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Book Review: ‘Counter Mentor Leadership: How to Unlock the Potential of the 4-Generation Workplace,’ by Kelly and Robby Riggs

Kelly Riggs and Robby Riggs are father and son business coaches who have developed a model cross-generational partnership. In their new book, Counter Mentor Leadership: How to Unlock the Potential of the 4-Generation Workplace (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2018), they make a strong case for why business thrives with a cohesive multigenerational workforce.

With a certain irreverence, they define both sides of the generational divide: the stereotypical BOSS, an acronym for Boomer, Old-School Supervisors; and demanding Millennials, or KIDS — Know-it-all, Digital Self-Promoters. While they paint these portraits in broad strokes, there’s plenty of experience informing them.

Kelly Riggs is a Boomer with decades as a thought leader specializing in sales and leadership development while son Robby Riggs is a Millennial and in-demand corporate consultant who focuses on intergenerational issues. As a team they have created a unified and compelling strategy for creating a better workplace — without erasing either’s point of view. Better yet, they do it with a great deal of enthusiasm, engaging humor, and savvy insights drawn from their successful consultancy together.

As a business and leadership book, this volume is both timely and relevant. The power of a diverse workforce has been well evidenced in numerous recent studies, from Deloitte to Harvard Business School. It’s also clear that in today’s digitally transformed workplace, no leader can succeed without help from those highly comfortable with tech.

However, it takes a secure leader to “grow from below,” and it takes engaged and motivated younger employees to want to share their knowledge. The authors underscore the importance of tapping into each generation’s strengths, and working inclusively and collaboratively. They also note that there are indeed intersections as well as blind spots: it’s surprising how similarly a Boomer and a Millennial can think, if given the chance.

Tight, quick-moving chapters are filled with practical advice on modern-day leadership. From the problem with old-school management approaches to the need to embrace change head-on, from the importance of knowledge sharing to the need to be comfortable with complexity of the Internet of Things (IoT), there are countless lessons.

The authors address the critical importance of engaging and retaining talent by leaving the old, top-down model of managing behind. They also offer a promising strategy for unlocking the potential of the multi-generational workplace that involves 7 decisive steps, covering emotional intelligence, behavioral changes, better communication and coaching, and more.

The authors also encourage leaders to focus on areas that have a high return on investment — such as setting clear strategy and developing people over process. They recommend high-quality, frequent, 1-on-1 meetings with direct reporters as being far more efficient than endless updates from countless channels, and stress the importance of clear and direct communication.

A number of real-life stories based on their own clients serve as revealing, and inspiring examples. In all, Counter Mentor Leadership is an entertaining and useful guide to transforming workplace culture and creating a high performing organization — by motivating and uniting a company’s most valuable asset, its people. In terms of a book about creating a vibrant and aligned workforce of multiple generations, the Riggs are certainly the ideal authors to write it.

Learn more about Kelly and Robby Riggs and their work at their website.

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.

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