Sticking Points: 4 Generations Working Together

GenerationsBack in July, my good friend Marie lent me her advance copy of Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart by Hadyn Shaw. Now that it’s out and available for everyone, I wanted to let you all know that you need to buy this book now!

It’s a quick read and you can easily jump around as needed. Shaw provides a simple five step model for working through the sticking points: acknowledge, appreciate, flex, leverage, and resolve. In each chapter he provides an example of putting the five steps into action.

Especially important is the “flex” step. Shaw differentiates between business necessity and generational preference again and again, highlighting how often managers think doing things one way is a necessity when actually it doesn’t really affect business. He defines necessity as anything that will make you lose your foot, customer, money, or funding. Everything else is simply preference.

Each generation also gets a chapter that describes their “ghost stories”  or the formative events and experiences of each generation that consequently influence them in the work place. The second part details the 12 sticking points he discusses:

  • communication
  • decision making
  • dress code
  • feedback
  • fun at work
  • knowledge transfer
  • loyalty
  • meetings
  • policies
  • respect
  • training
  • work ethic

Some other interesting takeaways for me were:

  • Shaw explains that these days people believe you’re not an adult until 28 (both older generations and Millennials think this)! Instead of bemoaning how lazy and unambitious Millennials are, he points out that in the pre-war childhood of the Traditionalist generation, life on the farm offered you ways to contribute meaningfully and see the fruit of your labor from very early on. That’s simply not the case in today’s environment where meaningful contribution and seeing the fruit of your labour is sometimes assumed to only come after at least five years of paying your dues post-college.
  • He notes that parents treat their Millennial kids well (Millennials and their parents are often good friends) but then gripe about their Millennial employees’ behavior. He terms this the “half-step back” problem: when you start managing, you take a half-step back in to the older generation because that’s who trained you. So you manage from an older generational mindset than how you parent.
  • His main suggestion for leaders who are running into these generational sticking points is to forget trying to manage the issue with top-down policy decisions. Instead, gather a task force with a rep from each generation to hash out the “sticking points” your organization faces. They’ll come up with a plan that will have more buy-in from everyone.

I’ve read quite a few books on generations now and while Shaw can’t and doesn’t take the time to go into all the nuances of each generation, he definitely captures them fairly. As a Millennial, I especially appreciated this since so many articles and books about Millennials in the workplace tend to only paint us negatively. I highly recommend getting this and discussing it at your workplace!

You Lost Me. Live! for Parents: Highlights

Millennials, ChurchI’m taking a quick break from our “What’s Wrong with Work Today” series to highlight an event I got to go to last night. David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group spoke at a You Lost Me. Live! event at Kings High School. It was geared towards parents of Millennials and they did an excellent job. I read the book almost a year ago and thought Kinnaman was spot on in his analysis of the reasons Millennials are leaving the church.

He explains that young people don’t leave church for the same reasons, and that leaving church does not necessarily mean leaving their faith. He breaks these different groups into three categories: Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles. In the latter half of the book, he looks at the top six reasons Millennials give as to why they leave the church and what we as the church can do to break down these barriers. If you have not read this book and you’re a pastor, parent or a Millennial yourself – please read it!

Here are a few quotes that I took away last night:

“We don’t have to like the trends, but we have to deal with them” – I loved this. Sometimes, I think all we want to do is complain about what’s happening rather than accepting the facts and moving on to a discussion of how we can engage and address the issues in our culture today.

“Typical churches reach married couples with children much better than single professionals” – Millennials are waiting much much longer than the last few generations to get married and have kids. Most churches are primarily set up to reach families. Programs, sermons, events are often family-oriented and it’s assumed that everyone is on the path to marriage and children. Many Millennials aren’t on that road yet and we lose them because of this.

“Millennials want to be part of coming to the conclusion themselves” – We don’t want parents or leaders to “solve” things for us or just hand down answers. Kinnaman writes in his book:

They are used to “having a say” in everything related to their lives. As we noted earlier, communication, fueled by technology, is moving from passive to interactive. Yet the structure of young adult development in most churches and parishes is classroom-style instruction. It is passive, one-sided communication – or at least that’s the perception most young people have of their religious education. They find little appetite within their faith communities for dialogue and interaction.

Our posture towards students and young adults should be more Socratic, more process-oriented, more willing to live with their questions and seek answers together. We need guides who know how to strike a better balance between talking and listening.

Hear this from a Millennial: YES PLEASE!

