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A Guest Post By Michael Matheny, MA candidate at American University and FEEL Blog Post Winner
The stark divides between the cultural norms from generation to generation have always been fascinating to me. The way time and the events of the world around us can alter the desires, aspirations, values, and fears of a population for decades to come is both invigorating and terrifying. By no means is this a recent phenomenon, curiously. In fact, history tells us that generational gaps have had impacts that rippled as far as outright revolution … the formation of the United States, anyone?
Let’s hone in on more recent years, however. War, fear, international isolation, and nationalism shaped an entire generation of people that now hold the majority of power and leadership in the western world — the Baby Boomers. Likewise, the polished, seemingly utopian “American Dream” based society that Boomers created as a result of their perceptions of the world resulted in a generation of those content with an exploitative system and the status quo — cue Generation X. The story continues to unfold, and it’s no surprise that the repercussions of the actions of generations before us have led to the collective mindset and headspace that Millennials, and further, Generation Z live in. Add in the digitalization of our entire planet at the turn of the 21st century, and you’ve got quite a bit of difference to unpack.
So how does any of this relate to the path to mastering the “FEEL First” model? How do we take an understanding of generational gaps and correlate them with leadership style, motivations, and the ability to connect with people? Deirdre Breakenridge’s research, as displayed in her ebook “The FEEL First Test: How Different Generations Face Fears,” gives us a great deal of insight on just that, breaking down how people born with completely different realities in their allotted time on Earth process and handle their experiences, and translate them into the action (or inaction) of facing their fears, engaging with empathy, using ethics, and unleashing the love of their mission in life. Sure, this data is useful for academic reasons, but the impact of what you can take away is much more significant. Deirdre’s collection of research can inform all of us of how we can understand each other’s fears and aspirations, find common ground, and ultimately come together to build a better world.
By Pew Research Center definition, having been born in 1996, I am a Millennial (although many would argue that I should identify as a Gen Y/Z cusper, or “zillennial.”) My relationships — personal, academic, and professional — span a much wider timeline. My mother, born in 1978, could qualify just as easily as a “cusper” between Generation X and the Millennials. My two younger brothers, born in 2000 and 2006 respectively, are quintessential “Zoomers.” In an academic setting, the majority of my professors are of Generation X, and professionally, most of my high-level leadership is from the Baby Boomer crowd. This diversity of age provides me with a rather interesting opportunity to gain observational insight on the values, fears, and habits of each group. Observational insight isn’t enough, however, to understand a population. In order to connect with all of them daily in a meaningful way, I must find a common ground approach.
Common ground can feel like an impossible place to get to, especially in the socio-political climate of 2021. Deirdre’s research shows that even outside of our socio-political beliefs, the generational gaps in our perception of the world can truly alter the areas of the “FEEL First” model in which we naturally excel. For example, Deirdre’s research notes that “Millennials are stepping out of their comfort zone less than Gen X, professionally and personally.” Her book also notes that in a 2019 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 44% of millennials responded as “feeling stress over finances, family welfare and career concerns.”
Stress, of course, is a defining feature of the Millennial population, and has a great impact over our relationships with our peers — academically, professionally, and personally. When I take this information and apply it to my own lived experience, it’s easy to justify a lot of my self-centered thought processes. This kind of thinking, however, is detrimental to mastering the “FEEL First” model. The reality is each generation has faced a series of challenges and uncontrolled environmental factors that have contributed to their general relationship with others. For Millennials, it may be the stress experienced by navigating an existence that isn’t quite as stable as that of their parents and grandparents. For Generation Z, it’s the cynicism of living in a society clinging to an idea that has never been attainable — the “American Dream.”
Understanding different world views and perceptions is critical, not just as it pertains to the “FEEL First” model, but as it pertains to my career in communications and marketing as a whole. To adequately connect with people and understand how to effectively communicate with them, mustn’t I have the ability to perceive the world as they perceive the world? To be able to step into their shoes, and understand reality as they see it? All of this is incredibly important, and as per my results from the “FEEL First” test, is precisely the area in which I need the most work.
