The Best Team Wins
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The Best Team Wins

The New Science of High Performance

Adrian Gostick, Chester Elton

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  2. English
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  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

The Best Team Wins

The New Science of High Performance

Adrian Gostick, Chester Elton

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About This Book

The New York Times bestselling authors of The Carrot Principle and All In deliver a breakthrough, groundbreaking guide for building today's most collaborative teams—so any organization can operate at peak performance. A massive shift is taking place in the business world. In today's average company, up to eighty percent of employees' days are now spent working in teams. And yet the teams most people find themselves in are nowhere near as effective as they could be. They're often divided by tensions, if not outright dissension, and dysfunctional teams drain employees' energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. Now Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton share the proven ways managers can build cohesive, productive teams, despite the distractions and challenges every business is facing.In The Best Team Wins, Gostick and Elton studied more than 850, 000 employee engagement surveys to develop their "Five Disciplines of Team Leaders, " explaining how to recognize and motivate different generations to enhance individual engagement; ways to promote healthy discord and spark innovation; and techniques to unify customer focus and build bridges across functions, cultures, and distance. They've shared these disciplines with their corporate clients and have now distilled their breakthrough findings into a succinct, engaging guide for business leaders everywhere. Gostick and Elton offer practical ways to address the real challenges today's managers are facing, such as the rise of the Millennials, the increasing speed of change, the growing number of global and virtual teams, and the friction created by working cross-functionally.This is a must-read for anyone looking to maximize performance at work, from two of the most successful corporate consultants of their generation, whom The New York Times called "creative and refreshing."

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How to Engage Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers
Joan Kuhl describes herself as the Millennial Matchmaker. She runs the consultancy Why Millennials Matter and advises employers, including Goldman Sachs, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Eli Lilly, on hiring and retaining recent college graduates. She believes that while managing Millennials presents a few distinctive challenges—for instance, many see nothing wrong with oversharing information about their lives (and work lives) on social media—there are also tons of positives. “We tend to publicize the outrageous acts of defiance,” she says of the newest generation, but adds “the majority that I work with are very mission-focused and value-based.”
Yet even this fan of the younger generation does grin when she thinks about some of the behavior of young people in her own office. She recalls one intern who ate a tuna-fish sandwich during a morning meeting with senior colleagues. When mildly rebuked after, the intern replied, “Well, you said to be myself, and I was hungry.”
So much has been written about this Millennial generation (also known as Gen Y). They are supposedly narcissistic, lazy, entitled; constantly Snapchatting or Tweeting with the person in the next cubical. They don’t respect authority, but want hand-holding and praise. And they’re ready to skip off to a new job in a heartbeat. A Time magazine cover story called them the “Me, Me, Me Generation.”
Our intention is not to bad-mouth Millennials. We personally think this generation has the creativity, drive, and technological aptitude to revolutionize our workplaces, and they absolutely should feel valued and rewarded for their contributions. Also note that we understand generalizations about generations always overstate differences, leading to grossly exaggerated caricatures. That’s not our intent either. There is, of course, no such thing as a typical Millennial, Boomer, Gen Xer, or even the soon-to-emerge Gen Z. The definitions of when each generation begins and ends aren’t even universally agreed upon. History doesn’t punctuate so neatly for us. For our purposes, we’ll accept these as the most commonly accepted delineations: Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964; Gen Xers between 1965 and 1984. As for Millennials, two of the leading authorities on generations, researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of Generations: The History of America’s Future, say the last Millennial was born in 2004—and anyone coming thereafter will be Gen Z. You can find other dates to end the Millennials—from the mid-1990s on—with some saying Gen Z (or iGeneration) is already in the workplace in force. But Howe and Strauss are widely regarded as the experts on generations and we won’t argue with them. So that means new workers entering the job market will be Millennials for a while longer (unless your new IT director is twelve years old).
With that said, while Millennials may have been unfairly caricatured, like generations before them, they do demonstrate some strong commonalities. Many of these are unique strengths we have not seen before, while others are presenting serious challenges to managers. And the worst thing we can do is ignore the differences.


