Leading Millennials


I’m a millennial and all of the stereotypes you hear about us being entitled, selfish, lazy, uninspired is quite well, I guess you could say “doesn’t apply to all.” Maybe it does apply to some millennials.  Maybe even most, but could it apply to other generations?  Yes, it could. 

I believe millennials want to see purpose in what they’re being told to do.  They want to remove the “do more with less” mentality.  Why is it always more with less?  Why can’t it be do what’s possible with what you have?

Do millennials question what they do?  I believe so.  I certainly do, but it’s not to avoid doing it.  It’s to question why it’s done this way when perhaps another way could be better.  Easier.  More resourceful.  I mean, isn’t that what innovation is about?  After all, didn’t that mentality birth the technology boom?  

My work ethic is found on the same values of many previous generations.  I believe in working hard for the things I want and deserve.  I believe in contributing.  The world doesn’t owe me anything.  I owe it.  Why?  Because we were never born to work individually.  We were born to thrive as a team and with that, my attitude, my purpose is to help others be better, do better and know better.  Life isn’t about me.  It happens because of me and selfishness is not a normal operation of our hearts.  It’s created and cultured from people who think of only themselves first.  A toxic way to live.  My children will learn to put others first even when others’ desire is to take, take, take.  When my eulogy is read I will not be known as the dude that only thought about himself above others.  What a horrible way to be remembered, but yet, there are those who choose to live that way. 

What does this have to do with millennials?  Perhaps we’ve been trying to contain them into a society that doesn’t want change.  A culture content with how things are.  Perhaps the millennials have it right and the rest of the world has it wrong.  We’ve evolved this far.  Why stop here?  Millennials are the future leaders.  Regardless if you think they feel entitled, you have to lead them.  YOU have to be selfless and help develop them to be successful when they do transition into leading.  When they question things, educate them.  When they have ideas, listen to them.  When they challenge the status quo, learn from a viewpoint that isn’t yours.  Use their perspective and strengths to mold them into leaders.

So we have some, maybe most, that really do want bean bags in the office and free stuff, but their capability is no different than any other generation.  I’m not trying to justify those that really do act selfishly and feel entitled, but there are some us that don’t act in ‘that’ way. 

Leadership is universal.  It applies to every generation and no matter what a generation is like, leadership could be the answer to moving them forward.  So lead well. 

5 Ways to Lead Millennial Team Members


Let’s face it, Millennials have changed our organization culture in the ways we lead them and communicate with them.  The technology age has molded a new bread of contributors.  It’s not a bad thing, but our approach to their culture has to adapt with them.  We must lead them in ways they understand and we must communicate with them in ways that don’t drive them away.  Our goal as leaders is to build teams and build teams that love to work together.  When I was a younger Airman, I began noticing how certain approaches from leadership increased trust, productivity, initiative and morale.  Here are 5 simple ways to lead/reach your Millennials on a daily basis.

1.  Ask if they would like assistance.  It’s not always about directing or commanding orders, but assisting. Even if you’re not the one to assist them, your concern will be appreciated rather than giving the order and walking away.  This builds a connection with those you supervise and allows them to feel as if they can come to you if they do need help, rather not seeking any help, which could hinder the task or mission.  Open that bridge by simply asking if they need any assistance.  If you are unable to personally provide assistance, seek someone who can help them, even that shows that you care.

2.   Make your presence seen.  Don’t hide away in your office 95% of the day.  Make frequent face to face appearances and engage in open conversation.  Remember, it doesn’t always have to be about work or the mission.  It is effective to ask questions such as, how was your weekend, how is your family doing, etc.  Once again, this opens up the doorway to a comfortable work environment to make your Millennial feel welcome to the office and that you’re making an effort to be a part of their work environment. However, know when to also stay back so they don’t feel as if they are being ‘watched,’ this can also be cleared up by stating your intentions with your presence.

3.   Ask them to help you.  We won’t always have the right answers and even though they may be in position under you or next to you, asking them for help shows them that you’re human and that you care about their opinion/knowledge/experience.  We all like to help others, this gives us a boost in confidence, serotonin and simply connects us to work as a team.   We must rely on each other to bridge the gap of the things we don’t know.  Collectively we can make the ultimate superhero.  Teamwork makes the dream work.

4.  Lunch and Learn.  We all enjoy a nice lunch together.  Grab the office and head down to the nearest pizza place(or any favorite place).  Give them a break from work and take them to eat(at your expense or their own).  You can learn a lot about someone by just leaving the office environment and stepping into a relaxing environment.  Learning about your subordinates is key to utilizing their full potential.  When you step into an environment such as a lunch zone, you see different personalities arise.  Not only that, but lunch is a great place to brainstorm, talk about issues, solutions and ideas.  This leads to being innovative.  We all need to be innovative.  Lunch time can also be the most productive time of the day.  Make time at least once or twice a month to engage in a Lunch and Learn with your office.  The possibilities are endless.

5.  Reward them. There have been countless studies on the work ethic of the Millennial generation and as crazy as it sounds, they love to work hard.  Recognition isn’t a new system to boost performance, but your creativity in rewarding them doesn’t have to be traditional.  Rewarding an outstanding performance can vary from job to job.  Some may reward with allowing team members to leave early, take a day off, or some sort of award to show for it.  Whichever you choose, make known goals so that team members can reach and succeed at.  In grade school, we all loved when we achieved a gold star.  When you look back, it was a sticky gold star on a chart.  You didn’t do anything with it, you didn’t take it home, you couldn’t use it, but you still tried your best to get a gold star.  Find that gold star that your team members want and make that the reward/recognition.  Also, reward/recognition doesn’t have to be solely based on meeting goals, but can also be based off high performance.  And who says a little friendly competition can’t be used to boost productivity knowing a reward is in sight.

These 5 approaches can actually be applied across all generational team members.