Alright, so I’ve hammered in my point here, and I’m sure you’re thinking, “Great, yes. There are stark differences between the generations, their perception of the world is valid, it’s important to understand each other, and that’s not your strong point, blah, blah, blah. What are you going to do about it?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Working to master the “FEEL First” model is, of course, the big priority here. And as is noted on my “FEEL First” results, engaging others with empathy is my greatest weakness. Not entirely ideal for bridging the gap between generational differences, is it? To address this, I’ve developed a roadmap to actively engage those with contrasting values, perceptions, and realities.
Commit to Action
The first step to creating any sort of meaningful change and elevating my ability to engage empathetically is making a commitment to taking action. With the information provided by my “FEEL First” test results, I can begin to target the areas in which I need to personally grow in order to build better relationships. For now, my percentages in the areas outside of “engaging with empathy” are healthy, and while not perfect, won’t be my primary focus (for now).
Say Less. Listen. Learn.
To grow as an empath, I need to plan on saying nothing. So often, we don’t listen, we wait to respond, and I am quite guilty of this. Understanding others at a deep level is active, not reactive. Now that I’ve committed to action, I will actively learn and understand others’ viewpoints, realities, and fears. And this doesn’t stop in my own personal sphere — I don’t have to know someone personally to attempt to simply listen. There are millions of stories to hear that, in this digital era, are readily accessible, and necessary. The human experience is a varied, nuanced mysterious avenue to explore.
Now that I’ve taken the “FEEL First” test, acknowledged the areas that require the most urgent growth, have committed to action, and have learned how to listen and understand the differing lived experiences of those in my world, it’s time to take what I’ve learned from the “FEEL First” approach and use it.
With newfound empathetic growth, and existing strengths in ethics, passion, and facing my fears, I should ideally be able to connect and communicate better than ever before.
Assess and Repeat.
Here’s the deal though; at the end of this roadmap is not a final destination. It’s an evaluation. The reality is, no one is perfect, and no one will ever truly reach 100% on each of the “FEEL First” categories. It’s here that I must reassess where I am, and whether I am truly living with a “FEEL First” framework. Perhaps my percentages in my stronger categories have weakened, or I haven’t quite made the progress I initially hoped for. With that, my roadmap restarts, and I travel down a continuous path to personal betterment.
Deirdre’s research indicates stark differences between age groups, and our lived experiences are indeed drastically different. But we can’t allow that to serve as a permanent roadblock between us and a better society. For me personally, learning to understand those of different lived experiences and how they face their fears, take risks, and perceive the world around them is vital to my success in virtually every arena — academically, professionally, and of course, personally. The roadmap I’ve created for myself to move closer and closer to the mastery “FEEL First” is fluid and intentionally vague. This roadmap broadly directs me, and perhaps anyone reading this with the same convictions as myself, in the direction of mastery, but the reality is, the process will be ever-evolving, and may not always yield the results that I expect.
Can mastering the “FEEL First” model unite the contrasting realities between the generations? Perhaps, perhaps not. But ultimately, any added degree of understanding that I or anyone else can cultivate with another group of humans is a giant leap in the right direction.
Michael Matheny, MA candidate at American University and social media manager for the Kogod School of Business
A Guest Post By Keke Ellis, American University Grad Student, FEEL Blog Post Winner
Back in 2014, I made a comment on Facebook about the movie Dear White People. I don’t remember the exact comment, but within days an acquaintance made a big fuss over what I had said. If I remember correctly, I mentioned something to the effect of how the male protagonist (who happened to be white) was not the ‘savior’ of the film. It did not go over well, and it led to a back and forth. Honestly, I don’t even remember the virtual argument, only how it made me feel. I hated it. It was exhausting and it felt pointless (not to hurt someone, but to engage on the platform in such a negative way). I’ve never been one to fight online (or in person for that matter) and I’m proud to say that that incident was the first and last time. I graduated with my BA not too long afterwards and in lieu of me wanting and subsequently joining AmeriCorps, I spent less and less time on social media and I rarely posted in those years leading up to me deleting the apps. And as I mentioned, deleting my social media accounts was one of the best decisions I could do for my mental health, and on a smaller scale, my personal life.
