When legendary football coach Lou Holtz led the University of Arkansas to its 1978 Orange Bowl upset of Oklahoma, it was less coaching strategy and more "focusing on what we had, rather than what we didn't," he explained during his opening keynote of the 10th Annual Winning is Everything Conference in Las Vegas.
One of those things they had, he told the roomful of attendees wearing sports jerseys to the two-day practice management event, was teamwork.
Holtz found opportunities in inheriting and turning around losing-record teams, after instructing them, "We cannot win when we pull against each other."
A similar philosophy seemed to drive the senior-level participants in Boomer Consulting chief operating officer Sandra Wiley's later session on retention. The discussion quickly turned to intergenerational issues. Deanna Salo Cray, a partner at Cray, Kaiser in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., expressed concerns over the need for a high-touch environment in employees ages 26-32: "They aren't problem-solvers. They get their information through a technology base and go to their second family, their Facebook family."
Some of the Baby Boomers in the audience blamed themselves just as quickly, citing coddling parenting techniques for this lack of independence. But managers can take advantage of this skill for collaboration. "They are brilliant at working on something in a group," said Wiley. "We don't have to solve all their problems, but give them a peer group that will allow that to happen."
Additionally, giving younger staff a few projects a year to develop and ultimately present to the partner group will allocate the necessary responsibility to increase engagement.
In other words, "a chance to walk the walk" as closing keynote speaker and inspiration for The Pursuit of Happyness Chris Gardner said, in describing his rise from homeless single father to successful entrepreneur and basis for a Hollywood blockbuster.
Hopefully down a path that goes beyond individual success, because, according to Holtz, "To be significant, you help other people be successful."
- Danielle Lee
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