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If you’re over 60 years old and reading this post, it’s probably too late. Good for you if you’re under 30. You’ve got a better chance if you’re younger. Age discrimination? No. The end of retirement as we know it — an emerging unpleasant reality that will (re)shape the quality of life and standard of living for billions. Start dealing with it. Now. If you are a knowledge worker, cognitive capitalist, or a Reichian symbolic analyst [click here http://www.scottlondon.com/reviews/reich.html%5D, you will not be retiring at 65. Period. Even if you are in a protected public union with cosseted pension funds, you are at extraordinary risk. Just ask the Greeks, the Californians, or the Japanese. This is a global phenomenon. Demographics and structural deficits don’t lie. Unless the global economy comes roaring back in ways that stimulate sustainable growth in OECD countries, even the most talented professionals had better expect to work for at least another five years.
Of course, with stimulating careers, good health, and longer life spans, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it is surely not what most mid-career executives and professionals have planned. (Indeed, there’s no shortage of optimists who still expect to enjoy the fruits of early retirement.) Forget the “saving for retirement” shibboleths. Strategically addressing those 60+ months after age 65 may be the most significant long-range planning investment in your human capital portfolio. Charles Handy’s “portfolio careers” and “How Starbucks Saved My Life” scenarios notwithstanding, the simple reality is that retirement planning as we know it is obsolete.
Everyone reading this should take 15 hard minutes to ruthlessly reassess the reality of the “new” final years of their future career. The finish line has become elusive; the goal posts have been pushed back. Based on your current skill set and competences, what do you think your workday will look like when you’re 70? Are you comfortable with the probability that you will be managing employees younger than your grandchildren? Temperamentally, do you think you’ll add more value as a mentor, a partner, or part-timer? More important, what will your (much) younger boss think? Do you honestly believe that, when you have to work five more years than anticipated, you can get away with not being more facile, adept, and productive with emerging technologies? The inevitable aging of the (for now) wealthier Western economies guarantees a surge of innovative device interfaces more compatible with slower fingers and tired eyes. You will, of course, be taking web-enabled professional/technical development courses at 58 or 62 or you will be fired for cause. Whatever your 70-year-old workday scenarios may be, what new or novel skills or experiences do they demand? Do they demand more travel or less? More time immersed in digital environments or less? More interactions with people within a decade of your age or fewer? Are there personal or professional development initiatives you should be undertaking now precisely because those five years present opportunities that the earlier deadlines don’t?
The most important slice of those 15-minutes-for-five-more-years should focus on role models. Who are the 70+ year olds whose presence, energy, and effectiveness might profitably serve as the benchmarks for your own? Who are the two 75-year-olds who you would professionally emulate? Write them down. I know my two and why I picked them. But why have you chosen yours? What do your choices say about the kind of person you want to be at the end of your professional life? To be sure, there’s no shortage of 70+ and even 80+ seniors — Warren Buffett, Sumner Redstone, Pablo Casals, Louise Nevelson, Agnes de Mille, Lee Kuan Yew — for whom advancing age has not been an obstacle to productivity and professionalism. But the braver and bolder way to interpret this challenge is the recognition that, just as you can’t run or swim as fast as your 25-year-old self, your 70-year-old self will have to manage and add professional value differently than you did at 40 or 50. You don’t have to know — you can’t possibly know — the answer to that right now.
But it’s not too early to ask those questions and select those role models. (You’ll be fascinated to see how those selections evolve as you age). The future of “five more” doesn’t quite make a mockery of the clichéd “Have you saved enough for retirement?” and “What will you do in retirement?” questions dominating most end-of-career discussions. Make no mistake: Calculating the value of career-enhancing investments at 53 when expecting to retire at 65 requires different NPV or DCF computations and professional assessment than when making such a bet knowing you will not be retiring before 70. That’s a greater than 40% gap; it can’t be ignored or finessed. The changing structural economics of retirement almost completely overturn conventional cost/benefit calibrations for human capital investment.
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Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, is the author of Serious Play and the forthcoming Getting Beyond Ideas.
And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
Happy 4th of July!
(read the entire speech here on AmericanRhetoric.com).
