One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
As we head into the holiday season, many of us will be spending quality time with family and friends. This is a chance to give the unforgettable gift of making those around us feel seen, heard, valued, and appreciated. Especially as we engage the young people in our lives, there is an opportunity to connect in ways that encourage them to persevere through struggles, anxieties, or disappointments. Many of them may just need to know that our family, our friendship, or our community is a place where they belong. Some may be feeling uncertain or scared and need encouragement to pursue a new opportunity or try something that feels daunting. I have found that sometimes even a short 10–15-minute conversation where someone feels heard and has a chance to process what they are thinking, can result in the encouragement and insight they need to take an important step.
The good news is that to have this type of impact, we do not need to possess extraordinary knowledge, experience, or expertise. We simply need to engage those around us with empathy, taking time to ask good questions, listen, and provide specific encouragement. However, this can be difficult because it can require intentionality and sacrifice.
Today, with the constant noise and distractions of social media, news feeds, podcasts, music and notifications, we often give things our partial attention. This can become a habit that inhibits our ability to listen fully to those with whom we are interacting.
Active listening requires sacrificing our desire to share our own thoughts and experiences, and discipline to ignore distractions and fully focus on the person in front of us. Here are a few other elements of active listening:
• Ask good, open-ended questions.
• Focus your attention on the speaker. Make eye contact.
• Consider body language, facial expressions, tone, and emotions.
• Do not interrupt or assume a conclusion before the speaker has finished.
• Do not think about what you are going to say next.
• Listen to what they are saying and react without judgment.
• Reflect what you are hearing and ask clarifying questions.
• Provide specific encouragement and affirmation.
Listening requires a lot of self-control as we prioritize the other person, their experience and feelings, and manage our own responses and reactions. However, the value of listening is significant. Businessman Nido Qubein offers a good reminder as we engage others this holiday season: “Listen twice as much as you talk, and others will hear twice as much of what you say.”
The demographics of the workplace are changing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that by 2031, Millennials and Gen Z will make up three fourths of the labor force in America, with Millennials currently the largest generational block in the workplace. As young employees begin their careers and new generations step into management and leadership roles, it is important to understand how to engage and motivate individuals across generations.
Today, younger employees are more likely to want to interact with colleagues and leaders, to engage in discussion around important topics, and have permission to ask questions. Employees want to know they have a voice, that they belong and are valued in their organization.
While fair compensation is important to all generations, younger employees are also motivated by their emotional needs being considered. Authentic relationships are important, as is understanding how different individual roles contribute to a greater purpose.
Consider the following as you look to motivate different generations on your team:
Younger generations are growing up with unprecedented access to news, images, and information often portraying traumatic experiences and situations. In addition, they are connected 24/7 to friends and family members who may be struggling with trauma, mental health issues, or other concerns. The result is that many Gen Zers, in addition to experiencing trauma in their own lives, are coping with vicarious trauma.
Vicarious or secondary trauma occurs when exposed to someone else's trauma--trauma you have not experienced yourself, but learned about from other people or sources. In the past, vicarious trauma was especially notable in professionals working in the medical field, counseling, social work, emergency services and similar fields. Today, however, the constant exposure to information can result in an increased risk of vicarious trauma for anyone, especially for young people who are still developing their understanding of the world, self awareness, and self management skills.
On this month's episode of The Leading Tomorrow podcast, I am joined by James LaLonde to discuss how we can help protect young people, and support them when they are experiencing the effects of vicarious trauma. Some of the strategies discussed include:
The oldest members of Gen Z (b. 1996-2010) are now young adults and many are looking for or starting new jobs. This is a generation that has carried smartphones in their back pocket since adolescence and they entered adulthood amid a pandemic. As a result, their expectations as they begin working with a team are often very different than previous generations. Organizations and leaders that want to equip and retain young team members benefit from understanding and responding to their expectations and supporting their needs. Dorsey and Villa's book, Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business—and What to Do About It, offers some helpful insights on Gen Z in the workplace.
Here are a few quick ideas to consider as you onboard young team members:
Check on this month’s episode of The Leading Tomorrow podcast for more on effective ways to onboard new Gen Z team members.
As we seek to engage Gen Z, the most diverse and global generation in history, we must continue to grow as multicultural leaders and organizations. I recently read a research study by international church planter, Mark McKinstry, that provided some powerful encouragement on multicultural leadership from the Bible. The following is an excerpt from Mark’s Thesis on how the leaders and church at Antioch modeled multicultural leadership:
Musvosvi (2010) wrote, “The church at Antioch was as close to being a model as one gets in its ability to understand and constructively deal with multi-ethnic situations” (p. 48). If this is the case, what did the leadership and membership look like?
Some of our best clues are found in the words of the Bible. Luke, the author of Acts, describes the leadership team of the Church of Antioch, “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul” (Acts 13:1). Based on this, we know the Antioch Church leadership team was formed out of a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-class group of people.
