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Public Service Motivation

We Can’t Keep Our Mouths Shut

The following article was requested and written as a Display Case piece for the American Association of Museums May/June issue of Museum Magazine. You can check it out on page 29 of the hard copy. The magazine is one of the great perks of being an individual member of AMM. You can become one here. (There are all kinds of other perks, too!) Special thanks to Editor and Chief, Susan Breitkopf, for contacting me and also to Susannah O’Donnell  of AAM for her terrific edits. I’m excited to have the opportunity to also share the article here.

 

Generation Y. Millennials. Generation “Me.” The Obama Generation. However you identify these 20-somethings working in your museum, one thing’s for sure: We function differently than older generations in the workplace. Members of Generation Y (born roughly between 1980 and 1992) have a different value set and method of communicating than the generations that came before us. In fact, if you are a Traditionalist (born 1927–1945), a Baby Boomer (born 1946–1964) or even a member of Generation X (born 1965–1979), you may find that the behavior and priorities of members of Generation Y are directly at odds with your own workplace desires—or, at least, in direct odds with business as usual.

If anything, the sheer size of Generation Y makes Millennials hard to ignore. By 2008, there were 77.6 million members of Generation Y, outnumbering the 74.1 million Baby Boomers.

So what do Millennials want from the museums that employ them, and why should institutions care? Studies have found that our generation has some tall orders that are likely to cause a bit of cross-generational clash. But while these starry-eyed, tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, cannot-keep-their-mouths-shut 20-somethings may have a thing or two to learn from older generations in the workplace, we bring with us a new way of thinking that can benefit any organization—and museums in particular—if given the chance.

 

Generation Y employees want to be included in important conversations regardless of their position within the institution … From a young age, members of “Generation Me” have been encouraged by elders to speak up and contribute—and we’ve been rewarded for our input. (On our Little League teams, everyone got a trophy, not just the MVP.) This egalitarian approach may perturb members of older generations who are accustomed to authoritative relationships within the workplace and value the hard work associated with moving up the organizational ladder that they climbed in order to participate in such decision-making discussions.

but they also bring transparency and accessibility to organizations, which will likely have a positive impact on the museum industry. The social media revolution is in full force, and many Millennials would not recognize a world without cell phones and the Internet. With increasing connectedness comes increasing information-share, and in the current market, incredible value is placed on brand transparency. Accessibility has always been an important aspect of museums’ missions, but it is becoming increasingly critical as social technology, online engagement and crowd-curated exhibits take hold of museum audiences. Most Millennials have communication and transparency hard-wired into their nature. And because we use these tools to communicate with friends and family, we often know how to utilize them with the sincerity that is required for building a strong brand.

 

Generation Y employees value mission and mentorship over money, challenging traditional workplace motivators … That may not sound like a culture clash, but it certainly makes the priorities of Millennials a bit tricky to understand, particularly for goal-oriented Baby Boomers who are accustomed to utilizing monetary reward as a motivating force. Tracing the annual Universum IDEAL Employer Rankings reveals a startling trend in Generation Y’s ideal employers prefrences. While the 1999 version of the survey found that Generation X wanted to work for large, private companies like Microsoft or Cisco, Generation Y prefers working for public service organizations. They don’t call us the “Obama Generation” for nothing: Working for an organization we believe in is often every bit as important to Millennials as the price tag on a starting salary. Because of our generation’s desire to achieve and be recognized, mentorship is also an important aspect of the ideal Millennial work environment. Mentorship takes time, though, and time translates to money for older generations. Making time for the mentorship of Millennials is not always a high priority for busy professionals.

but these values also represent a natural alignment with your museum’s public service goals. While adjusting to these “softer” workplace desires may require some effort within the museum, having energetic employees motivated by public service is sure to work in the organization’s favor. Don’t get me wrong: Millennials have more debt and student loans than any generation that came before them, so warm fuzzies aren’t going to cut it if we cannot pay our bills. Those emotional rewards, however, motivate us and provide what studies have shown is often very high on our workplace wish list: personal fulfillment by making a positive social impact.

