5 Things You’ll Need to Teach Your Gen Z Employees as they Enter the Workforce

Generation Z

Given that Gen Z is estimated to be one third of the population by 2020 and will outnumber their Millennial counterparts by more than one million, it is time to take notice of them.

Generation Zers will be the first to tell you they feel like their smartphone is as indispensable as a body part. Despite this, they are not entirely clueless about how to communicate. A full 78% feel that face-to-face communication is best when expressing feelings.

Still, there are a number of things you can plan on teaching Gen Z employees as they begin to join your ranks.

1. When to pick up the phone.

74% admit communication in person or over the phone doesn’t come naturally to them, according to a recent BridgeWorks study. Consequently, many routine matters will get bogged down in email that takes much more time to process than a quick phone call.

2. How to focus.

Raised in a world of six-second Vine videos, Gen Zers have limited attention spans. Passive attention measures a mere eight seconds and active attention 12 minutes, according to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The upshot? They can handle, and will expect, working on multiple projects with competing priorities.

3. How to ask for help.

They are a self-reliant bunch. Raised like mini-adults by their Gen X parents, it may not naturally occur to them to ask for help. Even when they are stuck. Model asking for help and show them that it is perfectly okay for them to reach out.

4. Patience.

Growing up in a world of Amazon, Zappos and other next-day and same-day delivery services, this generation expects that things will be delivered (at work and elsewhere) nearly instantaneously. And in working order. If they have to wait or if the product or service does not meet their high standards, they will take it as a sign of disrespect. Teaching them that the world of work does not deliver in the same way as Amazon will help them be more tolerant and understanding.

5. How to make small talk.

As they note about themselves, communicating in person does not come naturally to them. Courting clients, making friends at work and networking in their professional field will inevitably involve small talk, a staple of in-person communication. Make small talk with them by asking what they did on the weekend, how their commute was and what’s happening on the music scene (or whatever their area of interest) and you will model this important skill.

Follow these tips and you will get the most out these optimistic, resilient, entrepreneurial young adults.

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    virtual team communication

    Communication in virtual teams may not feel as fluid and dynamic as it does in face to face teams, especially if you’ve spent most of your time working in collocated teams.  Here are four ways to improve communication in virtual teams:

    1. Develop communication norms.

    Email. Texting. SharePoint. Phone calls. Workfront. Jira. Slack. Sales Force. Instant messaging. And the list goes on (and on!).

    There are so many communication technologies available for virtual teams these days, it can be hard to figure out which one is best used for which type of task.

    The more you can establish norms for communicating through certain media for specific tasks, it will make it easier for your virtual team members to find what they need and communicate effectively.

    2. Be available as much as possible.

    When a collocated team member walks by and sees your door open and that you’re not on the phone, it is easy and comfortable for them to stop by and ask a quick question, get clarification or simply say hello.

    Virtual team members don’t have access to those same physical and visual cues, so they will need other means to know when you are available.  Whether it is through using an onscreen status indicator or regularly scheduling office hours where virtual team members can “drop by” via phone or video conference, make yourself available to your virtual team members in a regular and dependable way.

    3. Strategically over-communicate.

    Communicate your expectations through multiple means (project plans, documents and meetings to name a few). Over-communicate the things that you feel are the most important, being mindful to keep it at an expectations level rather than at a task level in order to avoid micromanaging team members.  Additionally, do your best to preempt any side conversations with individual team members in which important or critical information is exchanged. This will help to ensure that team members who are not present don’t feel out of the loop or disenfranchised because they were not part of the discussion.

    4. Communicate the story of the team and how it fits into big picture

    As I’ve discussed elsewhere, virtual team members need to hear the story of their team (why it was formed, what it’s goals are and how it fits into the mission of the broader organization) regularly and told with conviction. When team members understand the broader context for the team’s existence and their specific role on it and that they are fulfilling a critical role in the organization, they will be more likely to be committed and engaged.

    These four steps, taken together, can make significant strides toward bringing more cohesion and connection to your virtual team. These steps are meaningless if you don’t act on them.  Pick one and start doing it today.

