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The Leadership Habit Podcast is excited to launch a new special series of episodes focusing on leadership in the multi-generational workforce. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be interviewing Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers to find out what challenges they face, what stereotypes they deal with, and understand how we can all work together more effectively. Our second guest in this series is Manny Martinez. Manny is a Gen Xer, defined as someone born between 1965 and 1980. We will discuss Manny’s experience working with several generations at once during his career in the United States Air Force, and his insights on leadership as the President of Relentless Leadership, LLC, a Crestcom partner, and Management Consulting company. Enjoy.
Full Transcript Below
Jenn DeWall: Hi, everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall, and I am here today with leadership expert and Gen Xer, Manny Martinez, and this is going to be another installment of our Multi-Generational Leadership series. Today we are going to be interviewing Manny about his experience in the workplace as being a leader from the Gen X generation. And for those of you that don’t know Generation X, they were born between the years of 1965 and roughly 1980 that fluctuates a little bit depending on who you ask, but very excited to have Manny here. He is an amazing leadership expert, very, very passionate about servant based leadership, and I feel like he’s going to give us a lot of insight from the Gen X perspective as well as tools that we can use as leaders in our world today. So Manny, thank you so much for joining us.
Manny Martinez: I’m delighted to be here.
How Do You Define Leadership?
Jenn DeWall: Oh, we are so excited to have you. So Manny. You know, just out of the gate, the question that we like to ask from a Gen X perspective, how do you define leadership?
Manny Martinez: Well, I see leadership as the ability to influence people to meet common objectives and goals. My generation, Generation X, grew up with people that their thought process sometimes was, well, I’m a leader. You’re going to do as I say. But that only takes you so far. I see leadership is the ability for me to be able to connect with other people and say, we know what the objectives are, we know what we want to achieve, and therefore I’m going to empower you to help you develop your tools, your skills, your abilities to be able to move forward and meet those objectives.
Jenn DeWall: I love that. Being able to look at someone and say, Hey, I am here to support you, to develop you, to encourage you to be the best that you can be. Right. It’s not. You’re just here, and since you’re here you’re going to do exactly what I say, which we know does not work with many generations, and I would say especially younger generations like the Millennials that may be desiring a little bit more of that hands-on mentoring relationship.
Manny Martinez: Yes, and I believe it’s in many ways it’s an art form because when you work with different people from different backgrounds and different age groups, as an example, I spent 30 years serving in the United States air force. By the time I retired, we had four different generations in the same work organization. It really took a lot of time, an art form, to figure out how do I talk to somebody who is 15-20 years older than me, and perhaps the next minute I’m talking to somebody young enough to be my daughter or my son.
Jenn DeWall: Right. And that requires a lot of skill to pivot that. Because I feel like we hear things differently based on our generation, based on our generational experience, we look at things and determine different ways of doing things differently, because we just were born at a different time. So Manny, what is your role? Tell me a little bit more about your role within the military and your role in today and how you see leadership and why you’re so passionate about leadership.
Why are you Passionate About Leadership?
Manny Martinez: Sure. Thank you. I think it’s easiest perhaps to tell you who I am and a little bit about what my background is, and that kind of answers that question for you. So I was, I was born in Puerto Rico, and I lived there until I was 12 years old. I moved to the States in 1983; that’s when I learned English. I knew a few little words, but then I learned English. I went to high school, and when I turned 18, the week after I turned 18 I entered the air force. I entered the military. I thought I was going to be in the military for four years and then get some education and come back home to Florida. Well, I got the itch, and I stayed in the military for 30 years. It was a great experience. I climbed the ladder of elite leadership all the way to the top, which was an honor and a privilege and I became a leader of people. And my job was to empower people to develop people, to give them the tools and skills to get to the next level, empowering teams as well. And as I finished my career in the service, I thought, how can I continue doing just that? How can I continue to pour into the lives of others so then they can achieve their highest potential? And from that, I became a business owner. I am the President of Relentless Leadership, which is a Crestcom authorized agent. And what we do is that today through Crestcom, we are transforming the leadership landscape. We are developing managers to become great leaders. By giving them those tools, those techniques, the abilities for them to grow and develop themselves as people. So then they can pour into the lives of others so they can make a difference in their organizations and our communities. And quite frankly in the world.