Do I think I will get back on social media? No, not in any major way. But I do believe LinkedIn is important, and it may be beneficial for me to have at least one of the big accounts (Twitter, Facebook) for professional use. Never again though for personal use. There’s no FOMO here! I’ll confess my phone health did not get better. Sadly, I still spend way too much time on Google, playing computer games, checking for texts. We’re all working on it, right?
If I’m honest, I don’t think my FEEL test results surprised me. I scored lowest (love of mission) in the area that I expected and higher (or highest) in those areas that I expected (empathy and ethics), as well. If anything, it showed me where I could ‘go’ from here. There wasn’t a revelation of me being a big softie, any more than I knew I wasn’t going to score well on telling my Instagram followers about my passions. Not only because of my lack of social media, but also because I am a private person in general. It’s something that I am working on. Not that being a private person is a ‘bad’ thing, it’s just that I tend to use that privacy as a way to shut people out (i.e., a security blanket of sorts). It’s okay to be open. Isn’t that the point of the FEEL First model? To connect in a more genuine manner? To actually open up with one another without and despite any fear we may be feeling in the moment?
I would like for my love of mission score to increase and will try to implement ways to do that. If I may divulge a personal matter – my boyfriend and I and going through growing pains; you know, the ones you have as you try to plan out how to intertwine your lives. He’s a big-time extravert. There is no friend he cannot make, no person he cannot go up to and start a conversation with. An hour can go by and for him it will feel like only a few minutes. I, on the other hand, am the exact opposite. I’m awkward with small talk and get exhausted by interacting with others. His ideal Friday night is out, among the people, maybe dancing. Mine, is at home, on the couch, watching football or hockey or basketball. We could not be more different in our personalities. However, I envy his ability to open himself up so quickly; to see anyone as a potential friend. I think of him as my barometer to stretching myself beyond my comfort zone.
I can volunteer more. I can look a homeless person in the eye and have a real conversation with them instead of just ignoring them or dropping a few cents without looking their way. I can be more present in my interactions – putting my phone away, engaging and listening in a sincere manner. I can show up for myself in new ways as well, because how can I share my ‘love’ if I don’t first believe that I can accomplish the mission to begin with? I can and will be kinder to myself; easier on myself when I fail and become a better champion of who I am and where I would like to go in my life. There is so much division and hurtful language both in-person and online. I can and will counter this by trying to practice kindness no matter where I am. I know, I know, it sounds pretty hokey. This also, I believe, helps me face fears as well. It takes courage to love yourself out-loud, we can see this through the numerous bills going throughout state, local, and federal legislatures – whether they be about race, gender, sexual orientation, or reproductive rights. I think it’s easy to tear someone down. Our last President made daily entertainment out of it. It’s much harder to support and stand up. You can lose friends, family, your job, and possibly even your life for doing so. Being kind in the face of fear and hatred is radical (just ask those who fought in the Civil Rights era).
In the wake of the death of Mike Brown – which also happened in 2014 – a teenager from Missouri who was shot and killed by a police officer, I, and a group of about 30 others, peacefully marched in downtown Shreveport, Louisiana where I’m from. We were protesting police brutality, many, many months before the tragic events of the summer of 2020, and unfortunately, many, many decades after the death of MLK. I am angry, and frustrated, and saddened. How can we still be dealing with racial injustice? Suni Lee, an American gold medalist, and member of the Hmong community, was allegedly harassed recently while out with friends. Again, I ask, how can we still be dealing with racial injustices?