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    communication-problem

    When people talk to one another, three outcomes are possible:

    • they completely miss each other’s point (zero shared meaning),
    • they understand a portion of each other’s intended meaning (partial shared meaning) or
    • they completely understand each other (complete shared meaning).

    When you miss the other person entirely, you feel like a zero.

    When you completely understand the other person, you look like a hero.

    Let’s look at each of them and turn you into a hero more often.

    1. Zero shared meaning. “We need to be more transparent with our clients about our development schedule for new features,” Shelly says to her colleague Amanda.  The next day, Shelly comes to work to find that Amanda has shared an internal scheduling document that lists the roll-out dates for all new features with all the company’s clients.

    Shelly’s intention was to start the discussion or about being more transparent. Amanda understood this as an idea to act upon immediately.  As you might suppose, Shelly was upset that Amanda had shared an internal document with clients.

    2. Partial shared meaning. “We need to be more transparent with our clients about our development schedule for new features,” Shelly says to her colleague Amanda. “It’s not going to be a simple process and I’m not sure how much we can share,” Amanda replies. “Some of our customers will be upset to see how low on the priority list the features they are waiting for are.”

    Amanda and Shelly agree in general on the premise, although there is some negotiation and compromise on how much detail to share.

    3. Complete shared meaning. “We need to be more transparent with our clients about our development schedule for new features,” Shelly says to her colleague Amanda. “I couldn’t agree more,” Amanda replies. “I will set up a time on the calendar for us to draft a message to our clients and we can decide how much information to share and when.”  Shelly nods in agreement, “Perfect.”

    Amanda and Shelly are in lock step on both the need to share more information and on the route they will take to begin the new process.  Although they are entering the conversation with their own experiences, they agree on the premise and the next steps.

    This happens at work in conversation: we nail shared meaning, miss each other completely, or find some middle ground.

    When you get partial or no shared meaning, ask yourself “Why?”  What makes the difference for you in creating more shared meaning? A history of working well together? Similar demographics?  Length of time in the organization?

    Once you understand the “Why,” the “How” (as in, how you communicate with the person) will get easier to figure out. Next time you have a miscommunication (full or partial) ask yourself “Why?” and adjust how you communicate with them accordingly.

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    You will never amount to anything.

    Self-talk, or the thoughts you think to yourself all day long, can do more damage than good. In fact, that self-talk can outright crush your dreams, especially if you are not listening closely to it and identifying whether it is fact or fiction.

    Here are six ways that self-talk, or how you communicate with yourself, can crush your dreams.

    1.  You deny what you want. You got close to that ideal relationship/career move/new car/dream home once.  And it fell through. So you convinced yourself you really didn’t want it anyway.

    2.  You compare yourself to others. Don’t try to fulfill on someone else’s dream. It won’t make you happy. Wanting the car your neighbor has, or the new job your former coworker just landed, isn’t going to make your dreams come true.

    3.  You listen to the (2%) negative feedback. If you weight the one or two pieces of constructive – or even outright negative – feedback more heavily than 98% of the feedback that said you did a great job,

    4.  You put other people’s need in front of your own. You had an intense day at the office and you are looking forward to relaxing in the evening. Except your spouse needs you to proof-read a work report that is due the next morning. Do you honor your need to relax (and your boundaries), or do you compromise your self-care and help?

    5.  You listen to voices from the past. What your parents thought you should be, where your brother thinks you should live or when your college professor said, “You’ll never be a writer.” Those are other people’s voices that need not have any bearing on who you are or what you want to be or do or have. Leave them in the past where they belong.

    6.  You sell yourself short. Excessive humility, when it comes to your skills and talents, is a major impediment to your success. If you are the smartest person in the room on the subject, let people know. If you read six books on the subject last month or follow all the top industry experts, don’t be shy. Confidently state your expertise and show your stuff.

    What will you do to get out of your own way and stop crushing your own dreams?

    Use the Comments below to proudly declare how you will get out of your own way and let your dreams come true.

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    keyboard

     

    I’m breaking up with email.

    I’m in an all-out effort to be more productive and focused. As such, I’m experimenting with various productivity techniques. This week, I’m reducing my dependency on email as a distraction and a vice. It’s harder than I thought. Way. Harder.

