Wisdom Workforce

As Boomers start retiring in large numbers, the supply of labor will inexorably dwindle, causing organizations to have difficulty finding and retaining good workers.

One untapped resource for good workers is the retired workers themselves, which I call the “wisdom workforce”. Many employers are hesitant to consider hiring people who are over 50. They believe the stereotypes: “burned out, resistant to new technologies, absent due to illness, poor at working with younger supervisors, reluctant to travel, less creative, less productive, mentally slower, and more expensive to employ.”

Reality is just the opposite. Peter Cappelli, a management professor at Wharton and co-author of a book Managing the Older Worker, says that older workers outperform younger ones, delivering superior performance.

In truth, many retirees would like to remain working, although perhaps as less than full time. They need the intellectual challenge and social interaction. Additionally, many need to do so because of their financial condition. If they were working, this would considerably lower the requirement for government assistance and social services.

In addition to facing a labor shortage, organizations are losing decades of wisdom and experience with each person that retires. Enthusiasm and innovative thinking of younger workers are absolutely essential, but so are wisdom and experience. Organizations benefit by integrating both.

My idea is that an organization would intentionally employ wisdom workers – their life experience helps them stay grounded and keep others around them grounded, leading to better and more consistent performance. An organization could intentionally design jobs to use the strengths of the wisdom workers, while accommodating any limitations such workers might have.

What do you think? Are retired, or semi-retired, people a valuable untapped resource? Would organizations and society benefit by enabling them to continue to work? If so, how can organizations utilize their talents and experience to the organizations’ advantage?

Gary Langenwalter

Selling = Listening

Yes, effective selling does equal effective listening. So, then it’s safe to assume that a customer will not buy a product or service that they do not need. But how often are we not really listening to prospect or a customer, making a big assumption about what we “think” they need. Old school selling was based on assumptions and the latest selling techniques and strategies for getting customers or prospects to think they needed something, when they really did not. New school selling is truly listening to our customers and understanding what they “actually” need. We are all sales people to one degree or another. Even when we’re embedded in operations, accounting or some other functional areas. Often we are selling our own ideas for product or process improvements to management. So, true listening is a skill that all of us need. Most of us have had many years of learning how to read and write, and to speak. But the irony is that we are not taught how to listen. Whether it was in school or in business.

So, what is effective listening? How do we know that we are understanding what the other person is saying or thinking? Effective listening shows respect for the other person and that you truly listening to what they are saying. You’re not offering any judgments or opinions, or jumping in with your own perspectives. You are ensuring that the person has completed their thought. Effective listening begins with focusing on what others’ are saying and demonstrate to the other person through body language and asking relevant questions. Increased rapport and trust will occur since the other person senses that you are really listening to them. They might seem more positive or happy as they continue talking to you.

Why is effective listening challenging? Because most people are more focused on what they’d like to say and how are intending to respond, rather than on what they are actually hearing. Effective listening will take time to practice where you become more fluent. Several studies have shown that we are distracted or forgetful 75% of the time when we should be listening. Right after after we listen to someone, we only recall about 50% of what is said. And then long-term memory, shows we only remember about 20% of what we hear. Not very much is it? Our goal is to drastically increase that percentage of understanding.

How do we perform effective listening (so we will be more effective at selling)?

1. Clear your mind of all current distractions. Even assumptions and observations about the other person.

2. Listen with your eyes and ears. Many people smile with their eyes. Do you? Lean forward with your body.

3. Place your entire focus on the speaker.

a. Listen to their words, both what is said and how it is said. Notice their body language. Distractions will float into your conscience; and you need to let them go. Minimize distractions by continuously refocusing your attention on the speaker.

4. Once the speaker has completed their thought. Ask them if they’re done with that thought.

5. Once the speaker has finished, then ask questions.

a. If you ask questions throughout their speaking, it interrupts their train of thought. Ask clarifying questions (from the speaker’s perspective), not probing questions (from your own perspective).

6. Repeat the understanding that you have. Empathize with the speaker and how they may have felt.

7. Ask what seems the most challenging. Or ask what would be the most helpful. What has worked in the past? Where could they now use help?

8. Offer possible ideas or strategies. Ask them what they think?

9. Try adapting your ideas with theirs. Definitely a “win/win”.

PLEASE NOTE: And please know that you will not master the art of listening overnight. It will take time and much practice to develop your listening muscles.

Dueling at Dawn: Having Difficult Conversations Successfully!

Do you put off dueling at dawn? Me too! Are you putting off a conversation you need to have with an employee, your manager or a teammate? Do you hate hurting others’ feelings? Are you tired of the same old performance issues occurring over and over? Having a difficult conversation doesn’t really need to be difficult. What can make it more difficult is thinking that it will have an unexpected, emotional outcome or possibly make it worse. So, here are four simple steps for you to successfully have those difficult conversations.

