Author Archive

Sherri Petro Addresses Coronado Roundtable On Generational Differences

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

Guest Post By: Jim Kelly

Generational Differences

Coronado Roundtable Members and guests were treated to an informative and entertaining presentation on generational differences in values and communication methods by business consultant Sherri Petro at the Roundtable’s monthly meeting in the Winn Room of the Coronado Library April 24. Ms. Petro discussed differences in work styles and learning strategies between today’s Millennials or Generation Y’s, born after 1981, and those of previous generations including Gen X, born between 1965 and 1980, Baby Boomers, born between 1946-1964, and Traditionalists, born between 1925 and 1945.

In general, Millennials are digital pioneers, menu-driven, global in outlook, interconnected and like to work on their own terms. Gen Xers tend to be informal, results- and money-oriented, direct in communications, independent and recognition-conscious. Baby Boomers crave respect, value self-improvement, desire flexibility and have a strong work ethic. Traditionalists are loyal, respect authority, value formal organizational control and believe strongly in the dignity of work rather than the need to find personal meaning in it.

These differences can greatly affect the way the different age groups learn and communicate. Traditionalists like face-to-face discussions and can learn from lectures. Boomers prefer interactive and group learning. For them, reading material and handouts are generally preferable to lectures. Telephone conferences also work well for them. Gen Xers tend to focus on outcomes rather than techniques. They are results-oriented and want to get to the key points without getting bogged down in details. They like e-mails. Millennials or Gen Yers are technology-driven. Learning needs to be entertaining and mistakes are learning opportunities. They like discovery and new experiences and want to make a difference. They prefer texting and social media and have a need to stay connected.

Sherri Petro is president of VPI Strategies, a San Diego-based consulting firm. She is a recognized expert in generational communications and learning strategies and has published nearly 100 articles on these subjects. She has facilitated hundreds of seminars on these topics and her clients include Fortune 500 companies as well as state and local government entities. A magna cum laude graduate of Youngstown State University with a BA in Psychology, she also earned an MBA from Pepperdine University.

The speaker was introduced by Roundtable Director Emeritus Jim Kelly. Roundtable President Wayne Hoffman presided. Coronado Roundtable presents prominent speakers and subject matter experts at its monthly meetings on the fourth Friday of every month except December in the Winn Room of the Coronado Library. Meetings start at 10 a.m. and coffee is served at 9:45 a.m. The public is cordially invited to attend these highly-informative events.

Sherri Petro to Address Coronado Roundtable on Generational Differences

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

Roundtable on Generational DifferencesGuest Post By: Jim Kelly

People are living and working longer resulting in larger age differences between individuals and groups that interact in the workplace and elsewhere. The way that we communicate and the values that motivate us may be greatly influenced by when we were born. Understanding how these values and methods of communications differ between generations is a critical factor in achieving more effective communications and interactions.

Sherri Petro, featured speaker at the Friday, April 24th meeting of the Coronado Roundtable, is an expert facilitator who has presented hundreds of seminars on management, generational communications, teamwork and leadership. She is President of VPI Strategies, a San Diego-based consulting firm and she has published dozens of articles on these subjects. She has taught and coached hundreds of executives how to improve cross-generational communication and her clients have included Fortune 500 companies and state and local government agencies. She is the most popular blogger on “Managing Americans”, a leadership training website with over 330,000 followers.

Ms. Petro graduated magna cum laude with a BA degree in Psychology from Youngstown State University and earned an MBA from Pepperdine University.

The Coronado Roundtable presents prominent and knowledgeable speakers on a variety of topics at its monthly meetings on the fourth Friday of every month except December in the Winn Room of the Coronado Library at 10:00 am. The public is cordially invited. Come early, join us for coffee and enjoy an informative and valuable program.

How to Have a Healthy Conversation

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

With the well-warranted nationHealthy Conversational conversation on good health, it’s time we talk about another area where health is important – our own conversations.