    I’ve long touted the benefits of checking email two or three times per day when teaching emerging leaders how to be more strategically effective. And just between you and me, I thought I practiced this myself.  Until I got real with myself this week and actually turned email off – closed the application, the webmail version and turned off the “new mail” chime on my smartphone.  Then the shizzle got real.

    Take this morning for example: I’m in my office, prepping for a speech I’m giving on Friday. I’m combing through data from interview research to find the most compelling stories to support the points I’m making. As soon as I bump up against a challenge, like not easily finding a story that illustrates my point, I reach for email.

    Or as soon as I come to a natural transition point, I reach for email. I just completed one of the sections of the speech.  I have only one section to go (plus the conclusion), and what do I do? I reach for effing email. Sheesh!!

    I’ve often spoken about how email is as addictive as cocaine, sugar and Facebook. Somehow, I thought I was immune. I think we all do.  We think that we are stronger than that. We, certainly, don’t succumb to the dopamine rush that the brain produces when we get a new email.  But alas, we do. Totally.

    From an addiction standpoint, email has the perfect combination of elements:

    • It’s infrequent. You never know exactly when one is coming. Which makes it so much more exciting when you get one!
    • It’s personal. Even if it is a mailing list you are subscribed to, it’s most often addressed to you personally.
    • It’s the perfect procrastination tool. It feels like work. Like important work.

    And so, on this morning, as the minutes tick down until noon, when I can next check my email (one hour, fourteen minutes to go), I reach for my blog instead, hoping for a hit of dopamine somewhere down the line, when a reader comments on the posting.

    Perhaps blogging will become my next vice.

    And, if you’ve sent me an email this morning . . .

    expect a response at either noon or 4:00 pm.

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    picture-frame-1

    people_in_meeting1

    The six directors sat with Jim, their VP, brainstorming ways to get out of their latest technological dilemma. Several features on their flagship product would not work with the new database upgrade they were undertaking. The ideas were flowing, but the “breakthrough” idea that would solve their problem remained elusive.

    “How about re-writing the code in R?” Sharon asked, proposing they use a relatively new statistical programming language that’s particularly useful for visualizing big data.

    “Yeah right, like Rrrrr’s going to magically fix everything. Do you even know how long it would take to rewrite the whole thing in R?” Steven muttered.

    Sharon was at a loss for how to respond. The spirit of Steven’s comment broke from the collaborative nature of their brainstorming meeting. There wasn’t anything in Steven’s berating of her idea that was easy to respond to or challenge directly. Rather, the comment felt like a dig, and it felt personal.

    “What do you mean?” Sharon put forth, working hard to manage her emotions and not become defensive.

    “What do you mean, ‘What do you mean?’” Steven shot back snidely.

    “Let’s take some time to think through the ideas that we put on the table today,” Jim said, curtailing a situation that was likely to go from bad to worse. “We’ll regroup tomorrow, same time.”

    Sharon left the meeting feeling defeated, both personally and professionally.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    What happened in the meeting? Steven broke the frame.

    picture-frame-1

    What frame, you ask? Well, every conversation has a frame, or a set of indirect and implicit messages – or meta-messages – that tell us what is going on.

    Framing, a concept developed by anthropologist and communication theorist Gregory Bateson, provides context. It gives clues about what we mean when we say something. Much like a picture frame wraps around a picture and provides a style for the picture (classic, antique, modern, etc.), a frame provides stylistic cues and meaning in conversation.

    The frame in conversation, indirect and unspoken, sends messages about what we think is going on and our attitude about the messages in the conversation.

    The initial frame in the conversation above had a spirit of collaboration and trust. Steven’s remark broke the collaborative frame.

    If you try to name a frame, you indirectly invoke another one. For example, when Sharon asked “What do you mean?” she questioned his changing of the frame. That provoked Steven and he went on the defensive, shooting back a snide remark. In effect, he was saying ‘How dare you challenge me and my reframing?’

    When we feel reframed by others, like Sharon did by Steven, there are two choices: accept the reframe or resist it.  In order to do either one effectively, we must recognize that a reframe has occurred. That means, we need to be paying attention to not only what is being said but also how it is being said.

