Take it in Stride

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Overwhelmed at work? Remember the (Unofficial) Stride Law.


Much has been written about the changing of the generational guard in the American workforce. A multi-generational workforce certainly presents its challenges, but perhaps no more so than it has in the past. Think of a time when members of the Greatest Generation were lumped into meetings with young members of Generation X. Expectations of workplace decorum and the point of work itself undoubtedly differed between the two groups. Today, we are witnessing baby boomers and Generation X bumping up against millennials and now Generation Z in the boardroom.

Haven’t the young always been disruptors? Isn’t it their job to challenge the status quo and that of “the old guard” to defend it?

While most of what we think of as an epic “clash of generations” is overblown, one tidbit from Deloitte is striking because it sheds light on a gap between the styles of millennials and boomer or Gen X leaders.

In “The Millennial Mindset: Work styles and aspirations of millennials,” Deloitte points to a lower overall tolerance for ambiguity amongst millennials compared to their boomer and Gen X peers. What does this mean? Millennials want less grey. They seek expertise. They’d prefer a sure thing over a move that poses risk.

The report speculates that some of the low tolerance for ambiguity may be attributable to phase of career.  After all, many members of this generation are just beginning to hit their strides professionally and may have not yet emerged from their twentysomething or thirtysomething phase of intense questioning of purpose and path. That being said, the report suggests that lower ambiguity tolerance may prove to be an actual generational trait that distinguishes millennials from those older and younger in real and measurable ways.

There are many good reasons why these dynamics may be playing out in our workplaces. The report points to several societal trends that likely contribute. Regardless of generational affiliation, everyone in the workforce today operates in increasingly complex environments where learning happens early and often and change has become a mode of being. For those who thrive on it, it’s invigorating. For those who are sapped by it all, it’s overwhelming and redoubles the yearning for something certain.

It turns out that the law of comedy which relies on “threes” also applies to the (Unofficial) Stride Law. For any given responsibility, it takes about three years to really perform, if you stay the course:

Year one is 52 weeks of task familiarity and plotting: What is this gig and what does it really take to pull it off?

Year two is 12 months of muscle memory with tweaks: I remember what this feels like and here is how we are going to level up this time around.

Year three is the year of really pulling it off: So, this is what it feels like to hit my stride!

If you or a member of your team is struggling to weigh anchor, remind yourself of the (Unofficial) Stride Law and the related steps on the journey. It will help you both stay the course and reframe moments of ambiguity “drowning” as expected waves of change and learning.

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