Jenn DeWall: Right! It’s the ripple effect. Knowing that great leaders matter, they matter not only to your organization, but they also matter to the communities that they live in and how they impact that community impacts a broader community and then a global community. So we know that leadership has that strong ripple effect. You mentioned a little bit of your military experience that you had to think about how you approached different generations. How did you evolve as a leader of Gen X? Because the stereotype with Gen X is the tendency that they’re very hands-off and they just kind of want everyone to maybe manage their own responsibilities and just to get what we need to get done. And it’s kind of, you know, it’s being a very solo participant, right? Wanting to be very independent. Uh, but it’s, you know, that’s the Gen X generalization. Not to say everyone is like that, but that independence is one thing that’s associated with Gen X. But when we talk about servant-based leadership, it’s almost the opposite of a stereotypical Gen Xer. How did you learn that throughout your career? How did you learn how to pivot? How did you learn how to give?
What Makes Gen Xers Different?
Manny Martinez: That’s a great question, Jenn. I think early on I found myself being very independent. Like most people in Generation X, both my parents worked. I would come home from school, and I would make myself lunch. I would iron my clothes and go to my part-time job as well when I was in high school. I was making myself dinners. I would come home to do my homework. I was very independent, and during my first few years in the military, I had a very good feeling about I have a role and responsibility, and I’m going to do this job the best I can. You gave me a task, and I would run with it. You told me to jump. How high, right? No questions, I’m going to just knock it out of the park. As I progressed through my career, I found that my relevance was much more so when I was able to give to others through my experiences, through the way of doing our roles effectively. Let me give you this example. In the military– this can be something a little foreign to most people outside of the military– as a leader, my number one job was to prepare the person that was my subordinate to take over my job. That’s very foreign to most people. My job was to prepare people and teams to get to the next level even before they arrived.
Jenn DeWall: So getting them ready to take on that challenge or essentially acting as if they are already there even when they’re not.
Manny Martinez: That’s right. And when you do that, some people might find that to be a bit scary. Why would I be showing you how to do my job? Isn’t that basically taking myself out? Well, the reality is, is what that allows you to do is it allows you to move into the things that you want to accomplish that you have never done. It raises your game, as well. And how wonderful it is when you can show people who are looking up to you as a leader. Let’s face it, when you know who your leader is, you know what they’re doing, you know what they’re saying, all eyes are on you, and you’re reaching down to them and saying, let me show you what it takes to get to the next level. And in some way, shape or form, you can give something of yourself to them that’s positive, and that helps them grow. And when they succeed, that’s when you know you’ve made a difference. I always thought I want to help people become better than I am.
Jenn DeWall: Greater than yourself. That was, you know, and that’s, that’s also a book by Steve Farber, who is one of the experts and authors that we work with. But yeah, it’s helping people become the best that they can be– even better than you. And that’s difficult. When ego gets into play, I don’t want to lose my job. I don’t want to give these skills. I want to feel still valued. It’s a collective value that we’re creating. We’re creating more value by sharing that experience.
Manny Martinez: I liken it to a team that plays basketball. You know, we all have individual roles. You have a point guard; you have a center, you have a forward. But, it’s because of those individual roles and what they know, how they contribute to the team. They’re not playing one-on-one basketball; they’re playing team basketball. And the same thing happens in any organization. There’s what you have to do in your role, your responsibilities and what you’re accountable for, but also understanding how that shapes the rest of your organization. And how leads, how that leads towards organizational success. It’s extremely important, so you have to relevant to your teammates. You have to be relevant to those above you and to those below you, and leaders today understand that the actions or inactions– that their responsibilities or responsibilities– go far beyond their desks, their corner office windows, which in the end, leadership is not about an office, and it’s not about a corner office window and a parking spot. It is about how are you being relevant to your organization, to your people. When your people succeed, you will succeed,
Jenn DeWall: It’s a way of being. It’s how we are. And it does have a huge impact on the organization’s success and the individuals. Now I want to go back to those organizations or the different generations that you noticed in your experience in the military, what differences in leadership did you notice across the organizations or across the generations?