 

Generation Y has a reputation for “overshare” and treating employees equally, even the CEO … Generation Y is often regarded as an “oversharing” generation, seemingly tweeting about every dinnertime meal and putting countless photos on Facebook for the world to see. Another habit contributing to our overshare reputation is the perhaps too casual way in which Millennials offer up input to leaders in the workplace.  In fact, Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, cited overshare and addressing all employees casually as two “not-so-smart” mistakes that Millennials commonly make in the workplace in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post. Being social means sharing information with your friends- and online, Generation Y has a lot of them. Millennials are a social bunch and, not surprisingly, surveys have shown that members of this generation prefer to work in groups and share information. Similarly, Generation Y has been found to value teamwork and organic workplace structures. Members of Generation X and Baby Boomers may find this particularly odd, as they’ve been found to generally prefer working independently and have championed workplace autonomy.

… but overshare keeps upper-level management aware of industry trends, and collaboration increases opportunities for competitive advantages. According to writings by Brian Huffman, a professor of management at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, CEOs and upper-level management are nearly always the last to see big societal changes coming; the front-end folks see it first. Considering this, it may help that the front line has a big mouth. With social technology bringing about almost constant changes in branding, marketing and community engagement, Millennials can be a key resource for institutions wrestling with the misconception that museums are organizations frozen in time. You might still cringe when a millennial offers unsolicited input to the department director, but it can help to share different points of view. Studies have found that organizational collaboration helps dodge management groupthink and, in general, makes organizations stronger.

 

So, what’s the value in taking note of the workplace desires of Generation Y? A simple response may be, “Because they are the future leaders of your museum, whether you like it or not.” But that’s not a particularly compelling answer. A better reason is that competitive organizations are becoming more transparent, public-service oriented and horizontal in structure, with value placed on increased communication. The evolution of these business practices reflects the values of Generation Y.

Can members of Generation Y be a nuisance in the workplace? Maybe. Despite our reputation for over-confidence, we certainly have a lot to learn. But Millennials can also be invaluable members of your organization who help weave the fabric for a strong and strategically sound museum. Each of our respective generations marches to the beat of its own drummer. Though the Generation Y workplace beat is a bit more casual and dissonant than others, we still have the interests of the museum at heart and an aim to make a lasting difference in the communities we serve. And that’s pretty cool, right?

Posted on by colleendilen in Generation Y, Management, Museums, Nonprofit Marketing, Nonprofits, Public Service Motivation, Social Change, Social Media, The Future 2 Comments

5 Reasons Why I Chose to Pursue an MPA over an MBA

USC's 2009-2010 Officers of the Graduate Policy and Administration Committee with Associate Dean, Carol Rush

USC's 2009-2010 Officers of the Graduate Policy and Administration Committee with Associate Dean, Carol Rush

 

MPAs and MBAs have a lot in common: they are both professional degrees that provide management training by way of economics, policy, statistics, and finance. What made me pick an MPA (Master of Public Administration) over an MBA (Master of Business Administration), you might ask? The MBA is surely a beaten path with many, well known benefits…but considering my interest and passion for museums and nonprofits, an MBA just wasn’t for me. I liked the idea of a professional degree, but an MBA overlooked the defining features in my field of interest. Here’s why I decided to pursue an MPA over an MBA:

 

1) Museums and nonprofits have harder-to-measure outcomes

A defining characteristic of the nonprofit and public sectors is unmeasurable outcomes because the point of most nonprofits is to fulfill a social mission (nonprofit organizations cannot distribute profits). A powerful business is one that can make the most money (measurable). A powerful nonprofit is one that helps more people, most effectively (not-so-measurable). This does not mean that impact assessments are not critical in the nonprofit world and that they are strongest when they include quantitative data. However, to get an MBA would mean overlooking an opportunity to really think about solving problems of nonprofit outcome measurement and would mean focusing heavily on a monetary bottom-line, which is just not a characteristic of the sector. The MPA focuses on social missions while also emphasizing the skills required to obtain funding for an organization, which is much more relevant to my continuing work with nonprofit organizations.

