety. And that's a perfect reminder and safety to do.

Russel Lolacher: And, and, I'm just immediately starting to think about, and I hate the term reverse mentorship because, it's just mentorship. It's not regardless of who's mentoring whom. And I love the idea of generationally, someone that's a Boomer or a Gen X that has a lot more back and forth with somebody that's a millennial or a Gen Z to learn in both directions about how we could be about how we could be better approaching the workspace and culture, as opposed to going, we're an ERG that's just Boomers. We're an ERG that's just Gen Z. And I get that from a colleague's standpoint, and I get that from a commonality. But nobody's learning anything if we keep those siloed as well.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: Yeah, no that's not going to help any of us. And I think that you've got more people than not. I feel very fortunate the leaders I get to work with who, even if they have some discomfort, even if they're not quite sure what the answer is, I really appreciate that they're willing to open the door for exploration, to figure it out, and they are there for it for whoever comes to that table to help figure it out.

And so I'm really pleased and really proud of them because I know for some of them, as you mentioned, it truly is uncomfortable. It truly is disconcerting. And some of them feel just as insecure as a Gen Zer might. I don't know how to do this. I've never done this way before. I don't want to mess it up.

We've got a lot of also those who are older, who are struggling trying to do everything from remember to say pronouns, to making sure that they, in thinking about a new project, they are as inclusive as possible. And again, not just about religion or race or ethnicity but different backgrounds of learning, different learning styles that they are trying their very best to make sure that they've done everything they can, but also being clear and saying, but if I don't get it right, please tell me I didn't get it right. And I really appreciate that. And I really appreciate those who are willing to come to them and do that in a way that is helpful, that is respectful on both sides. I want to get it right. And I want to thrive individually. And I want us to thrive collectively.

Russel Lolacher: As we get near the end of our conversation, ... near I want to doom and gloom it here a little bit, Tammy.

If an organization doesn't work with an organization like you, or decides to embrace Gen Z as this new new generation coming in and already working in their organization, but not willing to do what it takes to meet them where they work, what is the downside of not taking this all seriously?

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: We see it.

We see it in that we've got organizations that are experiencing turnover, massive turnover. We know that certainly people can take to social media and really, sock it to you with a bad reviews, bad information and we know that it just makes people feel horrible who are still there to watch colleagues leave under awful circumstances, watch this, the senior leaders struggle and not hear and be tone deaf.

It doesn't make, it doesn't make anybody happy. It's not healthy for anyone. And so we certainly have seen some of that. We've also seen where again, organizations repair. And watch them say, you know what? I don't like that. We did it that way before, we did it incorrectly. We're not doing it that way.

We're opening this up. We're asking a different set of questions. We're going to be more responsive. We're going to be more responsible. And then I see some organizations that just sadly, you can see where it's headed. And that if they don't get there, they will not they will not figure this out and they will be in that situation I mentioned first where things have imploded.

It's gone awful. The last thing I'll say on this is that some of this where we see organizations beginning to learn and beginning to, to think about some of these issues is through two sort of processes that I asked my company to do. One is, let's say three. One is strategic planning. Another is through executive coaching, the senior leadership team. And another is helping them to think through their business model generally. So part of that strategic planning, but could be independently, but once they start doing any number of those things, actually, some of these questions just naturally come up. They start to see their blocks. They start seeing where they are they're negating the possibilities, how they could have increased revenue, built new partnerships.

Because they start realizing that because they were afraid of being uncomfortable, they actually made it impossible for some new things to develop. And that starts to ring home very quickly to some senior leaders when they realize, wait, I'm affecting everything here. This isn't me. I just didn't like this.

I'm affecting everything and I can't do this and this isn't acceptable. And that's what you hope that people will be reflective and do that. And then sadly, some things where we find the boards of directors have to say to them, this isn't working.

Russel Lolacher: Thank you for this, Tammy. I really appreciate your time talking about this.

So I have to wrap it up on a good note. Let's do it with the last question we asked, which is, Tammy, what's one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: One simple action is to really be deliberate in their communication, to not assume anything, to really think about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and to reiterate.

Because I said it to you once, we now know that because everyone is so overtaxed, what's the number? It keeps going up. Something like it now takes nine times for you to hear something. I may not have heard that you asked me to give you that information. I'm not trying to sabotage you. I'm not trying to hurt the project. I'm not trying to be disrespectful. I truly may not have heard that you asked me for that, or I was so busy trying to get three other things done. I just forgot about it. And that's true of anyone. They are senior leader or someone who's a junior member of that team. And in that I would just tag it to and being generous.

There's, you'll never lose being generous. You just can't.

Russel Lolacher: That is Tammy That is Tammy Dowley-Blackman. a national speaker, an expert leadership development coach, and the CEO for Tammy Dowley-Blackman which includes the Looking Forward Lab, helping young adults to find their leadership path. Thank you so much, Tammy!

Tammy Dowley-Blackman: Thanks, Russel. A real pleasure. Thank you so much.