“We know from the research that they’re stunningly like the faith of their parents” – Confirmed in several other books I’ve read. If Millennials aren’t “on fire” for Jesus, a good possibility is that they haven’t seen parents or other adult role models “on fire” either. In Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean,

“Since the religious and spiritual choices of American teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issues, but ours.”

“Parents, part of your job in the church is to befriend other parents’ kids! You need to be the other adult in their lives” – Having at least one other adult at church who takes an interest in them is a major factor in kids keeping their faith. I can testify to the value of other adults in the community taking in an interest in our lives. I was incredibly blessed to grow up in a community where many other Christian adults regularly interacted with my siblings and me. Even today, a major reason that I value my church experience is because older adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s have taken the time to befriend and mentor me!

Kinnaman noted that Exiles tend to become Nomads and Prodigals because we in the church are not paying attention to their initial questions. By the time, we pay attention it’s often too late to engage well. We have to get better at listening to questions without fear, without condemnation and without jumping down people’s throats with the “right” answer on the first opportunity.

At the end of the evening, Kinnaman shared from Daniel. He explained that Babylon is a great example of what Christian Millennials are facing in this generation. Daniel was removed from his home culture to a foreign world, had to learn the language and literature of ultra-pagan Babylon, was renamed with a Babylonian deity’s name, was groomed for leadership in a secular government. We could imagine his parents also probably feared for his faith as he became immersed in this godless society. Kinnaman reminded parents to have hope because Daniel was able to remain faithful as an exile and God took his people into exile for the purpose of purifying and renewing them.

Last note: one person (a youth pastor) asked Kinnaman a question about how he can help his graduating seniors connect their calling with what job they’ll do later. I think that was a great question and I have a few thoughts on it:

First, Kinnaman made the great point that it’s so important to help them understand that God is going to use them and that they do have a calling in the first place. Secondly, I think youth pastors should take the time to preach/teach on the theology of work with their seniors. The more they can  understand about how God views work in the Bible, the better! Thirdly, I think it’s extremely important that students recognize that they can do God’s work in whatever job they do. The secular/sacred divide needs to be broken down. And to end with a shameless plug: My whole book is basically geared directly at this question. So if you have a youth pastor friend, you should tell them to read it or contact me because I would love to come speak!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

What’s Wrong With Work Today?

I think that work today is broken. And when I say “work” in this case, I mean our jobs in the corporate world. In my circle of twenty-and-thirty something friends, I see a lot of us restlessly switching jobs looking for that elusive perfect fit where we can do meaningful work. Between 2008 and 2010 I switched jobs three times – once a year. By 2010, I started asking questions like, “Am I flaky or is the system broken?”

Millennials have a reputation in the workplace of being demanding, entitled and lazy so you might guess I was just another flaky young person. You’ll have to take my word for it that I wasn’t. I’m sure in some cases Millennials have definitely earned this bad reputation, but we are also truly dealing with a broken system.

We live in a corporate wasteland. An engineer twiddles his thumbs working at Boeing – he has so little real work to do that he can complete his Masters during work hours. On the other hand, a data analyst works 80 hours a week and commutes an hour each way. His benefits keep shrinking every year. After three years, a teacher still can’t get a full-time teaching position in any of the four school districts she subs in. On the other hand, the office manager at a chiropractic clinic is drowning trying to do the work of five positions – reception, customer service, marketing, billing, insurance. A bank teller works the same job for years with no promotions in sight. The only way up is waiting on the only-slightly-older bank manager to retire. On the other hand, a talented sales rep moves up the ranks quickly but ends up driving 50+ miles a day in her territory selling businesses telecom services in order to meet all the required goals. All of them wonder from day to day if any of it is worth it. So many jobs require too much but don’t provide enough.

Work It isn’t just young people who feel disillusioned with work. It seems the average American is stressed out, burn out, overwhelmed, and way too busy. Americans work more than any other industrialized country and take the least vacation. We’re unhealthy workaholics and much of our stress can be attributed to a toxic work environment.

When I was writing my book, I spent a lot of time researching work because I wanted to get to the bottom of WHAT was wrong with our jobs. You might say, “Well – that’s easy – it’s called sin, Tash” and yes, I get that. The fall and sin are definitely at the root of what’s wrong. But, for me, in my first toxic job, in my second toxic job and in my third good-but-mostly-boring job, that answer just wasn’t really enough.