 

2) It’s a problem-solving degree- ideal for an evolving sector

If MBA programs study the market, then MPAs try to solve market failures– and there’s an obvious difference between studying and solving. In the former, it’s been figured out, you’re just learning how to do it. In the latter, there’s a large-scale problem to be solved. MBAs are hired to make an individual company more profitable and there are books on this (lots of them!) with clear rules (“buy low, sell high,” “always be closing”). In contrast, MPAs are hired to take action to lead their organizations in making the world a better place… and our literature is not nearly as abundant and the tone is less certain. Our academic journals are filled with what’s happening right now or what’s happened in the past. This is ideal for the nonprofit sector because need and the way people communicate and connect (securing funding, donors, etc) is always evolving.  There is certainly no better degree in this case, it’s just based on your goals and interests. Considering my interests, an MPA was the way to go.

 

3) My utility function includes public service

This is not to say that my utility function– and those of my MPA peers– doesn’t include income at all (or that the utility function of MBA grads never includes public service), but it is to say that public service drives my behavior more than money, and most likely drives the behavior of my classmates as well. It shouldn’t be surprising that nonprofit CEOs don’t make as much money as for-profit CEOs. On top of that, nonprofits are often understaffed and leaders may suffer from serious burnout. So why would us MPAs put ourselves through that? Because we want to make a difference. For some of us (and I’ll blame my background at The University of Chicago for the sincerity of this statement), we want to solve big problems and aren’t afraid of hard things. Some people might hate to look back and say, “I wish I made more money.” I respect that– and to each, his own. But for me, the most heartbreaking thing that I can imagine saying is, “I wish I made a difference for someone,” or “I wish I spent my life doing something I deeply cared about.” The MPA degree helps me build the skills to accomplish the things that I care about.

 

4) MPAs want to change the world… but we’re not impractical about it

I spend every day with folks who are determined to change the world. Are we starry-eyed and optimistic? Maybe. Too impractical to be effective? Definitely not. These professionals come from top tier institutions, much like the professionals that enter top MBA programs. Moreover, as an MPA, our speakers, mentors, and professors are professionals in policy and the nonprofit sector– rather than bankers and for-profit professionals. If I were to have pursued an MBA, our speakers and mentors would be those who best understand investment banking recruiting and achieving measurable outcomes– which would be much less relevant to me and my interests. Instead, I am surrounded by future foundation CEOs, grant writers, program producers, and nonprofit directors. A frequent happy hour topic for us: how not warm-and-fuzzy it is to work tirelessly for a mission.

 

5) The future: society’s priorities are placing higher importance on social good.

Signs are pointing toward the need for corporate environments to take on social missions– or at least some corporate social responsibility. Does this mean we might see some MPAs in corporate environments changing up the system in the near future? Perhaps. Consider this: Generation Y, the incoming professional leaders, are said to run on public service motivation. Unlike Generation X, these folks would much rather work for the government than a corporate giant. They want to give back to communities. Moreover, customers are more likely to consume goods that align themselves with some sort of social mission– and communication, transparency, and connection (nonprofit focuses) are beginning to lead corporate environments. In sum, the days of caring primarily about income and individual companies may be coming to a close. In fact, that’s what The Economist predicted for 2010 when they discussed the oncoming decline of the MBA.

When young nonprofit and museum professionals spout their desire to get an MBA because that’s what they think they “should” do, I cringe. There are many incredible reasons to get an MBA and great reasons to get an MPA as well; but I think it’s the responsibility of professional-degree-advocates to know why they are choosing one degree over the other.

Posted on by colleendilen in Education, Generation Y, Graduate school, Leadership, Management, Museums, Nonprofits, Public Management, Public Service Motivation, Social Change, The Future, Words of Wisdom 38 Comments

The Nonprofit Manifesto for Generation Y Leaders

USC Price MPA

Attributes of Generation Y will shape the nonprofit sector as oldest members of the generation turn 30 and take up more powerful positions in organizations. Just for fun, I’ve combined some of my generation’s stereotypical characteristics to create a little manifesto for generation Y nonprofit leaders. I present (trumpets, please):

1. Thou shalt question perceived sector constraints and manage according to what is best for my organization

I will manage my organization with an eye for each unique situation, and I will not back down when perceived sector constraints stand in the way of progress in achieving a social mission. I will channel the entrepreneurial spirit of my generation and nontraditional leadership skills in order to come up with creative solutions. I will consider accepting high administrative costs if it will bring me better leaders and that is what I need. I will produce products and sell them to support a mission. I will employ business best practices suitable for my situation. Above all, I will ask, “Why not?”