  • We’ve got obesity on the national scale and bloated conversations in the workplace.
  • We’ve got fillers in our food and fillers in our conversations.
  • We seek workarounds to what we know contributes to good health (exercise, anyone?) like we seek shortcuts when we converse and omit details required for accomplishing good work.
  • We avoid what might not taste good but could be good for us like we avoid tough conversations that might not feel good but are good for us.

How can we have healthier conversations?

1.Do you believe people are in the cars on the way to or from work right now plotting your conversational demise?  They are waiting for you to say the wrong thing so they can jump down your throat, correct you in front of others or make fun of your word choice?  I gather there may indeed be people who choose those behaviors, but they are just one part of a diverse population.  I call them “mean” and if you listen to Taylor Swift, I‘d say she agrees!  Let’s not give them our power. They are a possibility, not a probability. Let’s start with the premise that people do genuinely want to connect.  People are not trying to be difficult, they are trying to understand.

2. Get centered and be on point. Dr. Stephen Covey’s timeless wisdom in habit two belongs here. Begin with the end in mind™.  What’s the purpose of our conversation?  What are we opening our mouths for?  Is it to seek validation? To offer a different opinion?  To make a point?  If it has no point, perhaps we should warn people what we are processing out loud! Then they can decide if they want to stick around and hear our brains work it out.  Remove those filler statements, too. “Umm, you know what I mean.” They stop us from having efficient conversations.

3. Commit to learn from whomever we are conversing with. That’s right. Listen for the lesson.  That means we respect and value differences because that gives conversation meaning. It also means they even if we have spoken to this person countless times in the past, we look for what’s different and not ASSUME we know what they will say. Arrogant of us to believe, even if we have seen patterns in the past, that we know what they will say next.  Thinking we know what people are going to say is just one block to better listening. We rehearse, daydream, judge, derail, compare, advise, fix, one-up, interrupt and debate, too!


Click to read more from Sherri about how we can have healthier conversations on ManagingAmericans.

Sherri Petro, President and Chief Strategy Officer of VPI Strategies, represents VPI Strategies on the Expert Panel for Managing Americans. is a management blog with more than 300,000 monthly readers. Sherri contributes monthly to the Workplace Communication Skills Blog and is one of the most highly read columnists.

Let’s Talk “Happy”

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

Whether you hum along with Pharrell’s mega hit from Despicable Me 2, have watched Shawn Achor’s entertaining Ted Talk on the concept or are just tired of all the world negativity, being happy is taking center stage. In fact, terrific generational researcher Neil Howe authored For Millennials, Happy is the New Edgy in a May Forbes article.

We’re starting emails with “Happy (insert day here)”. We’re investigating the possibility of truly being happy at work, the value employee happiness brings to our organizations and the impact of being positive, in general. What’s with this happiness thing?

What does it mean?

Merriam Webster says that happy is feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc; showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment; or being pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc. Other definitions go further – favored by luck or fortune or enthusiastic about something to the point of obsession. Bottom Line – most official definitions appear to allude to being happy as situational.

Hmm, then should we expect to be happy at work?

As I’ve investigated generational differences and similarities, one of the findings has been that our young professionals (Millennials) expect to be happy at work. This is unlike other generations who hoped they’d be happy at work! It was NOT an expectation. And for Traditionalists and Boomers, being happy even bordered on being an exception. “Work is work. Work is not FUN.” Whether it is the rise of the Google-like campus, their upbringing or the impact of their external environment, the expectation of being happy is a Millennial criteria for taking a job.

How do the other generations feel about being happy?

One of my Traditionalist colleagues shares his idea that happiness on the job is earned over the years. A Baby Boomer colleague has a different viewpoint. Happiness is really a combination of fleeting moments of pleasure and should not be a constant expectation. He subscribes to the first line in M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled – “Life is hard.” It is unrealistic to believe you can be happy all the time at work. Gen X is pragmatic about being happy. They believe they create their own happiness and don’t depend on the job to create it. As one Gen X MBA candidate shared, “I’d rather be happy and fulfilled then miserable and ‘successful.’”

Should we expand our thought process?

