What Matters to Millennials

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Think you know what matters most to Millennial generation employees?

You might need to think again after recent research.

Recently Futurestep, the Recruitment Process Outsourcing arm of Korn Ferry, released a study outlining the current attitudes of Millennials. For the purposes of their study, the company defined Millennials as everyone born after 1980, which includes the as-yet-officially-unnamed next generation into their category.

Below are the highlights of their report. Note that these were the executive’s responses about the Millennials they hired and work with – the Millennials themselves were not interviewed.

What Matters Most to Millennials?

The study sought to nail down the top considerations for attracting and retaining Millennial employees. When asked what matters most to employees born after 1980 the greatest number of respondents said, “the ability to make an impact on the business” (23%) followed closely by “a clear path for advancement” (20%), and “development and ongoing feedback” (16%).

Income came in fourth place at only 13%.

What Influences their Employment Decisions?

When executives were asked what makes Millennials choose one job over another, 38% said, “visibility and buy-in to the vision of the organization,” while 28% said, “a clear path for advancement.”

Job title and pay came in third place at 18%.

How to Recruit Millennials?

The survey revealed that 42% of respondents believe social media is the best tactic for reaching and recruiting Millennials, followed by “word-of-mouth and networking” (28%) and online talent communities (19%).

What do these Results Mean for Employers?

Trish Healy, Futurestep vice president of RPO Operations in North America said, “This research demonstrates the changing priorities of today’s young workforce.”

While previous research determined Millennials value pay over other aspects of employment, this research suggests now Millennials are “placing greater value on understanding what a company stands for and how, as employees, they can play a role in growing the organization into a better, stronger brand.”

Taking this research to heart, ensure you are recruiting on social and mobile platforms. Ensure you are communicating clearly your company’s vision and value. And ensure you are communicating any opportunities available for development and advancement.

With Millennials’ increasingly important contributions to today’s companies, it is worth the effort to keep your finger on the pulse of what is motivating them.

The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. Reach us at the Forte Institute 910-452-5152.


Your Management Style

Every leader has an individual management style that is a blend of their innate personality traits, communication style strengths, work history, and life experience. The question is, do you know yours? And, is it always effective?

Effective leaders know their strengths, and they build a team around them that can compensate for their limitations. They know how to lead from their strengths, without turning a blind eye to their weaknesses.

Here’s six things you can do to ensure that your personal management style will help your company achieve its objectives:

  1. Know your specific management style: Step one is to find out how you are hardwired to lead. What are your strengths? What management style do you default to? An assessment can help you see this objectively in black and white. For instance, you can take the Forte Communication Style Survey to learn both your communication style and your management style.
  2. Know how you’re being perceived: The second step is to discover how you are coming across to those you work with. The adapting portion of the Forte Communication Style Survey also shows you this in black and white. Or you can ask some trusted peers or direct reports for honest feedback. For an even more thorough evaluation, use a 360 leadership assessment to see the full picture.
  3. Understand that your biggest strength can hold you back: It’s common for professionals to figure out what they’re good at and then run with it. In fact, when problems arise, we often pour on more of the same, only stronger. A planning style manager may bog the team down in plans and details, while an influencing manager may talk past the point of helpfulness and slow the team down. Sometimes, less is more – even of strengths. Remember that those around you have different defaults and needs. Your goal is to adapt. So first know your strengths, and then recognize when to throttle them back. 
Forte Adapting updates can help.
  4. Don’t hire in your own likeness: We tend to gravitate towards people who are similar to us. In fact, studies show that managers often rate more highly employees they perceive as “like” them. This birds-of-a-feather phenomena may help you build enjoyable friendships, but always hiring employees with traits like yours will build a lopsided work team. Hire, and then value, a diversity of opinions and strengths, matching each person’s strengths to the role they fill.
  5. Know those you hire: Each person on your team has a way that they like to lead and be led. There are specific ways you can communicate with each of them to best reach them and motivate them. Sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be. Effective leadership is not just about knowing and using your style, but also about adapting your style as needed to best lead the team. Give your team members the Forte Communication Style Profile to learn how to communicate and motivate the individuals around you.
  6. Get a wingman that is opposite of you: One smart thing you can do for your company and your growth as a leader is to build a relationship with a peer who complements rather than mirrors your management style. They can help you see your strengths and your blind spots. They can suggest alternative approaches you might not think of. And they can tell you how you really come across to the world.

To lead at optimum levels you need – chances are – information that you don’t currently have … like how you tend to lead, how each of your employees prefer to be led, and how you are currently coming across to them. The Forte Institute tool suite can easily put that information in your hands.