As a Gen Xer, How is Leading Multiple Generations Challenging?
Manny Martinez: Across the generations, you know, over three decades of being in positions where I worked my way up to the top. In the beginning, there was that feeling that people had this rank has privileges thought. I am in a position of leadership, and therefore there’s a certain level of reverence, and a certain level of I need to give things to you. Over the years that’s changed, and now we see leaders giving back to their people because they recognize these are the tools they need; these are the skills they need. It’s both a very humble position to be in, but it’s also a very vulnerable place to be in. When you listen to people in your organization, and you truly listen to their concerns, what interests them? Where do you want to go? You find out very quickly sometimes how unprepared you are for leadership. It’s easy when you can just stiff arm and go, no, this is not for me, or the buck stops here or my way or the highway.
That’s a very simple approach. Instead, when you’re having to listen to, and you should be listening to your people, your team, and respond to that, it can put you in a very scary place. I’ll give you an example. One of my roles, when I was in the military, was providing leadership support to our dining facilities. And on installation, you’ll have people who live in dormitories. They feed at the dining facilities, they go to eat, they get their three square meals at a dining facility, and we held a forum to listen to some of the concerns that dormitory residents had about perhaps food choices or food quality or expanding menus. Many of those, this happened a couple of years ago, many of them were Millennials.
Now there I am in this forum on standing in front of this group, and they were so smart. They came to this forum not to complain. They came with copies of actual regulations that I’m supposed to be the expert on, and they’re calling me out on that. They were prepared to ask very smart questions. You want to talk about feeling vulnerable? I felt so uncomfortable, but they had such great questions. One of the things, as a leader, you have to know that you’re never going to know everything and that you’re going to make mistakes. And I did not have answers to certain things, and it was okay for that for me to say, you know what? I don’t know the answer to that, but let’s work on this and let me get you some answers. And I gathered a lot of feedback from them, and I worked very hard, got all the answers for them, and individually went back to each of those people and said, here are your answers, and I want to thank you for giving me this feedback. It’s going to make our team better. Weeks later, months later I would see some of these young people on base walking through different areas or walking down the street or driving around town, and they would be so happy, and they would continue to share feedback and inputs. That’s how I knew we were able to connect and bridge that gap in organizational leadership.
Jenn DeWall: You know, I think you bring up a, I think what can be a common issue between a Millennial and a Baby Boomer or a Gen X and it’s the tendency for Millennials to question and they want to question, not necessarily for the reasons that people might think, which is to prove someone wrong, to undermine them or to prove themselves stronger. It’s because they are more naturally curious and were more or less conditioned to ask the questions of why. Yes. But when we think about how the Baby Boomer has grown up, that is the complete opposite expectation that they were raised with, right. To do, as I say, doing how to even ask a question of me, why are you asking that? And that is one of the things that I think can be a challenge in organizations with those two generations. Because one generation is taught to say, well, why learn more? Be curious. And another generation has to say, do what I, you know, do what I say. I’m the one; I’m the boss, I’m the one that knows.
Gen Xers Question Authority
Manny Martinez: Yes, I grew up with a background of doing as I say, because I said so, and especially the beginning of my career, I was okay with that. This is, these are the rules. I don’t question them. I don’t challenge them. And I moved forward over the years. I started thinking, well, why do we do things the way we do them? And I think those are very fair questions to ask where a Baby Boomer might the question with, well, that’s the way we’ve always done it. And I’ve never met anyone, even a Baby Boomer who’s ever been happy with the answer. That’s the way we’ve always done it. But somehow we’ve accepted it and we just, okay, we’ll put up with it and move on. Well, maybe what we decided a few years back was a smart decision at the time. Maybe today it’s worn out it’s welcome, it’s grown stale, and it’s time to ask those questions.
