Chester On Point

When Millennials Cry “Don’t Judge Me” – Part II

In this follow-up to my previous “Don’t Judge Me” blog, we explained why millennials (and for that matter, people of any age) really do want to be judged… as long as they are being judged favorably. (No one is offended when they’re told how good they look, right?)

This post will take this topic deeper to provide some ideas and tactics to help you achieve improved compliance and consistency with the professionalism standards you desire throughout your workforce.


Biz Cas GWWhen dealing with employees that are relatively new to work – from their first part-time job to their first full-time opportunity, it’s vitally important to clarify your expectations for professionalism on the front end before hiring them. Don’t expect them to know what you mean when you say ‘appropriate attire’ or ‘look like a pro.’ That leaves the door wide open for them to put their own unique flair on those terms – – and their definitions will not be in alignment with yours.

When addressing something as important—as touchy—and as controversial as a dress code, don’t simply describe it verbally or expect them to read it in the company handbook.

Instead, show photographs of employees dressed and groomed exactly the way your policy dictates. Ask each candidate if they’d have any trouble adhering to these guidelines without any ‘personal modifications.’ Have them sign off on it to verify their understanding. This prevents any employee from playing the “Oops, I didn’t know…” card in the future. Clarity during the hiring and onboarding processes becomes the ounce of prevention that is worth the pound of cure.


Tell your new recruits how your dress code and your workplace conduct code came to be, how often it’s reviewed, and the process for amending any part of it. Some companies enlist the opinions of their people when establishing these guidelines to combat concerns that employees have no say in these important decisions. That may seem like overkill to you, but it will speak volumes to your employees and let them know that you take workplace appearance and professional behavior very seriously.

Whenever possible, include the context and reasoning for your expectations:

“Our patients and their families frequently comment on the neat and clean appearance of our hospital staff. They say that it makes us look as if we are one unified team working together to provide the best possible care for our patients, and that our staff’s appearance gives them confidence in the cleanliness of our hospital.”


“You know, when I’m out with the guys at a cage-fighting match, I get carried away and my language can get awfully colorful. But we’re trying hard to distance ourselves from that kind of mob scene and maintain a respectful, professional environment around here. It gives our brand a certain cache that separates us from our competitors. So please refrain from any words that you wouldn’t use around your grandmother’s table on Thanksgiving. Okay?”

There is a time to wear a coat and tie and a time to wear a t-shirt and flip flops. Even casual Friday’s have limits.

Every grade school kid knows that if they sign up for a part in a play, they are expected to dress and act the part or the role they are playing. Unfortunately, many grow into their teens and twenties without ever being informed that when they accept a job, they are expected to dress and act the part of the employee and wear the “costume” the way it appears in the script.

ON POINT – While these important distinctions should have been taught at home, it’s today’s managers who have been tasked with pointing out to their employees the clear line that exists between professional attire and conduct and matters of personal style and expression.


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To Retain Top Young Talent, Stop Dangling Nebulous Carrots!

Carson, the son of a friend of mine, is an MBA whose passion centers on business mergers and acquisitions. Two years ago, Carson accepted a position with an investment bank that offered him an embarrassingly low starting salary that was packaged with the promise that he’d be seeing some nice bonuses as the firm closed large deals. Determined to prove his worth, Carson has worked a minimum of 55 hours each week, has received stellar performance reviews, and has even managed to bring in – and close – several profitable deals for the firm. While Carson highly values the experience he has received, his compensation has remained way under market value, and he has been given only a few small bonuses that aren’t even close to those the partners suggested would augment his small base salary when he was hired.

carrot and stickFrustrated, Carson has approached the firm’s partners about this pay inequity on several occasions, and each time they have placated him with hints of a big payoff in the not-too-distant future. Carson is supporting his wife and young toddler and has asked for specifics so he can plan accordingly. But using ambiguity as their primary tool, the non-committal partners have instead chosen to stall Carson with just sit tight for a while longer promises. What they don’t know (but will soon learn the hard way) is that Carson has interviewed with several competing firms and is preparing to make his exit. His decision to leave is final, and he told me that no matter what his current employer offers to keep him–even if it’s more than where he’s headed–it’s too late. He’s moving on.

One might think that the practice of dangling a nebulous carrot in an attempt to attract talent and motivate high performance would be extinct in the new millennium, but it’s still commonplace. Even the best-intentioned ambiguous promises have no place in the compensation strategy of a great workplace culture.

Here is a simple 3-Point strategy for keeping young talent engaged in a future with your organization:

1. Be Aware: Millennials aren’t buying into the “just keep your head down and your nose to the grindstone and someday good things will happen” mantra that many boomers bought into as young professionals. Today’s top young talent is way too impatient and skeptical. And when it comes to their career, they demand clarity.

