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.

In this video, we share our philosophy on mentoring and the rewards that come to individuals and organizations from applying mentorship effectively.

Mentoring

In this video, we share our philosophy on mentoring and the rewards that come to individuals and organizations from applying mentorship effectively. There are many misconceptions about what mentoring is and how to be a mentor. We point out several of these misconceptions and highlight ways to build a positive mindset in order to become a better mentor.

Tips for Effective Mentoring

If we want to be good mentors we need to remember that true mentoring comes from a mindset where we are genuinely interested in the success of another person and want to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. Building a strong rapport our protegé is key to the success of the mentoring relationship. Without this rapport it becomes difficult for the mentor and protegé to be open and honest with each other and share experiences and perspective. As mentors, we should seek to help our protegé by “telling our own story” and passing on the wisdom and lessons that the protegé can apply to their own situation. Seeking out protegés who come from different background and experiences than our own helps both of us expand our perspectives and come up with better solutions to the challenges we face.

Tips to provide effective feedback in difficult situations

Giving Feedback in Difficult Situations

Providing feedback is one of our most essential tasks as leaders. It can also be one of the most difficult especially when we have to let an individual know that they aren’t living up to the high expectations we have for them. Despite how uncomfortable these situations can be, we owe it to the individual and the organization to correct the behavior and get the individual back on track, or if that isn’t possible, let them go. A good friend of mine in a leadership position recently told me about one of these situations and how he handled it.

My friend is responsible for executing a significant portion of his organization’s mission and carries a lot of responsibility for their overall success. He has several teams under him that each have a team chief who report to him. One of his team chiefs appears on paper to be stellar and has even won some recognition awards, but his team had ceased to be effective and was practically having a mutiny behind his back. As my friend became aware of the situation and investigated he found that although the team was getting everything done that needed to get done, the team lead was driving his flight into the ground through a lack of tact and a leadership style which made him un-approachable.

After connecting with the individual’s peers and previous supervisors, my friend sat him down for a feedback session that focused on five themes: Credibility, Approachability, Discipline, Attitude, and Leading by Example.  My friend approached the feedback from a place of total transparency, held nothing back and kept no secrets. He cited specific examples from each theme, with credibility as the central issue, and followed it up with areas where he, as the supervisor, and the other organization leadership might have accountability for the situation.

After providing the feedback, my friend told the team lead about the two options for corrective action that he was considering recommending to higher leadership.  The first option recognizing that this issue was brought to light through this feedback session and that there could be an opportunity for the individual to correct his attitude and actions and bring his team to a higher level of performance.  The second option being to remove the individual from the team lead position and move him to an administrative position.  Ultimately, higher leadership will make the decision, but my friend’s input has massive weight on the decision.

There was a lot of potential for this to be an explosive situation, but ultimately the individual was receptive to the feedback. There are several key areas to the approach he took to this feedback that I think contributed to this result.

  • He didn’t make it personal – He focused on the issues and behaviors that were negatively affecting the performance of the team and how those outcomes were negatively affecting the organization’s mission. He approached the issue with an open mind and didn’t let his ego get in the way.
  • He did his homework – He gathered information from multiple sources and perspectives about the individual’s behavior and the impact it was having on both the organization and the mission. After gathering the different perspectives he analyzed and synthesized the information into his own assessment of the situation and came up with options for corrective action.
  • He set a goal for a positive outcome – He went into the feedback session focused on how to rehabilitate the individual’s behavior and improve the performance of his team. By acting with a little compassion in this situation, he was able to offer the individual a chance to improve before punitive tactics were necessary, but gave him that option if the individual was not receptive to improvement.
  • He went in with a plan – My friend chose the five areas to give feedback on very carefully based on his research of the situation. He spoke directly and with transparency about his position on the team lead’s performance in all five areas and the impact it was having on the organization and mission. By going in with a plan he ensured that all areas were covered and that no critical areas of feedback were overlooked.
  • He deliberated on his decision – While my friend had a few options he was considering for corrective action before he went into the feedback session, he did not have a pre-conceived notion of which option he would choose. By avoiding a knee-jerk reaction to the situation, he was able to give the individual the option to repair his credibility and relationship with his team.

As of the time I’m writing this, a final decision had not been made on what corrective action will be taken for this individual, but I think the rational, methodical and compassionate approach that my friend took to providing feedback in this situation gives the organization’s leadership more options to get one of their key teams back on track to success.

