Chip Espinoza: Part 2 of an interview by Bob Morris

EspinozaChip Espinoza was born in Espanola, New Mexico. His mission in life is to help organizations become worthy of human habitation. Recently, he has focused on the integration of Millennials (AKA Gen Y) into the workplace. He is the co-author of Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader, with Joel Schwarzbart and published by FT Pearson (October 2015). He is also the Academic Director Organizational Psychology at Concordia University in Irvine.

Chip also keynotes internationally and across the country on how to create environments in which managers and Millennials can thrive. He is a leading expert on the subject of Millennials in the workplace. He consults in the civic, corporate, and non-profit sectors. He has authored several articles on the subject of leadership and is the go-to person for news agencies on the subject of integrating younger workers into organizations. He has been featured on Fox News, CNN, CBS Radio, and in major publications. Chip is also the author of Millennial@Work.

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of Chip.

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Morris: When and why did you decide to write Millennials Who Manage. and do so in collaboration with Joel?

Espinoza: I will address the “when” first. I usually allow time for Q&A after I speak. The questions prepare me for what is next with respect to organizational challenges. I started getting a lot of questions asking how to manage people older than you. The “why” is easy—I feel indebted to the Millennials who inspired me to write about them in the first place. The book is my way giving back. I wrote the last chapter as if I were in a classroom conversing with them. Joel actually participated more in the writing aspect of my first book, Managing the Millennials, than my co-authors. I highly value his insight and so when Pearson offered me a contract for the book, I invited Joel to work with me.

Morris: Were there any head-snapping revelations while writing it? Please explain.

Espinoza: I was amused by a term that older workers used for their Millennial managers—”Baby Boss.” I think the head snapping occurred when the results from our survey based on Google’s manager expectation model revealed the 25- to 34-year-olds were ahead of all other age groups in empowering their employees. Overall, 25- to 34-year-olds came out either first or second on all but two of the nine dimensions we surveyed.

Morris: To what extent (if any) does the book in final form differ significantly from what you originally envisioned?

Espinoza: I think it is more personal to me than what I first thought. It was a natural progression for me to write about Millenials transitioning into management but I found myself getting emotional as I wrote. I really do want to repay them for all they have given me. What better way than to help them transition to the next level of their career!

Morris: When managing Millennials, what is the “good news”?

Espinoza: They are first and foremost problem solvers. They are optimistic. They are well educated. They are creative. They are open to change. They are learners. They are technologically savvy. They are open-minded. They are imaginative. They think third-way. They want to achieve. They want to contribute. They are flexible. They are achievement oriented.

Morris: Any “bad news”?

Espinoza: Okay. It is not in my research domain but I am concerned that Millennials are stressed out. They have a higher suicide rate than other generations at their same age. They have the highest diagnosis of depression at their age than other generations. I think we have raised a generation that does not know how to be sad. They are programmed for success and the threat of failure is devastating.

I also think they struggle with decision-making. They do not want to be wrong and therefore they will make decisions by indecision.

Morris: With regard to leadership development, why should the focus be on the self  rather than on credentials such as technical skills?

Espinoza: Technical skills get you in the door but it is the ability to self-regulate and manage relationships that allows one to leverage the talent of people around her or him. I mentioned distributive leadership above. I believe we have to move away from a leader-centric to leadership-centric model of leadership. The first stage of moving that direction is leader development and the first lesson should be self-leadership (knowing about the self, gaining perspective, self-awareness). Edwin Friedman suggested it is the nature and presence of a leader that most impact a system, not knowledge or skills. I have worked with countless organizations that exhaust energy adapting to the weaknesses of the leader. I had a leader announce to his/her team the other day that he/she was the smartest person in the room. It perhaps was true, but that is where self-regulation should come in. The days of one genius surrounded by a bunch of worker bees are hopefully done. I know Millennials won’t buy into such a scenario.

Morris: How do you define “immaturity”?

Espinoza: For the sake of our conversation, I would like to define it as a lack of self-regulation. Therefore, immaturity is the inability to act in your own long-term best interest or consistent with your deepest values. As aforementioned, self-awareness is critical to self-regulation in that it is the process of identifying, among other things, our values.

Morris: What is its relevance to managing or being managed by Millennials?

Espinoza: If you lack self-regulation, you will find yourself saying things and taking actions that are often counterproductive to productivity and building working relationships. People who lack self-regulation are often invasive of others. They can be perceived as being controlling, antagonistic, or even subversive.

Morris: What are the significance and implications of the fact that humans are emotional creatures?

Espinoza: Again, it means that we have to be emotionally intelligent. It also means that what works one day may not work the next or what works for one group of people many not work for another. I love managerial leadership because it is dynamic. The implication is that we have to stay curious about what compels, what motivates, what inspires, what relates, and what energizes.

Morris: At one point in the narrative, you observe, “The people who care about us the most are the ones who are most likely to hold us back.” Please explain.

Espinoza: As weird as it sounds, it is generally not the people who are against us who hold us back in life. It is often the people who are most invested in us. Ironically, key relationships can become threatened when you start exploring your own path. This is true when it comes to relationships with parents, mentors, and bosses. It’s not always true, but many times these important people in our lives feel threatened in some way by our independence from them. There is an inner conflict that comes with exploring your own voice. The threat of losing support or sponsorship from an authority figure can be daunting. You have to think long term and not short term. In the short term, you may second-guess yourself or be tempted to acquiesce. Sometimes we don’t move forward because the people who love us the most unconsciously sabotage our efforts.

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To read all of Part 2, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

Chip cordially invites you to check out the resources at these website

His website link

Concordia University link

LinkedIn link

Twitter link

FT Pearson Press link


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