Manny Martinez: Why do we do things this way, and we need that kind of critical thinking skills. We raised my, my generation raised Millennials and Gen Z people to ask those questions, and now they’re coming into the workforce, and many of my peers resent that. I think that’s completely crazy. We encourage them to ask questions and now they’re asking questions because they’re curious and somehow you find that as being disloyal to the organization or talking back, Oh, hold on a minute, you encouraged this out of your children and now it’s your children’s generation who’s coming to work and they’re bringing that same mindset, which is a very positive mindset to be asking those questions. Maybe there is a good answer to this is the way we do it, and they just need to learn that. Imagine, for example, in the military it’s completely different culture first year, the second year in the service. You’re learning how to live in that culture and how to be productive and have value in that culture. It’s natural to ask those kinds of questions. Why do we cut our hair to where we cut it? How do we have these customs and courtesies? Why is fitness a fundamental aspect of military discipline? Those are valid questions. It’s not a, well they’re just being smart, or they’re just challenging authority. No, those are valid questions, and if we don’t know those answers ourselves to me, we need to start asking those questions. Right.
Jenn DeWall: Have you noticed, or I guess what do you notice from your experience? I know that you may be an atypical Gen Xer right, in your belief that hey, it’s okay to ask that, and we’re not a generalizing all Gen Xers as being resistant to that- because there are definitely plenty. We’re just talking about the research and how they categorize and describe each generation. But when you were in the military, what observations did you make between that Baby Boomer and that Millennial coming in or that Millennial and Gen X or what did you see happen?
Finding Common Ground
Manny Martinez: Sure. Um, and this might be a good point to talk about some of the better qualities, for lack of a better term, that each generation brings. Because it’s through that that we can really harness the common ground that we need in different generations.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. Let’s talk about those. Like the things that you see, those benefits of the organization- of everyone, their strengths. It’s just that sometimes we need the awareness around where everyone’s coming from.
Manny Martinez: Right. I really enjoyed working with the Baby Boomer generation, particularly because they have so much ability to express verbally through oral communication, which was really helpful coming up. Many Baby Boomers that I worked with over the years and recently, their ability to talk to you one on one- and to kind of disarm you and puts you at ease. That’s a wonderful skill to have. And as a Gen Xer, which I grew up with, respect your elders. I knew that even though in my military positions, particularly in later years, I was in a position of leadership that was considered higher than somebody who was a Baby Boomer. I still showed a certain amount of respect for their age, and I let them in sometimes kind of take the driver’s seat in the conversation if they had an idea or a thought process. That was really amazing.
Manny Martinez: I was not in any way, shape, or form felt feeling like that was a threat to me because if they’re going to do the job anyway, if the idea is wonderful, what if it doesn’t come from me? Who cares if it’s a great idea. At the end of the day, Baby Boomers I think are really necessary today because of that skill. Let’s take how we in younger generations we’ve really embraced technology very highly, but that’s been at a human cost. Baby Boomers understand the human interaction, that human contact. Sadly we have problems in younger generations with suicide and if Baby Boomers can provide an outlet in a work organization or work environment or they can make personal connections with younger people, perhaps that’ll bring some of that human, this back into what we do every single day and maybe wouldn’t have some of these social issues and communication issues that people are struggling with.
Jenn DeWall: There is a lot of– traditional leadership– where it is the do as I say, because I told you so and then you know, being frustrated if someone challenges that as the question, you know, and condoning that and knowing that this new Millennial generation is coming in, they’re not necessarily looking for a perfect role model. Someone that’s going to stand up and be a spokesperson for perfection, right? That’s saying this is exactly how you’re going to survive. And if you wear this suit and if you wear this and you do this, this is where you’re going to climb that ladder. I would say that this younger generation and a lot of it is as a result of parenting is inclined to say, I want more. I want a deeper connection. I want work to be fun, right? I don’t just want to put my head down. I want to learn from you, not just give you accolades for being you. I want to learn from you. And knowing that they crave that, that intimate connection of authenticity, knowing that you’re a person that figured it out and they’re also figuring it out, you know, breaking down some, I guess it sums up into transparency.
Jenn DeWall: I think that desire to just genuinely connect with people and yes, that’s an overall, I would say statement that is needed in much of the workforce today because we have a challenge with workplace loneliness. That is a huge issue that is in the U.S. that is drastically impacting mental health because people don’t feel connected to their organization, and we spend a third of our lives at work, so we need to make sure that we’re feeling connected. A third of our lives! It’s just crazy when you really think about that, how do you want to live and spend that time? And I would say that Millennials are probably pushing a little bit more to say they want more. They watched the recession happened in 2008 they know that there are certain things that were guaranteed to their elders that were not honored. And so they’re a little bit less trusting, right? They, they and they just want different things as a result of that. They want the organization to provide different things that I would say prior generations now that they don’t appreciate them or would have wanted them, but they may not have expected them in the same way.