Barclay (1957) explains the diverse team further,
Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus; Lucius from Cyrene in North Africa; Simeon was also a Jew but his
other name Niger is given and, since this is a Roman name, it shows that he must have moved in Roman
circles; Manaen was a man with aristocratic connections, and Paul himself a Jew from Tarsus of Cilicia
and a trained rabbi. (p. 115)
Regarding the leadership team, Steel (2018) commented,
Paul and Barnabas were both Jewish but had been raised outside Palestine. Both were fluent in Jewish
language and customs, but they also spoke Aramaic and Greek. Then there’s Manaen, a man who grew
up with incredible opportunity and education within the household of Herod Antipas. Next there’s Lucius
of Cyrene, from North Africa, who may have been one of the initial evangelists who arrived amid
persecution and began \ reaching out to Greeks. And last but not least was Simon called Niger, who
was most likely a black African. (para. 12)
The unity of this diverse leadership team became a powerful symbol to the membership of the church and to the city where they lived (Steel, 2018). Additionally, the membership of the Church of Antioch was a reflection of the leadership team. The members were made up of multiple cultures, language groups, ethnicities, and social classes.
When I interviewed Mark on my podcast, I asked him what lessons leaders today can take from the life of Barnabas, one of the key leaders on the multicultural team in Antioch. He encouraged:
Good questions for each of us to ask ourselves include, “How am I actively engaging those who are different than me or who disagree with me?” “How can I embrace the discomfort and learning that can come with diversity?” “How am I developing and encouraging a multicultural team around me?”
Barclay, W. (1957). The letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians. Westminster John Knox Press.
Musvosvi, J. (2010). Race, ethnicity, and tribal conflicts. Journal of Adventist Mission Studies,6(1), Article 5.
Steel, D. (2018, July 25). What the diverse Church in Antioch can teach us today. Retrieved from
In the midst of what many are calling the "Great Resignation," record numbers of employees are leaving their jobs. In November 2021 alone, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs. While there are a number of reasons for this trend, there are some steps leaders and managers can take to create a work environment that young adults find difficult to leave:
I am often asked how to remain motivated in leading young adults when they often leave an organization despite our best efforts. With this generation, we need to see every engagement as an investment into the future. Even if a young person moves on to another team or organization, they will take memories and lessons (good or bad) with them. May our legacy in the lives of the young people we work with be one of empowerment, wisdom, and encouragement.
Despite many schools and work activities being back in person, virtual classes, training, and work meetings continue to be a significant part of our daily interactions, and will likely continue indefinitely. As a result, we must constantly hone our virtual interaction skills. Her are four of my favorite tips for communicating and building relationships in virtual contexts.
-Tip 1: “Push” Important Info to Students/Team Members
We live in a world where notifications and reminders help us focus on what is important amid the onslaught of information we encounter. As a result, we need to “push” important information to students and colleagues. Extra reminders to team members on upcoming meetings or tasks can be helpful. Students may need support as they navigate online learning. I do this by posting and emailing weekly updates, highlighting what is important in each module. During the first couple of weeks of class, or when there is a new type of assignment or activity, I post/send a special reminder or explanation, even though all this info is also clearly posted online. Students benefit from knowing what to focus on, understanding how to manage their time, and getting information that minimizes mistakes or confusion.
-Tip 2: Be Present/Engaged
In the online context, students and employees cannot “see” us the way they do in a classroom or office, so we need to be intentional to show we are present and engaged. We can do this by contributing to discussion on forums, liking or responding to comments, and making specific comments unique to each student or participant when responding. I also try to reference student comments or insights when giving video lectures or facilitating discussions to show I am paying attention to what they are saying and doing.
-Tip 3: Be Personable/Authentic
Being personable online requires us to really express our personality. Including some videos and facilitating live discussions helps convey our teaching style. I always host a virtual orientation the first week of class so we can see facial expressions and hear voices. We can let our personality shine through in videos, posts, and comments by sharing personal fun facts and stories or using emojis. Also, responding to employee or student needs and requests for help with empathy goes a long way toward building rapport.
-Tip 4: Connect Individually
Learn specifics about each student or team member, reference these, share resources they might find interesting given their interests, etc. I create an introduction forum and ask everyone to post a short bio during the first week of my courses. This helps me learn and remember names and backgrounds. Responding promptly to questions and creating times or opportunities for appointments if students or staff need to connect via phone or video chat communicates you are available to help them.
Almost two decades ago, futurist and inventor, Ray Kurzwelli stated, "We're entering an age of acceleration. Because of the explosive power of exponential growth, the 21st century will be equivalent to 20,000 years of progress at today's rate of progress; organizations have to be able to redefine themselves at a faster and faster pace."
As we look at the world around us today, we can see evidence of rapid change. Change in technology, society, and generations requires leaders and organizations to adapt and innovate. This month, I had the honor of sitting down and chatting about innovation with Jacob Hancock, Executive Director at Seeds Global Innovation Lab. To hear our full discussion, check out this month's episode of The Leading Tomorrow Podcast. Jacob gave the following definition of innovation: "proactively generating and executing new ideas that create value." He went on to explain, "If we solve for challenges in the future, we are so much more prepared than if we remain in a reactive posture."