What method do you apply when giving feedback, positive or negative?

Photo Credit: By Jacksoncolvett (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Leading Millennials and Beyond

One of the topics I often discuss with my colleagues, mentors and the individuals that I coach is the role that younger people are taking in the workplace. Some of the folks I talk with have very strong opinions about these younger cohorts, especially Millennials. I don’t want to get into labelling certain groups of people (although I kind of already have), but despite opinions, the younger generations are entering the workplace, or will be very soon. The challenge for today’s leaders is to determine how we can motivate and lead the younger people coming along as well as how we can grow them into high quality leaders of tomorrow. In order to do that it’s helpful to understand the background and mindset of our younger team members.

A few weeks ago Beloit College released their “Mindset List” for their incoming class of 2018. Beloit has been putting out the Mindset List every year since 1998 to help their faculty and staff understand the “cultural touchstones and experiences that have shaped the worldview of students entering colleges and universities.” (McBride & Nief, 2014) While this list is mostly just entertaining and doesn’t have a lot of direct bearing on how we lead our teams today, in several years these students will be entering our workforce and we will need to be able to lead them effectively and develop them professionally once they arrive.

A few items I found interesting on this year’s list:

  • The water cooler is no longer the workplace social center; it’s the place to fill your water bottle.
  • There has always been “TV” designed to be watched exclusively on the web.
  • “Good feedback” means getting 30 likes on your last Facebook post in a single afternoon.

 

From the list for the class of 2015 (just about to graduate and enter the workforce)

  • The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.
  • As they’ve grown up on websites and cell phones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
  • Their school’s “blackboards” have always been getting smarter.
  • More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe.
  • They’ve always been able to dismiss boring old ideas with “been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt.”
  • They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.

 

And from the list for the class of 2010 (those who have been in the workforce a few years and are just starting to take leadership roles)

  • They are wireless, yet always connected.
  • Text messaging is their email.
  • They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
  • They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.

 

So what does this mean for us as the leaders of these individuals? Primarily it means that the ways that we have developed organizational culture, adapted to new technology, and offered rewards and incentives may need to be re-evaluated. Collaboration in the future will definitely mean more than meetings in conference rooms and offsite retreats.

This doesn’t mean we have to accommodate every request that our younger team members make, but it might help balance their requests with other requirements if we can see the perspective that they’re coming from. As always, at some point the mission has to come first, but there may be ways to get the mission done better, smarter or faster by considering the “younger” perspective.

Also, a piece of advice for the younger folks coming along (just in case you thought you were off the hook). Understanding and communication are a two-way street and it is just as important to be a good follower as a good leader. Take some time to understand where your colleagues who have been around a bit longer are coming from. Unfortunately, Beloit didn’t start the Mindset list until 1998 so you might have to do some research to find out what makes us tick. I promise it will be worth the effort!

 

Discussion topics: What tensions exist between different age groups on your team? What perspectives have you gained from another age group that greatly assisted you in getting your mission accomplished?

References

McBride, T., & Nief, R. (2014). The Mindset List. Retrieved from Beloit College: http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/

 

Photo Credit: “US Navy 101028-N-8590G-005 Katy Jo Muncie, a law student, holds the ship’s wheel at the helm aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans'” by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr. – This Image was released by the United States Navy with the ID 101028-N-8590G-005 (next).This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.বাংলা | Deutsch | English | español | euskara | فارسی | français | italiano | 日本語 | 한국어 | македонски | മലയാളം | Plattdüütsch | Nederlands | polski | português | Türkçe | 中文 | 中文(简体)‎ | +/−. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_101028-N-8590G-005_Katy_Jo_Muncie,_a_law_student,_holds_the_ship%27s_wheel_at_the_helm_aboard_the_guided-missile_destroyer_USS_The_Sullivans%27.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_Navy_101028-N-8590G-005_Katy_Jo_Muncie,_a_law_student,_holds_the_ship%27s_wheel_at_the_helm_aboard_the_guided-missile_destroyer_USS_The_Sullivans%27.jpg

Setting Smart Expectations for Your Team

This weekend I finished reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. Friends and colleagues had recommended the book to me for years, and I bought an e-book version of it about 2 years ago, but just started reading it recently. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it; and if you have read it, pick it up again. It will be worth it!