Manny Martinez: I, yeah, that’s great input there, Jenn. And all generations want to communicate and want to have common ground and finding that common ground can sometimes be challenging because I bring my lens, I bring my perspective into the workplace, into the home, into anything that I go into. I found some things that were very helpful to bridge those gaps. First, I knew that I had these blinders on, and I needed to know that when I would walk into the situation.
Communication Across Generations
Jenn DeWall: So meaning if you’re, regardless of what generation you’re in, if you want some tips for how to go in and interact and have an impact, this is where we’re going. Right? So the first step is?
Manny Martinez: Communication is so important! You have to learn from people what it is that they’re interested in. I like to get out of my office and walk around and talk to people, visit people, not with an agenda of, “Hey, did you get that email and I need you to do X, Y, Z. I want to make sure that you understand what I told you to do”, but walk into environments without an agenda. Hi Jenn. How are you doing? How was your weekend? How’s life treating you this week? What kind of hobbies, what kind of interests you have? You don’t have to know every single little detail of their lives. You have to get to know people. I’ve worked in organizations of hundreds of employees, and you might say there are too many people here. I’m not going to get to know them. Well, you kind of can. If you just get out of what you’re doing a little bit and deliberately get to know your people, right?
Jenn DeWall: There’s an opportunity to likely meet a lot of people. I absolutely believe in that, and you know, take those steps.
Manny Martinez: You also have to find what you’re strong on, what your strengths are, and I was always a very musical person. I found music was really helpful because every generation has its own music of a lifetime, and it’s an easy connection. My Baby Boomer secretary and I would have conversations about the beach boys or Neil diamond, and I was even a step further as a karaoke king. I could sing those songs.
Jenn DeWall: What song by Neil diamond?
Manny Martinez: Well, Forever in Blue Jeans.
Jenn DeWall: Okay.
Manny Martinez: [singing] “Money talks, but it don’t sing and dance, And it don’t walk.” Right. And she was, “Oh no, not again?” But we then we would have fun because I would sing these ridiculous songs as I would walk into the office. I would say, Hey, good morning and kick off with “Sweet Caroline,” she’d say, “stop it.” But it was great. We would break the ice that way, and we formed common ground, and it’s necessary because when times get tough, when you’ve tried to meet a deadline where you’re trying to take care of a particular job, you need those moments to help fortify those relationships. Likewise. I’d step out of that area, walk down the hallway, go meet with some Millennials, and we’ll be talking about Justin Bieber or talking about The Weeknd.
Jenn DeWall: Look at you, Manny. The Weeknd referencing, right?
Manny Martinez: It was great. And again, no agendas, but just, hi, how are you? What interests you? What hobbies do you have? How’s your family doing? And you get to know people at a personal level when you have those tough times where you have to. Now let’s take care of this. Now that you’ve built trust, you’ve built a connection with them, and you don’t have to use that position of power of I say so, or because I’m the boss, now you’re going to do it. It’s because I trust this leader. He understands me. She knows what I like, what I’m interested in. She cares about who I am as a person. Hey, that motivates people in any generation. And so finding that common ground is important and you’re not going to do that if you’re hiding behind your desk. If you’re just firing off emails, or if you’re making assumptions about, well, that person’s older, so they don’t understand. Or that person is younger; they don’t know what they’re talking about. Take that time to find the common ground and listen.
Jenn DeWall: Ask them questions. People have stories. They have the experience, and they have the knowledge to share. I know at my coaching school that I went to, they taught us every person you meet is your teacher and your student, and we can all find common ground with each other. Yeah. I don’t think there are two people that could not find common ground. It might require a little bit more conversation, but they can find common ground in. What you’ve said is when you find that common ground, then you’re creating a foundation of trust because that individual feels that they are cared for, that they are seen and valued, and that’s essential. As a leader, that ties back with empathy as being that necessary skill that leaders need to have today to survive and not just survive, but to thrive in the workforce. That we know how to be empathetic to others and what, you know, as a Gen Xer, let’s talk about motivations of generations, right? Um, you know, every generation is motivated by different things. What motivates Gen X or you as a Gen Xer.