If you are in senior management, you’ve already seen time and again that people skills are key to effective leadership. Yet strategy and market positioning tend to occupy the thoughts of most C-level leaders. If you will take the extra step of understanding your own leadership style, then use it and also compensate for it, you will not only help your company excel, but your career as well.

For more information on how leadership assessments can help you hone your leadership style, see this article at HR.answers.com or give us a call at the Forte Institute: 910-452-5152.

The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the Communication Studies department. She is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. 

Powerful Protocol

Would you like the ability to keep your team engaged with their work?

Knowing and consistently doing what is needed, expected or desired of you can increase your power as a leader and your team’s engagement on the job.

Here’s some advice from one of our partners Don Brown on developing and following a leader’s protocol.

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Power in Protocol

One can define “protocol” as:

  1. an accepted code of behavior
  2. a prescribed approach for correct conduct or action
  3. a set of conventional principles and expectations.

A living example would be a physician’s protocol. When interacting with patients with compromised immune systems the protocol calls for disinfectant, gloves and masks before any contact with a patient. These actions are universally expected and accepted in preventing or avoiding infection.

What then are the accepted actions, principles and expectations for a leader’s conduct?

Our study of employees from Singapore to Syracuse reveals a triad of expectations. Your followers want three things from leadership: Communication, Feedback and Autonomy. Make these your “Leader’s Protocol.”

Following this protocol is key to preventing disengagement in your team.


Your first consideration when someone knocks on your office door and asks, “Got a minute?” lies in understanding and responding to the communication need that exists in that moment with that person.

Two questions might help you master the communication protocol:

  1. What is the purpose of your communication? There are really only three reasons we communicate; to relate (to establish or maintain association), to influence (to sway or have a desired effect), or to inform (to transfer knowledge or provoke awareness). Try determining or setting the purpose of your communication before you speak.
  2. What style of communication would be most effective? The easiest taxonomy to use is that of extrovert versus introvert. If you’re talking to an introvert, try being a little quieter yourself – a little less talkative. If that person is an extrovert, try to open up just a bit.

The rules of engagement are simple: Understand your purpose, and adapt to their style.


They want to know how they’re doing! They want to know what you think. They want feedback, and they want it from you.

Feedback can take on two forms – process and praise – and they’re both important.

Process – When you’re addressing process, three words are relevant in the moment: quality, quantity and time. Quality means, are they meeting your specification as to how well it needs to be done?

Quantity invokes a number, a metric. Are their numbers made or missed? Also, time as a reflection of performance with respect to deadline. Are they first or last, early or late?

Praise – When offering praise, three words are also relevant: effort, contribution, and growth.  Effort is about energy, intensity, and exertion. Contribution is about either personal output or impact on others. Growth is about discernible improvement.

Try communicating how they’re doing with regards to their effort, contribution or growth.


This last element in a leader’s protocol is autonomy. Look for places to grant it. Followers care about independence. They want responsibility, and the freedom to make decisions (and even mistakes).

Indicators of autonomy weigh heavily on the minds of your team members. They think about it a lot. In response, you should be thinking about ownership and exit.

Ownership – The central question is, should their efforts be self-directed or directed by you? And, what is your own degree of reluctance to let go? Key to making this call is clarity around the nature of the task involved, and the authority to act. Strangely enough, their autonomy is in your hands. Remember that.

Exit – the second consideration in letting go is having a conscious exit strategy to get you out of their work. To do this, understand two concepts: data and delta.

Data has to do with facts, statistics or information used as your basis for decision-making. What data do you need to see to be able to let go? The word “delta” signifies change. Look for changes in their performance that demonstrate a new level of mastery. We can almost always spot growth – but only if we’re looking for it. Let your exit strategy accelerate along the curve of their competence.

There is power in protocol. Let your leadership wisely and consistently provide helpful communication, timely feedback and a generous amount of autonomy. Our challenge in leading in a no-normal world will be adopting – and practicing – this powerful leader’s protocol.


*To better your interpersonal communication and adapt to the extroverts and the introverts on your team, try an Interaction Report. To provide truly robust feedback, try an i360 Report.  To accelerate competence and autonomy, try Performance Coaching.

Don Brown dedicates his career to leadership, sales and service effectiveness. Learn more about Don, his services, and his books at http://www.donbrown.org.


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Pitching Your Ideas


Are you trying to convince your boss to develop a new product or implement your strategies for growth, but can’t get him or her to listen?

Would you like to introduce a new system to your team – one you are certain would bring many benefits – but you can’t get their buy-in?

Do you come into contact with prospective buyers/clients but aren’t sure how to effectively sell to them without coming across as pushy?