In the book Mr. Carnegie relates a story where he was about to criticize a young secretary and he pauses. In that brief second, he hits upon an astounding bit of self-reflection. He states to himself, “You have had ten thousand times as much business experience. How can you expect her to have your viewpoint, your judgment, your initiative…what were you doing at nineteen? Remember the asinine mistakes and blunders you made?” (Carnegie, 1981)

This really hit home for me because I have been guilty of expecting others to immediately come to the conclusions and take the actions I would take simply because we have been working together for a while. I must admit I made my share of mistakes (probably more than my share) when I was younger. This anecdote reinforced to me the idea that, as leaders, we must set reasonable expectations for those we lead based on their skills, abilities and experience as they currently exist, not based on our own.

Putting our younger selves in their shoes can be a great way to get an alternate perspective on the issue at hand and how we want our team to solve it. I know from my own experience that I have led young people who are far more talented and insightful than I ever was at their age! It’s important to consider how our younger selves would have dealt with the current situation as we provide guidance to them, especially if they are finding the task challenging, or we are struggling to understand why they aren’t succeeding to the degree we expect.

Additionally, our job as leaders is to assess where our team members need to be in the future and to develop their skills, abilities and experience to get them to the point where they can operate autonomously and independently based on our intent.  This can be a lengthy process, taking years to fully develop someone. Training, education, and mentoring are all among the methods we can use to develop someone’s potential, but we must exercise patience while they get there.

Regular self-reflection is key to a leader’s personal and professional success. Taking a short trip back in time to a day when we weren’t so experienced can give us some valuable insight into how we can help our team be successful!

Works Cited

Carnegie, D. (1981). How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Networking and Building Professional Relationships

By Tobias Wolter (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Tobias Wolter (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A lot of people may not consider networking a leadership topic, but it’s more important than you might think.  As a leader, your responsibilities may actually exceed your direct span of control. You may not have the authority or resources at your disposal to achieve the results you’re being held accountable for. In cases like this you’ll need to leverage the contacts you have and their resources to find ways to get to a successful result. If you haven’t developed a network, you won’t have the contacts you need in place and you certainly won’t have the kind of professional relationship in place where you can request their help.

Networking often gets a bad reputation as it can have the connotation of people in business attire milling about an airport hotel ballroom passing out business cards and desperately hoping that somebody calls them with an opportunity. There’s a more positive way to look at networking though; you’re building a group of people with different skills and experience that you can pull together whenever you need to successfully achieve a goal.

Tips for building your network:

Focus on connecting with people in a way that you can offer them something of value, whether that is your time, expertise or your contacts.  Approaching people in a way that conveys you are only looking to get something from them meets with limited success and is unlikely to leave a strong, positive, lasting impression that you have something to offer.

Attend a conference in your field, or in a field that interests you but may not be directly related to your current projects. Conferences can be a great way to find people who are facing similar challenges to yours and provide you with new ideas and a support network to help you both break through to achieve your goals.

Become a mentor to a younger colleague or a peer who is not under your direct supervision. Mentoring allows you to expand your network to an up-and-coming talent pool while providing the value of your experience to people interested in learning. You can also seek out a more experienced mentor for yourself, but it’s very rewarding to give back some of your time and experience to a younger colleague.  (More on the benefits of mentoring in the post “Who Are You a Mentor To?”)

Seek to make connections between people in your network. Chances are you know someone in your network who needs some help with something and you also know someone who can help them. Put those two people together! Your network will grow stronger by connecting the people in it to each other instead of just having a connection to you. If you can get people together who are looking to collaborate, chances are those people will come to you next time they’re looking for a connection since you were able to deliver before. Everyone loves the guy who can connect them with the people they need to achieve their goals!

Reconnect with people in your network on a regular basis. Keep up with what their current projects and areas of interest are.  Actively look for areas you can collaborate with people on.  A solid professional network is like a muscle and must be exercised to stay strong and flexible. If you don’t use it, it will atrophy and won’t be there when you need to call on it.

No matter where or who you choose to network with, remember that your goal is to build a strong network of people who can help each other out.  Focus more on providing value to your new contacts as opposed to getting something from them. Those strong professional relationships will lead to others and will put you at the center of a robust network of individuals who can be called upon when you need them!

What is Your Personal Development Plan?

