Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member and Cal Poly Pomona Chief Employment Officer Dennis Miller.  Generation Z leaders are coming up.  What is your organization doing to develop them?

A recent report from Workforce 2020 titled “The Leadership Cliff”, seems especially useful when contemplating how to start the process of leadership development for any demographic and perhaps most especially for Generation Z leaders.

In the report, in response to a question asking, “How well does your manager deliver on the following expectations?”, 53% of employees responded “well” or “very well” to “Leadership”, 49% to “Regular performance reviews”, 43% to “Regular feedback on my performance”, 42% to “Acknowledging superior performance”, 41% to “Mentoring”, 38% to “Availability/approachability”, and 30% to a “Well-defined career path”.

Further, research conducted by New York Times best-selling author and fellow Workforce Institute board member Dan Schawbel, shows that Generation Z employees prefer face-to-face communications with their manager when compared to technology-based communications, and I suspect this preference is similar among all generations of workers. Among the many data points in Schawbel’s research, 81% of Generation Z employees aspire to be leaders, and 52% indicate that honesty is the most important quality for a leader to possess.

So, where does a manager start the process of developing a leader? I suggest to start by focusing on a core tenet for any good relationship, which is developing a trust-based relationship.

This is true for all employees, even if you might not feel a given employee will be in a leadership role. After all, one never really knows who will become a leader, and having a trust-based relationship with all of your employees should be the cornerstone of the employment relationship, regardless of a specific chronological generation.

What actions can managers take to develop a trust-based relationship? One technique is to start with routinely scheduled individual meetings, such as weekly one-on-one meetings. These meetings are informal and provide an ideal opportunity for the manager and employee to interact with one another, clarify the work expectations of both parties, remove obstacles toward goal achievement, allow feedback from both parties, and a long list of other mutual benefits. Still, this is the beginning of the journey where the trust between the manager and employee begins to take shape, not the destination.

A key outcome in all communications between a manager and employee is to communicate the intended message in a way that the employee understands. Being “clear” in communications may seem like the goal, but being “understood” is the true end-game.

Trust is often developed by actions that are in direct support of spoken words. For example, when a manager schedules and keeps a routinely scheduled meeting with their employee, the employee will begin to trust the manager, since the manager is following through on their commitment to meet at a specific time. Conversely, frequently changing or cancelling that same routinely scheduled meeting will have an opposite effect, and the employee will have no good reason to trust their manager. We know if a manager cannot be trusted on small things, it is difficult to expect that manager to be trusted on business issues with greater complexity.

What are your thoughts on where to begin the process of developing Generation Z leaders?

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