Most of the books I’ve read on calling and work that come from a Christian viewpoint haven’t really provided satisfying answers in this area of dissatisfaction with our jobs. They’ll talk about the problems we face in the workplace like maintaining personal integrity, avoiding temptations, and keeping a good witness etc.

Yet, in my experience, it is not the major issues of ethical compromises or temptations to embezzle money that face us every day. Some authors might mention bad bosses and annoying coworkers, but it still feels like they’re not really addressing the questions I had. Questions about whether something was just wrong with me or if there was also something wrong with the job.

I had questions about why my work was boring, why it was so hard to stay motivated, why frustration bubbled up so easily, why I felt resentment, stress, bitterness and the desire to rebel. Were these reactions only a sign that I had a lot of growing up to do, or did they also indicate that there was something substantially wrong with my job? These minor issues are the constant battle that many of us feel unable to conquer because no one has delved into what is wrong with work itself.

For instance, I thought Tom Nelson’s book Work Matters (which I’ve already mentioned here and here) was excellent and I highly recommend it. But I was disappointed that his chapter on “Facing Challenges in Our Work” spent only a couple pages on discontentment with our jobs and had little advice beyond this:

If you are wrestling with job contentment, there is nothing wrong with praying about and seeking another job that perhaps would be a better vocational fit. However, I believe that our present vocational stewardship ought to be our primary focus of faithfulness. Perhaps God will transplant us to a new workplace, but it important that we bloom where we are presently planted.

While a soul-suffocated complacency leads to job ruts, a God-honoring contentment unleashes increasing creativity, synergistic teamwork, and overall productivity in our work.

While I heartily agree that sometimes we just need to learn to see the positives instead of living in a permanent “grass is greener” mentality, I think there is so much more to job contentment than just trying to summon it with sheer will power. Our work is broken and we need to talk about what whole work would look like. Obviously, at the most basic level, the reality of sin means our jobs will never be perfect. But I don’t think this means we can’t ask for better work. We don’t have to resign ourselves to a life of endless frustration with our jobs. I believe that if we can understand what has gone wrong with work, we can begin to put things right where we can.

What do you think is wrong with work today? I would love to have you weigh in on this topic.

Book Excerpt: On Defining “Service” & “Sacrifice”

Today, I thought I’d give you a short excerpt from my book Recovering Calling. This is from the section that discusses some of the factors that hinder us in really understanding calling.

Poor Definitions of Sacrifice & Service
“Where language is weak, theology is weakened.” – Madeleine L’Engle

When we talk about sacrifice and service in church, we often use the same illustrations over and over. For example, you may hear a sermon where someone sacrificed their six-figure income and went to the mission field to serve. While meant to be descriptive, they easily become prescriptive and used repetitively enough, these clichéd examples send a message that:

  • You must sacrifice your personal goals and ambitions for your life in order to serve God, because your own ambitions and goals couldn’t possibly be God’s intention for you.
  • Sacrificing your life means leaving where you are to go somewhere much less comfortable.
  • Serving means doing difficult work you may not like for the sake of someone else (preferably poor, sick, or dying).

When all we hear is that we need to sacrifice our lives to serve, those of us sitting in the pews tend to hear that we’re selfish if we want to do something other than save souls. In Emotionally Free, Grant Mullen captures how so many of us have misunderstood this issue:

We have all been taught that we are to “die to self.” Most of us interpreted that to mean that our wills [dreams and desires] were to be crushed. I always felt that anything I really wanted to do must be wrong, since it was my idea and my will was sinful and had to be died to.

While most pastors would never explicitly preach that “anything I really want to do must be wrong,” this is still what many of us end up believing. Sacrifice and service are inarguably essential components of the Christian life. The life of calling may indeed involve difficult, painful, and uncomfortable work that we don’t necessarily like. However, the view that our callings will always be something we don’t want to do is a longstanding misinterpretation that has influenced our thinking, sometimes to an extreme. John Ortberg shares this example, “An old Quaker sect taught that the way to know a ‘call’ is from God is that it is always contrary to your desire. Some Quakers actually walked naked in the streets because it was ‘contrary to their own will or inclination’ and therefore ‘in obedience to the Lord.’”