Why should we care about all of this? Why do we have to learn how to manage Millennials any differently? The first big reason: We’ve reached a tipping point. Millennials have edged out Boomers and Gen X as the largest generation at work; and by 2020, more than half of working adults worldwide will be Millennials. Consider your own team: Is it a homogenized cluster of similar-thinking, similar-looking, similarly aged folks with identical backgrounds and biases, or is it a collection of diverse people—some older, some younger—who come at work from different perspectives. And of your young workers, have you noticed a few differences? Scott Harner has.
Harner is team manager of Chip Ganassi Racing, which runs successful cars in NASCAR, the IndyCar Series, SportsCar Championship, and World Endurance Championship. His organization has teams of mechanics who keep cars running on the tracks, and noted that many Millennials bring an affinity for technology that is vital in racing today, but he’s also seen a change in the work ethic in some of the young guys he hires. “This is hard work—twelve-hour days turning around a car that’s crashed then jumping on a plane for another city. And we do it for six months in a row. A lot of the young guys flame out pretty quick. I guess it’s the way we raised them—a participation trophy for everything. In our world, only first place gets a trophy.”
Harner has found success in helping his Millennials see that they are part of a team, and that’s a good thing, something many younger workers spark to. “Our team is a family,” he told us. “So, if they work hard to get a car back on the track it could mean one more point, and that could lead to a championship for the team. They learn that the team is going to be behind them, and that’s really positive. In turn, they have to work their butts off, so they don’t let their team down.”
In short, Harner has found that while managing younger workers may offer its unique challenges, he’s not about to give up because the better he becomes at leading Millennials now the more returns his team will reap as they come to dominate the workforce.
The second big reason to devote special attention to younger workers is that, overgeneralizations aside, Millennials really are distinctive in some important ways that managers need to understand, which our research clearly reveals (Hint: It’s more than beards on the men and yoga pants on the women). Understanding this handful of key distinguishing features about how Millennials prefer to work and what they are expecting from their managers and work lives is vital to assuring they work in harmony with their teammates. This understanding can also lead to best practices for inspiring Millennial workers’ engagement and productivity, and even to convincing them to stay with the firm longer. That’s essential, considering the troubling finding that less than one-third of Millennials feel their organization makes the most of their skills, and 66 percent expect to leave their employer in the next few years.
That threat of attrition is not an idle one. Millennials do leave jobs much faster than prior generations. We’ve come to calling this the renter generation. Millennials tend to rent their living quarters versus assuming a mortgage (desire for homeownership is on a sharp decline); they lease cars versus buying. They even rent boyfriends and girlfriends. Not in that way, but a steadily increasing number of twenty-somethings are shying away from traditional marriage and instead engaging in multiple short-term relationships. When they do get married, if they do, it’s much later—now thirty on average for men and twenty-seven for women, compared with average ages of twenty-six and twenty-three just fifteen years ago. Pew Research estimates one-quarter of Millennials will never get married; almost half, in a recent Time magazine survey, said they would support a new marriage model that involved a two-year trial—a beta test if you will—at which point the union could be formalized or dissolved by either side with no divorce or paperwork required.
It’s important to understand that a good deal of research on Millennials has shown that they are distrustful of institutions, marriage being just one of them. Opting out of the traditional marriage model in greater numbers could very well be attributable to the record high divorce rate of their parents. Many of them experienced the effects of such separations on their families, and virtually all witnessed those effects on the lives of friends.
That distrust of institutions is extending to the workplace. Many Millennials watched their parents go through rounds of downsizing, restructuring, reengineering, and M&A, that virtually eliminated the concept of job security. As such, many younger workers entering our teams today consider themselves to be renting their jobs; they aren’t looking to buy. If things don’t work out, they are indeed quite content to move on.
Melissa Aquino, vice president of the science and technology giant Danaher, calls Millennials one of the biggest diversity issues her 62,000 person company faces. While she personally believes this latest generation rocks, and has the potential to be the most productive in history, she acknowledges that organizations face a challenge in getting some of them to commit. “Millennials are largely critical of corporate America. They don’t know if they want to be attached,” she told us. More from Aquino in a moment.
Another reason for the fleet-footedness of Millennials: They were raised in an era of immediate gratification. Consider that this is the first generation to have grown up with such things as overnight delivery—no waiting a week for the postman to bring a package—and DVRs—they skip right through pesky TV commercials. Most never had to do research for school without the Internet—no need to trudge to the library and ponderously look up information. Of course, the ultimate provider of instant gratification is the smart phone. Who doesn’t love their phone? Some 83 percent of Millennials report sleeping with their devices within reach so they don’t miss out on messages during the night. But many Millennials use phones in distinctive ways from previous generations. For instance, they make much fewer voice calls. We have been told by younger employees that they believe phone calls to be rude—as if they are demanding a person’s time at that precise moment. Moreover, they add, they often feel trapped on a call, giving their full attention to a glacially slow form of synchronous conversation. As one Millennial told us in an interview, “If I could disable the phone on my phone, I would.” (Paradoxically, we spoke with him while he worked at a retail phone store.)
Skanska USA CEO Rich Cavallaro explained that one way his company has appealed to people raised in a world of instant gratification is to ensure they have greater flexibility. “There’s no question you have to manage this generation differently,” he said. “We found forty-six percent of incoming employees from college say a flexible workplace is the most important thing for them.” Yet, he admits, that’s a challenge in a project-based business with 11,000 employees, but the company is striving hard to make it happen. “I come from a generation that if you weren’t sitting at your desk, you weren’t working: twelve hours a day, six days a week. That world is over. If we believe that we can tell Millennials to go sit at their desk all day, every day, we’ll be here by ourselves.”
As such, the company has launched the Skanska USA Flexible Work Program: finding ways to offer job sharing, flexible work time, telecommuting, a compressed work week, and part-time employment. And remember, this is a construction and development company, one that helped build the Oculus train station in New York City and is renovating LaGuardia Airport.
Leaders like Cavallaro teach us that we can’t stick our fingers in our ears about generational disagreements anymore. This is reinforced by a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which found that nearly three quarters of HR professionals have reported not just differences but intergenerational conflicts in their organizations. We hear about them all the time in our consulting work: Managers and older workers complain about their younger colleagues’ seemingly odd habits; including a lack of commitment; and what they perceive as whiny demands for coaching, feedback, and praise. Millennials, in turn, have plenty of complaints about their bosses and older colleagues. The HR professionals surveyed by SHRM described the following most common negative perceptions:


