Business author Paul Angone says that many millennials today desperately want to get a seat at the “grownups'” table in an organization. But they aren’t exactly being welcomed with open arms, at least not by the leaders I hear complaining each week about the challenges of working with millennials.
Growing up, I can remember going to my Mimi’s house for Thanksgiving. I was something like grandchild number 32 in the lineup, (can you say big Catholic family?), so I was always relegated to the kids’ table and never quite made it to the grown-ups’ table. I see both sides of this argument.
I also believe that you, as a leader, can provide guidance to help millennials earn their seat at the table.
I’m not a big fan of generalizations, so I’m a tad skeptical when someone complains about Gen Y, aka the millennials. Let’s be honest, every generation experiences frustration and the feeling of disconnect with the younger generations. It’s been going on since the dawn of time. I don’t think it’s fair to say that any generation as a whole is lazy, unmotivated, or entitled. Frankly, I could easily point to individuals from each generation who are lazy, unmotivated, and entitled. No generation cornered the market on those behaviors.
Stereotypes and generalizations serve no one, and especially not the individuals being lumped into one big, well, lump. I heard a so-called “expert” on the subject of millennials in the workplace say that what millennials really want is for us to make a big deal about their birthdays. Huh? Their birthdays? Are you kidding me? Should I make sure to get a Princess cake too? That is downright insulting to any self-respecting adult of any age.
But I do believe that it takes effort to understand the younger adults embarking on their careers today. I see individuals entering organizations who, as my daddy would say, have more degrees than a thermometer, yet nothing in their education or development has prepared them for what will be expected of them in the workplace. Regardless of their pedigree, education, and expertise, many of these young adults often still don’t have the skills that they need to integrate into the working world and they lack the savvy needed to not only survive, but to thrive and really contribute to your organization.
Here, I’ve put together some
Tips for leading the millennials on your team to earn them a seat at the big kids’ table:
- Provide opportunities for learning and growth. ‘Nuff said.
- Don’t just tell him what to do. When you tell a person step by step exactly what to do, you’re not teaching him how to think for himself, or synthesize, or solve problems in the future. Take advantage of teachable moments and explain the ‘why’ behind the ‘how’.
- Set aside regular one-on-one time. You’re busy, your millennial team member knows it, and doesn’t want to annoy you. Let him know that at a set time every week, you will be available to him for answering questions, providing guidance, and for giving feedback.
- Invite her into your high-level meetings – as an observer. In other words, let her see what sitting at the grownups’ table is like. It’s easy to play armchair quarterback, but in the heat of the game, play-calling ain’t as easy as it looked when sitting in your La-z-boy. Often, new employees don’t have a clue what goes into decision-making in your organization. Give her a peek into the inner workings of the organization. Debrief afterwards by asking what surprised her, what she would do differently, and how this new insight might affect her work going forward.
- Help him to develop his people skills. Your millennial team member was probably hired because he had a specific skill set or technical knowledge. But 9 times out of 10, employees entering the workforce have not identified their own preferred behavioral style and certainly haven’t been taught how to adapt their style to work most effectively with others. (If you need some help with this, ask me about the work that we do with individuals and teams using DiSC® and the StrengthsFinder® assessments.)
- Be a mentor. Please, for the love of gumbo, lead, guide, and help these young adults identify how they can make their best contribution to your organization! Cast your memory back to when you were at that stage of your life. It might be a matter of being the mentor you never had, but wished you’d had.
As a leader, (regardless of your title), you can make a profound impact on your organization- – and your own legacy — by investing your time and effort in developing the millennials on your team. You may be surprised at the return on your investment, too.
- What are some tips you’d give to other leaders for more effectively leading their millennial team members?
- What are some ways that millennials can stand out and earn their seat at the big kids’ table?
We’d love to hear about your challenges and successes. Leave a comment below and share your experiences with our community.
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Jennifer Ledet, CSP, is a leadership consultant and professional speaker (with a hint of Cajun flavor) who equips leaders from the boardroom to the mailroom to improve employee engagement, teamwork, and communication. In her customized programs, leadership retreats, keynote presentations, and breakout sessions, she cuts through the BS and talks through the tough stuff to solve your people problems.