Sunday, April 2, 2017

More than Millennials: They're Today’s Young Professionals

One of the requirements of any manager is to gain an understanding of the people who work under their supervision. It’s been true of every generation, and it’s especially true today.

Simon Sinek dissects Millennials on YouTube
Millennials have been the topic of articles about management and the workplace for nearly a decade, believe it or not. They’re essentially the generation born in the 1980s and ‘90s, give or take a few years here and there. And they began entering the workforce in large numbers shortly after the turn of the century, which was also the start of a new millennium – hence the tag they’ve been labeled with.

Last fall a video went viral across social media platforms, in which author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek took millennials to task for being “tough to manage.” He listed a number of things of which they’re accused of being: entitled, narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused, and lazy. He proceeds to explain the phenomenon of the millennial generation, while acknowledging that their alleged character weaknesses are often created through no fault of their own. The video is both humorous and thought-provoking, which makes it fascinating to watch.

I would suggest, however, that we would do well to change our thinking about Millennials. I recommend to my clients that they look at them for who and what they are: young professionals. In other words, treat them just as you have any generation that has come along. Treat them with regard, and trust, and patience. They have much to learn, but what generation hasn’t?

In fact, Sinek agrees, to a certain extent. In the video, he doesn’t reserve his comments only for the Millennials themselves. He also criticizes parents, corporate managers and executives for their lack of leadership. “It’s the corporations, it’s the corporate environments, it’s the total lack of good leadership in our world today that is making them feel the way they do,” Sinek warns.

In working with companies, and with Millennials themselves, I try to help them bridge the gap between college and career. Like any group entering the workforce, networking is essential – or, as I like to call it, “networking on steroids.” Today’s young people are so accustomed to technology, and to interacting with others via various electronic devices, that it’s more important than ever for them to learn the essentials of developing meaningful interpersonal relationships, face to face.

Millennials should be asked what they view as their strengths, and what they want to accomplish – both in their career and in life. Like the generations that preceded them, they are altruistic, wanting to make a difference in the world. That’s great, but they also need to consider how they can do that in their career, and for the organization or company where they work. Patience isn’t always a virtue among young professionals, and it’s up to us as managers to help them see the value and wisdom in it.

There is so much more that can be said and written about Millennials. In fact, a major part of my consulting practice involves coaching sessions with Millennials, and their employers. If you’d like to know more, feel free to give me a call at (330) 754-5767, or email me at

Jim Ondrus is president and CEO of JA Ondrus, LLC. Learn more at

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Strategy, Structure and Culture: Three Keys to Organizational Success

There are many approaches to understanding how the workplace works. What makes people productive? Why do some companies and organizations overcome obstacles and challenges, while others seem to collapse under their weight and fail?

leadership transitioning
When considering such questions, it’s helpful to examine three key areas: strategy, structure, and culture. As we’ll see, one of those areas is often, and too easily, overlooked.

The first area, strategy, is the proverbial “no-brainer.” After all, how can any enterprise exist, let alone move forward, without a carefully thought out strategy? Likewise, no project or initiative can hope to succeed without team members understanding why it is being implemented, and why it is important.

You may have heard the term cross-functional. In management, it refers to the way teams or departments with different skills or purposes work together for a common goal or objective. That can only be accomplished if there is a clearly defined and agreed-upon strategy.

Second, there must be structure. In most companies, that will include organizational charts, the division of the organization into departments, and systems for communication and interaction between those departments, with managers and supervisors installed at various levels throughout. Some structures will be hierarchical, while others—particularly in smaller businesses—may be more collegial in nature.

Finally, there is the issue of culture. An organization’s culture may be clearly defined in its mission statement. Often, however, the culture takes on a life of its own. Culture reflects the unwritten rules of organizational behavior—the values that define an organization and shape the way it operates.

Too often, an organization can’t, or won’t, see past the nose on its face to fully understand its culture and how it got that way. But a simple examination of past performance, and the factors that contributed to the current climate within an organization, can help leaders and managers better shape a more productive and functional corporate environment—with the future clearly in mind.

How do you measure up in these three areas? It’s worthwhile—even critical—to examine your strategy, structure and culture for clues to how your organization can be truly successful in accomplishing its goals.

Jim Ondrus is a Vistage Chair and president of JA Ondrus, LLC in Canton, Ohio.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The 10 Commandments of Personal Leadership

Over the past 35 years I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing colleagues. Through readings, interaction, discussion and observation over that time, I have taken the opportunity to compile this list of my 10 Commandments of Personal Leadership.

1.) Be passionate about your vision and the WHY behind it; communicate how everyone fits in.

2.) Build strong trusting and caring relationships, keep your commitments, and connect with your team at all levels.

3.) Be clear and enthusiastic on your expectations of your team and your team's expectations of you.

4.) Create and promote an innovative and dynamic learning environment. It starts with you!

5.) Be grateful for your team and show real, heartfelt appreciation. Trust your team to succeed.

6.) Be an active and effective coach. Listen, coach and be coachable.

7.) Enjoy your life and enable your team to enjoy their lives. Take care of yourself. "Balance of life!"

8.) Share your dreams with big dreamers. Learn the dreams of your team, your customers, and your business partners.

9.) Take accountability for your actions -- successes and failures. Hire people who are better than you.

10.) Lead by example, be supportive, and be collaborative with your team, customers and partners.

Jim Ondrus is a Vistage Chair and president of JA Ondrus, LLC in Canton, Ohio.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Utilize Social Media -- But Why?