Years ago, George Reedy wrote a book, The Imperial Presidency, about his association with President Lyndon Johnson. As I read that book, I was reminded of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Recently, as I re-read Michael Roberto’s book, I was again reminded of Anderson’s tale as well as Reedy’s book. Emperors, monarchs, presidents, CEOs, etc. who discourage, indeed punish dissent deny themselves access to information, perspectives, opinions, and suggestions which they may need when making difficult decisions. As a result, they as well as those for whom they are responsible are vulnerable to the consequences of bad decisions that can include making no decision whatsoever.
I forget the source but I once learned of a group discussion during which a CEO turned to one of his executives and observed, “You agree completely with me. One of us is useless.” (Sounds like Jack Welch.) According to Roberto, the most effective leaders are those who “cultivate constructive conflict so as to enhance the level of critical and divergent thinking, while simultaneously building consensus so as to facilitate the timely and efficient implementation of the choices that they make.” Roberto goes on to assert that “effective leaders can and should spend time `deciding how to decide.’ In short, creating high-quality decision-making processes necessitates a good deal of forethought.”
Throughout Roberto’s lively narrative, there is a strong recurring theme: “leaders must strive for a delicate balance of assertiveness and restraint.” One challenge is to be able to do either effectively. Another, greater challenge is to know when each approach should be taken. In this context, Roberto has much of value to say about great leaders as great teachers: “They prepare to decide just as teachers prepare to teach. They have a plan, but they adapt as the decision-making process unfolds. Great leaders do not have all the answers, but they remain firmly in control of the process through which their organizations discover the best answers to the toughest problems.”
One final observation of my own. It would be a serious mistake to assume that Roberto wrote this book primarily for senior-level executives. All organizations (regardless of size or nature) urgently need effective leadership in all areas and at all levels. They need people who can make the right decisions, notably when the given problems are especially serious. For these and other reasons, I highly recommend this book to individuals who must make informed and correct decisions about almost any business situation as well as to others who must collaborate on them.
As Roberto well realizes, there are specific reasons why Dante reserves the last (and worst) ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. Some decisions require courage, others require judgment, still others must be made quickly and often with insufficient information. How and why are great leaders able to make such decisions, either alone or in consultation with others? In essence, that is what Roberto’s book is really all about.
This is one of the volumes in the Harvard Business Essentials series. Each offers authoritative answers to the most important questions concerning its specific subject. The material in this book is drawn from a variety of sources which include the Harvard Business School Press and the Harvard Business Review as well as Harvard ManageMentor®, an online service. I strongly recommend the official Harvard Business Essentials Web site (www.elearning.hbsp.org/businesstools) which offers free interactive versions of tools, checklists, and worksheets cited in this book and other books in the Essentials series. Each volume is indeed “a highly practical resource for readers with all levels of experience.” And each is by intent and in execution solution-oriented. Although I think those who have only recently embarked on a business career will derive the greatest benefit, the material is well-worth a periodic review by senior-level executives.
Credit Richard Luecke with pulling together a wealth of information and counsel from various sources. He is also the author of several other books in the Essentials series. In this instance, he was assisted by a subject advisor, Kathleen K. Reardon, a professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, who is a leading authority on persuasion, negotiation, and workplace politics.
Together, they have carefully organized the material as follows. First, they explain why power is necessary in organizations “even though our society distrusts power and those who seek it.” Next, they examine the sources of power. Then they explain why power is realized only through some form of expression. In Chapter 4, they examine influence in sharper focus, illustrating three specific tactics which any manager can use. Then in the next two chapters, Luecke and Reardon shift their attention to the concept of persuasion. They identify the four elements of persuasion and discuss how various audiences and people with diverse decision-making styles are receptive (“susceptible”) to different forms of persuasion. Then in Chapter 6, they explain how to appeal both to the mind (with logic and/or evidence) and the to heart (by anchoring the given proposition in a human context). Hence the importance of compelling details, vivid images, similes, metaphors, analogies, and especially stories achieve resonance with an audience.
I especially appreciate the three appendices provided. “In Leading When You’re Not the Boss,” Luecke and Reardon offer useful tips on how to be productive and effective in situations in which (usually lower-level managers) are expected to lead but have no formal power or authority to do so. Appendix B includes two forms by which to assess an audience and to assess one’s own ability to persuade others. (Please check out Figures B-1 and B-2 on pages 135-139.) In the third appendix, Luecke and Reardon offer seven “Rules” to follow when preparing visuals for presentations that will have maximum impact.
