Millennials Don’t Eat Onions

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Millennials Don’t Eat Onions

We have all at some time heard or attempted to apply the concept of “Peel the Onion”. This concept refers to peeling away the layers of a problem until you have established the root of the problem.

Have you ever peeled away the layers of an onion? As you peel away layer for layer of the onion you are ultimately left with nothing. This is a concept used in problem solving specifically and implies that as you delve deeper into the superficial appearance of the problem you will eventually get to the actual problem. This in itself poses a problem, because as you peel away at the layers, you eventually have nothing. This seems to imply that if you dig deep enough the problem goes away by itself.

A further implication with peeling the onion is that as you peel away at the layers, it is a painful process. This comes from the fact that most people, when they peel an onion, get tears in their eyes.

In the world of today, we find that our company does not perform, our team does not deliver and we start peeling back the layers to see where we can get to the core of the problem. We peel back these layers one by one and right at core of it we find the problem or person which we realise is a hard, bitter core. This is the premise of The Core of the Cabbage TM, which unlike peeling an onion, actually results in discovering the problem.

As is the normal practice in today’s modern businesses, we don’t want to handle the problem and therefore we are faced with the harsh reality that this hard and bitter core is out of place and we should get rid of it and that is usually our first reaction. When we are placed in a position where senior management consists of primarily Baby Boomers and the up-and-coming workforce and the junior executives are Millennials, this problem and situation is aggravated ten-fold due to a clash of values and character of the different generations.

The problem with cutting out the core of the cabbage and discarding it is that the next cabbage you get, will still have the same hard, bitter core, and so the cycle keeps recurring and perpetuating itself as you employ, train, fire and employ, train and fire all over again. Do you see why certain organisations and even industries have such a high staff turnover?

Even though there is much debate about the difference in the generations, there is no significant difference. All the generations have dreams and aspirations and all of them want to achieve the goals. Because some of them react differently to various situations they scare us and we label them as different.

Everything on life has changed since the sixties; hairstyles, automobiles, music and technology to name but a few. Why should the generations and the people have remained the same? We are so set in our ways that we feel threatened if someone comes along and challenges the status quo.

What if we stopped there at the core and decided to do something real about it, something like adding energy to it? What if we became a catalyst, and changed the alignment of the atoms to make it better, softer, and sweet on the palette.

When you look at a company that is hiring and  firing people on a whim because they do not have the desire, energy or even the time to put any effort into changing the person causing the problem, you will notice certain trends. They do not want to put in the effort or energy to re-energise the core that is hard and bitter and causing the problem. A couple of questions spring to mind that could be the reason why the person is a problem and is not necessarily their fault, but the result of mixed messages.

When you want to implement the Core of the Cabbage TM concept in the workplace, you need to consider some factors.

There are two aspects that are important when important in applying this concept and they are things you need; and then there are thing you need to do.

The things you need would include:

  • The leadership qualities that are defined in the Leadership Flag1.
  • Conviction and a strong belief in your values and message

The things you need to do include:

  • Putting in the effort. You need to spend the time and you need to pay the price.
  • You need to add energy by applying just the correct amount of pressure. Too much or too little pressure will result in not achieving the objectives.
  • You need to allow for mistakes or failure – as long as there was a lesson learned. What is the price you pay today for training? is it worth it? Do we not spend too much on all these popular or accredited training programmes but the actual application in the workplace keeps on failing because we fire people too quickly, demote too fast, replace too soon, and not allow for the failure to take place in order for us to analyze it and learn the lesson from it?

Re-energizing the core is not only cheaper than replacing but is also more productive option would simply have been to keep the existing staff. A study conducted in 2012 indicated that there were astronomical costs involved in replacing employees. These costs ranged from loss of production, training new replacements and so forth. The study estimated that the costs (based on an average of the 3 groups identified) could be around US$40 000 per employee.

Consider the following 5 skills that allow a successful leader to effectively re-align the core of the cabbage.


The empathy plays a very important role in being an effective leader and will become ever more valuable in a world where the onslaught of technology will disrupt the status quo like never before.

The leader that strives to understand and share the feelings of each team member is far more successful than the leader that simply discards the core. Giving trusted coworkers the benefit of the doubt by assuming the good in them goes a long way toward instilling loyalty and trust in you from your team.

Allowing workers to make mistakes and then helping them to learn from the mistake to grow and not make the same mistakes, is what empathy is all about. By practicing empathy your feels safe to approach you with problems and will not hide things from you because they fear you.


True leaders care about the welfare of their team and don’t just see them as a number or another cog in the corporate machine. True leaders care passionately about their employees’ well-being. Leaders know that they need to put the interests of their team ahead of their own.

True leaders have an understanding of the effects their decisions and behaviour have on others around them and they are able to create an environment that is safe for the team


Rather than simply directing employees to follow orders based on a rigid hierarchy, the servant leader relies on persuasion rather than coercion. Inspiration is different to motivation in that motivation is convincing someone to do something for you in the hope of a reward where inspiration is the art of developing a relationship with someone and them doing what you require simply because they want to.

In fact, skill inspiration is one of the differentiating factors between a traditional authoritarian management structure and the service-driven approach. Inspiration involves one important component that orders don’t: dialogue. When you engage with your employees on why something is a good idea for the team, and work with them to see how it benefits everyone, employees are more likely to develop the internal motivation required to complete the task effectively.


Real leaders focus on the big picture and don’t get overly distracted by daily operations and short-term goals. While you need to pay attention to every detail in the early, survival mode stage of your business, later you should delegate and focus on the big picture.

Real leaders empower their team to handle daily matters, freeing themselves to dream a better future for the team and the company. This doesn’t make the leader an impractical daydreamer, but instead an  effective relational leader who will have a deep understanding of every aspect of the business and won’t allow himself or herself to be distracted from long-term goals. Feeling this freedom is also a good sign that you have competent employees whom you can trust.


Relational leaders care passionately about the personal and professional growth of each member of their team. A relational leader is someone who doesn’t think he or she is better than the people lower on the ladder or that unless employees are carefully watched, they won’t work hard. Relational leaders believe that if you create the right values and culture, normal people will do extraordinary things.

Leaders that inspire, empower and build positive relationships with their team which includes millennials, have better results and are able to re-energize the core of the cabbage and retain their staff for longer.

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