Managing Millennials – 4 Tips for Leading Millennials
One piece of general advice is not to think of leading and managing millennials as a problem. Instead, look at opportunities that come from the way millennials look at the world.

Managing Millennials – 4 Tips for Leading Millennials

We’ve heard a lot about the “millennial problem” lately and there is no shortage of opinions on it. My first experience working with millennials was in the Air Force in the mid-2000s. That was a bit different situation than dealing with it in a civilian environment. Despite the differences, we found some successful leadership principles that can help with managing millennials in the civilian world too. One piece of general advice is not to think of leading and managing millennials as a problem. Instead, look for opportunities that come from the way millennials view the world. How can that mindset benefit your team? If you lead millennials or are millennial and you have a different experience, I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to learn from your experience if you have different advice and share it with other leaders.

Managing Millennials Tip #1 – Recognize What Millennials Want

Millennials really want 3 things when it comes to their career and life in general. They want to be heard, to participate in the decision-making process and for their work to have meaning. This isn’t unique to millennials. Pretty much everyone in every generation wants these things in their work experience.

From a very young age, millennials have been encouraged to pursue their dreams. They were also much more included in decision-making with their families. This is far different from my experience growing up as a Generation Xer. Older generations were raised differently as well. We “paid our dues” in the workplace before we got a seat at the big table. Millennials view this differently and this can create that generational tension. We shouldn’t assign any blame here, just recognize the different mindset. Recognizing that millennials want the same thing as every generation does, but have a different mindset on how to get there, goes a long way towards building a strong team relationship with millennials.

Managing Millennials Tip #2 – Be Flexible Where You Can

Millennials love flexibility especially when it comes to schedule and being able to use the latest technology. Look for opportunities to be flexible on how your team does work. It’s important to maintain the standards of excellence that your organization demands. For example, who cares when your team is in the office if they can do the work remotely? What events or activities do they really need to be present for? Where you can, let your millennial team members experiment with new tech, new methods, and alternate schedules. Enforce deadlines and standards on work products even as you give them new freedom.

Managing Millennials Tip #3 – Give Millennials Objectives, Not Tasks

Give your millennials problems to solve and let them figure out how to do it. As above, set clear standards that their results have to meet. Identify any legal or regulatory frameworks they must stay within and let them work inside that framework. If you’re new to letting your team have this much freedom, schedule in a few vector checks. These checks let your team update you before they proceed and are a great opportunity to give them further guidance.

Managing Millennials Tip #4 – Be a Coach and Mentor

Here at Evil Genius Leadership we believe one of our most important jobs as a leader is to develop the leaders coming up behind us. It’s especially important with millennials who are looking to have a coaching and mentor relationship with you. Sometimes a team member will have an idea for an improvement. Often it’s not quite fully formed or doesn’t take into account the whole situation. Rather than just saying no, sit down and discuss how they can make their proposal stronger. We all had mentors who took the time to invest in us. We should do the same for our team members.

You may recognize that these tips are all basic good leadership principles. We were talking about these ideas 20 to 30 years ago before millennials ever entered the workforce. As I said earlier, if you’re leading millennials, or are a millennial, and you have a different experience, leave us a comment and let’s continue the discussion. I’d love to hear what you think and refine these tips to make them valuable to even more people. Rather than looking at this as a “millennial problem” let’s just recognize that every generation comes with its own worldview. If we follow good leadership principles we can get past the tension from differing worldviews.

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Status-Quo – How to Keep it from Holding You Back

“That’s the way we’ve always done it.” I’ve fought against those words for most of my career.  As leaders we often want to improve our teams and keep them from being held back by outdated practices. I know how it feels to come up against the resistance from others when we see better ways of accomplishing our mission. When we challenge the status-quo, it’s usually because we want to make things better for our team, not worse. If this is really our primary interest in making a change, then it’s helpful for us to understand what causes this resistance and makes the status-quo so powerful.

Challenging the status-quo often runs into cultural norms and perspectives that have been in place in the organization for a very long time. Asking our team to change the way they do things, where they sit, or who they work with is often like asking people to change their identity. This kind of change is understandable very difficult for most people. As leaders, we need to recognize just how difficult this is and compassionately  lead our team through the changes ahead. When we see an area that needs improvement, asking a few key questions before making any changes can help determine if change is necessary and how to get our team through it.

