Millennials are wonderful. And no, I’m not just saying this because I raised three of my own. I’m saying this because it’s the truth, says, Frances McIntosh, who helps leaders, teams, and organizations build stronger relationships through effective communication. This article originally appeared in Forbes.com.
With their creative and elastic minds, their ability to work with passion and their hunger for knowledge, millennials are exciting — not to mention educational —to be around. Just as with any other generation, isn’t it time we start acknowledging their strengths?
Of course, to do this, it’s important to understand millennials as a group to guide how we lead them. In my own experience, both with my own millennial children and my colleagues (along with additional research), millennials:
• Want to be heard: And they should be as they have great ideas! Collaborating with millennials has helped me grow not just personally, but professionally, particularly with how to communicate for clarity.
• Are more inclusive and tolerant than previous generations: One’s color, gender or sexual orientation doesn’t change who you are. Rather, millennials acknowledge these differences, but they don’t use them to solely define themselves.
• Need to make a difference: Aware that the social security and pensions that us boomers have will not be available to them, millennials need to make a difference to feel confident about ensuring their own future.
• Want work that has meaning and is enjoyable: Not to mention, millennials want to work smart, not hard. This isn’t because they’re lazy. Not by any stretch. Rather, this is because they have a different understanding of what a work-life balance should be.
• Don’t want “just” anything: Millennials don’t want “just” a job, but one that is more than watching the clock. They want to know they are having an impact, and they want to live life throughout the day, not just when they aren’t working.
Knowing this, how can we keep millennials engaged so we can effectively lead them to achieve the results we want?
It really is the most basic answer: the same as you lead everyone else.
1. Be the leader.
You’re not there to do the work of your millennials —you are there to support them in their work. Ask them questions, such as “Why did you decide to go with that option?” Get them to walk you through their thought process rather than simply giving them answers. This allows them to grow their critical thinking, allows you to focus on your responsibilities as a leader and understand their thought process better and allows everyone to have clarity on their individual roles.
Additionally, lead by example. Yes, millennials are comfortable with technology. When we require their undivided attention, we must demonstrate we need it by giving them ours. If we don’t want cell phones in meetings, then we shouldn’t bring ours. We are just as responsible for modeling the behavior we want millennials to demonstrate.
2. Embrace their diversity, not their generation label.
Just as with any generation, millennials are not one type. They don’t all share characteristics and personalities but are simply a group of people born within a specific time period. With their inclusivity mindset, this allows us the opportunity to listen, gain insight and understanding by seeing different points of views in the world, which encourages us all to have a growth mindset. By embracing diversity, we actually grow our own outlook and creativity as leaders!
3. Listen to understand.
By creating an environment where we listen to understand, we create a space where people feel safe to share more freely (and often more creatively), which allows them to work smarter instead of harder. Just as embracing diversity, when we listen to understand, we learn new things and grow ourselves. How could this not support us in our own professional and personal lives?
4. Give them more responsibility than you’re comfortable with.
People will often rise to the challenge, they just need to be given the opportunity. When we give a millennial responsibility, we provide them the opportunity to fail. And failing is where growth happens. The key is to provide a safe place for them to debrief and understand why they failed. Be there to ask questions, not berate, as this will help them think of how to be better next time. If they succeed, give them more responsibility.
Millennials want to have an impact, but they need to know how they fit into the bigger picture. This is fair to say of anyone on a team. When we collaborate with our team, rather than dictate, we build a more solid foundation for the team to grow from, which strengthens our connection. Communication becomes easier and we’re able to help everyone understand the why behind specific projects and tasks. This helps to make everyone accountable for specific items on the team, which helps us get to know our people more. This builds more trust, which is crucial for highly functioning teams. Trust me, collaborate!
The Bottom Line
With millennials being our future, let’s take the time to listen with empathy, asking questions to help guide them. Really, we need to remember that we’re leading people — not a generalized, faceless group. This is where the fun and enjoyment of leadership thrives!