 

2. Thou shalt manage with professionalism but understand the importance of soft skills

I will lead with compassion, kindness, professionalism and a strong sense of morality. I will not let my feelings jeopardize what is best for the organization or let things slide for employees just because it is a nonprofit organization. I understand the growing importance of soft skills. I will combine hard and soft skills to cultivate a culture of both compassion and professionalism.

 

3. We shall remain the sector of interpersonal relationships under my watch

I will share my organization’s mission and the captivating stories of the communities I serve. I am civic-minded and social, and will create and develop personal relationships with individuals who share the desire to improve these communities. I will be driven, passionate, imaginative, hopeful, and ambitious within reason.  My demonstration of this sincerity will contribute to the fire of the sector as a whole.

 

4. Thou shalt realize that I do not own social change

My generation understands that what matters is getting the job done in achieving a social mission. My organization and even the nonprofit sector itself does not own social change. When I do contribute to change, I understand that often credit belongs not only to myself, but to employees, donors, volunteers, corporations, and often entire communities. Often, the private and public sector are just as capable of serving social missions as the nonprofit sector, and can effectively evoke positive change. For me and my generation, making a difference is important, regardless of sector.

 

5. I am not better than anyone else because I am motivated by public service.

I derive utility by helping others. I understand that some individuals do not share the same primary motivation, and I respect this. Many individuals working in the private sector do, indeed, want to help others, and they will become some of my organization’s most valuable donors and terrific friends.

 

6. Thou shalt always be brainstorming

I will be constantly thinking of ways to make my organization more efficient and brainstorming innovative ideas. I understand that brainstorming may produce many unwise ideas that I shall not act upon, but great possibilities arise from brainstorming as well. I will read blogs, utilize the internet, and engage my networks in coming up with creative solutions to problems facing my nonprofit organization. I will utilize my spirit of collaboration to work with others to come up with new ideas.

 

7. Thou shalt expect employees to take time to rest

The nonprofit sector is strongly associated with burnout, but I will change this because I understand the importance of work-life balance. Giving employees adequate rest, reward, and relaxation will make them happier and clear their minds so that they may produce higher quality ideas. Allocating time for my personal life makes me a better, happier leader and I understand and expect that employees need this time as well. I will be sensitive to burnout.

 

8. Thou shalt bring an understanding of social media to the table

I am part of the first generation raised with computers, and I understand the importance of generally keeping up with technological advances. Social media and online marketing skills are of growing importance in nonprofit organizations in this day and age. Staff and board members can generally look to me for guidance in understanding social media.

 

9. Thou shalt seek mentors in every organization

I believe that older employees have valuable wisdom to share, and I will actively seek their guidance. Especially in nonprofit organizations, I count on older employees to pass along the culture and unspoken ideals upon which the organization was founded. I respect this culture, and I will handle it with care– even if it must be transformed for the good of the organization. I believe that there is much to be learned from older employees and I am appreciative of their mentorship.

 

10. Thou shalt understand that the world is always changing and that sector practices must evolve according to those changes

I understand that working in the nonprofit sector is not easy.  There will be ups and downs in every organization and throughout the sector. Some predict that we will face a severe 2016 leadership deficit. Others predict that increasing CEO salaries will bring better leaders to the sector. Whatever the future brings, I will summon my talents to tackle problems facing not only my organization, but the sector as a whole.

Do you agree, disagree, have points to add, or just want to give your seal of approval? Please share in the comment section!

