How to Lead Millennials

Every generation of leaders faces unique challenges – just think about the last few decades: globalization, the explosion in technology, outsourcing, complexity, increasing demands of customers, etc. However, one of the biggest challenges today’s leaders face is how to lead the Millennial generation – those born between 1980 and 1996.

Surveys reveal just how different they are as a group. In a recent Time article, Dan Schawbel did a great job in summarizing the research. Here’s a quick summary…
Millennials want on-going feedback and coaching – not just an annual performance review.
Millennials want casual Friday everyday – or whenever they chose. They don’t get the “dress up for work” idea (neither do I.)
Millennials think they should be able to create their own schedule. Working 9 – 5 is an artifact of previous generations.
Millennials aren’t all about the money. This is not a surprise. Studies of this generation have revealed from the time they were kids they wanted to change the world. The cause matters to them – shouldn’t it matter to all of us?
Milennials like transparency at work. They want to be part of a community – they understand its power. Check out my previous post on community.
Millennials see the work place as flat. Schawbel introduces an idea that summarizes the view of many Millennials – the ideocracy. A place where the best idea wins – regardless of your title or tenure. I like that too.
So what’s the lesson here for boomers? There are probably several. For me, the biggest takeaway is that we need to avoid the assumption that what worked yesterday will work tomorrow. When Toynbee did his study of the rise and fall of 14 different civilizations, one of his findings: the fall was always preceded by leaders who tried to apply yesterday’s answers to today’s questions. Let’s not repeat the lessons of history.
As today’s leaders, we can lead Millenials well if we’re willing to listen more, be open to new ideas and lead differently![GLS_Shield]
 

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Jay Schroder

9 years ago

Very thought-provoking. As a Millennial who pastors a small single-staff church, I resonate with trying to live as a Millennial in a Boomer world. So, a follow up question I am curious about- since I am not the Boomer trying to manage a Millennial, but the Millennial being “managed” by Boomers who don’t always see the differences- how can I develop a different kind of supervision from my supervisors?

mark

9 years ago

Thanks for the question Jay! It is a hard one. I would start by trying to forge a consensus on some things you have in common – vision, goals, core values, key strategies, etc. Then, as you begin to talk about tactics you can help them understand where you are different. They probably need some education on this issue. I know I did. However, I would start with common ground before you stretch their thinking. I’d love to stay in touch. I look forward to hearing about your journey!

Jonathan Assink

9 years ago

Speaking as a Millennial, yup, this is a pretty accurate list.

mark

9 years ago

Thanks Jonathan! Mark

Jason

9 years ago

I think people are more similar generation to generation bc we all still have the same fundamental needs : to be understood, to be relevant to the organizations we are committed to and to be respected. Sure the next generation (all of us are part of one that was the next gen) communicates faster, has new ways of learning and brings fresh ideas to the table. I disagree that millenials need to be treated differently simply bc they haven’t experienced enough of life to understand it’s not about them or us or any other particular age group. Proceed w much caution when stereotypes are placed on any age bracket and remember that we are much more similar generation to generation than we are different. Just for credibility I lead a businesses w over 100 employees mostly in the age group you highlight with a very low turnover rate. People are people. Love them, listen to them, challenge them…they will follow.

mark

9 years ago

Thanks for the caution and the great advice!

Brad Szollose

9 years ago

Excellent list…and as a generational expert I recommend Results Only Work Environments (ROWE) in order to up the innovation/creative/output in any organization. Boomers may have a hard time cause they want structure and wait for permission… but a blend can work. I recommend my book Liquid Leadership: From Woodstock to Wikipedia for more answers to being a leader in the 21st Century.

mark

9 years ago

Thanks Brad! I look forward to reading your book!

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W.P.

8 years ago

Good description of Millennials – but how is acting like them, leading them? Isn’t there something to be said about a work ethic that includes self-satisfaction in doing a good job, dressing professionally (when the situation calls for it), actually showing up for work, earning a living instead of relying on your parents, growing into a leader instead of being a follower and respect those who have had more experiences? I see this group as needing good mentors not the rest of the world catering to them.

mark

8 years ago

Great questions! I think millennials do need mentors – and so do we. As I’ve written about before, I’ve personally found reverse mentoring to be very helpful. Regarding catering the next generation, I think it is imperative we connect them them. Only if we connect with them can we influence them. Connecting will require us to meet them where they are. I also believe the time and energy required will be a good investment – they are going to be running the world in a few short years. THanks for sharing your thoughts! Mark

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