In his latest book, Fiercely Loyal, Dov Baron has struck a chord. With a wonderful array of real examples and relevant research, Baron demonstrates the way we have been managing for years is no longer the recipe for success. This is particularly true if you want to find and keep what you hope are fiercely loyal employees. I was very fortunate to have Baron carve some time out of his day for us to not only chat about his book, but also about his experience living in New Brunswick for a year in the early 80’s. We thank Dov again for this wonderfully engaging and insightful conversation and what lead to a two-part blog series!

Dov Baron
Dov Baron

MacLean: This is a very different take on how leaders need to lead. In fact, it is completely opposite to what most of us have been taught in business schools and by people early in our careers, what made you write this book?

Baron: I have been working with leaders for more than 30 years and helping them take the steps to be great leaders. It’s through this experience and through a global study that I realized that there was a common theme. Leaders around the world had/have an issue – a human capital issue. It takes a lot of effort and focus to find, develop and keep top talent. Why is that? Even when leaders believe that they are treating their people well, top talent doesn’t necessarily stay. It is a real drain on the business.

The fact is things have changed. The way that Baby Boomers behaved and even Generation X is far different from the way that Millennials behave. Expectations have changed. What the two previous generations might have thought as acceptable is no longer acceptable.

The retention strategies used on Baby Boomers and Generation X employees just no longer work on Millennials. Leaders who continue to employ these strategies continue to fail. That is why I wrote this book. I wanted to provide a better way to achieve the goals.

MacLean: So, what is it that is driving the difference for Millennials? As you know many feel that this generation is one that feels entitled. Would you agree?

Baron: I tend to question that logic about entitlement. Let’s look at what the Millennials have experienced – the catalyst for what they now believe.

Not only are they the most connected generation that we have known, but they have also witnessed how their parents were impacted by the economic crash of 2008/2009. For many it was devastating to see their parents lose jobs that they held for 25 or 30 plus years. On top of that, their pensions were gone. They had difficulties finding new employment in their 50’s and sometimes lost their homes. What did Millennials see as a result? There is no guarantee that you will have the same job for your entire career. On top of that, there is no one, including your employer or former employer that is going to take care of you.

It became a real matter of trust. You can’t trust large organizations or the people who run them.

And, not long after this the Occupy Movement emerged. While some may argue that this was a blip on the radar, it had a significant impact on Millennials. Again, they saw an issue around trust, greed and big business doing what it wanted and not for the greater good. All of these things impacted the Millennials. You can’t experience all of this and not expect it to change a generation. Of course they won’t stay in an organization if they don’t feel that they are advancing and doing meaningful work. They know and believe that they need to manage their careers and not leave it to others. They also want to know the people they work with and for. Being connected, their social and business worlds cross over more.

MacLean: Speaking of being connected and wanting to know the people they work with and for, tell us more about how that impacts loyalty and how the C-Suite and leaders that you work with can overcome the desire to not “let them see you sweat”?

Baron: There is no questioning that Baby Boomers and Generation X were raised with that management mantra of “never let them see you sweat” or “don’t let them see the chink in your armour”. However, I am not certain that ever really worked. When you think about the workplace and the relationships you have, it comes down to the bonds you form.

When working with leaders I do an exercise to help them understand the power of this and particularly the power of showing vulnerability in building bonds. I will ask leaders to write down the name of their best friend. I will then ask them to write down in bullet point form, why they are best friends. Then I will ask them to write down the name of an acquaintance and again why they are acquaintances.  Then I ask them to identify what are the differences. Without a doubt it comes down to vulnerability.  When you have shared, revealed or experienced something with that best friend, there is a bond. When your best friend knows “stuff” about you and vice versa, there is a bond. The bond is key. 

Let me give you an example. If you went for a job interview and you were told that you had to take a bullet for your boss, you might likely leave, right? And, if I told you that I would only be paying your $72k a year for this job, you probably wouldn’t be that thrilled would you? So, why then do members of the Secret Service do just this? They are willing to give their life to save the life of the President of the United States and they aren’t paid that well? Members of the Secret Service know very intimate details of the President that shows his vulnerability. Above that they have an overwhelming connection to the President, the Office of the President and their country.

The same can be said about Navy Seals. They act as a unit. They do everything together. They know everything about each other and their personal lives. They work together on everything and ensure that the unit is protected.

When working with leadership teams, this is what we are striving for. We are changing a culture.

Be sure to check out Part Two of this series on Wednesday!

Want to learn more about Dov Baron? Click here.  

NOTE: A version of this blog post originally appeared on the Invest NB Blog.