I understand that as one person I should not think I can make a difference, but look at the way the FEEL First Model is shaking up how communication practitioners are working in the field? Isn’t Deirdre Breakenridge just one person? That inspires me. In the ‘roadmap’ I created (see figure 1 below), in blue are the scores from the FEEL First test I took back in September. In orange are the scores I hope to achieve. Of course, I would like to continue to engage with empathy and use ethics and good judgment at high levels; at the best I possibly can. What has worked for me in the past is to try and be fair and impartial in decision making, whether that be giving both my niece and nephew the same amount of attention or listening to a coworker when they are having a bad day. These are simple things, I think.
At the end of the day, I just want to be a good person. When I’m old and gray, looking back over my life, I just want to think I was a good person. And the FEEL First model gets me closer to that goal.
Keke Ellis is a writer, researcher, and entrepreneur originally from Louisiana, who enjoys hiking, spending time with family, and a good crawfish boil. They can be reached at email@example.com.
A Guest Post By Haley Epping, Masters Student At American University, FEEL Blog Post Winner
The essence of the FEEL method is prioritizing communication and recognizing your feelings. Since our human nature is to be social beings, it is extremely useful to discuss the best communication method with your colleagues at work. Here is a six-step plan to help you and your co-workers implement the FEEL model into your workplace.
To complete this roadmap, plan a time with your colleagues when you can have an uninterrupted opportunity to discuss and be open with each other. After planning that time, make sure everyone completes the FEEL test and brings the results or a general idea of them to the meeting.
At the first meeting, be sure to set some ground rules such as privacy agreements surrounding colleagues sharing results and feelings. It is crucial that everyone is comfortable and is open to learning. Constructive feedback can be very helpful, but in this case, limiting the amount of direct criticism is useful to ensure no one feels offended or attacked.
The first step of this roadmap is to discuss preferred ways of communicating. Since not everyone will communicate the same way, holding space to learn about your co-workers is an essential first step. In the FEEL First eBook on how generations face fears, the results showed that Millennials generally “prefer consistent and ongoing feedback and access to higher level meetings where they can state their ideas” (p. 11). If you are a Millennial, your boss may not know this is how you feel and will not provide this feedback due to generational differences. This is when miscommunication can occur because if a boss, who is a baby boomer, does not know that their staff wants consistent feedback and does not provide it. Millennials may assume they are not doing their job well. Instead, the boss does not think consistent feedback is necessary. In this space, hearing colleagues share their feelings creates a closer connection, which may make it easier to communicate more effectively in the future.
The second step is to share examples of past communication failures. This can be done in two ways. First, the group can share constructive criticism about miscommunications between colleagues that are a part of the discussion. Another option is to describe miscommunications at your past jobs. Sharing examples gives people tangible stories to remember for the future, and it can be a therapeutic space for those telling the anecdote. These previous miscommunications may have occurred between two people of different generations, which would also provide more context for why the FEEL model is crucial. In my experience, many of my bosses who are older, millennial or boomer generations, do not use praise on a consistent basis. Instead, they wait until the annual review or if I asked for a mid-year review. In their minds, I am not doing a bad job, they may think I am doing great, but they do not go out of their way to tell me if there is not time devoted to feedback. Because of this, I think I need to change what I am doing to receive positive feedback. This is a clear miscommunication and stems from our different generational upbringings.
After sharing past negative experiences, the third step is to describe times where you have had clear and successful communication with a co-worker. Similarly, to the second step, these stories may be about current co-workers or past colleagues. Both narratives will provide value to this discussion. These stories may provide some comfort for those who have communicated in similar ways, or it could provide ideas to those who need to improve their communication.
Moving forward to the facing fears portion of FEEL, the fourth step is to discuss workplace fears. This can be a difficult step since it aims for people to be vulnerable, but it is critical. Sharing fears will allow colleagues to be empathetic with each other, which is another tenant of FEEL. This step also can provide comfort if other co-workers have similar fears or have in the past. Colleagues can collaborate on ways for others to conquer their fears and provide their own anecdotal advice.
