Prove it, part 2

Sep 10, 2018

In yesteryear, leadership could get away with glaring inconsistencies, but these days, young professionals aren’t having it.

In my last article, Prove It,” I explained why organizational trust, employee choice, in addition to path and purpose, were the three critical areas that an organization must pay special attention to as it relates to the young professionals in their organization.

In this article, I want to dive deeper into the topic of organizational trust. It is my belief that leadership, in any walk of life, has the responsibility to be clearly committed to the communications made to those they lead. As for young professionals, they should hold leadership accountable for what they say and write, their body language and advice, and their reasoning and solicitations for input.

The era of “do as I say, not as I do,” is effectively over. Take time to listen to the feedback of your young professionals. Assess whether the points being made are valid. If they are, then act! Ask yourself:

  1. Am I preaching about things that I in fact don’t do? We all do this, but if it’s chronic it must be adjusted or given its proper context. Chronic hypocrisy is the silent killer of morale.
  2. Is there continuity in my messaging and decisions? If you make a case for not doing something and then a decision is made that is contrary to the stated case, it is wise to discuss this with your key personnel. Trust is fragile, so know that every conversation is stored, in some way, for later reference by young professionals.
  3. Am I properly incentivizing, or do the incentives fragment and demotivate my team? Meritocracy is the greatest approach to leadership, but sometimes teams need a shot in the arm. As it relates to young professionals, I believe it’s best to incentivize behavior that contributes to a set of strategic goals and markers. It is dangerous to incentivize tactical choices or momentary needs. It will shift a team’s focus to the small win and not the big picture. This will lead to fragmentation or dismissal of the incentive outright.
  4. Am I impersonal to the point in which pleasantries are hollow? You have to share a real relationship with your team. It makes the work day pleasurable and the willingness to grind more abundant. But, if you are a leader who doesn’t proactively communicate, or who doesn’t see the importance of understanding the personal intangibles of those who you rely on, then you need to change. One rule of thumb that should help you communicate with young professionals is to follow their lead, so to speak. If someone came by your office to speak with you in person, show them the same courtesy. If someone calls you, show them the same courtesy.
  5. Am I following through when a good idea is presented? If so, are you truly providing the resources needed to bring that idea to fruition? If you ask for help identifying problems and solutions, demand a response that addresses both. If a young professional delivers, let them know what resources they have, how much time they’ll have to execute, and show a sincere interest in seeing the progress. These are great times to see what someone is made of. Can they construct and lead a team? Can they meet deadlines? Can they sell this externally and internally? Very few things scream, “I don’t care,” more than saying, “Great idea, run with it,” without creating a timeline, setting goals, and providing resources. Someone has stepped up for you, but you’ve left them hanging out to dry. This sends a bad message to the other young professionals in your organization.

The more consistent you are, the better off you will be with our generation. Inconsistency is not as acceptable in the minds of young professionals. Every management decision will be logged, and may be measured against past statements or actions. This has always been true, but the willingness to throttle down and no longer do more than asked is greater in our generation than it was in the past.

Brenden Sherrer is a consultant with Zweig Group’s M&A services. He can be reached at

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.