We’ve all considered both sides of the saying, “change for change’s sake.” On the one hand, there’s the argument that there’s no point in changing things around if it just represents something to do. On the other hand, there’s the idea that it never hurts to shake things up and challenge the status quo.

When it comes to marketing, the landscape has changed for us. Digital marketing—in particular, social media marketing—has presented tools and options we’ve never known before. The question becomes, how should you use it? And, as a CEO or manager, how involved should you be?

Joe Pulizzi spoke to the Akron Advertising Federation in May
I had the opportunity earlier this year to attend a seminar presented by Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute and author of several books on the topic, including his most recent, “Content Inc.” While he certainly advocated jumping into the world of content marketing and social media, he also pointed out that the process is more a marathon than a sprint. In fact, he advises businesses to be prepared to wait as long as 18 months for a content marketing plan to produce concrete, measurable results.

Are you utilizing social media for your business? I am, and I think you should be, too. That doesn’t mean you need to do everything. I’ve turned to professional colleagues to help shape and implement my content marketing plan, which includes everything from Facebook to blogging to e-newsletters. I’m able to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening, without being bogged down in the details. As a result, we can keep things moving forward—almost in spite of me, you might say.

It’s also important to know why you’re utilizing social media. Simon Sinek, a noted author and speaker on the topics of management and leadership, poses the question, “Do you know your why?” Sinek, who shares his ideas online at, gave a popular TED Talk on the topic, in which he shares his Golden Circle concept.

At the center of the circle is the why, the core of your business; next comes the how, as in how you fulfill your core belief; and then comes the what, as in what you do to achieve it. Sinek suggests that most of the time we actually get it backwards. We start with the what, and work from there. His ideas are thought-provoking and compelling. A simple change in perspective can make all the difference.

When it comes to social media marketing, rather than resist it or place it on a mental back burner, why not embrace it? Learn all you can about it. Actively plan for it. And begin your plan with why you’re doing it. You’ll soon recognize that it’s more than just change for change’s sake—it’s change for your business’ sake, and an important element to your future success.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Interview: Dave Kirven

I have had the good fortune of working with, and learning from, great leaders during my career. One of the keys that has been evident to me is their ability to build great relationships and focus on bringing people and resources together to get results. Dave Kirven, business manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 94 in Canton, has spent 32 years in the labor field, working to bring the community together by getting people and organizations to go outside of their comfort zones for the common good.

In addition to his responsibilities with Local 94, Dave is also president of the East Central Ohio Building & Construction Trades Council, which comprises 22 local trade union chapters, and is chairman of the Stark Carroll Oil & Gas Partnership, an alliance of local community and government groups that promotes understanding of the oil and gas industry.

Dave is a good friend and I am honored to feature him as one of our spotlight interviews this month. Here are his comments:

Heroes, coaches and mentors: My most significant hero was my sister Laura, who battled cancer for 20 years. I have also taken bits and pieces of learning from various union leaders and managers over my career.

Most significant “a-ha” or “wow” moments to this point:  I’d have to say the importance of my family, and the realization of how fast kids grow up. I’ve also learned the importance of not second-guessing myself and being professional and self-confident.

Greatest insights and experiences:  I am the first plumber in 35 years to sit in this chair and have the responsibility of being business manager for our union. So I’ve learned the importance of getting past stigmas and:
  1.) being more inclusive and learning how to treat people;
  2.) being more transparent; and
  3.) learning how to deal with people and getting more people involved.

Three key pearls of wisdom to share with young aspiring leaders:
  1.) Share your success.
  2.) Own your mistakes.
  3.) Nine out of 10 times if it feels good in your heart, it is probably the right thing to do.

The legacy that you want to leave: I want organizations to see the integrity of the work that we do.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Personal Accountability: The Difference Maker

Fifteen years ago, author John G. Miller summarized one of the greatest pitfalls to productivity in his book, “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question.”

The book remains popular in management circles today, because it summarizes the need for personal accountability. Miller says that when problems arise, instead of pointing fingers at others and playing the role of victim, we need to ask a simple question: What can I do to make a difference? It is only by looking for solutions, rather than laying blame, that we can best solve problems and be productive.

The concept of personal accountability is nothing new. It’s been the topic of countless books and articles over the years. Just Google “personal accountability” and see for yourself how many results come up.

But if it’s so widely talked and written about, why is it so difficult to practice? Perhaps it’s because of our human proclivity—and the fact that the idea is ingrained in us in today’s society—to play the victim role.

When problems arise, it’s too easy to try and shift the blame elsewhere. When things don’t work out for us, it’s because of factors that are out of our control. We point fingers and make excuses, and nothing is truly resolved to anyone’s satisfaction.

Miller is on target, then, when he suggests simply turning the equation around. Instead of looking elsewhere, look within. What can I do to make a difference? It’s a simple question, but the answer can have profound effects.

For one thing, it’s empowering. By taking responsibility for our actions, we take control of the results. In reality, that makes us more effective. Who wants to be victim of outside forces deciding our fate for us?

At the same time, when we practice personal accountability, it builds trust. Our colleagues know we’ve “got their back.” An atmosphere of trust is a productive atmosphere, and a productive atmosphere produces successful results.

Truly, personal accountability is a "difference maker" in business and in life. Imagine if everyone were to choose to act in an accountable manner, not only for their own actions, but for the overall welfare and benefit of the whole. We would have fewer problems, and more answers.

Are you asking the right question? What can you do to make a difference, today?

 Jim Ondrus pioneered the management concept of Leadership Transitioning. He is president of JA Ondrus, LLC, a Canton, Ohio executive coaching firm.