    In asking Steven about the reframe (“What do you mean by that?”) Sharon challenged his reframe. In order to resist his reframe, Sharon could have said something like this (in a most collaborative tone): “Steven, thank you for keeping us grounded in reality. We do have to account for the resources of our potential solutions. Could you provide us with an estimate of how long it would take to rewrite the code?”

    In every turn of the conversation we are either accepting the frame or rejecting it and reframing. Listening for the frame can provide great insight as to the dynamics and the power of those in the conversation.

    When was the frame switched on you? What were the results?

    Share your thoughts in the comments.

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    20150814_143829

    20150814_143829

    I recently went kayaking and while I was out on the water, I had these observations about the similarities between kayaking and having a difficult conversation at work:

    1. Do the hard part first. In the kayak, paddle into the wind first, if you have a choice. Size up the waterway, the wind, and any other environmental factors you are aware of and chart your course accordingly. Focus on the most difficult part first, paddling into the wind if you must.

    At work, get the hard part of the conversation over and done with first. If you’ve got difficult news to deliver, be direct and be swift (and diplomatic, of course!). You’ll also come across as more sincere. It leaves a bad impression when you make small talk for 15 minutes and then deliver bad news.

    2. You have to steer to get where you want to go. The kayak won’t naturally take you where you want to go without you being cause in the matter. You may have to paddle hard to the right to explore the cove you’ve spotted up ahead.

    And in conversation, you can’t expect it to naturally go where you want it to when you have a specific topic you need to discuss. A hope and a prayer won’t get you there.  You have to take conscious, deliberate action to move the conversation to where you need it to go.

    3. Coasting is unpredictable. Sometimes in the kayak you need to rest. Or you want to. Whether your arms ache from paddling or you just want to soak in the moment, coasting is important. But it is incredibly unpredictable. Even if you think you’ve accounted for the wind and the waves and you think you know where they will take you, you don’t.

    Likewise in conversation: when you take your eye off the target and lose focus on where you want the conversation go, you will most likely end up in unfamiliar territory.  You might really enjoy where it takes you. Or, you might find yourself treading water on a dicey topic. It can be fun. It can be dangerous. It can be both – at the same time!

    4. It will be messy. In the kayak you will get splashed. Even if you are an experienced kayaker, be prepared to get wet. Water drips from the paddle, it splashes from the waves, it seeps into your shorts and soaks the magazine you brought along to read when you found that “perfect spot.”

    The conversation will go somewhere unanticipated. It will be uncomfortable. It will be difficult. You will make mistakes, say the wrong thing, be misinterpreted. Despite your best intentions. But the trust and respect that comes from taking on a difficult topic will deepen the relationship and make the mess worthwhile.

    5. The “other guy” doesn’t have it as easy as it seems.  The guy who passes you with a friendly wave from his sailboat, looking like he has the wind at his back and hardly has to do anything to zip past you has had his own share of challenges. Sure, he makes it look easy, but there’s a lot of hard work and effort that went into that.

    And the person at work who makes salary negotiation, giving critical feedback and conducting performance reviews look easy has had to work hard to develop those skills. For most people, effectively conducting difficult discussions does not come naturally. Honor the work that has gone into learning the important skill of facilitating tough conversations.

    6. There will be unexpected surprises. You will be paddling along in the most peaceful part of the lake. You will be thinking deep thoughts or no thoughts whatsoever. And a big fish will jump right near your kayak, startling you practically out of the boat.

    The conversation will be going swimmingly. And then your counterpart shares some unknown facts or some difficult news.  Or perhaps it’s good news. Either way, it may knock you off balance. That’s okay. It’s bound to happen.  Steady yourself, take a deep breath, and listen deeply. You’ll know what to say next.

    7. Take risks. Be vulnerable. Take the life jacket off. Live a little. What’s the fun of going all the way out into the middle of the lake if you don’t enjoy the feel of the warm sun on your shoulders?

