In my experience as a coach to emerging leaders from this generation and as a parent of a Millennial, there are challenges and strengths just like any other group. We see in this generation a creative ability to multi-task and use technology to get things done more efficiently. They tend to see everyone as being on the same playing field. Organizations should be flat and everyone has the right to speak and to be taken seriously and judged on their merits, not on status or position. The challenge is that the greatest strength can become the greatest weakness. We know that multi-tasking can actually create an inability to focus and more mistakes in the long-run. We know everything cannot be solved via text or email, that human interaction, soft skills, the ability to read and express proper body language is imperative to business success. We also know that even in a flat organization a leader will rise even without a title. So I think as with any generation, this generation brings amazing skills to the table. They will also have the challenge of the school of hard knocks, which all of us will agree is a powerful teacher.
I will share a story with you. I have always believed in everyone pulling their weight whether in a business or a family. When my son was 16, I was having a difficult time getting him to keep the yard up. I was a full time, single working mom (not to mention he needed to do this anyway to be responsible) and needed his help. I was so frustrated with “nagging”. I then began to think a little more, How can I motivate this kid, what inspires him? Well, he likes to be in control, he wants to make his own decisions, he likes positive feedback and he likes to spend money. I made him the yard director for the summer, gave him a budget, and told him to spend it however he chose but the outcome was to be a great looking yard. This fed all his needs. I could not believe the pride he took in our yard. What this means is that if you are leading a Millennial, you are going to have to think deeper than “just do this because I said so”. “That dog don’t hunt!” I don’t know if this is any different than it was with any other generational cohort. The difference is this cohort is not afraid to ask why. They want to attach meaning to their work – purpose. Truth is, there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone does not get the trophy at work but you can build a relationship (which is very important to Millennials) and mentor them to greatness. This may be the next great generation. Our ceiling should be their floor! I think they can make amazing entrepreneurs. They have funding money, technology, relationship support but they need to develop their interpersonal, leadership development and long term thinking skills and they can create success. I believe all funding organizations should require a year of leadership/business coaching to be included in their funding to help ensure their success rather than handing over money from a good business plan to make better widgets.