Dan Baker and Cameron Stuath in their book, What Happy People Know, share that happiness is a way of life….nothing less than cherishing every day. Moreover, they believe it can be learned. It’s a mental shift. Pharrell seems to be saying the same thing. He uses room without a roof, to express the meaning there is no limitation to how far you can take yourself in life. The idea that you control your own happiness can be radical but nearly every spiritual book tells us the same thing, we create what we believe.

Nice thought but what’s that got to do with business? Our brains when positive are 31% more productive than negative, neutral or stressed. AHA, positivity breeds productivity! And productivity creates results.

What can we do to promote positivity ourselves?

  • Express gratitude
  • Increase your endorphins with exercise
  • Meditate to find and keep your center when work gets tough
  • Promote random acts of kindness

What can the organization do?

Let’s not create an artificial “cult of nice.” Given the range of human emotions that we experience at work, that would be inauthentic!  Here are three activities that we at VPI Strategies encourage and have proven positive results. (No pun intended)

  1. Ask about what makes employees happy. As the manager, go one-step further and tell your employees what makes you happy at work. Clarity, people, clarity! Our workplaces are steeped in miscommunication and misunderstandings. Use a discussion about happiness to create clarity about roles and rules.
  2. Positivity has an impact on the triple bottom line. If we live to the often quoted “People are our most important asset,” let’s find out what makes them happy and productive in our company surveys. This has an added tangible benefit to companies willing to make the investment. Disney and the McKinsey & Company explored the connection between companies that are good at both making their customers happy and making their employees happy. The secret to delighting customers is to put employees first. Don’t ask, however, if you don’t really want to know or plan on doing something about what you hear.
  3. Promote the use of positive language by reframing the negative. Let’s not talk about what we can’t do. Let’s talk about what we can do. Make errors learning opportunities. Debrief with what went well before you address the negative or what needs to be changed. It creates less defensiveness and more generative conversation. Practice Appreciate Inquiry as a consulting style. It unleashes positivity.

We can choose to see “Happy” as one of the seven dwarfs or we can choose to see “Happy” as an eye-opening, positive discussion which gives us more data points on our way to success. So, yes, let’s talk “Happy” and see where it takes us.

Grow Up to be Big and Strong: Define Your Strengths

Written by Sherri Petro on . Posted in Blog

Define Your StrengthsWhen a parent wanted you to eat your vegetables, were you told something like, “Don’t you want to grow up big and strong?”  Mine certainly did. We put a lot of emphasis on being strong — and for good reason.  Being strong is as old as the biblical Samson.  Being strong indicates we are healthy.  Being strong means we have a shot at being Superman, Superwoman or simply super.  Being strong while communicating says we get our point across.

Donald O. Clifton, a pioneer researcher who spent four decades studying strengths, and the honored father of Strengths-Based psychology, created the Clifton StrengthsFinder as leader of a group of Gallup scientists.  Tom Rath documents the next generation of the concept and accompanying assessment in his blockbuster book, StrengthsFinder 2.0.  As a huge advocate of working from strengths, one of my favorite parts (and there are quite a few!) is the notion that talent x investment = strengths.

Ah, so becoming strong and using our strengths well requires effort.  We need to make an investment.  Yes, we are born with innate abilities.  And they need to be honed and seasoned if we want to keep them up there in the strengths department.  If we intentionally exercise our muscles, don’t we get better?  Our communication strengths are like that too.  They need to be exercised.

Hmm, does that mean you should practice your listening skills 15 minutes a day with progressive reps until failure?  Watch your nonverbal behavior in a mirror mounted at your desk during random conversations?  Grunt when you have to concentrate really hard to get what someone is trying to tell you?  Though those are fun visuals to imagine, we’re on a different wavelength here.

Click to read three things we can do to grow up (communicatively speaking) & make the most of our strengths on ManagingAmericans.

Sherri Petro, President and Chief Strategy Officer of VPI Strategies, represents VPI Strategies on the Expert Panel for Managing Americans. is a management blog with more than 300,000 monthly readers. Sherri contributes monthly to the Workplace Communication Skills Blog and is one of the most highly read columnists.