    In conversation, take a risk.  Say what you need to say, even if it may not be well received. Be courageous and speak up. Deliver the difficult feedback to the person who would benefit immeasurably from knowing. Step up to the challenge.

    8. You can go farther than you think you can. Your arms may be sore from paddling. The hot sun may be beating down on your back and bouncing off the water onto your face. You may be tired, but you can always paddle one more stroke. You really CAN make it to the other side of the lake or miles upstream or wherever you’re headed. And even farther.

    You can build more trust and more respect into that conversation and take it farther than you thought it could go. You can learn more about the other person, disclose more about yourself, and see where the conversation takes you. You can go farther in one conversation than you ever thought you could.

    9. You don’t have to be an expert to succeed. A beginning kayaker gets out onto the water and experiments. The mere act of getting in the boat, learning to paddle and making the vessel glide through the water, with even moderate proficiency is a huge success.

    And in conversation, you don’t need to be an expert at facilitating dialogue to get great outcomes. You took on a tough subject, raised a sensitive issue. That alone is something many people shirk from. You are a success because you had the courage to take it on. Bravo!

    10. It is rewarding. In the kayak, you can go places you’ve never been. And you can see sights you’ve seen thousands of times from a new perspective. You came. You paddled. You saw. The rewards are limitless.

    After the conversation you’ll be proud of yourself for initiating it. And the rewards will last long after the conversation is over. You’ll reap the rewards through your increased confidence, your track record, and most likely, a successful resolution to a difficult situation. Paddle on!

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    strategy-acronym

    Having a clearly defined business strategy is at the top of the list of important priorities for most senior leaders. But overwhelmingly, that strategy does not trickle down to mid-level managers and individual contributors. In fact, research has shown that, on average, 95% of employees are not aware of or do not understand their company’s strategy.

    In a recently released study in the International Journal of Business Communication, researchers set out to learn if using visual models when communicating business strategy would make a difference in employees’ understanding and retention. They had a hunch it did make a difference, but an empirical study had never been conducted until now.

    Turns out, images (as opposed to a list of bullet points), make a big difference.

    Three key findings emerged from the study.

    1. A visual depiction of the strategy is far superior to a list of bullet points.

    The experiment in their research tested a list of bullet points against a visual metaphor (think “crossing a mountain” as business strategy with the mountain image used to depict the journey) and a temporal diagram (geometric shapes that show how processes interact with one another). Participants in the study paid more attention, were in greater agreement with, and retained information better when a visual representation of the strategy was used (that is, no bullet points!).

    2. The temporal diagram was slightly better than the metaphorical image.

    Findings were similar on several measures, but the temporal diagram scored significantly better when people’s comprehension of the strategy was checked. My guess is that the abstraction of the metaphor got in the way of a full and detailed understanding of the message. Employees might have been thinking more about the mountain than what the mountain stood for.

    3. The presenter was thought more highly of when visualization was used.

    Using a compelling visual model in communicating the strategy goes far beyond the message itself. What I find to be the most interesting result from the study is that the perception of the presenter was significantly higher when a visual representation (either metaphor or temporal) of the strategy was used instead of bullet points. That is, the presenter was rated as more prepared, more credible and more persuasive when visuals were used in communicating the business strategy. What corporate leader wouldn’t want to be perceived as more prepared, credible and persuasive?

    To be fair, it’s not easy to develop compelling visual representations of abstract concepts like strategy. But when the stakes are high and quarterly results are riding on your strategy, getting the implementation of the strategy right is of the utmost importance. Implementation begins with communication.

    >> Bullet points are easy.

    >> Text is lazy.

    >> Good design is priceless.

    Especially when your business strategy hangs in the balance.

    Want help with your strategy presentation? Contact Working Conversations today for a consultation.

     

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    Millennials

    A new research report issued by WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory group, and Virtuali, a leadership training firm, identifies why Millennials want to lead and what they need to be equipped to lead effectively.

    #1. Millennials want to lead.

    An overwhelming majority of Millennials see themselves as future leaders. Of the 412 Millennials surveyed, 91% aspire to hold leadership positions sometime in their career. More than half (52%) of those who plan to lead are women. This is good news for the leadership pipeline in most organizations, at a time when research shows that only 14.2% of the top five positions in S&P 500 companies are women.

