Update: If you are looking for a remote option for your event, learn more about my virtual engagements by clicking here.

Not Everyone Gets a Trophy…But a One-Person Company Can

Earlier this week, I was extremely honored to receive Gold in the Excellence in Content category for the Chief Learning Officer’s Learning in Practice 2016 awards. The award was for the breakthrough results University of Pacific and I experienced implementing Generation University(TM), my flagship program for cross-generation collaboration skills. Universities have all generations in their workplace, more so than most. From the Dean down to the student staff, every generation from Silent to Gen Z is represented. As a result, Pacific had heard complaints from Millennials (who often left the organization) and requests from the rest of the staff to figure out how to work together.


Generation University is a blended training program I developed to take people from stereotypes to strengths, regardless of the participant’s generation, role, or level. In a series of four online courses (with optional offline group discussions), the program aims to help people wear different lenses and then create their own strategies for day-to-day collaboration and leadership. For Pacific, an overwhelming 100% of participants reported an improvement in productivity, engagement, and working relationships after the program!

At the CLO Symposium, surrounded by CLOs of all flavors and industries and vendors who offer highly vetted solutions, several things became instantly clear:

  • I was probably one of the very few one-person companies to receive an award
  • I was the youngest in the room
  • The belief that one person can make a difference can actually happen, even from outside the organization
  • Taking risks is the nature of leading effective change. Untested is not the same as ineffective.

Despite being one of the youngest, smallest companies, the impact of our work was undeniable. If you’re interested in learning more about the results, here is a summary.

I want to explore this situation further in the context of the Trophy Generation. How many times have we heard that Millennials are the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ generation? But just because we have heard it so many times doesn’t make it true, from multiple angles.

The big fear with everyone gets a trophy is that we are less motivated to succeed and that we don’t distinguish between good and bad work. Essentially, preserving self-confidence is the name of the game. However, the source of a strong sense of self-confidence is not from empty recognition, but from overcoming of obstacles. Because we live in a world where people believe that everyone gets a trophy, we often casually discount others’ achievements and sometimes believe that we cannot truly achieve a recognizable distinction.

Case #1: The Fear of Striking Out On Your Own. When I talk to older individuals, they often fear striking out on their own. Not getting a trophy, in this case, inhibits their ability to find value in their own experience and insight. The idea of being able to manage it all on one’s own and do it without the help of a team or structure can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Especially after years of being a part of a team. Yet is that actually the case?

Case #2: Disbelieving Those That Do. Another folly we often make is that young people today are not doing anything ‘serious’ when they strike out on their own. We often think someone going on their own will not succeed. And hey, many will not. But believing that everyone’s dream is a steady paycheck and a nine-to-five is a folly. Entrepreneurial spirit, regardless of number of entrepreneurs, is a growing phenomena due to the reduced barriers offered by the advent of digital technology. There are some that make it and we need to keep our eyes open, without disbelief and lack of faith clouding our judgement.

Case #3: Knowing Who Is Dead Last Is Okay. I want to know who is ranked bottom. Why? Because I don’t want to risk using mediocre when I could use the best thing. Especially if that risk comes with a consequence. Consider certain skills such as construction. Sure, I want to know the top ranked construction companies if I’m about to build a house. But absolutely, for sure, without a doubt, I want to know the companies that ranked at the bottom. And I want to know why. So rank away. And don’t just tell me the top, so everyone feels like a winner. For soft skills, it can be a little different. Who is to judge what is good or bad? Or even if the criteria is clear, just because someone ranked at the bottom in a certain skill, doesn’t mean they aren’t ranked at the top elsewhere. We can’t be good at everything.

As I sat at a gorgeous reception at a gorgeous hotel, I was truly in awe of the talent around me. I was filled with a sense of deep respect for the investment in time and challenges these individuals have overcome throughout their career. I was especially touched by Kimo Kippen, CLO of 2015 award recipient and current CLO of Hilton, and his statement “Remember, we employ souls.” And I was happy that I chose to take a risk, to put myself out there, to try. And in trying, I was able to work in partnership with a great client and have a deep impact.

In the world of adults, a trophy is not just a trophy. It is a sign that one took a risk, enrolled others, and persevered to make a difference.


Looking for better communication and relationships between generations in your workplace? Please feel free to reach out if you would like more information about Generation University in order to build an effective, positive culture between generations.

Crystal Kadakia is a two-time TEDx speaker, author, and consultant on Millennials and the Modern Workplace. Her unique expertise is in driving the connection between Millennial behavior and the evolution of the digital, modern workplace. Her company, Invati Consulting, champions what she calls “talent driven organization design” to modernize the workplace through speaking, training, and consulting solutions. She is the author of Your Career: How to Make it Happen and the forthcoming book, The Millennial Myth: Transforming Misunderstanding into Workplace Breakthroughs. She is the creator of the acclaimed virtual, blended training on generations, Generation University™, and the Modern Culture Assessment™ that drives organizations to strategically shift culture for the needs of modern employees.