The millennial generation has entered the workforce, and it has a lot of leaders rethinking their leadership strategies. Leadership has always been challenging, and in this more connected, more politically correct, more socially diverse world, your job responsibilities have become more complex. You may need to learn new skills and brush up on some old skills to lead Millennials.
Generations have come and gone before, but this shift is different. For probably the first time in recorded history we have three and sometimes four generations working side-by-side. With good leadership this can be a blessing, but clinging to old ideas can turn it into a curse.
Who are Millennials?
First, let’s be clear, generational definitions are subjective. The dates and durations of generations vary based on the source. What is certain, millennials work differently from baby boomers. Every generation is a reaction to the generation that preceded it and millennials are no exception. These differences make for an interesting work environment.
Millennials are not a monolith, all fitting neatly into widely accepted generalizations. The generalizations may not fit many of the younger professionals you work with.
In some ways millennials are us a few years ago, just more analyzed, poked, prodded and researched. They are a lot like you were at that age, fresh out of college ready to make a run for the big office.
They are also more connected, more ethnically diverse, and less beholden to tradition. What can you do as a leader to remain sane as you lead a multi-generational, multi-ethnic hyperconnected workplace?
Treat team members as individuals
Generalizations give us a false sense of security. You can easily fall into the trap of believing you have your Millennial team members pegged. Ignore the generalizations and lead an individual. That’s just good leadership.
In today’s workplace, you will likely have representatives from several generations on your team. Get to know everyone. Each person you work with has a past and a perspective that can be useful. Understand what motivates them personally and why they chose to work with you.
In a time-starved world, it may seem like "babysitting" to get to know your people, but it may be the best investment you can make with your time.
Let them break some eggs
Most people would try to break them like wild horses, but you aren't most people. You listen for the kernel of insight and build on that. You mentor. You help them understand the political landscape. Let them make mistakes in a controlled environment.
Take the time to listen to their new ideas about how things could be done. Some of those unorthodox ideas are going to reshape your industry and secure the future of your organization. If there is one thing we have learned in the last decades it’s that many of the established ways of doing things are being uprooted and replaced. Just ask yourself, when was the last time you used a phone book?
See the big picture
It was easier to lead when everyone thought like you did and shared a common background with you, but those days are long gone. Millennials will have different worldviews, different values, and different approaches. That's diversity and diversity is a good thing.
Millennials are here to stay. They want to add value and are on your team. Many millennials are pragmatists and need to see the bigger picture, so it will require more patience to work with them.
Millennials are more technologically connected and savvy than any generation before, but they can still learn some of the finer points of interpersonal relationships from their more experienced counterparts. They still need you, even if they don't act like it. And you need them.
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