    #2. Millennials aspire to be transformational leaders.

    63% said they wanted to be transformation leaders, defined in the study as seeking to inspire and challenge followers with purpose and a sense of excitement. This is consistent with their desire to empower others, with a full 43% reporting that empowerment is their biggest motivator for leading others. By contrast, only 5% reported money as their top motivator and a mere 1% reported power as their top driving force.

    #3. They need leadership training.

    And they aren’t getting it.  More than half (55%) reported dissatisfaction with the leadership development opportunities offered by their company. With the first Millennials hitting their mid-thirties and a glut of baby boomer retirements on the horizon, companies would be wise to heed Millennials warning and get them the leadership training they need.

    #4. They want to learn online and with mentors.

    Millennials reported wanting to learn online, when asked what type of training would be most effective.  A full two-thirds (68%) reported that online training would best suit their needs.  More than half (53%) said they would like to learn from mentors.

    #5. Communication is the most important leadership skill.

    58% of the Millennials surveyed reported communication as the single most critical skill for leaders. Other research has shown that Millennials want to make the world a better place and value that over extrinsic factors like money. Being able to clearly communicate the values and mission of your organization can make all the difference in attracting the top talent the Millennial generation has to offer.  And then provide them with the communication training to lead the organization to carry on.

     

    Question:

    What leadership training is your company offering for Millennials?

     

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    spiral_cone

    “I didn’t speak up. I didn’t say anything. I thought maybe I was wrong.”

    Women in business often tell me this, disgruntled and frustrated. What they say next usually follows along these lines: “I was right all along but I didn’t have the courage to speak up.” Or “My voice never gets heard. I have great ideas but I just can’t get them on the table.” In short, they didn’t take the situation head on and speak up.

    Why?

    The Spiral of Silence Theory may explain why. Coined by German public opinion researcher Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, the Spiral of Silence Theory suggests that people who believe they have a minority opinion will hold back and constrain themselves. And those who believe they are in the majority will be more encouraged to speak up.

    Noelle-Neumann’s theory originally pertained to public opinion. We can look at the prevailing public opinion inside corporations and apply the theory to work life: A parallel Spiral of Silence exists within corporate culture. People feel less inclined to speak out and offer their opposition when they do not have the support of the majority. And that can make for poor decisions, costly mistakes and wasted time and resources.

    Without the support of divergent viewpoints, organizations cannot make the very best decisions – not for their customers or for their bottom line.

    What is at the root of not speaking up, of this Spiral of Silence?

    The theory contends, and I agree, that those in the majority have the confidence to speak out. Those who hold a minority opinion have a fear about being alone in their opinions. They are usually cautious and silent on the topic. In the face of others’ confidence, their lack of assertiveness grows.

    So how does one push beyond the soul-sucking Spiral of Silence? Here are three ideas to boost your confidence in expressing a minority opinion.

    1.  Take the long view.

    Pull yourself up to the view from 10,000 feet and speak from there. Getting out of the weeds of the current situation and speaking on a macro level may give you the confidence to dissent. After all, then you’re not talking about the specific issue, you’re talking about a general issue. Once you’ve been heard and understood (even if they don’t agree with you yet), you can bring it back down to the situation at hand and sway opinion.

    2.  Play with personas.

    For a moment, allow yourself to take on the role or character of someone who was confident at speaking out against the prevailing opinion. Think of it as playing Devil’s Advocate. You might ask yourself this: “If I was the kind of person who enjoyed speaking up with a counter-idea, what would I say?”

    3. Practice with a coworker who agrees with you.

    People tend to share their opinions more freely with those who have a similar approach. Practice your pitch for an alternate viewpoint with a supporter. If your practice partner can be in the room when you speak up with your minority opinion for the real deal, all the better!

    Whatever you do, do NOT sit idly by, holding back perfectly good opinions just because they are not what the majority is thinking. It’s not good for you and it’s not good for business.

    Go forth, break the Spiral of Silence and speak up.

     

    Have you seen someone caught in the Spiral of Silence in action? Share your example in the comments below.

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