Case Study: Teenagers Setting the Bar for Productivity

By Strength Solutions, Inc.

Spending some time with the next generation can teach anyone some new tricks.

Our group of excited 13- to 17-year-olds in the TECH Unleashed program at Boundless Connections routinely accomplish more in 30 minutes than a room full of professionals with decades of experience. Boundless Connections and Strength Solutions have been collaborating for years to build a tech-talent pipeline to recruit and retain talent around host cities. And we’ve seen the productivity discrepancy among young adults and seasoned professionals time and again.

Why? Well, lots of reasons ranging from social-emotional needs that grow more complex as we age to the sometimes-misguided ways we measure professional productivity today. In a nutshell, workplace productivity is not time spent on task – slaving away, “man hours,” or how much “blood, sweat and tears” you and your team pour into a project. Productivity doesn’t have to be painful.

So What Did We See at TECH Unleashed?

The TECH Unleashed program is for teens who have an interest in tech. Any tech. Whatever their little hearts desire. Callings like coding/programming, augmented/virtual reality, graphic art, 3D printing, animation, online broadcasting, game development, video/audio editing, and more. While providing the youth an opportunity to explore tech and socialize with each other, the program is built on elements of The Virtues Project™ training by Strength Solutions which provides an environment of mutual respect, cooperation and deep understanding.

You can’t just pull 10 kids (or adults, for that matter) off the street and expect to duplicate our results, but with some Virtues coaching it happens every time – and we mean EVERY time.

We can do the same with professionals, but it is a bit more complicated. Far too often, they have engrained habits that focus on power and control that can get in the way of productive collaboration. They have preconceived notions guiding them on what success means, distinct metrics for workplace productivity, and histories of being unappreciated. The Virtues strategies help us understand those individual experiences and perspectives – and to harness collective individual and professional strengths – through team-building professional development activities.

The main question: how do we get beyond our history and other notions holding us back as adults?

Getting Beyond Personal Histories to Build Harmonious Environments & Greater Productivity

As a manager, you must create excitement. You must set the mood, the tone, the pace. If you don’t show enthusiasm from the start, employees won’t be enthusiastic through the end. Behind that excitement are 4 driving components, that help team members reorient to a culture of appreciation and allow them to approach projects with positivity and vigor.

1. Personal Meaning

A task should be important and useful. It should carry meaning and purpose for the person doing it. When possible, it should be tied specifically to the person’s strengths and passions. Will this make a difference? Will this be life-transforming? Will it matter? These are all good questions to ask.

We see this often with the TECH Unleashed kids. When faced with a goal or objective, they break (quite naturally) into the tasks that mean the most to them. As a manager, this may require restructuring project tasks based less on job descriptions and more on who is the best person on the team to perform a particular task.

2. Value to the Process

A task should be one that has value toward the end goal. Menial tasks may be part of any process, but it should be obvious that ALL tasks are useful and held in high regard as cogs in the wheel. A person’s contribution – big or small – should be something they know will matter in the long run.

Everyone wants to bring their character strengths and unique talents to the table. Allow them to leave their mark on an overall process done well. The individual will also be able to see the value in others’ contributions.

Our TECH Unleashed teens – after simply breaking the ice with some Virtues exercises – naturally understand the value they and others bring to whatever project they’re doing. Adults in professional environments can get there, too, with some understanding gained through conversation.

3. The Collective Spirit

Deep down, we all desire to be part of the team. It’s true. Even those who appreciate or prefer to work alone – again, like many of our teens – relish the opportunity when it arises to put their heads together. They talk. More importantly, they listen. And most importantly, they then see the bigger picture.

A task should be something that an individual sees as beneficial not only to productivity – but also to the collective spirit. A group working collaboratively, sharing a few laughs along the way, produces just-as-happy results.

4. Mutual Respect

All of this lumped together nurtures an atmosphere of mutual respect. Individuals draw personal meaning from a project and understand that others are working toward that same goal. They recognize and feel confident in their own strengths and others’ strengths as key parts. And the good of the collective spirit guides everyone involved toward more harmonious processes.

You might think our TECH Unleashed teens have built-in mutual respect – that they come from a more or less even playing field not yet tainted by the inevitable hierarchy of professional environments. No. Think about your high school experience, was it devoid of power struggles and drama? While they are more naturally curious about each other and unencumbered by the skepticism gained with age, the sit-down conversation and exercises that build respect must be facilitated.

And once they do, look out! They’re ready to be productive and enjoy the journey with childlike enthusiasm – because they’re, well, children.

Building Productive Environments with Ambition & Energy

What have we learned from our TECH Unleashed teens? That they bring youthful energy and accomplish so much so quickly without carrying so much “baggage.” But, like anyone, they sometimes need to be prompted and encouraged to do the heavy lifting.

Strength Solutions, Inc. nurtures many of these personal and professional development skills through The Virtues Project™, an internationally renowned training program for individual and collective strength building. It teaches Five Strategies™ that allow each act and interaction to be meaningful. These strategies can be organization changing when implemented from the top down. You don’t have to wait for corporate buy-in to start The Virtues Project™. You can begin with yourself and the people around you.

For more information about The Virtues Project™, contact Executive Director Mike Marvin at mike@strengthsolutions.org or (716) 790-3520.

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