2. Be Honest: Tell them what your intentions are for their future, and then follow through on those promises. If you aren’t certain about when they’ll be promoted or how much they’ll see in a raise, it’s far better to say nothing than to hint or suggest that something good is on the horizon. In other words, say what you’ll do for them, then do it.

3. Be Transparent: Just as dangerous as making promises you can’t keep is not making a promise when you can. Surprises are nice, but this is their career; not their birthday. Keep them in the loop when it comes to their future and discuss it with them often. If they need to improve in a specific area before you can promote or raise them, let them know what that is, and then help them achieve those benchmarks so they can grow with you.


Excerpted from Eric Chester’s new book On Fire At Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out – releasing Oct. 20th. PreOrder now and forward a copy of your Amazon receipt to and you’ll receive a link to download Eric’s other 3 bestselling books for FREE! 

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The Difference Between Mothering, Managing, and Mentoring Millennials

Mentor.001In Western cultures, the transition from school-to-work-to-career generally happens between the ages of 16-to-24. This is a period of explosive personal growth when an individual crosses over from a dependent child to an independent adult who no longer relies on their parents to provide food, clothing, shelter, laundry services, and gas money.  (This transition is not happening as early as it once did in America, but that’s fodder for another blog.) 

To assure a successful launch into adulthood and a path to a meaningful career, the emerging teen/young adult benefits from the help and support of three separate–but equally important individuals.

THE MOTHER: Throughout the transition, and even after they establish their independence, a young adult still needs a mother who is standing by to:

A) Provide advice (which is usually only followed if/when it’s asked for).

B) Encourage them to endure the tough times and to help them understand why it’s in their best interests to always take the high road and choose the difficult right over the easy wrong.

C) Give unconditional love, plenty of hugs, and an occasional bowl of homemade soup.

D) Push the bird out of the nest and let them fly – or fall – on their own accord. (Very difficult step for today’s growing legion of tiger moms – and dads – who believe their job is to protect their adult children from the realities of this harsh world and to serve as their landlords, bankers, chief negotiators, agents, and best buddies.)

THE MANAGER: A manager’s job is to get as much out of their employees as possible in the way of productivity and performance. This is optimized when the manager has taken the initiative to forge a relationship based on mutual trust and common interests, but if that occurs it is a bonus; not a condition of employment.

The manager must then:

A) Tell the employee what to do (i.e. provide clear and measurable results, training, and methodologies).

B) Give them the tools and workplace environment to do it.

C) Keep the employee on track toward the goals (holding them accountable for their outcomes).

D) Provide praise and recognition when deserved, and correction and discipline when required.

THE MENTOR: In the classic Greek poem The Odyssey, Oddysseus entrusts his wise friend, Mentor, with the education and counseling of his adult son Telemachus. The word mentor is derived from that origin and is now used to describe one who accepts the responsibility for the professional growth and development of another by providing sage advice, counsel, and guidance. An effective mentor is a wise and experienced leader who will:

A) Listen to the aspirations and goals of the mentee.

B) Provide practical advice and actionable strategies for achieving those objectives.

C) Make key introductions when necessary and share learning resources when appropriate.

D) Routinely meet with the mentee to measure their progress against the objectives and course-correct accordingly.

ON POINT: Millennials who lack one or more of these key individuals in their life may actually find the transition from school-to-work-to-career easier than the young person who is a victim of having the wrong people in these roles, or worse, an over-zealous person in a role who intrudes on the role of another, (i.e. helicopter moms, meddling managers, micromanaging mentors, etc.) If you serve in one of these roles for a millennial, know your job and stay in your zone.


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5 Steps to Keep Your Employees in the Growth Zone

Growth ZoneRegardless how they obtain the skills they need for the job, employees worth their paycheck have the desire to get better at what they do. They want to acquire and develop new skills, talents, and abilities that will help them increase their value to their present employers and other prospective employers.

To ignore your employees’ need for continual skills development is akin to ignoring your garden’s need for frequent watering; the seeds you’ve planted are not going to grow, and your existing flowers are going to wilt.

It’s simple really. You want them to grow, and they want to grow. So let’s focus attention on a five-step how-to formula to ensure your employees remain in the growth and retention zone, which leads to long-time on-fire performance.

1. Agree on a growth agenda. One reason couples often cite for a failed marriage is that the husband and wife discovered over time that they each wanted different things that couldn’t both exist in a shared life. No matter how much they love each other, if one or the other is not getting what they really want, their future together is tenuous. The employment relationship works the same way—both parties have to be moving in the same direction. This sort of mutuality requires both parties to meet at the onset of the hire, as well as periodically discuss, agree to, and map out each of their future ambitions.

2. Establish the timetable. Just as both parties need to agree on what new skills and abilities the employee is going to be learning, they also need to establish and agree upon the time frame. Without a timetable in place, one or both parties are going to eventually disengage. Effectively applied, it sounds something like this: “Here’s where you are now. To get where you say you’d like to be, you’re going to need to acquire certifications A and B and gain experience doing C. This process typically takes three years, but we can cut some of that time off if you enroll in the classes for certification A next month.”