Also, if there are various levels of management within this group, allowing upper management to learn about their staff’s worries could help them be more empathetic in the future. This can also make hierarchies less rigid in the future, which would lead to a greater flow of communication. According to FEEL data, only 15% of participants said they always stepped out of their comfort zone professionally. This means there is a lot of room for improvement for all generations. Challenging oneself can be extremely difficult and stressful, but when you are able to discuss these worries with co-workers, it allows you to hear other perspectives and hopefully receive reassurance.
After sharing all this information, positive and negative examples of communication, and fears in the workplace, the fifth step is to make a plan. This plan must be concrete and include perspectives from everyone involved. The goal of this plan is to create specific ways that your group can improve communication in the workplace. To ensure that everyone can see this plan, create it in a shared document or email the final version to everyone afterwards. One of the goals may look like this: After (colleague’s name) shares final products with me, I will provide feedback within 2 days. This feedback will include positive reactions and, if needed, constructive criticism. This is a specific goal that can be implemented on a semi-regular schedule and does not need to wait for end of the year performance reviews. In this plan, be sure to include a fear that everyone would like to overcome. It may be hard for people to write it down publicly, so an alternative could be to encourage them to write it on their personal computer.
Once a few months have passed since creating the plan, the final step is to create a time for the group to check-in. This time allows everyone to share if they think the group’s communication has improved, and what can be done to enhance communication further. Look back at the plan that was made last time to see if these written goals were achieved, or if they need to be modified. If they were not attained, discuss what the roadblock was. In addition to the interpersonal communication goals, ask everyone if they conquered a fear in the workplace. Reiterate that this is a judgement-free zone where people can speak freely about their successes or shortcomings.
Discussing fears may be difficult, especially if they were unable to conquer it, so remember to be supportive and, if possible, suggest advice for the future. Even though it may be difficult to continue group meetings on a regular basis, these check-ins can allow the staff to have a space to improve communication and work towards overcoming their workplace fears. It also provides an opportunity to change communication styles easily if necessary. Working on these goals will greatly strengthen your team’s collaboratively, emotional well-being, and efficiency in the long term.
Haley Epping is a Masters student at American University studying Strategic Communications with a focus in Digital Communication Strategies & Analytics.
In the fall semester 2021, I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Professor Jason Mollica’s Strategic Communications class at American University. The FEEL model and FEEL First test online became a part of their semester-long project.
Last September, the World Economic Forum published an article discussing what Millennials really want from businesses. What stood out immediately from the article appeared in the first sentence. “The global business community is being challenged by Millennials who want to change the world — and the results are going to be incredible.”
The article went on to discuss how Millennials want to create change and value takes priority. Financial performance should not be the only measure of success. They are focused on and want to see social change. The organizations that live by their values and bring them to life are the companies that will get Millennial attention, the benefits of their purchasing power, and their employment. As a result, businesses are actively working on becoming more socially conscious by placing organizational purpose over corporate mission and profits.
Although I’ve shared some of the ways leaders are disappointing Millennials in previous posts, here’s the good news … you’re getting a few things right in your communication and it’s appreciated. It’s not all bad for business leaders and brands that want to reach Millennials through their marketing channels or want to recruit and retain them in their companies.
From my research, there are several ways that leaders score positive points and can make a difference. Here’s what Millennials said when I asked, “Please fill in the blank. I LIKE a leader who …”
- Speaks up more and shows a lot of corporate activism. Brands are more than their products and services today.
- Interacts frequently with followers. The screen doesn’t exist and you can have a conversation.
- Convey thoughts properly and effectively.
- Takes the time to communicate through videos.
- Shares direct and straightforward messages.
- Communicates in earnest and follows up with action.
- Leads with integrity and leads by example.
- Inspires an audience and listens carefully to their thoughts and concerns and fuel the passion further.
- Is vulnerable and authentic.
- Shares some personal experience and knowledge; a leader who is compassionate and interested.
- Basically enjoys helping others to become leaders.
By way of background, I started my research journey to really understand how Millennials show up to their conversations and how they want to be perceived. What surfaced quickly in my one-on-one interviews was what they expected from the leaders in their lives (bosses or managers at their companies, business professionals representing the brands they love and even their religious and political figures too) whether they’ve expressed this publicly or not.