No matter where we sit in the company structure, we all share ideas with someone else with the aim of being persuasive and well received. We have a goal, but we need someone else’s receptivity or action to achieve it.

No matter how great our idea, how needed our improvement, or how much of a deal our product is, we must successfully overcome the communication challenge known as “the pitch.”


Facilitating Your “Pitch”

Here are a few guidelines to follow when pitching a product or idea:

  • Get really clear on what you’re offering, and why.  – If you can’t explain it clearly and concisely, odds are they won’t get it. Distill your idea into a singular, “sticky” statement that covers what it is, and what its benefits are.  Use that statement towards the beginning of your pitch.
  • Be conversational. – You want to connect with your audience, so even if you are standing in a boardroom with PowerPoint slides behind you, your pitch should feel more like a conversation than a presentation. Consider telling a story as you explain your idea – stories are memorable and hook into our emotions. 
  • Ask questions. – Interacting with your audience is key to keeping them engaged, and questions involve them in your pitch.  If you meet with someone individually, like a client or your boss, be sure to listen as much as you speak. If you’re presenting to a group, invite questions at key stages during the presentation.  Ask about their initial reaction or hesitations, ask if they’ve had experience with something similar. Make them feel heard. And realize what you hear can help you tailor your pitch on the fly.
  • Focus on helping rather than selling. – Make it your goal to serve your audience. Identify what your audience needs (be that your boss, team or clients) and seek to show them how you or your idea can meet their needs. Don’t assume they have the same needs or goals you have. Don’t assume they have a felt need for what you’re pitching – some needs we feel, others we are blind to. Even if this pitch isn’t green-lighted, if you’re perceived as helpful, you’ll have future opportunities to pitch.
  • Be contagious. – Remember that emotion can be contagious, so let your passion or your conviction shine through as you pitch. Present with energy and humble confidence. If you don’t appear to “feel it,” your audience isn’t likely to either.

If we sincerely seek to be helpful, present a clear and compelling case, and engage the audience and listen to them, our pitch will be much more likely to land on receptive ears. Plus, we’ll open the door to dialogue about our idea – effectively turning our audience into our collaborative partners.



Here’s a terrific video on how to pitch anything in 15 seconds by Carmine Gallon at Forbes.com.

If you’d like to discover how to specifically communicate so that your boss or employees will listen, have your team take the Forte Communication Profile Survey. This can show you each person’s individual preferences for how they like to receive information and make decisions. Call us at 910-452-5152.

Forte Institute member Rachel Olsen is on faculty in the Communication Studies department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. 


Pinpoint a Great Manager

When a person consistently excels in their position – say as a sales rep – it’s a common practice in organizations to assume that person will make a great manager of their team or division.

Most companies have made at least one successful salesperson the sales manager, only to find their effectiveness in the managerial position a surprising disappointment. The skills required for effective sales don’t necessarily mirror the skills needed for effective management.

We see this frequently on the playing field. Sometimes a successful former player makes a good coach. Sometimes they do not. And sometimes a former mediocre player makes a great coach.

It can be helpful for the sales manager to understand the specific demands of this sales team selling this product – which they do when they rise from that team’s ranks. And it certainly helps for the manager to have the trust or respect of the sales force going in. But how do you know if one of your sales professionals can manage the team?

How do you choose a sales manager that can actually manage? 

Frank Cespedes, Senior Lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School (one of Forte’s clients) writes:

To identify salespeople who can become effective sales managers, leaders need to clearly define the specific behaviors required of managers, and then test for them effectively. And this actually isn’t so hard if you use the right framework and assessment techniques, and then use that knowledge and tools to communicate shared expectations with those aspiring to be sales managers.

So the first step is to clearly identify what traits and behaviors are required for successful management of this team.  Forté can help you do that – either by identifying the traits of your other/former top managers, or by getting the input of several key people in key positions and forming a top performer profile.

The next step is to compare that top profile with the profiles of your potential candidates – which Forté can also do for you. Even if you do not have a close match in your talent pool or applicant pool, Forté can help you coach the manager you hire to adapt themselves to display the needed traits and behaviors.

Reality is, to be profitable and competitive in today’s marketplace we cannot simply rely on our gut in promotion or hiring decisions. In fact, interviewing alone rarely results in a slam-dunk hire. Research reveals there’s only about a 14% correlation between a hiring manager’s perception of a candidate’s potential for success, based on an interview, and how the candidate actually performs in the job.

You need to see how your pool of candidates are likely to think and behave in that position, not just hear how they will talk about it in an interview.

So employ assesment techniques such as role plays, tests or simulations in addition to the interview. Have a clear vision of the traits and behaviors this position requires. And utilize software like Forté that can show both you and the applicant, in a matter of mere minutes, their communication and leadership style, and how that compares to the particular needs of this mangerial position.