One of the challenges of innovation is the fact that it requires some tolerance of failure as we seek to learn what will work in a new context. William Pollard indicated why being willing to learn is so critical: "Learning and innovation go hand-in-hand. The arrogance of success is believing what you did yesterday will be sufficient tomorrow."
As we consider engaging, equipping, and encouraging a new generation of young leaders, we must be willing to innovate and model what courageous learning and growth look like in a complex and rapidly changing world. Below I have listed some great resources on innovation, growth and design thinking! I encourage you to add one or two to your reading list for 2022!
Resources on Creativity, Innovation & Growth:
Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Kelley & Kelley
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Catmull & Wallace
Innovation by Design: How Any Organization Can Leverage Design Thinking to Produce Change, Drive New Ideas, and Deliver Meaningful Solutions by Lockwood & Papke
Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Kit for Managers by Liedtka & Ogilvie
101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization by Vijay Kumar
“Sharenting” is a term that describes sharing about kids or young people online. “Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk About Our Kids Online,” is a new book by Leah Plunkett. Plunkett argued that “sharenting” happens any time an adult in charge of a child’s well-being, such as a parent, grandparent, teacher or coach, transmits private details about a child via digital channels such as social media. Some of these activities clearly involve a public share, such as posting pictures of your child on Instagram, or blogging about your kids. Others seem to happen in private, but often end up turning your child into a set of data points, via fertility apps or Amazon wish lists, the use of a Nest cam, or photos stored on a cloud server. Though these platforms and devices aren’t necessarily exploitative, Plunkett argues that they involve adult decisions that accelerate a child’s entry into “digital life.”
A struggle for many of us is that we want to share about our kids for family and friends; cute kids are a positive feature on social media as compared to some other types of posts; they get likes and comments which make us feel good; and social media is now part of the world we live in. So, is concern over too much “sharenting” warranted?
Tim Elmore shares a story on his blog that illustrates one of the potential dangers of too much “sharenting:”
It all started when April, Christine’s youngest daughter, was five years old. Christine knew April would be their family’s last baby and wanted to document each milestone and comical moment of her childhood. By the time she was ten, April was avoiding photo ops; shying away from the camera. By 13, when she had a phone of her own, April witnessed on social media just how much mom had posted on both Facebook and Instagram. She felt violated.
Eventually, as a teen, April requested her mom stop sharing photos of her. It was embarrassing and drew sarcasm from her friends.
In my relationship with my own kids, I have seen the shyness or embarrassment on occasion that result when they realize I have shared something about them. It has made me realize that no number of likes are worth hurting my relationship with my kids. While kids may not need full agency to dictate what can be shared about them at a young age, we don’t want to violate their trust. It can be difficult finding the balance between honoring and celebrating or sharing, and jeopardizing trust.
Another real factor is privacy and security. The BBC reported on a study by Barclays bank estimating that by 2030 nearly two-thirds of identity-fraud cases affecting today’s children will have resulted from sharenting. The bank warned that parents might be "lulled into a false sense of security" and fail to understand that they are making their children "fraud targets" in the future, by publishing so much personal information which will remain online forever.
Tim Elmore shares some practical guidelines to consider as we share about our kids, grandkids, or other young people online:
The following is a guest article, written by Ariana Chaparro. Ariana is a recent high school graduate and is now taking a gap year before college to explore different career paths and interests.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was going through a challenging situation. I knew about some of her struggles and wanted to share my thoughts and advice, but I was worried she wouldn't listen or would think I was judging her and turn me away. I truly cared about her and needed to find a way for her to see that. I knew she would only listen to me if she knew I was genuinely listening to her.
Sometimes we're too quick to give our opinion, share our advice, or shut others down because we think they're wrong. Yes, sometimes the other person is wrong, or they do need our guidance, but there's a time and place for that. There are situations where we need to say something immediately, but other times we just need to listen, empathize, and try to understand where the other person is coming from.
As time went on, my friend started to open up to me, and for a while I just listened. There were definitely moments I wanted to cut in and share my thoughts, but I waited. I learned that she did not need me to tell her the same advice that everyone was already giving her and opinions that others were already throwing at her. She needed someone to listen and honestly care about how she was feeling. She needed somebody to encourage her when no one else would. Eventually, she opened the door for my thoughts and advice, and she listened! She considered what I had to say because she knew I had the whole picture in mind, not just an outside view.
Maybe you know someone going through a tough situation. Perhaps you have a friend who is living a lifestyle you think is wrong. Maybe you have a child who doesn't listen to what you say or fights back when you try to help.
Take a step back. Look at the bigger picture. If you can’t see the whole situation or understand their point of view, ask them to show you. We cannot expect to reach someone when we don't really know where they are. It may take a while. It might be hard for others to open up because of things we've said before or past experiences with broken trust. There's a time and place for everything. Sometimes it's not the time or the place for us to speak, but to just listen.
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!