By Marine Institute (Marine Institute) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Marine Institute (Marine Institute) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Today I was writing a letter of recommendation for someone who worked for me a while back. She is moving from one career to another but many of the skills are transferrable. She is formally educated for this new position, but as I wrote the letter, I found what was most significant in my recommendation were the areas in which she had not had formal training, but in some of those intangible areas like interpersonal relationships and critical thinking. It got me thinking about how we can all develop those types of skills even if they’re not part of our formal training or education.

Most of us are familiar with a one-size-fits-all corporate training plan or development plan that the organization has put together to guide our development. It may be tailored a little bit to each individual’s position or specialty, but for the most part it’s not very personal and it usually involves going to certain training courses at certain times in your career. It also may not address your needs for development at this specific time in your career. I’d like to propose an alternative you can start today to initiate yourself on a path of personal development:

1)      Make a list of the areas you believe you are strong in your field and a list of the areas you’d like to improve your skills in. The lists don’t have to be long, just as long as there is at least one item on each list

2)      Pick one of the items on your “strong” list. Mentor your subordinates or some of your peers who may need some help in this area. Teaching others is a great way to reinforce your skills. As a bonus when you help someone else out, you give value to them and bring the whole team up!

3)      Choose one of the items on your “improvement” list that you’re really interested in to focus on for the next two weeks.

4)      Do something to learn more about your “improvement” area.  Don’t go spend a lot of money on a training course or anything like that. Find a blog, download a podcast or find a book in the library.  Spend a few hours of your free time over the next two weeks exploring this topic, take some notes, write down some short term steps and long term steps you can take to grow in this area.

5)      When the two weeks is up, evaluate what you’ve learned. Are you stronger in this area than when you started? Is it an area that has stoked an interest in you to learn more? If so, make a bigger commitment to improving that area. If you think you’d rather work on something else, give that new topic a try and re-evaluate after two weeks.

Ideally your two lists and the notes you make from your two-week explorations will grow into a personal development plan, but don’t worry about getting it written down into something formal right away.  The most important thing is just to identify a few areas you’d like to develop further and take some steps today to get there.

What are the areas you would most like to see your followers develop their skills in?

Who Are You a Mentor To?

I hope that question brings to mind a list of people in your life. If not, don’t sweat it. You’re probably already mentoring someone and just don’t think of it that way. You should! Being a mentor is one of the best ways you can “give something back” by sharing your insight, experience and perspective with someone who is facing challenges similar to those you have faced. It’s something I find to be truly rewarding in life.

In the past I’ve seen people make mentoring out to be far more formal than it needs to be. At its best, mentoring is simply guiding and advising another to help them be successful. Mentoring doesn’t need to occur solely in a supervisor-employee relationship; in fact, my personal experience is that it is often most effective if the mentor is outside of the direct supervisory chain of the individual being mentored. No matter what your business or skill set is, there’s someone out there who can benefit from your experience.

There are a number of ways you can mentor others. Relating a similar problem you faced, offering an alternate perspective, sharing best practices or “pro-tips” are all ways you can share your experience with someone else. Mentoring also provides an opportunity to pass down and encourage organizational culture and values in an informal way. It could even give you a chance to start grooming your replacement for the day when an exciting, new opportunity comes along. Mentoring isn’t one-sided either. When you mentor someone, you get a valuable opportunity to get another perspective on something you may be struggling with as well.

So now you’re fired up about finding someone to mentor! But who? I recommend you actively seek people to mentor who you wouldn’t normally interact with on a daily basis. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to guide the people you work with everyday. There is probably someone out there who can really benefit from your experience and knowledge that you haven’t even met!

As you get started, think about who your mentors have been. There have been people who believed in you and guided you along your journey. What valuable lessons did you learn from them and what style did they use to present it to you?

Chances are you are already mentoring someone and don’t even know it.  Make a conscious decision to develop that relationship and share your experience and insight with that person. Don’t limit yourself to mentoring just one person, especially if you are in a formal supervisory role. It’s important that as you mentor you provide the same opportunities for everyone to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

When you see an opportunity to mentor, jump right in and do it.  Most likely it will be appreciated. If not, you made an honest attempt to try to help someone and there will be other opportunities.

Don’t forget to maintain your own mentors as well! Your own development as a leader is still important while you help others along their path.

Get out there and mentor someone today!