Questions for Challenging the Status-Quo

  • “What if?” helps us to think about outcomes that might be better than the current outcomes
  • “Why?” helps us to identify challenges we may face as we try to bring about change 
  • “Who? Where? When? How?” help us put together details that will make the change a reality

It’s possible to answer these questions and decide that no changes to the status-quo are necessary at this time. Also, we could decide that the solution will create so much dissatisfaction that an alternate solution might be better. Change for the sake of change has destroyed many teams even though the intentions behind it were initially very good.

The take-home lesson today is that even though change is difficult for many people, as leaders, we can’t be afraid to challenge long-held ideas or practices that no longer serve our mission. We must approach change in a thoughtful and empathetic way to get the improvement we are looking for.

Starting a Leader’s Journal can be a great way to start enhancing your creativity and innovation. The idea comes from Steven Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From” where he discusses how the great thinkers of the Enlightenment Period would keep “commonplace books” for recording their thoughts, observations about the world and the ideas of others that they found interesting.

Enhancing Creativity Using a Leader’s Journal

Starting a Leader’s Journal can be a great way to foster your creativity and innovation. The idea comes from Steven Johnson’s “Where Good Ideas Come From” where he discusses how the great thinkers of the Enlightenment Period would keep “commonplace books” for recording their thoughts, observations about the world and the ideas of others that they found interesting.

Enhancing Creativity with a Handwritten Journal

My handwritten journal is where I really get in touch with who I am and the kind of ideas that I want to foster. I don’t store a lot of information like facts and figures in here, but it is where I capture the attitudes and themes that I want to bring forth every day. This is where I do my daily practice of writing down each morning what I am grateful for and the things I want to achieve every day. This is not in the sense of a “to-do list” (although I have one of those as well) but more of the kinds of behavior I want to remind myself to exhibit each day. Some examples are:

  • Living according to my core values and truth
    My handwritten journal is where I really get in touch with who I am and the kind of ideas that I want to foster. I don’t store a lot of information like facts and figures in here, but it is where I capture the attitudes and themes that I want to bring forth every day.

    Handwritten Journals can be a key component of your Leader’s Journal

  • Letting my true personality shine through
  • Being open to what the universe is trying to teach me today

That may sound a little new-age and touchy-feely but I’ve found since I started recording this practice in my handwritten journal that these attitudes come easier each day and help put me in a more creative flow throughout the day where ideas come to the front of my mind much easier. A key part of this daily practice is also reviewing at the end of the day how much I connected with these attitudes and if there is anything I would have done differently. Finally, I just kind or review any other ideas I may have written in the journal because that’s where I chose to get them down instead of using one of my other tools.

 

 

 

 

Enhancing Creativity with Evernote

Evernote is probably the tool I use most throughout the day to capture ideas into my Leader’s Journal that I want to follow up on. It’s so easy to screenshot or bookmark something with Evernote (literally a few mouse clicks) that I’m able to create a great visual reminder of websites, blog posts or issues and ideas that I can use to create my own content on the subject later on. As I review things I’ve captured in Evernote later on, it helps me to draw connections between those ideas and include my own thoughts to build a new, bigger and better idea.

Evernote is a great way to capture ideas visually

Evernote is probably the tool I use most throughout the day to capture ideas into my Leader’s Journal that I want to follow up on. It’s so easy to screenshot or bookmark something with Evernote (literally a few mouse clicks) that I’m able to create a great visual reminder of websites, blog posts or issues and ideas that I can use to create my own content on the subject later on. As I review things I’ve captured in Evernote later on, it helps me to draw connections between those ideas and include my own thoughts to build a new, bigger and better idea.

Evernote is not just great for connecting ideas, but also with people.  I use my leader’s journal to follow up with people I meet whether that’s in person, online or otherwise and Evernote is the primary tool I use to capture their contact information. #FollowFriday on Twitter is a really good example. When I have a great conversation or interaction with someone on Twitter throughout the week, I screenshot their info in Evernote and send out #FollowFriday tweets on Friday mornings including all of the great people I met that week.

 

 

Enhancing Creativity with Article Readers

Another tool that makes up a significant part of my Leader’s Journal is article readers like Feedly and Flipboard. This is how I curate the content for myself that I want to read and share with others. Apps like these are a great way to not only become more expert on the topics you feel are important to keep up with in your primary field, but also on things that you enjoy or are passionate about.