Set in this extreme light, we can laugh at the idea, but it doesn’t mean we actually correct our faulty interpretation of sacrifice and calling. Dorothy Sayers, in The Mind of the Maker, again nails what is wrong with this kind of thinking,

“Sacrifice” is another word liable to misunderstanding. It is generally held to be noble and loving in proportion as its sacrificial nature is consciously felt by the person who is sacrificing himself. The direct contrary is the truth. To feel sacrifice consciously as self-sacrifice argues a failure of love. When a job is undertaken from necessity, or from a grim sense of disagreeable duty, the worker is self-consciously aware of the toils and pains he undergoes, and will say: “I have made such and such sacrifices for this.” But when the job is a labor of love, the sacrifices will present themselves to the worker –strange as it may seem – in the guise of enjoyment . . . I do not mean that there is no nobility in doing unpleasant things from a sense of duty, but only that there is more nobility in doing them gladly out of sheer love of the job.

In a recent sermon, my pastor emphasized that sacrifice will look different for everybody. It’s a message that can’t get repeated enough. When the need for sacrifice is preached without being paired with the concept that we can serve cheerfully in many different ways, people grow weary. Love gets lost in duty. We impose one person’s calling on all the rest.

I’ll be out on vacation at the end of the week so you won’t see another blog post until Friday October 5th. Enjoy the next couple weeks!

A Book & A Birthday!

Happy Monday everyone! Today is a special day for me. Not only am I marking two years of blogging, but I am also finally publishing a book! Five years of asking questions, three years of research into calling, two years of blogging (184 blog posts!), and one year of book writing and here we are. Recovering Calling: Helping Millennials Connect Faith & Work is available on Amazon for download now! If you don’t have a Kindle you can still read it by downloading an app for your computer or phone here.

I am so excited to have finished this project that I’m offering it for FREE today. I would love to have your help in spreading the word. If you could take a moment to share a link with your Facebook friends, tweet it or email it to a friend, I would really appreciate it.

So, how do I feel about it all? (Ok – maybe you’re not asking that question but I’m going to answer it anyway!)

Excited. It’s like finishing the biggest paper or project ever and then instead of getting graded I get to just enjoy the fact that I actually finished something.

Nervous. I’m scared of everyone reading it. Seriously. I know it sounds funny (um, hello – you wrote a book – isn’t that kind of the point?) but it feels pretty scary to suddenly open the doors and let my beliefs out into the world in this format.

Hopeful. I hope that my writing makes a difference for somebody. I wrote this book to address issues that I have struggled with and I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned, someone else will benefit.

Anyway! It’s time to celebrate a book and a blog birthday by playing with Canon and eating some very late breakfast.



Farming: There is no Instant Harvest

This week I was reading an article that said more than 50% of Americans love their jobs. This surprised me as other studies show that a majority of Americans are disengaged from their work. As I dug into the survey findings it turned out that over half of the people who love their jobs are 55+ years old. That made a lot more sense and it got me thinking.

Millennials are so impatient. I know because I’m one of them. We want the meaningful jobs right now. While we could simply roll our eyes about our “instant everything” culture, in some ways I think this impatience is a healthy sign. We grew up in an era that included Columbine and 9/11. We’ve learned that life is short and that there are no guarantees, especially as we navigate these extremely volatile economic times. We know success is fleeting and fragile. So we want to invest now in something more meaningful, which for most people means finding work they love where they can serve out of their strengths.

So what does this have to do with farming? I just finished The Colors of Hope by Richard Dahlstrom (I blogged about it here on Monday) and the analogy he uses at the end of the book is an encouragement to impatient Millennials like myself. We should view ourselves as farmers, stewards of the land of our lives. In farming, there is no such thing as an instant harvest. Many days look much like any other day with miniscule signs of growth. We want our work to make a difference now, but farmers only harvest once or twice a year (depending on where and what they’re farming). They show up everyday anyway, faithful to the work, protecting the land, the crops, the animals, facing obstacles, hoping for a harvest even when there is no sign of one yet.

While impatience with meaningless work is a healthy discontentment, we can’t make an ideal job materialize overnight and we shouldn’t be trying. Search for meaningful work yes, but understand that it will take time to develop and will require dedication and commitment. We need to acknowledge that it makes sense for people over 50 to love their jobs. They’ve probably worked long and hard in jobs they didn’t love in order to get to where they are now.

We can get a head start by knowing our land and what it’s suitable for. We can test our callings, pay attention to what is growing and seeking to steward the land effectively, but waiting will always be part of the game.

Are we willing to have that kind of perspective? To labor for a harvest that will be slow in coming? To put the effort in before any sure signs of success can be seen?