With signs indicating the economy may slowly be emerging from the recession, many organizations are looking to make strategic hires. However, still-uncertain business conditions mean investing in the right candidates and avoiding costly hiring mistakes are more important than ever.
One of the best ways to evaluate job seekers during the recruiting process is by asking well-crafted interview questions that elicit insightful responses. Unfortunately, managers frequently rely on a list of standard interview questions that most job candidates have heard before. The result: Candidates offer practiced responses that add little dimension to what has already been provided in their application materials.
By giving standard interview questions a new twist, managers can gain further insight into a candidate’s qualifications and personality, which will serve to enhance their ability to make smart hiring decisions for the organization.
Here are some common questions to avoid and suggestions for obtaining more informative responses.
[Here are the first two.]
1. Don’t ask: “Can you tell me about yourself?” This question prompts applicants to provide a summary of their resume, preventing managers from learning new information that may help differentiate the most promising potential hires.
Instead, ask: “What professional accomplishment are you most proud of and why?” This question encourages candidates to describe a specific experience in their career so managers can gain insight into not only their best quality, but also what types of responsibilities and challenges they find most fulfilling. For example, an interviewee may talk about a cross-departmental project he coordinated. In addition to hearing about the person’s management skills, managers can learn how he promoted collaboration among team members, tracked success and kept others motivated.
2. Don’t ask: “What are your strengths?” This is one of the most common questions posed by hiring managers, so job candidates often come to employment interviews with well-practiced responses.
Instead, ask: “What is your greatest professional strength, and how has it helped you overcome a challenge in your career?” With this question, managers force potential hires to hone in on a particular ability and also describe how they applied it to a real-world situation. In addition, they can gain a sense of how candidates respond to on-the-job setbacks.
Along the same lines, managers should avoid asking applicants to summarize their weaknesses, but instead, ask: “Describe a time when you failed, and explain how you rectified the situation.” Managers can gain additional insight into how a job seeker deals with adversity and has learned from past experiences. For example, did he or she act immediately? Did the person solicit advice from co-workers? Did the individual have difficulty recovering?
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Robert Hosking is executive director of Office Team, the world’s largest specialized temporary staffing service for administrative professionals. In this role, he manages operations for the 325 Office Team locations worldwide, which place tens of thousands of highly skilled candidates each year into positions ranging from executive and administrative assistant to receptionist and customer service specialist.
Maddy Dychtwald is a nationally recognized author, public speaker, marketing executive and entrepreneur. She has spent nearly twenty-five years deeply involved in exploring and forecasting demographic, lifestyle and consumer marketing trends. In 1986, she co-founded Age Wave, with her husband, Ken. As the nation’s foremost thought-leader on population aging and its profound business, lifestyle, and cultural implications, Age Wave provides breakthrough research (including the landmark study Women, Money and Power), compelling presentations, award-winning communications, and results-driven marketing and consulting initiatives to over half the Fortune 500 companies.
Dychtwald is the author of three books: her latest is Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better (May 2010). She has also written Cycles: How We Will Live, Work, and Buy (2004), and co-authored an illustrated children’s book entitled Gideon’s Dream: A Tale of New Beginnings (March 2008). As a sought-after public speaker, she has addressed more than 275,000 business leaders worldwide. She has been featured in leading newspapers and magazines nationwide, including Newsweek, Time, Bloomberg/Businessweek, and US News and World Report. Dychtwald lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.
Morris: Before discussing a specific book, a few general questions. First, please explain the meaning and significance of the name of your firm, Age Wave.
Dychtwald: For the first time in history, we are seeing a dramatic shift in our population from one dominated by youth to one dominated by mid life and older adults. It’s metaphorically a wave of older adults hitting us, with the impact of a tsunami—transforming every aspect of our society from the marketplace to the workplace to the very way we define old. Not only does our company name describe the trend that our business is focused on, it suggest power and a positive vibe which, when we started the company in 1986, wasn’t usually associated with aging. We wanted to help change the attitude of aging to be more positive.