Article Readers can be a great way to curate content you want to save and share

Another tool that makes up a significant part of my Leader’s Journal is article readers like Feedly and Flipboard. This is how I curate the content for myself that I want to read and share with others. Apps like these are a great way to not only become more expert on the topics you feel are important to keep up with in your primary field, but also on things that you enjoy or are passionate about. You’d be surprised how often an idea from one of your hobbies or side ventures can grow into a solution to a problem in your job. My business is leadership so I subscribe to a lot of blogs and other media sources about leadership and management, but I also read a lot of things about social media and marketing so I can reach and help more people, as well as about art, science and relationships to help me bring good ideas from those worlds into my coaching efforts. These tools make it easy for me to gather content that I think is beneficial, save what I want for later and also share with others to start a dialogue and collaborate to bring in other perspectives and foster more creative ideas.

 

Enhancing Creativity through Social Media

You’ll definitely get benefit from your journal by pulling together and reviewing all of the great things you put in it, but you’ll really see more gains when you share your ideas with others and bring in alternate perspectives on your thoughts. Using your social media accounts to share items that you think others would find interesting is a great way to do this. It’s easy, convenient and potentially reaches everyone you are connected with on social media.

Sharing on Social Media is a good way to put your ideas out there and get feedback from others

Sharing is Caring, or so the saying goes. The same is true when it comes to your Leader’s Journal. You’ll definitely get benefit from your journal by pulling together and reviewing all of the great things you put in it, but you’ll really see more gains when you share your ideas with others and bring in alternate perspectives on your thoughts. Using your social media accounts to share items that you think others would find interesting is a great way to do this. It’s easy, convenient and potentially reaches everyone you are connected with on social media. It’s really important to include your own thoughts on what you’re sharing so that others can give you feedback on your ideas and help make them even stronger. Encouraging people to comment can bring in thoughts that enhance your ideas that you may never have considered unless you had shared.

 

 

 

 

It’s important that your Leader’s Journal not just become a black hole where you dump ideas, thoughts and things you find interesting, never to seen again. Another repository of information that you never look at again will not help you make the kind of creative leaps called “slow hunches” that Johnson describes in his book. Taking some time to really sit down with your journal and look back at your thoughts and ideas in a reflective manner will start to spark those circuits in your brain that will start to put together those “slow hunches”.

One last piece of advice: If you’re not sure if you should include something in your Leader’s Journal, trust your instincts and put it in anyway. You may not know why something that you put in your Leader’s Journal is important to you. Just go ahead and put it in there, you can always take it out later, but it will be much harder to find

Tell us in the comments what tools you’ve built your Leader’s Journal around and the kinds of things you include in it.

We all want to foster our own creativity and help our team come up with innovative solutions to the problems that we face. One of the biggest myths about creativity is that it often comes as a "lightning bolt" or an epiphany that hits us all at once. In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson dispels that myth by talking about the concept of a "slow hunch". We can take advantage of these "slow hunches" and try to develop our own creativity and grow our small ideas into big innovations. In this video Jason LeDuc talks about creating a Leader's Journal that captures our ideas and daily activities so that we can draw from them in the future. He also shows some tools that you can use to start building your Leader's Journal to enhance your creative process.

Creativity & Your Leader’s Journal

We all want to foster our own creativity and help our team come up with innovative solutions to the problems that we face. One of the biggest myths about creativity is that it often comes as a “lightning bolt” or an epiphany that hits us all at once. In Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson dispels that myth by talking about the concept of a “slow hunch”.

We can take advantage of these “slow hunches” and try to develop our own creativity and grow our small ideas into big innovations. In this video Jason LeDuc talks about creating a Leader’s Journal that captures our ideas and daily activities so that we can draw from them in the future. He also shows some tools that you can use to start building your Leader’s Journal to enhance your creative process. Periodically reviewing the items in your Leader’s Journal is key to helping develop those “slow hunches”.

Tools for your Leader’s Journal that Will Help Your Creativity:

  • Handwritten Journal
  • Evernote
  • Feedly
  • Flipboard
  • Social Media Networks

Innovate in a Stagnant Environment

Innovate in a Stagnant Environment – Here’s How!

Every boss claims they want innovation, but many don’t live up to the words they preach. For some it may be an aversion to risk, for others it may be out of their comfort zone to make improvements when the status quo is already working. How can we continue to innovate and improve our products and team members’ professional lives when faced with stagnation or resistance? How do we help improve the organization while still being good followers to senior leadership that is reluctant to innovate?