What Motivates GenXers?
Manny Martinez: For me, I just sum it up with one word, and that’s value. Gen Xers want to know, am I adding value to an organization through the work that I do? Am I adding value to my customers or my clients based on the product or service that I give and do I add value to my employees, to my subordinates, to my superiors, through me being here, the product that I provide, the service that I deliver, when I know that I make a difference to somebody’s life that way, that motivates me. When I see a fellow coworker succeed and in some way I helped along the way, however small that might be, and I just feel lifted up because I’m like, this person is doing great, and I just feel so, so proud. Yes, they’re achieving their highest potential. They’re getting to the next level. This is wonderful. I worked in the world of human resources for many years in the military when clients and customers would come to me, they would have problems, and I just said, I’m an underpaid psychologist.
People come to me with problems, and I’ll help them solve them. When they would walk away feeling better about themselves and just genuinely being thankful because I did something for them that took care of that need that was value and that motivated me throughout my career, and it still does as a Crestcom franchisee, I meet with people and we talk about different areas where we can improve our, our leadership skills and when they tell me that they successfully were able to learn something and put it to use in their organization and they see the benefits of that, that’s value that motivates me.
Jenn DeWall: I love that. I mean value, right? Just knowing that impact you can have by investing time, maybe in a short conversation, maybe in a long one-on-one or a meeting where you can find out different ways that you can provide that value.
Manny Martinez: And very often you don’t know just how critical value is. And what that, what that impact is on a person. As an example, I had a man years ago come into my office, and I was working in the ID card office, a customer service section. We, we did ID cards, identification cards, and he comes in all apologetics like, “Whoa, my wife lost her ID card. We need to do a new ID card. I’m so sorry.” He’s calling me sir. He, you know, he’s older than me. He’s calling me sir. I’m like, “listen. It’s okay. Let me take care of this for you. It’s not a big deal.” In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, and I do this all day long. It’s not that big of a problem.
Well, several months later after I took care of that particular situation- and he left all happy. “Oh, thank you so much. Thank you.” He’s over thanking me. I’m thinking, dude, it’s okay. It’s just an ID card. You know? It’s not the end of the world. A few months later, I’m sitting in a waiting area in a medical clinic. I was waiting to do some processing for my next assignment. I was moving from Utah to Turkey, so a big change from the States to Turkey and it was fantastic. And I walk into this office area, and there are about 25 people sitting there, and I know that because my number of you are Nexus 25 and they’re on number one, and out of the corner of my eye, a shadow comes up and I had my paperwork to my medical paperwork sitting on my lap and this gentleman says, let me take care of this for you sir. And swipes my paper and walks away. It was that gentleman that comes in, apologetic about that ID card. He took care of my paperwork, gave it to me, and says, “Here you go, have a safe and wonderful reassignment in Turkey.” And I never had any idea he took care of me. I never, you know. How are you going to impact somebody’s life, right? Even though you might think what you’re doing is for lack of a better term, insignificant.
Jenn DeWall: You never know. We never know. And even whether it’s maybe not feeling like a significant return, but we also never know how we interact with people as leaders, as employees, as colleagues. That will eventually come back in some way, shape, or form like the world is a very small place when you start playing in the pool. And so what type of mark do we want to leave? How do we want to leave people after interactions? I mean in, you know, one of the quotes that I also love is leave people better than you found them. As a way to really help them grow and that we’re here to serve as leaders, right? Like that’s what we want to do, and we want to create leaders that want to serve others and serving in a way where it’s that developing. It’s making people greater than yourselves. It’s, and we know that by taking that time and doing that, we are making our impact and mark on the world.
Learning From Every Generation
Manny Martinez: Yes. And so Jenn, we must realize that every generation brings a set of skills and a toolkit that makes teams better. And we have to look for those, and we have to harness those. And when you do that, that’s where teams succeed. When you shut them out, when you don’t see that, you don’t value the traits and skills they bring, that’s when morale goes down, motivation goes down, and teams collapse. It’s extremely, extremely important to recognize those things. Um, Millennials, Gen Zers, I see them coming into the workforce. They’re so smart. They are way much more talented than Generation X. Trust me. There are way much more.
