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.

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