Four Simple Steps:

Firstly, practice, practice, practice! Practice the conversation with a friend until what is said and how it is said comes across effectively. A successful outcome will depend on two things: how you are and what you say. How you are (centered, supportive, curious and problem-solving) will greatly influence what you say (the actual language) and how you say it (emotion, tone and body language). Practice the conversation with a friend until what is said and how it is said comes across effectively.

Step #1: Inquiry – Begin the conversation with an attitude of inquiry. Don’t bring in any assumptions. Just ask good questions. Initially, check in with the person…asking them about their family or interests. Then you can continue with specific questions around their understanding of certain situation. Let them do all the talking. Do not take anything that is said personally. Don’t interrupt. Observe their body language. Acknowledge what is being said. Learn as much as possible about the person, their point of view and specific details.

Step #2: Acknowledge – Acknowledge by showing that you’ve heard and understood the person. Paraphrase back to the person your understanding of their point of view and their possible goals and intentions. Even acknowledge your own emotions, such as being defensive or angry. For example, in an argument with a teammate, I said: “I notice I’m becoming defensive, and I think it’s because you were becoming emotional. I just want to stay focused on this topic. I’m not trying to persuade you in either direction.” The acknowledgment helped both of us to re-group. You may state “this sounds really important to you,” which doesn’t mean I’m going agree with your decision.

Step #3: Support – When it seems like the other person has expressed all their information and energy on the topic, it’s now your turn. To make sure their finished ask, “do you have anything more to add.” What can you see from your perspective that they’ve missed? Help clarify your position without minimizing theirs. For example: “From what I’ve heard, I can see how you came to the conclusion that I’m not an effective project manager.” When I’m discussing issues with a project team, I’m thinking about its long-term success. I don’t mean to be a critic, though perhaps I sound like one. Perhaps we can have a conversation around how to provide feedback to each other, so that we can both meet our needs?

Step #4: Build Solutions – Now you’re ready to begin problem solving and building solutions. Brainstorming and continued inquiry are useful here. Build on potential solutions that both of you find mutually agreeable. Seeking the other’s perspective will help them engage more effectively. If the conversation becomes emotional or confrontive, go back to inquiry. If you’ve done well with steps 1- 3, then building solutions should go smoothly.

Now, go find your first guinea pig!


Greg Sievers

Can You Hear Me Now? Authentic Listening

All of us battle distractions during our hectic days and often do not take the time to truly listen to one another. Whether it’s business meetings or family conversations we do not become “present” to the other person. These distractions cost us in ways we are not always aware of. If you would like to improve your listening by quieting the mind and the listening with your heart, we can help, either with one on one coaching or in a workshop setting.

Empathy is the #1 Leadership effectiveness trait!

Empathy & Leadership Effectiveness (excerpt)

What are leaders good at? What makes them the most effective?
· Business aptitude 1. Empathy
· Responsibility 2. Trustworthiness
· Clarity 3. Business aptitude
· Internal attunement 4. Depth

Excerpt from a study of 8,000 respondents rating 1,405 leaders in 47 countries. Blessing White, 2009.

How does empathy translate into competitive advantage?

It’s been said that employees join companies, but leave managers. To realize an organization’s full potential, leaders need to understand the power they possess to affect their employees’ level of happiness and engagement. Empathy is the catalyst for building positive workplaces and moving employees up the engagement ladder because it meets a primary human need: to be valued and recognized as an individual. The greater your employees’ engagement, the greater their loyalty and productivity and the greater your competitive edge.

I attended a very insightful Emotional Intelligence workshop recently conducted by Susan Zabriskie. She did an outstanding job with the content, exercises and facilitation! The role play Susan & I did is permanently etched in to my memory. The first part of the exercise with non-empathetic listening (interruption, dismissed, sharing her story, etc.). The second part, was true empathetic listening as shown by her true caring & genuine interest (acknowledging my feelings, my story & truly being present). Now, I am much more aware of how I might not be as empathetic as I thought I was.

Best Regards,


Greg Sievers, PMP, CPC

C 503-833-2016

The Greatest Gift You Can Give

Children crave attention. A 4 year old will demand, “Daddy, Daddy, look at me! Mommy, Mommy, look at me!” Unfortunately, parents are not always able to pay attention when the child demands it; other items might take higher priority. When a child doesn’t get attention by being good, he or she might do something naughty. Any attention (even negative attention) is better than being ignored.

So what does this have to do with our organizations?

People crave to be seen. People need genuine recognition for who they are. Old or young, male or female, boomer or gen X or millenial – doesn’t matter. We are each wired to want to be recognized, to be seen.

Thus, the biggest gift you can give someone is to see them. You can see them for how they want to be seen, and/or for the potential and creativity and capability that you see in them. Even better, this is free. It costs the organization exactly zero dollars.

Best of all, you can ask others give you that gift as well.

This is the original win/win.

We’re all on a journey – so let’s support and celebrate our fellow travelers. And let’s be gentle and generous and give them the gift of being seen for who they really are and who they can be – courageous persons who are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. That’s what makes great teams great.

What do you think? Do you agree/disagree? Let me know. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.