Over the years, thousands of seminars have been held on goal setting tips. Most of us recognize how important having a goal is—it’s why we set New Year's resolutions, or make diet and exercise plans. We need a target to hit. We need a destination to reach. [caption id="attachment_5677" align="aligncenter" width="569"]goal-setting-tips photo credit: angietorres via photopin cc[/caption] But do you realize how few of us really use these goals we set? Most people make a list of goals, then leave it somewhere to rot. We go back to wandering; to playing “defense” with our calendars instead of offense. It’s why we reach the end of the year to discover much of that New Year's resolution never materialized. We abandoned it by February. The reason for this, I believe, is we haven’t set SMART goals. This is an age-old tip, but one I need to be reminded of often.

One of the crying needs of our day is young leader development to equip our youth to lead the way into the future.  Certainly we must teach them to be followers first—but there is a great need for leadership development as they graduate and enter their careers. So what is at the root of true young leader development? It is the shift of responsibility. From one generation to the next. Taking place over time. I believe training doesn’t really take effect until there is a transfer of responsibility (click to tweet). We can teach all day, show videos, play instructive games and do assessments, but until we actually give them responsibility—we have not really built a leader. [caption id="attachment_5669" align="aligncenter" width="570"]young leader development photo credit: Sam Beebe, Ecotrust via photo pin cc[/caption]

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been privileged to be interviewed on CNN's HLN News Now program twice to talk about Generation iY, and the impact technology has on our kids. As smartphones, tablets, social media and other digital strategies reshape the way we educate our students and do our jobs, scientists and psychologists are beginning to question what our dependence on technology is doing to our minds. [caption id="attachment_5642" align="aligncenter" width="570"]technology photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photo pin cc[/caption]

We’ve all been conditioned to be pragmatic. Whatever gets us to our goal is what we want. Whatever saves time. Whatever scratches the itch. Whatever works. Leaders are often chosen because they’ve mastered this pragmatism. Whatever is strategic. Whatever produces results. We are goal-oriented and practical. Never mind the ethics or values we’ve compromised. [caption id="attachment_5639" align="aligncenter" width="570"]cheating photo credit: Mr_Stein via photo pin cc[/caption] In our work with schools around the world, we’ve found an intense pragmatism in students, that leads them to cheating on tests, lying to their teachers and betraying the trust of their fellow-students as they work on team-projects. The most recent national surveys of secondary schools students reveal that the majority of teens in America cheat on tests. How could this happen? Students tell us they know that cheating is wrong, but in order to get the grade they need to produce the GPA they need to get the scholarship they need to get into the college they want to attend—they have to cheat.

Healthy relationships sustain us. We need them. The latest AARP poll tells us that the number one reason for people using social media is not business networking, or learning something—it’s keeping in touch with friends and family. Yet, sometimes we, as leaders, must walk away from toxic relationships. Here are the ones I believe leaders must end, with no guilty feelings: [caption id="attachment_5628" align="aligncenter" width="570"]when-to-end-a-relationship photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photo pin cc[/caption]

Now that both the Republican and Democrat national conventions are over, how will the 2012 election look different for Generation Y? America was reminded of some important lessons during the presidential election in 2008. Barak Obama defeated a much more experienced John McCain to become the first black president in American history. It was a milestone for our country. Many of the lessons we learned were from the youngest voters in that election:

  • They wanted a new way to communicate, through web communities.
  • They wanted politics to change—to stop fighting and start collaborating.
  • They wanted a cause to believe in, to invest in, and to hope for.
  • They wanted change—and got it in a young, charming African-American.
[caption id="attachment_5619" align="aligncenter" width="570"]2012-election-generation-y photo credit: jmtimages via photo pin cc[/caption]
I believe there are new lessons in store for us in the 2012 election. We have seen a shift in culture over the last four years; younger members of Generation Y are different than their elders. If I were to sit down and advise a presidential hopeful in the 2012 election, this is what I’d say to win the Gen Y vote in light of this shift: 

Preventing burnout is a serious concern. The number one issue I hear students complaining about on the college campus is burnout. In fact, 94% of university students say the word they use most to describe their life is: overwhelmed. Almost half of them are so overwhelmed “it is almost difficult to function.” And nearly one in ten have considered suicide in the last year. For student leaders—it’s even worse. Students who are R.A.s, campus club leaders, student government officers, Greek leaders and the like suffer from burnout even more than the average student. Because of the high demands of their jobs and because so many must maintain a minimum GPA just to keep their jobs, they can stress out over the multi-tasking. They are students, administrators, role models, teachers and counselors. [caption id="attachment_5613" align="aligncenter" width="570"]preventing-burnout photo credit: Magnus. via photo pin cc[/caption] According to a report by Derrick Paaladino (University of North Texas), Thomas Murray (University of Florida), Rebecca Newgent and Lyle Gohn (University of Arkansas), student leaders experience burnout for three big reasons:

If you’re like me, you want to communicate in a relevant way with students. That means being intentional about how we deliver our message. I’ve found there are two ingredients to connecting with millennials we must employ—that often seem paradoxical:

  1. Positivity – To be hopeful about the future
  2. Authenticity – To be honest about the present
connecting-with-millennialsNearly every generation of youth possesses optimism. Their lack of experience and their sense of invincibility reign as they enter their careers. They have energy and hope. Our key is to remain optimistic in mid-life. Thomas Edison was a brilliant example of a man who chose to remain optimistic even into his later years when most become a bit jaded. He is famous for a statement he made after failing 10,000 times at inventing the light bulb. Edison said, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” At the same time, we need a realistic perspective. Leaders can’t push a “rose-colored glasses” attitude that lives in denial. Authenticity is a must. We must keep it real. This issue will be key for Mitt Romney and Barak Obama in November: who appears to be more honest and genuine? The key lies in the “Stockdale Paradox.”

Last month, I was in front of several faculty groups, as well as groups of athletic coaches, staff, employers and parents. Then—I spoke to various student audiences, as they launched a new school year. May I reveal what the adults frequently said about the kids?

  • “They don’t listen to me.”
  • “I love their confidence but I see little humility.”
  • “They think they know everything.”
  • “They get distracted all the time; they can’t focus.”
May I also share what the students said about their coaches, bosses and teachers?
  • “They are so 'old school.' They don’t understand me.”
  • “I bring my laptop to class but I am on Facebook there.”
  • “I don’t know why they won’t let us talk.”
  • “They are boring and irrelevant.”
Try Something Different So I asked a handful of the students to meet and talk. Nathan explained why there’s a disconnect between students and teachers. He said it wasn’t that he didn’t like his instructors; it was that he didn’t respect them. He felt they didn’t understand his world. The bottom line? Neither audience has gained the respect of the other. The kids feel the adults are irrelevant. The adults feel the kids are inexperienced. Hmm. Maybe they’re both right. Becoming a Leader Young People Will Follow I believe students actually want to follow a leader—but we must display leadership that deserves it. It’s not about our tenure or title, it’s about living a life worth emulating. One that is relevant and prepares them for the future they hope for.

Ten years ago, it was assumed that a college education was a sign that you were going to make something of yourself. Parents would say things like, “My kid is going to college. All smart kids go to college.” Consequently, every teenager evaluated their “worth” and “identity” based on whether they made it into a good university. Today—the tide is going out. [caption id="attachment_5574" align="aligncenter" width="569"]college photo credit: pennstatelive via photo pin cc[/caption]

Last Thursday, our team spent time with 600 student athletes and 250 staff and coaches in Lincoln, at the University of Nebraska. It didn’t surprise me that they were such a receptive group of leaders—their reputation precedes them. They have more elite athletes, ones who excel in academics, athletics and life skills—more than M.I.T, Emery, Harvard, Stanford, you name it.


More and more, it seems college students across America can be divided into one of two camps. Young adults are either “Entrepreneurs” or “Entitled.” May I illustrate this with several hilarious examples? When parents wonder who will clean up after their children, do their laundry or bring them snacks when they go off to college—they can relax. Now students can outsource everything, from grocery shopping to cleaning their clothes. Who does it for them? You guessed it—other more enterprising students. USA Today writer Oliver St. John reports: Joan Ripple and Kirsten Lambert sell biodegradable sheets for students who never find time to wash their bed sheets no matter how gross they get. They’re available on-line for $25 a set. [caption id="attachment_5559" align="aligncenter" width="570"]laundry photo credit: Shuck via photo pin cc[/caption]

There’s a comment I hear high school and college students make on a regular basis. When I ask them about their career goals—often they say something like: “Well, I plan to get a job in the area of my major, then I hope to get a big break and make my first million dollars, then retire when I’m 30.” As I converse with them, I try to help them see three potentially unhealthy assumptions in that statement: [caption id="attachment_5549" align="aligncenter" width="570"]labor-day photo credit: *vlad* via photo pin cc[/caption]