• Resistant to change
• Lack of recognition of my efforts
• Micromanage me


• Poor work ethic
• Informal behavior and language
• Inappropriate dress
Melissa Aquino gets a chuckle out of that last complaint, the one about attire, but says it’s something she considered when running an operating company at Danaher. “Whether right or wrong, Millennials are skeptical of older folks who dress too fancy,” she said. So, as a nod to help her younger associates feel more included, and to help older workers loosen up, she presented company hoodies to everyone. “I handed one to our sixty-four-year-old finance guy who was wearing his tie. ‘This is delightful,’ he said, ‘what am I supposed to do with it?’ ”
Overall, the good news we have about managing Millennials is twofold. First, we have identified a couple of key differences in what motivates them most strongly at work versus older workers, and we provide methods here for taking account of those motivators with specific management tactics that can dramatically boost their engagement. We’ve also found that Millennials share a particular set of strong motivators with older workers. In fact, the set of the top three motivators is fairly consistent across age groups, while the set of the lowest motivators has some similarities as well. So, as much as the differences in Millennials’ preferences and behaviors are real and must be addressed, there also is a great deal of common ground with which to manage teams in ways that will bond younger workers and their older colleagues better to their teams, and also bond them more strongly with the organization overall.


One recent scholarly review concluded that there has been “limited research to guide managers on how to better incorporate the Millennial generation into the workplace.” We are happy to step in. Let us dig a little deeper for you into our 50,000 person database. Respondents are employees of all ages, and are from the United States, Canada, Mexico, throughout Europe, Central and South America, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa. The database allows us unprecedented insight into what most motivates people at work, and what doesn’t. Our Motivators Assessment ranks the twenty-three motivators—shown by our research to be most widely motivating for employees—all the way from the strongest to weakest for each person. We developed the Motivators Assessment with Drs. Jean Greaves and Travis Bradberry, creators of the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 bestselling book and its accompanying assessment. These psychologists and their team of behavioral scientists helped us create a scientifically valid way of assessing people’s underlying drivers at work.
For those curious about the complete set of twenty-three, here they are. You might want to see if you can guess which of them are most important to Millennials versus older generations.
Developing Others
Problem Solving
Social Responsibility
Now, what did we find were the biggest differences? That’s where we go next.


While autonomy ranks near the top set of motivators for older generations in the workplace, it’s near the bottom of motivators for most younger workers. In fact, when we combined all answers from respondents in the Millennial generation, we found that autonomy ranked twenty-first overall (out of twenty-three motivat...

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