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Leading Millennials

Leading Millennials

I recently read a book that blew. my .mind. It’s by one of my favorites, Simon Sinek, called Leaders eat last. I was drawn to one chapter specifically: Leading millenials. According to his research, millennials are the generation that remain unable find the sense of job satisfaction and fulfillment they crave in the work place. Interesting, right?

So, I decided to do a little more research on this millennial hype. Seeing as 8 of my 10 staff are millennials of the Z generation, I reckoned it can only do me good. It soon became abundantly clear to me that if we as leaders fail to practice empathy or understanding of this (very unique!) generation, we will lose them in the work space. Goodness, they challenge me.

Defining a millennial ,exactly, is a mouth full. In general terms, a millennial is a term used to define or identify a group of people born between 1981 and 2001. This group is then further divided into generation Y (people born between 1981 and 1991) and generation Z (people born between 1991-2001). Generation Y grew up during the development and boom of pc’s, cell phones and video game consoles (think heavy square desk tops, Nokia 3310’s and Mario brothers.) This is me. Generation Z however grew up with iPads, smartphones and apps. The characteristics of these two groups differ and they are often in conflict.

“Each generation has its own flavor, it’s own way of seeing the world.” -Simon Sinek

The majority of the current junior work force are millennials of generation Z (aged 18-28) being lead primarily by generation Y (aged 28- 38) and generation X (aged 39-79). We’re in the cr*p if we don’t get ahead of this. So, the question is, how do you lead millennials of generation Z?

Let’s first consider the characteristics of this group. According to Simon they are an incredibly acceptable , more inclusive generation. Sex, gender preference, racial and cultural differences don’t bother them. They will thrive in a diverse team. They have a heightened desire for money to be used for good and are more drawn to companies that give profits and resources to the less fortunate. For your company to have an inspiring vision and mission (one they can relate to!) is no longer optional. They are very vocal about their desire to make an impact in the work space (and world!) and for companies to have a sense of purpose. Now this, i can work with. These are characteristics we could and should embrace in business.

On the flip side, Millennials(Z) are more likely to quit a job they don’t love without a back up. They are more likely to become entrepreneurs with no major plan. This is not a generation that will shut up, sit down and just do as they are told without an explanation and good example to follow- to my utter frustration. They are perceived as impatient to get what they want, often motivated by instant gratification, prone to cellphone and social media addiction and often struggle with a lower self esteem.

Face palm. How do I even start leading that?

The following are points and excerpts are taken from Leaders eat last. Seriously- get this book. Research suggests that we lead millennials (Z) by considering the following:

1. Teach leadership by being the example. A leadership course provided in a manual is not going to cut it for this generation. They want to see what they should become. Take advantage of your millennials (Z) as they can and will become your biggest fans if lead correctly. Their positive attributes listed speak for themselves and they can be assets to your company. Mentor and support them, leading by example.

2. Teach them how to give and receive feedback. This group is vocal. Now guide their efforts into learning how to positively give feedback in the work space. In addition, you need to teach them how to accept feedback so that it is seen as constructive and not destructive.

3. Keep conference and meeting rooms free of cell phones and tablets. This allows an opportunity to interact as “humans”. It increases participation and encourages relationship building. They will appreciate your undivided attention. Encourage note taking on paper instead of computers. This is a very simple habit that ensures better processing and retaining of information.

4. They want acknowledgment and they want your time. No matter how busy you are, if you expect maturity and development you need to put in the time. Millennials (Z) want feedback and will consider your failure to do so as a lack of interest in them as an individual.

5. Talk about your failures and give then the opportunity to fall. Create a culture where you do not inspire fear for failure but rather reflecting on and learning from mistakes and using this information to comeback stronger. Allow millennials to learn from experience within boundaries that you are comfortable with for your business.

6. Offer them opportunities to develop human skills, help them love themselves. An excess of technology has negatively impacted the interaction skills of this generation. There is no replacement for human interaction, we can and should teach them to embrace this. Swop the odd email for a phone call or do performance interviews face to face.

7. Take a chance on them. They may surprise you. They want to surprise you!

“Millennials are the leaders of the future, but we are the leaders right now.”- Simon Sinek

As a business owner leading millennials of generation Z, I am still a work in progress. However, by making an effort to better understand how these beauties function, perceive the world and need to be lead, we as a team are now able to pull in the same direction instead of against each other. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. We can only grow from each others wins and challanges.

Jaclyn Ivy

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