Webinar presenter Dr. Kimberly Miller answered a number of your questions after her presentation, "Bringing Your Best To A Promotional Process." Here are some of her responses.
Audience Question: What are managers and executives saying that they're seeing in the next generation of leaders? What are they seeing the candidates to be lacking? What skills do they wish for when hiring the next generation of leaders?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: I don't like the generation stereotypes which don't tend to be very flattering. There's diversity within any generation, not everyone is a cookie-cutter of people like us in our age group. I would say that a theme I see around the country for the younger individuals is interpersonal skills. It's a bit of a stereotype. The people in the younger generation have not grown up with the same dynamics or parameters that they have to practice interpersonal skills like those of us a bit older had to practice and be good at. I would say interpersonal skills, emotion, and coping management. As adults, we're not all super great at it. The younger generation, I don't want to stereotype them at all, but are sort of known as a group for entitlement — everybody gets a trophy, they can't handle disappointment well. Coping and mood management, dealing with disappointment, being able to overcome challenges, and just general interpersonal skills, building relationships, having the face to face conversation or phone conversation versus text and email. I think there's a disconnect.
One of the things I would recommend if they have young people who struggle with any of that stuff in this webinar, start practicing that. If you're a CEO, an executive who struggles and believe that you have a weak bench because your young people don't have these skills, then I would challenge you to engage in succession planning. I would challenge you to have people in your agency that are good at that teach or coach or bring someone in from the outside that can teach people these classes because that's another reason people might complain about the people testing for whatever the rank is — that there's a weak bench, there are no good candidates. But every time I hear that I ask the organization, "Well, do you have a succession plan?", "Well, no". And it's like, "Ok then, you're not developing your leaders, then what do you expect?".
To answer the question those are the two things I hear the most about the younger generation but I also would encourage all of you, whatever the rank is, that you're in this webinar today: Go back to your organization and talk to them about creating a succession plan because you have the ability to do a lot of that training in-house with your current leaders. You can also bring in people from the outside that might give your leaders the skills that they need so they can rise to that next level.
Audience Question: You talked about really thinking why you want a promotion before going to the process, but our society is always emphasizing the notion that you should always be wanting to move up and go to next level. Why wouldn't you want a promotion?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: There are a couple reasons and here's some that pop in my head. Some people are really happy where they are, whether that's at the line level role, they're comfortable at the mid-level manager role and they either don't want to go up because of the demands and expectations of the job might pull them away from their family life, hobbies, or whatever. I also really appreciate when people know themselves and their skill set and they will tell me, "I don't have the skill for the next level". And I really appreciate that, because all of you on this call, know line level people that should've stayed line level people. I don't care if they've been in the job 10 years, they can't lead. You also know people who are good first line supervisors but can't do the managerial role because they don't or can't switch to the new mindset. So, I think sometimes, people are either happy in their position and enjoy their quality of life and don't want to take on extra responsibilities. I think sometimes people know they don't have the skill set, which I so appreciate that self-awareness.
Sadly, other times, people don't want to get promoted because the next level up is so dysfunctional, they want to protect their mental health — and I hate to say that. I talked to a sergeant the other week, his organization is doing a lieutenant's process and I said, "Why aren't you putting in for lieutenant?" He was like, "Do you know how crazy those people are — I'm the only sane person, no thanks." He said, "In the future, if they get more sane lieutenants I'll test, but no thank you, my life is good right here."
Audience Question: What can somebody do who realizes they don't want to move up in their organization but still need to find ways to grow in their role?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: I think you could look at collateral duties, mentoring opportunities. Maybe you can teach, even line level people can be good teachers on particular subjects. I think you find your own way, how else can I be a value-add. And doing that work on the home base and saying, "Who else do I admire that has skills or knowledge that I don't have and how can I get coaching or challenge myself to develop those skills?"
Audience Question: Is there a point when rather than applying and re-applying and constantly getting a promotion and not getting it, or this person had a lot of conflicts in the organization, might it be better to move to a different agency or a different organization and start fresh, with a clean slate? Is there a way to start fresh at an existing organization?
Dr. Kimberly Miller: I have a couple thoughts. One is, you might be able to start fresh in a new organization and I think sometimes, that's a healthy thing for both you and the agency if for some reason neither can move past something and you've grown but they won't see you differently. That could potentially be a good thing. A lot of people I think use that as a way to avoid improving. They just maybe don't have a good experience in one organization and then they move into another one but they don't change anything. If you don't change, you can't expect things to be different so just make sure that you do that. It's not a geographical cure.
I certainly encourage people to test more than once for a promotion but it's obviously up to all of you to decide when you're beating your head against the wall where it's not worth it anymore to continue to put yourself out there if you're not going to get chosen. You need to make your own decision about how much you do work on something that you see as futile. As far as the ability to reset or restart in an organization, do I think it's possible? Absolutely, yes. With a caveat, it depends on the culture. I have helped numerous people rehab their reputation in their department and it's been a success. I have not yet found, but I know of organizations where that would be really hard to do, just because of the culture. Just because people will never forgive and they will always hold it against you, and in that case, again — doesn't mean you don't stop trying to grow but it means you're immersed in a really unhealthy culture which is not your fault. But you can't use that as an excuse to still not change.
Here's the reality, we teach people what we're about every day so if somebody has you in the jerk box — because you're always defensive and angry when we give you feedback, we're just trying to make you better. Well, I'm not saying it will happen in 24 hours, but when people give you feedback and you're not defensive and angry anymore, and you are showing up different, it becomes very hard for them to not acknowledge that. So, I don't believe anything's impossible.
I think some things are very challenging. I know that organizational cultures can also be very challenging. What I recommend is, without knowing more about the story, you just work on showing up the best you can. Figure out how you're viewed and figure out what you need to do for the long-term to show up differently. There will be people that will maybe always think you're a jerk. You don't control them but you can make it really hard for people to keep you in the jerk box by showing up with that better character and behavior. You can make it really hard for them to still view you in that negative light.
Click here to watch a recording of "Bringing Your Best To A Promotional Process."