You can hire a great manager.

We can help.


Give us a call at 910-452-5152.

The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the Communication Studies department. She is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach. 



Certification Training – October

Forté offer 8 different tools in our suite of products – from communication style profiles, to interaction reports, to performance-coaching guidance and more.

Are you knowledgeable and comfortable using the various products in the suite?

If not, we offer certification training workshops periodically throughout the year. We’re holding a virtual training session next week – attend yourself or “send” someone from your staff.

Here are the details:

  • Wednesday, October 1st and Thursday, October 2nd
  • From 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
  • Virtual training via computer on GoToMeeting.com
  • Cost is less than two grand for two days of training across the entire Forté Suite
  • 90 days of follow up support included

To find out more – or to register – simply call us at 910-452-5152.






Communicating to Hire


Last year Derek Thompson wrote a brief article for The Atlantic titled:



Anyone who has owned a business, run a business, hired for a position, or worked inside a company has likely wondered the same thing.


The article concludes that: “People are complicated, organizations are complicated, matching people and organizations is complicated, and it’s extremely difficult to predict who will be brilliant and who will be a bust.”


Even large, successful corporations like Google find predicting who will be a good fit for a position perplexingly hard.


(Note: Google has admitted that the brainteaser questions they are famous for asking their interviewees are ultimately useless in finding the right candidate.)


So how do you choose among a stack – even a narrowed down, voted upon stack – of resumes with applicants that look equally qualified?


How do you choose between the top three candidates you brought in for interviews, and all three, while different, had great strengths and raised no discernable red flags?


The Forte Institute offers a complete hiring system to improve employee retention and productivity by helping you hire the right person the first time.


One of the best ways to do that is to understand what kind of traits are necessary for a person to display to succeed in that particular position.


What are the behaviors or characteristics of your top performers? What type of person, beyond education or task expertise, is needed to fill the position –  what key strengths do they need to bring to this position?


We can help you find out.


The Forte Institute can help you determine which traits are needed for high performance in which positions on your team by looking at the profiles of your top performers in each job category. Furthermore, we can show you which of your leading candidates best matches those qualities – and how to coach them in the areas they differ so they can best meet the demands of the job.


Hiring, on-boarding and training a new employee is time-consuming and expensive. And of course, their performance affects your performance as a company. So it’s crucial to make wise hiring decisions.


So why is it so hard to hire great people? It’s not that great people aren’t out there. They are, and they’re applying for jobs at your company. The challenge is knowing which person’s strengths will be a great fit for which position.


Call or email The Forté Institute today and ask us to tell you more about our “Communicating to Hire” service.

Forte Institute member Rachel Olsen is on faculty in the Communication Studies department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a communication specialist and a trained and certified coach. 


Leading Through Listening


Why hire talented people and not fully utilize them?


Can we fully utilize the people we hire if we’re not listening to them?


Listening is an important leadership responsibility that rarely appears in the job description.  Yet the higher up the corporate ladder, the more critical listening well becomes.


In fact, executives are reported to spend as much as 80% of their day listening.

Those who listen well to their employees are in a much better position to lead an increasingly diverse workforce, in an increasingly changing marketplace.


Listening skills underlie most leadership functions: developing teams, making informed decisions, problem-solving, and meeting customers’ needs.


The best leaders are both proactive and strategic in their listening. As a leader, you want to know what your team knows, what they are thinking, what’s stumping them, and how they’re adapting (or not) to challenges.


That requires asking open-ended questions such as, “What is your biggest challenge currently?” Or, “Can you think of two ways we could improve X?” Or, “How can I best support you as we complete this project?”


Listening well makes leaders effective because they can:


  • Anticipate potential problems and proactively address them.
  • Overcome performance slumps by giving timely, informed advice via feedback and coaching.
  • Stimulate creativity and gather ideas.
  • Allow employees to feel heard and supported, building trust and loyalty. A staff that feels appreciated willingly does more than is expected.


If you are leading a team, be sure you are also listening to your team. Ensure they feel understood, valued and heard.


Nothing beats face-to-face communication with your employees, and the Forté suite of products can be a strategic tool in your listening effectiveness. Forté’s on-going adapting updates can indicate when it may be time to sit down for a one-to-one conversation.


Forté will also teach you, their leader, how to best communicate with each individual team member—based on their strengths and motivators—during your interactions, allowing you to draw out the potential in your team.


Call or email The Forté Institute today to explore how we can help you develop a proactive listening strategy, and keep your finger on the pulse of your team.


The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is a Communication Studies faculty member at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is a communication specialist and a trained and certified coach.