Small Changes/Small Victories

The most effective thing we can do is make small improvements that are within our own authority. Listen to your own team and see what suggestions they have that sound like they will make even minor improvements to effectiveness, productivity or communication. If it’s within your own purview to make the change on your team, go ahead and do it. Set a short fixed timeframe (a week, a month, 3 months) to evaluate it and the next leader in your chain know that you’re doing a trial evaluation of the initiative and you’ll let them know the results when it’s over. If it turns out to be unsuccessful, return to the old way of doing things and call it a learning experience. If it does work, share your results with your peers and other team leads.

Choose your opportunities wisely

There may be times when very senior leaders put out a call for innovative ideas or ask informally how you think the organization should be improved. These can be great opportunities if handled properly, but dangerous traps if they aren’t. Don’t leave your boss out in the cold when these situations arise. By pulling your boss in you can show that you have fresh ideas for the company but also show him and his superiors that you are looking out for all of them and trying to find ways to solve their problems. It can be as simple as telling that senior leader, “I have this great idea about X and my boss and I will get on your calendar to come fill you in on the details when you are available.”

Show the impact!

Showing tangible improvements is the best way to make sure your innovative ideas get adopted across the organization. If you can show a reduced cost, shorter time, or higher performance as a result of your initiative you’ll have strong evidence that you and your team have the organization’s best interest in mind. Being able to use metrics and data helps make your case, but be sure that you’re using the right metrics to show cause and effect. Many people lose credibility by trying to force data to fit their conclusions or apply metrics they don’t really understand to the situation. One of the best questions you can ask yourself before adopting an innovative idea is “How will I know this is successful and how can I measure it?”

These are ways I’ve seen innovation be successfully implemented from the bottom up, but the results may vary in your organization. If you think that these steps might work for you, but you want to talk through your strategy and the personalities involved with someone before taking the big step, feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to discuss and see if we can set you and your boss up for success!

 

Photo Credit: Alexander Blum (www.alexanderblum.de) [Attribution], <a href=”http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AStau.jpg”>via Wikimedia Commons</a>

Letting Followers Innovate

Every now and then a member of our team will come to us with an idea of a new process, method or procedure to implement that they feel will get the job done better, or will be easier, or, in the best of cases, both. As leaders we often feel an internal conflict in this situation. We want to foster innovation, but also are concern the risks and resistance that come along with change. My advice is to encourage your team to innovate, with some actively engaged leadership on your part.

It can be difficult to determine sometimes if there really is a benefit to be gained by implementing a follower’s suggestions or if they are merely whining about the status quo. A simple way that I have found to find the answer is to allow the follower to implement the change, but to make them take the lead for implementing it, i.e. you will let them make their change, but they have to do all the research on how to make it happen, assess the potential benefits and risks, come up with the plan to train the rest of the team on how to implement the change, and measure how successful the change has been.  Followers who are enthusiastic about the change will embrace the opportunity presented to them and the whiners will simply allow the status quo to continue.

As the boss, you’ll still need to provide them with appropriate guidance and direction as they develop their plan. You should let them know up front what you consider a successful outcome would be as well as any risks that you believe are unacceptable to assume in this endeavor. You should be clear if there are other processes or procedures that are off-limits to change as they consider their path forward.

Set a definite time and date that they need to come back to you to review their progress and decide if you will go forward with their initiative.  Give them a list of items they must address in that review to get your go-ahead.

Once you’re ready to let them implement, don’t immediate throw out the old way of doing things in favor of this one. If possible, run parallel processes and compare the results of the two ways of doing things. This will definitely be a little more work, but may be worth it to be able to compare your results. If parallel efforts aren’t possible, set a clear trial period, such as a month or 90 days to assess the results. Make sure the person proposing the initiative determines how to measure if the new method is successful and that you approve of the assessment.

If, after the trial period, the new way is clearly superior, or easier to accomplish, or has some other benefits, adopt the new method. If the new method was not successful, perform an honest assessment with the proposer of where it fell short, what lessons learned came of it, and if addressing those issues could result in a successful outcome. If the answer is yes, let them go back, make the adjustments, re-propose and try again.

What are other ways you’ve fostered innovation on your team while still managing risk?