Over the past week, a popular article on how Millennial leaders are struggling to manage Gen Z employees made its way around the workplace and has already inspired several similar articles on the topic. Of course, this is a rite of passage for each new generation that enters the workforce; it seems like just yesterday that we in Generation X were being taught how we would need to manage Millennials differently.
There are some interesting examples in these articles, but one of the core topics that is highlighted has become a hot-button issue for many companies: a desire among employees for company leadership to respond in real time to events that don’t directly relate to the company or its core business.
Gen Z has grown up with the internet and social media and have grown used to commenting or seeing comments on a broad range of topics instantly. This has put pressure on company leaders to instantaneously respond to all new developments happening today. However, this approach can cause people to overlook nuance in complicated issues and favor expediency over thoughtful reflection and, more importantly, committed action.
It’s reasonable to question how much company statements can add to complex conversations. The internet is already overcrowded with many self-declared experts sharing “facts” and opinions far outside of their swim lanes. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I generally prefer to read about cars from car experts, laws from legal experts, policy from policy experts and so on as I form my own perspective.
Furthermore, we need to acknowledge that it is difficult for a company to represent the full range of viewpoints its employees hold. Even in cases where everyone in a company agrees there is a problem, they may disagree widely on the solution, and there is rarely an issue on which a company can release a statement that accurately represents the full team’s view.
Plus, it can be difficult for company leaders to determine which issues warrant a company response in a 24-hour news cycle. Choosing to speak out on some issues but not others, especially in a global business, can have the unintended consequence of alienating employees who may be upset that an issue or cause did not receive an “official” company response.
This is one of the reasons we decided to write and publish Acceleration Partners’ impact statement. We wanted to clarify where we plan to get involved and where we don’t; unsurprisingly, the statement took months to write and refine, as it should have.
The unfortunate reality is there are just too many important issues happening around the world for us to take a company position on every single one that our employees, clients and partners may care about. Even attempting to do so would distract us from our existing commitments.
Leading a company or a team is hard work and one of the most important things a successful and enduring business can do is to stay focused. Numerous studies have shown that companies that try to do too many things at once—such as taking on too many focus areas or aiming for too many goals—consistently underperform their peers. A company that is constantly distracted from its core business and principles won’t thrive and may not survive for very long.
When we try to be everything for everyone, we run the risk of being nothing for no one. We end up watering down our core value propositions, muddying our company cultures and failing to attract the right people to our teams.
No company culture is right for everyone, it’s similar to picking the right college or university. Many great schools have fundamentally different value propositions that appeal to different types of students. At the end of the day, a great culture is one that is aligned between what it believes, what it says and what it does. These cultures aren’t attractive to everyone, but they’ll attract and retain the people who resonate with their values.
As I wrote last week, employees today have more choices and leverage than ever. That doesn’t mean that companies and leaders should be afraid to be clear about what they value, and where they want to use their time, talent and treasure.
Quote of The Week
“Don’t be afraid to lose people. Be afraid of losing yourself by trying to please everyone around you.”
– Author Unknown