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Engaging Environments

On Monday morning of this week I attended a workshop entitled Millennials: The Next Generation of Leadership provided by the Women in Business Network at Rotman. Our Director of Human Resources, Mary Whish ’75 and I went, as we want to ensure that we are able to understand a group that will be a large component of our staff in the future. What started as a presentation about characteristics of one particular generation became an informative session about how an organization can consider working radically differently across generations.

Erica Dhawan, a researcher at Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership and an expert on Gen Y, shared some common myths about this particular generation that were helpful in assisting in a reframing for many of us:

  • Gen Ys are not tech saavy: they are tech dependent
  • Gen Ys don’t want to change everything: they want to be heard
  • Gen Ys are not lazy: they are driven by meaningful projects and want to know how the day-to-day work ties into the bigger picture and;
  • Gen Ys are not entitled: they want to be a part of decision-making process, and we need to remember that they were brought up asking ‘why’

Beyond identifying these myths, Dhawan spoke to the need for ‘power free zones’ where there are opportunities to ask why and to openly discuss ideas and issues. While this session was specifically about our workforce, I couldn’t help thinking about how power free classrooms-where faculty are facilitators for learning as opposed to directors- are engaging for our girls.

Later in the week Kelsey Edmunds, our Director of Information Technology, was telling me about the speakers she heard while at the Apple institute conference last week. She shared some key messages from a presentation by Nigel Barlow, who lectures worldwide on innovation, creativity and leadership. Barlow stressed that we need to continually ‘re-think’ to ensure both fresh perspectives and a conscious recognition of the need for reflection. As she explained that Barlow’s belief was to ensure that we think differently- not just individually, but as teams I was reminded about the generational information that Mary and I had received earlier in the week.

This week’s workshops and conversations reminded me that, at St. Clement’s, we must continue to ensure that our environment, both for staff and students, is one that reflects support and encouragement for the sharing and consideration of diverse perspectives and approaches. After all, not only do we want to ensure that we are fully engaging our staff at St. Clement’s, we also want the same for our girls.

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