After experiencing personal family trauma, I wanted to also learn why communication doesn’t always show how people feel when they share on social media or during their in-person interactions. That’s why it’s so important to show up to your conversations with a FEEL First approach.
Because, when you FEEL before you communicate, you:
Face Your Fears by you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and allowing yourself to be more open to the ideas, feedback, and information that challenges the way that you are programmed to think.
Engage with Empathy by actively listening and you’re able to put your own agenda aside. Taking the time to understand the details of someone’s situation is the first step toward compassion and walking in someone else’s shoes.
Use Ethics and your good judgment by exercising your values and beliefs with every interaction and being true to yourself through your communication.
Unleash the Love of your work, ideas, cause, etc. (you fill in the blank) with contagious passion and the kind of energy that makes people want to not only be around you but also to support your cause and collaborate with you.
If you’re a leader and you FEEL you’re not connecting and advancing your relationships or exciting the people around you (not just Millennials but anyone), then here’s are a few ways to address the “F” in the FEEL model that might help. Embracing open conversations, differing opinions and being open to change means stepping out of your comfort. When you’re more aware of how you show up to your conversations, and when you have an open and inviting approach, different actions will result, from the people around you.
In October 2018, I set out on a research journey to learn more about Millennial communication. I wanted to understand where they liked to express themselves and how they wanted to be recognized on social media. I also started to uncover the types of interactions Millennials expected from their “Leaders.” For the purposes of my one-on-one interviews, “Leaders” were defined as their own company leaders, business executives from familiar brands, or from the brands and the causes they cared about, and political leaders too.
One question was easy to analyze and the results didn’t surprise me. I asked 25 Millennials what advice they would give to leaders on social media. After analyzing their answers and using a tool to create a word cloud, certain words carried more weight and meaning. These included: TRY, UNDERSTAND, SOCIAL, MEDIA, NEED, CARE, GIVE, PEOPLE, RESPOND, MESSAGE, INTERACTIVE AND EMOTION. You can see the word cloud below.
Diving further into the interviews, the quotes from the Millennials answering this question were just as interesting. Here are a few of my favorite quotes offering advice to their leaders:
- Be relatable and much more interactive with us.
- If someone tweets to you, the least you could do is respond.
- Be clear and concise; our generation is overloaded with far too much information.
- The message doesn’t have to be perfect; this will make you more relatable and approachable.
- Show you care about the people behind your organization and brand.
- Operate your own social media, don’t let someone else; it seems a little shady.
- Take the time to understand us or your audience in general.
- Take the time to know us, especially on social media.
- You need to learn how to communicate through social media.
Millennials are asking for leaders to be more human and genuine and to show up with the emotional intelligence when they answer questions or interact with them. The smartest leaders will take this information and work on how they communicate through social media. One way to close the gap between what Millennials expect and how their leaders currently communicate is to FEEL first. What does this mean?
Face Fears – making you more open to different perspectives and not share knee jerk communication
Engage with Empathy – Don’t just listen but listen actively and ask questions, understand people so they know you care. Think less about your messages and how you can help them.
Use your Ethics (and good judgment) – Always being accurate, truthful and fair in your interactions. It also means showing up as your authentic self.
Unleash the Love – If you don’t show your passion, energy, and enthusiasm then why would anyone want to join your cause.
Here’s a video discussing the research and a new FEEL First Test (a web app) which is coming soon.
Communication is at the heart of your business and every relationship you build. With book titles focused on the best ways to engage including, Decency Starts at the Top, by CEO and Chairman, Larry Weber of Racepoint Global and articles focusing on “Workplace Compassion: A Trend Driven by the Changing Workforce” your authenticity, integrity and empathy become front and center at every touchpoint.
Modern communicators have a responsibility to use communication as a way to build bridges between people and groups; sharing communication to help, uplift and ignite passion and positive momentum. It’s a do “good” and do “no harm” approach. But, with a noisy communication landscape, does communication from businesses professionals, who speak on behalf of their organizations, reach the public in a “do good” manner; in a way that instills trust, expresses kindness, and creates opportunities to build relationships?