Morris: Given the number of speeches you have delivered and your interaction with the members of each audience, to what extent (if any) have the questions you’ve been asked and the comments people have shared changed within the last several years?
Dychtwald: When I first started speaking at conferences and association meetings, most of the audience thought age 50 was over-the-hill. It was also news that older adults had money and were willing to spend it. Today that has transformed dramatically. We all know that 50 and even 60 are no longer over the hill. And it’s the aging of the baby boom generation—those born between 1946 – 1964–that is responsible for this change. They are 78 million strong –1/3 of our population—and they have always done things differently than their parents and grandparents. With that in mind, we’re beginning to see how boomers are beginning to reinvent retirement and our perspective of what 50, 60 or even 70 can be like.
Morris: In terms of balancing one’s career with one’s personal life, is it easier, more difficult, or about the same today as it was a few years ago?
Dychtwald: Balance is a continuous struggle, but it used to be considered a “women’s issue”–something that primarily described women trying to figure out how to build a family and a career simultaneously. That has changed. Today, with the growth and importance of two income families, it’s become a “family issue.” We see men as well as women struggle to balance family and career. In many married couples, all roles and responsibilities are open to negotiation and that makes things even more complicated. However, now that balance is recognized as an issue impacting women and men, our workplace policies are more likely to become family-friendly, giving women and men a better shot at successfully balancing family and work rather than having to choose between the two.
Morris: Please explain the title of your book, Cycles.
Dychtwald: Cycles hones in on a major paradigm shift that many of us are a part of right now. It has to do with the very way we organize our lives. Keep in mind, through most of history, life was short and took a predictable linear path: birth-education-work-marriage-family-retirement-death. It was a linear path that was defined primarily by age and gender, so you knew exactly what you were supposed to do based on how old you were and your gender. But that’s beginning to change. As life expectancy has skyrocketed—adding another 30 years of life in the 20th century alone–we’re beginning to realize that our life path may be more cyclic than linear. For instance, education is no longer something that happens just when you’re young. Neither is marriage. People have 2nd and 3rd careers rather than one job for life. Many of us are cycling back to these lifestages based on our needs and interests rather than just our age and gender. This book explores the personal, social, business and economic ramifications of this shift from a linear to a more cyclic life arrangement.
Morris: The book was published in 2004. In terms of how we live, work, and buy, what has been the single most significant change during the six years since then? Please explain.
Dychtwald: I think we have reached a tipping point where the changing role of women coupled with their growing earning power has positioned them as both the leading change agent of the next several decades as well as the dominant market for everything, from food to automobiles, from pharmaceutical products to stock investments. That’s why I decided I wanted to focus my research and my thinking on this subject in Influence.
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To read the complete interview, please click here.
• Some observations:
1. Different jobs require different approaches to motivation.
2. Different people require different approaches to motivation.
3. The extrinsic motivation of the last century works best for “routine” jobs.
4. Extrinsic motivation can actually de-motivate for creative jobs.
5. Jobs that require a great deal of creativity and innovation require intrinsic motivation.
6. Intrinsic motivation is related to the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, and to the concept of Flow popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
7. The new workplace is one that must evolve into a workplace of intrinsic motivation.
• Some questions/implications:
1. Are you primarily intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated?
2. How do you know which approach is the one that works best for you?
3. When have you found yourself in the “state of flow?”
4. How can you provide more autonomy for yourself, and others, in your workplace?
5. How can you better affirm the desire for/need for mastery in your workplace?
6. How can you help yourself and others strive to fulfill a higher purpose in your workplace?
I have long recommended Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner as the best book available on how to get the best out of employees.
Here’s my current reflection… First, look at my first two observations: different jobs do require different approaches to motivation. A person repairing potholes likely needs a different set of rewards than a person who is tasked with coming up with a new marketing campaign. And, two different people likely are motivated in different ways. Kouzes and Posner strongly argue that all rewards should be personalized – i.e., designed for the person as in individual.
But for an increasing number of us, we work “alone.” We have to manage our own work, we have to schedule our own time, and we have to “motivate ourselves.” Though clients and others might encourage us some, we have to get going, day in and day out, on our own.
So – the question for me, and for a lot of you, is this question — how do I motivate myself?
That is the challenge.