Most of us spent our time in school is the traditional student-teacher hierarchy with the teachers having the knowledge and skills and passing these to the students. As students, our responsibility was to reflect the knowledge and skills back to the teachers in the same general format as we received them. This was called learning. It was a one-directional system going from the giver to the receiver, rarely vice-versa. And, as bosses we unknowingly incorporate this same giver-receiver hierarchy into our boss-employee relationships.
Vineet Nayer, the author of Employees First, Customers Second in a recent post in Harvard Business Review pointed out that today’s employees are coming from a different education tradition and this affects their belief in the giver-receiver hierarchy. Look at how the nature of knowledge and skill set acquisition has changed for younger employees. There are a myriad of avenues to acquire knowledge: the internet, individual interests, multi-cultural friendship groups, international study and living experience. Schools and universities focus on collaborative learning through group projects and multi-disciplinary studies. The employees come to work used to being part of a team where each member has a responsibility to uniquely contribute to the team. The synergy they develop as a team, not as individuals, accomplishes the goal. In other words, today’s employees want a boss with the finesse to recognize and integrate the knowledge and skills of the individual team members and what they expect from the boss is a leader who knows how to harness the synergy and move it to a winning end.