You may come in contact with leaders and business professionals every day. They are your own company executives or the senior executives who speak out on behalf of your favorite brands and social causes. Or, maybe they are the political leaders in your newsfeeds on social media. Regardless of the type of leader, do you think the communication they share is reaching, resonating and helping people, especially when it comes to younger generations? With Millennials and Generation Z experiencing more depression and anxiety at alarming rates, are leaders today meeting the communication expectations of these groups, or any group they want to reach?
Now, it’s time to reign in the communication for some self-reflection. Ask yourself an important question. Do you really know what someone else is experiencing before you tweet, blog or post on Facebook? Are you using social media to get closer with people to build your own personal brand? The data you collect and analyze on social media is based on what people want to share with you, and how they want to be seen. Of course, there’s a highlight reel on social media. What you see on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or any platform does not always give you a clear picture of someone’s life, what is going on in their world or how they are truly feeling.
FEEL is the optimal word here and what others are feeling. Your communication can either help them, or it can quickly becomes a part of the “noise” that blocks the value, which affects the end goal of any interaction.
Whether it is you, or the leaders you know, there’s a better way to approach communications when the noise is overwhelming … it’s to FEEL first. If you don’t FEEL as a first step, which means to Face Fears, connect with Empathy, use Ethics and unleash the Love of your mission, then all of your planning may fall on deaf ears. Once you can FEEL, the strategy that you’ve developed will play out not only to connect you, but also to help you engage in a way that is valued and seen as more human and open, creating those longer lasting bonds.
After a devastating family tragedy last September, I embarked on a research journey. I started to speak with Millennials about communication preferences and began analyzing Women Worldwide interviews with guests focused on leadership and communication (using text analytics). My goal was to see if what Millennials preferred in their communication from leaders is what they were experiencing on social media. Were the characteristics they preferred drawing them closer to their leaders or pushing them farther away?
Then, when I teamed up with Talkwalker to use their search tool, the themes identified around leaders, communication and emotions and different communication qualities really came to the surface. The lightbulb went on! Seeing the results (in word cloud format) based on a sophisticated Boolean search (yes, Talkwalker helped me here) it appeared that the IQ side of leadership stood out more in conversations. With more than 50% positive sentiment, about 47% neutral and only 3% negative, words such as “knowledge,” “experience,” “confidence,” “strength,” “professional” were the most prominent in discussions about leaders and communication, across blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms.
But what about the Emotional Quotient (EQ) side of the house? I was surprised that words such as “interpersonal,” “respect”, “feel,” “values,” “real,” and “commitment” took a back seat. What does this say about leaders and communication on social media, when the EQ or the soft skills were much less in the spotlight? You can take a look at a couple of graphics showing the text analytics to see for yourself.
Keeping the initial research in mind, I’ve taken the first stab at a communication model that may help to close the gap between what Millennials and Gen Z want and the type of communication that’s lighting up social media and may not really be resonating with them. The components of the FEEL First model are as follows:
• An audit process to get unstuck, which is the first step in understanding how you’ve been communicating in the past. This is usually a Fix it to Move Forward approach.
• Finding the Passion Potential with any group, to make sure that what you believe is relevant to share will actually resonate and have the potential for further engagement with them.
• Take the FEEL Test to help you engage more authentically with any audience [there are four parts focused on each piece of the FEEL acronym]
• Address your FEEL weaknesses after scoring your test.
• Apply the FEEL approach to social media, company team meetings, speaking engagements, and your media interviews.
• Measure the FEEL model to see that you’re moving toward genuine communication and relationships that encourage fresh ideas, empathy for all parties, use good judgment in all interactions and unleash a passion that becomes the DNA or the fabric of your relationships.
I’ll be building out the model in much more detail in the weeks ahead with exercises and different ways to advance your steps with the FEEL First Approach. All ideas and suggestions are welcomed!