Jenn DeWall: Yeah. Not more talented. They just have access to different information because of technology.
Manny Martinez: I think that they’re just so much more open to ideas. Yes. I grew up in a very much fragmented, fragmented, but kind of a society and a world where everything had its little place, and now things are much more intertwined. And that’s a hard thing for me to do. So, for example, you know, work-life integration, I struggle with that. I’m one of those people that go when I’m at work, I’m 100% at work. When I’m at home, I’m 100% at home. But very rarely do I bring home to work and work to home. Sometimes I just see that because it’s, this is my compartment of work, my compartment of home. And I like the idea of work-life integration. However, I struggle with that. You know, I still go, okay, this is the box that I’m in right now, and this is the area that shall not touch. Right. And that’s a very Generation X thing to look at because work is work and home is home.
Jenn DeWall: All right, I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to do my job. You do you. I’m going to do me. And that’s all we need to know. That’s right. And it is challenging. I mean, I think, you know, for me, and I’m a cusper Millennial, so 1982, I’m pretty open, and it’s because I have always just felt that, well, if you’re open, then it gives other people permission to be open about what they’re talking about. And then, we can collaborate better, or we can share knowledge differently, and we can do this. And yes, like work for me, I want to know my colleagues. I want to know who they are. I want to see them as people. I don’t just want to see them. So then I’m one day where I might get frustrated that I might say, well I really wish you would have done this and said I know Christian and yes, Christian is here right now in our lovely studio. Um, and so that was a joke- but still it’s I as a Millennial, I really value knowing what my colleagues are up to. What makes them tick, what makes them excited? We’re spending time together. You’re basically family. I want to know you. But yes it is a trained generational trait to say no, work is here and then home is home. So we don’t talk about home at work.
Manny Martinez: Yes. And let’s face it, leadership today, the best ideas will not come from you as a leader. And if you think the best ideas come from you, you need to just do a little self-check.
Jenn DeWall: Self-awareness.
The Best Ideas Come from Within the Organization
Manny Martinez: The best ideas will come from the people that work in your organization. The people that you as a leader work for, not the other way around. I had to give up that idea and notion that I had to know everything about my job. I had to continue to grow and learn; that’s for sure. But I gave up the notion that I had to know everything, that if somebody came to me with a question that if I didn’t know the answer, I was a failure. That’s not the case. It just means that you need to continue to learn to continue to grow. People gravitate towards people who are vulnerable enough to know that they don’t have all the answers, but that they have the willingness and the desire to learn and to grow and to grow together. And that was quite all right. I would sit down with new employees, and I would say these things, I would say, you know what? I don’t know everything. And they’re looking at me going, wait a second.
Jenn DeWall: Who says that? You’re not supposed to say this.
Manny Martinez: You’re in this position 20 something years, and you don’t know? I just came to the military six months ago, and you’re telling me you don’t know everything. And I told them that because I wanted them to have the empowerment to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and that we expected them, that they were not going to know everything either. And I also told them I make mistakes. You know, the only reason why I’m here as a, you know, basically an elder in your organization is that I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I learned a lot of lessons to help me get to the next level. And so I want you to know that I expect you’re going to make mistakes, too. And that’s okay. As long as you’re doing your best to do your job to the best of your ability, that’s going to be fine. And so my job is to allow you that space to make those mistakes, to learn along the way.
If I do that, if I give you that empowerment, I give you that opportunity, then I’m doing my job. Now I’m relevant. I matter as a leader versus the, could you imagine if every decision you have to make, you have to run it by your boss? Every single one, every single thought process had to be reviewed by your boss, nobody wants to work in that sort of situation, but people in many, many places still feel like they do. And that limits their ability to really fully become the person that they should be personally and professionally. I don’t want to put you in a cage. I want you to flourish. I want you to be creative, and so your best ideas, I want to know about them.