 

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Posted on by colleendilen in Generation Y, Leadership, Nonprofits, Public Service Motivation, Social Change 8 Comments

Discover Your Public Service Identity

 

Brewer, Selden, and Facer, in a shockingly under-discussed academic article published in 2000, contributed to theories of public-service motivation by identifying four individual orientations. It helps to think of them as four different do-good personality types: samaritans, communitarians, patriots, and humanitarians.

If you’re a samaritan, then civic duty and public service are central to your identity. Samaritans feel good as a result of giving to others. They empathize with the underprivileged, and expect those that they help to exert effort on their own behalf. They are deeply compassionate and caring.

If you’re a communitarian, then you are dedicated to giving back to society, and especially your community. Communitarians and samaritans are most likely to help others, even when they are not paid to do so. Unlike samaritans, however, communitarians feel no special connection to the disadvantaged, and aim to give back to the community as a whole. Communitarians have high standards of public officials, and believe that the greater good means elevating entire groups of people who are in need.

If you’re a patriot
, then you are fiercely loyal, and you stick to what you see needs to be done. Patriots would risk significant personal loss in the name of what they believe to be the greater good, and are drawn to problems that are much bigger than themselves. Patriots risk self-sacrifice for their beliefs and feel a strong sense of duty to the public and to themselves.

If you’re a humanitarian
, then social justice is central to motivating you and you tend to think about the big picture. Humanitarians are focused more on what they consider to be fair and right. They are very responsible, and making a difference in greater society is important to them. Humanitarians have a knack for building connections and inspiring others, but are not as likely to work without compensation as a Samaritan or a Communitarian.

 

For fun– and justified by the fact that the Myer-Briggs Personality Test was actually created by an ordinary housewife who was trying to understand her son-in-law– I’ve put together an unscientific personality test to help you identify your public-service motivation identity according to Brewer, Selden and Facer. This test assumes that you are motivated by ideals of public service. If you are taking this test and none of these answers apply to you, chances are you do not run strongly on public service motivation.

Count how many S, C, P, and Hs with which you identify:

1) If you were a superhero, you’d consider yourself to be the guardian of:
A) the community (C)
B) the greater good (P)
C) social justice (H)
D) the underprivileged (S)

2) You are most driven by the thought of making positive changes for:
A) all of mankind (H)
B) the nation as a whole (P)
C) entire communities (C)
D) other individuals (S)

3. Would you continue to serve citizens if you were not compensated?

A) Absolutely. I know that even one person can make a difference– and I’m going to do it. (S)
B) Yes. Giving back is very important to me. (C)
C) Maybe. To work without payment, I’d have to be 100% dedicated to the cause. (P)
D) Probably not. It takes a lot of resources to contribute in the way that I want to. I also need to make sure my basic needs are met in order to be most innovative. (H)

4) Which of these projects sounds most interesting to you:
A) developing a network of contacts to seek assistance for a variety of social causes. These contacts will help spearhead a food pantry, winter coat distribution, and a school bus safety check. (H)
B) after losing a loved one to a brutal murder, you’d start a nonprofit to provide emotional support and advocacy for victims of crime. Your service would help make changes in laws that have give victims a stronger presence in the legal process. (P)
C) personally making shoes for the homeless and getting your friends to help, too. Together you can help out over 1200 homeless men and women! (S)
D) Turning around a community that is in shambles. You’ll work to establish after school and off-site tutoring, culture, and sports initiatives and work with the state to establish the county’s first special programs for at risk students. (C)

5) Which of these public servants do you most admire?
A) Mother Teresa (S)
B) Martin Luther King Jr (P)
C) Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey (H)
D) Abraham Lincoln (C)

Mostly S- You’re a samaritan.

Mostly C- You’re a communitarian.

Mostly P- You’re a patriot.

Mostly H- You’re a humanitarian
.

 

Please feel free to share your public service identity in the comments section. It would be interesting to get a sense of which is the most/least common orientation among contemporary leaders. (I am a communitarian).

.

Note: The information in this post relies heavily on information from these three academic articles.

 

Posted on by colleendilen in Leadership, Lessons Learned, Nonprofits, Public Management, Public Service Motivation, Social Change 2 Comments