Give out a few (verbal) trophies

By Laura Andersen, Partner at LeadingX2

Previously, Dan wrote on the tense internal culture dynamics that we have observed across firms – specifically on effort and engagement – from the perspective of one Baby Boomer to another. Today, I continue the conversation with the second of two invitations to people my age and career stage.  

I mentioned in my last post how I laugh – usually with my husband – about the title “The Trophy Generation.” We are indeed the Trophy-Receiving Generation, courtesy of the Trophy-Buying Generation. We now have a chance to return the favor.   

The workplace is a human enterprise. The vision of an inclusive, equitable workplace is ambitious. Bringing that vision to life requires effort, strategy and resources. Those at the top of the org chart need certain knowledge, skills and mindsets to be effective in this effort. Recalling Dan’s perspective, this likely requires intensive, active listening, “ask[ing] a million caring and curious questions.” Most of the older generation(s) and those at the top are trying to learn, build, and shift what they can during their final few years in the workplace.  

Because the work is far from complete, I’ve heard concern from my peers that giving affirmation or encouragement does not feel sincere. In many cases, the results to date seem mediocre at best. The point is not that you need to invent or fabricate an affirmation. The invitation is to encourage in a way that is genuine to you – even where small progress has been made – to show your engagement, modeling to invite others to reciprocate. 

These leaders are considering their legacy. They are wondering what their long-term reputation will be and what results will outlast them. We can be partners in both. I can express appreciation for steps I observe another person taking – now, before they are gone – and continue to advocate for results that will improve the workplace and far outlast their tenure. Simple is usually best: “I heard the great question you asked. Your curiosity brought us one step closer to our goal.” 

As my generation partners with the ones that came before us, we all have the ability to define how we want to be along the way; that is the shared domain of all leaders at every level of the org chart. Perhaps my fellow Millennials can even lean on what we learned from the same Baby Boomers who bought us all those trophies: the desire to give and need to receive encouragement are human. 

So don’t be afraid to give out a few trophies as you 

Lead with your best self.  

  • Trophies are seen as substitutes for pay and benefits, and are in fact that in many cases. I am thinking especially in health care, where attention such as Most Valuable Employee and given. How recognition is given is important. A special parking place for a month is hardly valuable.

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