Jenn DeWall: Learn, grow, and be open. And that’s a great way to, for all the leaders that are listening, when you have someone that’s new to your team, new to your organization, being a little vulnerable with them, telling them that you don’t have all the answers and that they will not either. When you do that, and you’re setting the foundation for people to be more resilient, they can be more persistent. They trust you, and they respect you more.
Manny Martinez: Sure. And it does not mean that as a leader, you don’t stop growing and learning. Absolutely not. I’ll give you a physical example — military, big into physical fitness. There’s a big difference between being a 20-year-old and a 40-year-old in these situations?
Jenn DeWall: What do you mean by that?
Manny Martinez: Something changes, right? You can’t do the things you could do at a younger age, or you’re not able to do as well physically. Yet, I did not want to be the person that did not, well, let me say it this way– I did not expect people to do things that I could not do myself. For example, in physical fitness, in the military, we do a lot of running. We did a lot of exercises. It is part of our lives as part of our culture. A 20-year-old comes to me and says, wow, you’re such a great runner. You’re in such great physical shape. I don’t know how you do it. And I would tell him, you know, I’m 20 years older than you, which means I have to work twice as hard to keep up with you. Yeah, and in many situations in leadership, you do have to work twice as hard to stay relevant, to stay meaningful, to be able to be that leader that gives and serves, and not be served.
You have to do that otherwise, again, people are watching you. People are listening to you. That’s part of the job and the role of being a leader, and if you’re not doing the steps that it takes to continue to grow, eventually people are going to see that, and they’re not going to see you as relevant. And if you’re not relevant as a leader, perhaps that’s the moment for you to look and go, what is it that I’m not doing? What is it that I am doing, and where do I go from this point forward so that I can remain relevant?
What’s Your Leadership Habit?
Jenn DeWall: I think that’s a great piece to end our conversation on is thinking about as leaders, what can we do, you know, to continue to challenge and evolve ourselves? How can we stay on top of whether it’s trends or practices or just continue to find opportunities for us to add value? It doesn’t have to be huge significant value. We can find many opportunities to add value, but if you’re not growing, you’re dying. That’s another one of my favorites, but many we like to end every podcast with one question as the podcast is called the leadership habit and everyone that we interview, we ask this question to. So my question to you to share with our listeners is, what is your leadership habit for success?
Manny Martinez: Discipline. And that sounds sometimes a bit negative, but I want to make sure that I explain what that means. Self-discipline is so important and so vital to your success as a leader. For example, if you’re not taking yourself, taking care of yourself physically, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, you will be less of a leader. How do you show up to work? How do you show up to social situations? How do you show up at home is so important, and it begins with that discipline. How are you taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and the piece about discipline that’s so important is when you do that every single day when things are going great, it’s wonderful. Life is grand. The business is moving forward; everybody loves you; you’re a rock star. But when things are not going well, when life’s a little rocky, and guess what? We all have peaks and valleys in life, and we all go through something in our lives at a particular time in our lives.
Discipline is the key to being able to navigate those rough spots and if you have discipline, as in routines to help you in those levels, whether it’s too physical fitness, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally, you’re going to be able to get through those tough times and get through them in a very positive and healthy way. So then when you’re back on top, you are still rocking and rolling, and you’re still that rock star. Discipline is the thing that allowed me to grow and develop as a leader. And discipline will be the thing that will help me continue to grow and develop as a leader because I have not stopped. And so it is those, that habit of discipline that helps me move to the next level.
Jenn DeWall: That’s a great, great habit for our listeners. How can we add more discipline to help us grow and evolve and achieve the goals that we have? Manny, it’s been so great to talk with you today and talk about the different generations to hear your story. Thank you so much for taking your time to come in and talk with us. I was just so happy to hear your stories. So thank you so much for your time.
Manny Martinez: Thank you, Jenn. It’s been a real pleasure. Thank you so much.
Thank you for tuning in today for our discussion with Manny Martinez about his experience working as a Gen Xer in the workforce today. You can connect with Manny on LinkedIn or Facebook. Tune in for next week’s episode, when we talk to Baby Boomer, Jim Lopresti. Jim Lopresti is a professor and President of CohereUs Consulting. We’ll be talking about his years of experience and the changes he’s seen as new generations enter the workforce.