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Sunday, 13 September 2015 20:53

Q&A: Barbara Rapaport, President, Real-Time Perspectives Inc.

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Barbara Rapaport Barbara Rapaport COURTESY PHOTO

After an initial career in health care and as an executive manager and leadership coach at Steelcase Inc., Barbara Rapaport decided to start an organization of her own. A decade ago, Rapaport founded Real-Time Perspectives Inc. as a business leadership consultancy in West Michigan. Since then, she’s grown the business to include 85 clients in 16 different countries. Now, Rapaport is launching a new program, Next-Gen Leadership Coaching, which encourages millennials first to understand themselves, how to collaborate with others who may hold different views, how to make their own views heard, and ultimately how to coach other people. Rapaport will hold a 10th anniversary event at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 at the City Flats event space on 83 Monroe Center NW in Grand Rapids. She spoke with MiBiz about the talents the millennial generation brings to the workforce and how employers can better prepare the generation for future leadership roles.

What’s novel about your approach to leadership development for millennials?

Over this 10-year time frame of my practice, one of my important frameworks with how to work with adults is to understand that how they think really impacts what they do. I think my approach is a wonderful intersection of not just learning a behavior or a skill, (but) it also encompasses what in your thinking and belief system might actually be getting in the way of you doing that skill effectively.

A lot of people like to point out the flaws of the millennial generation: They’re lazy, selfish and live in their parents’ basements. What positive attributes do they bring to the workforce?

I think they get an unfair rap, I really do. Some of the things that people see in the millennial generation are no different than any generation, looking at the previous generation or two throughout history. … I think what really sets them apart is not just that they’re different fundamentally in their human values, but they’ve had this amazing — almost from birth — access to information to anything, anytime, anywhere. They bring a phenomenal capacity for curiosity for learning.

What about their shortcomings as a generation?

Their communication is very quick and encrypted because of the use of texting, Instagram and all of these sound-byte-type of technologies. I think that they have not necessarily been given an understanding to see that those tools actually get in the way of going deeper.

How can employers prepare their operations to help incoming millennials succeed in the workforce?

I’ve seen this repeated over and over and certainly have watched it unfold in my practice: Millennials constantly want to learn and develop. By providing consistent, on-going and frequent development opportunities, you can’t go wrong because the millennials will swarm around those.

Do employers readily offer these kinds of training opportunities?

Sometimes, (employers) think they’ll get an answer they can’t support and so they hesitate asking (what training millennials need). I think therein lies the potential challenge and difficulty. There are lots of ways to make these things work, and if anything, millennials are very creative. If you say we can’t accommodate you with X, millennials might come back and say, ‘Well, will Y work?’ If you don’t have the dialogue, you’ll lose them because those who are really skilled and active in their career journey keep finding places that are more acclimated to the work they want to have.

With baby boomers retiring in droves and without enough Gen-Xers to fill the vacant leadership positions, how can employers and institutions prepare millennials for executive-level roles?

I don’t think, frankly, that there is a lot of magic to it. One thing that happens is we talk so often about the differences in generations that we forget how common they are. Maybe one of the best things for all of us is to just be good people developers and stop worrying so much about how old people are.

A lot of manufacturing companies have cited challenges with recruiting millennials because their operations may not be as attractive as the Googles and Facebooks of the world. How do those companies become more attractive to millennials?

Millennials are really looking for the stuff that you can see in the space of a Google or a Facebook, (but) what they’re much more interested in at the end of the day is that the environment allows for creativity, unleashing a passion and meaningful work. … I think millennials will fit with a card table and a fold-up chair if that was the environment they wanted to be in.

What are some of the legitimate headwinds facing this generation?

Basically the research is telling us that this is probably the first generation that will not necessarily live a better life than their parents. And it’s very startling for parents who were able to uplift themselves and have increased educational opportunities and better economic resources. This is really challenging and difficult and there is some grief and mourning and loss over what might never be. But they’re also not a generation that walks around with a brick on their head. They’re optimistic. People in that generation have a sort of resilience.

Interview conducted and condensed by John Wiegand. Courtesy photo.

Read 1434 times Last modified on Monday, 28 September 2015 11:02

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