3. Individualize the learning methodology. As a former high school teacher, I can attest to the importance of figuring out how each student learns best. Hand some people a textbook and they’ve got it, while others require a lesson and Q&A. Others need a visual demonstration or a lab to grasp the concepts. Knowing how each employee learns and designing the learning agenda around what works best for them are the keys to ensuring that they stay on course.

4. Celebrate milestones and success. Many of us can recall when our parents charted our height on a doorway. They’d mark our height, and when we stepped back we could see how much taller we had grown since the last time they measured us.  Then if you had a father like mine, you were told that you’d grow even faster if you ate your vegetables and went to bed on time. Again, the same principles are at work here. It’s important to chart the growth progress of each employee and let them recognize how much they’re learning, how much experience they’re gaining, and how much more valued they are becoming to you in the process. The more significant the milestone (e.g., degrees earned or newly acquired certifications), the larger the celebration should be (e.g., office celebration with cake, article of congratulations in the company grapevine, or taking the employee and his or her spouse out for dinner).

5. Rinse and repeat. The old adage “You’re either green and growing or you’re ripe and rotten” is one that’s very much at play in your culture. Every employee, from your receptionist to your EVP, needs to be on a growth trajectory—and they need to understand and agree on that growth trajectory. Once they get where they want to be, they’re going to see a new future for themselves off in the horizon. That’s a good thing for them and for your organization.

Excerpted from “On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in Their People Without Burning Them Out” releasing nationwide Oct. 20th, 2015 

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Money Can Buy Happiness, but Pride Is Not for Sale

Imagine that you are walking alone across a vacant parking lot on a breezy day, when out of the corner of your eye you notice a crumpled-up bill blowing at your feet. You immediately step on it to keep it from escaping, and then reach down to discover that it’s a $100 bill. No one is within five hundred yards of you, and the wind is swirling leaves and other bits of paper around as far as you can see. You couldn’t find the rightful owner if your life depended on it. The bill is yours to keep.

Drawing only on your emotions as they unfold at that particular moment, answer this very simple question: Are you happy?

Of course you are. Unless you’re allergic to large bills, your response is an enthusiastic “yes!”

So here’s the follow-up question pertaining solely to this $100 cash windfall moment: Are you feeling proud?

Unless you’re overthinking this, you’re probably shaking your head or thinking, “No, not really.” You’re happy about your new riches, but you’re not particularly proud. You didn’t do anything to earn this free money other than burn a calorie or two bending down to pick it up. In this scenario, there was no goal, no effort, no sacrifice, no accomplishment . . . nothing to be proud of.proud

You see, while money, wealth, and possessions can make you happy, they won’t make your chest swell with pride if they’ve blown into your life without achievement. And even though money can buy temporary happiness, it can’t buy the pride of a job well done. And that is the priceless feeling all of us want more than anything. It doesn’t matter how deep an individual’s pockets are, pride can’t be bought, sold, or given away. It has to be earned.

The reason so many billionaires (e.g. Gates, Branson, Buffett, Zuckerburg, etc.) continue to work hard every day is because they are motivated by something much more powerful than money or wealth. They are driven by pride; a burning desire to achieve more, to accomplish more, and to make an even larger contribution.

ACTION IDEA: Build into each weekly meeting a block of time where you randomly call on employees to describe a recent work-related activity or accomplishment that they are proud of. Done consistently over time, your culture will gradually evolve to one where people are encouraging each other to improve and to perform at a higher level.

ON POINT: When we allow our kids, or our students, or our employees to separate effort from reward, we may tell ourselves that we are doing them a favor. In reality, however, we are depriving them of what they need the most and impeding their success in the process.

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Try This Handy Dandy 5-Step Formula to Resolve Conflict with Your Employees

When rules are broken in situFightations that don’t call for immediate termination, gain your composure and think “Open The Front Door Now.” This is the acronym for a simple formula that helps you address—and correct—many of the annoying small issues and problematic behaviors of your employees. Treating these problems according to the OTFDN formula will get them back on your team.

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10 Ways to Encourage Employees to Take Ownership in Their Work

yellow boots on the roadEvery employee who works for you will eventually arrive at a crucial intersection, if they haven’t already.

At that point, you hope they turn right and buy-in to your leadership and the vision and values of your company. Turning that direction means that they see a future for themselves with your organization so they’ll invest themselves fully and go all-in.

Unfortunately, some will turn left and quit on you without actually quitting. They’ll take on the ‘me against the machine’ mindset and begin looking for shortcuts and ways they can do just the MDR (Minimum Daily Requirement) that it takes to fly below the radar and avoid getting called out or fired.

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